soaring above the world!
15.03.2016 - 16.03.2016
Tuesday 15 March
Travelling to Jaipur
So up relatively early and off on our epic trip to Jaipur. As far as distance goes, it's only around 160 kms. As far as time goes, it is about 4 hours! Short distance, long slow trip! We head off, after an hour or two we stop roadside for hot chai. I've learnt to ask for chai without sugar otherwise I get such s sugar hit it makes my heart beat faster!
We headed to the village of Abaneri and visited Chand Baori ( step well). It is one of the oldest and was built by King Chandra who ruled Abaneri during 8th and 9th century. This 19.5metre deep Baori ( well) is square and bounded on three sides by steps, and on one side is a multi storeyed corridor with balconies. Across the road was a potter, turning a round platform with a stick to get speed, then turning little cups within seconds! Here they make little cups, that hotels use for water, then you throw it on the ground to return the earth to the earth. Such a lovely notion.
We pass many trucks, the front of which is a converted water pump. An open motor, powers these little trucks hauling wheat, hay and chaff. They bling them up too with tassels, flowers, streamers.
We stop roadside for lunch. To be honest, if I was here on my own, I'd not stop. Super basic, generally open air with a bit of shade. The surprise is the fresh, hot food. The curries are amazing and to be honest, probably way better than most expensive restaurants ( here!) the food is addictive as and most people don't have fridges, they use the freshest produce daily, with carts of fruit and vegetables being pushed through the streets and alleyways.
We headed to the monkey palace- the Temple for Hanuman ( monkey God) You definitely get used to being asked for money. If you take a picture of someone
they ask for 10 rupees. They are very cheeky, but we want the shots so we pay! 10 rupees is around 20 cents! The entry fee at the monkey temple is free, however if you take a camera it is 50 rupee, if you have a video camera it is 150 rupees. Half of us pretend there are no cameras in our packs.....seriously, we were so proud to have saved $3! Religious men called Shadu who live at the temple. The saddest part of this astounding beauty is that no one spends money fixing and preserving these magnificent buildings, thus, some are beyond repair and there is a time when it will crumble and cease to exist. Sad.
The monkeys here are either red bums ( nasty, don't trust them!) or black faces, the nice ones! Clearly they're nice, but if they've got babies they're very protective. The art work again is awesome.
3 of us were dying to go to the toilet ( few and far between, and some are very, very questionable with an aroma.....) so a Shadu told us he'd lead us to the toilet. As with all temples you remove your shoes. Through a myriad of hallways, and buildings, and then we get to an outdoor area with around 10 cows. ( remember they sacred, so they are everywhere!) ( remember we are barefooted!) we are told with actions ( they don't speak English!) to go around the cows ( and the shit!) and around the corner.....we are busting.....and then he yells yes......and then we look and it is a rocky dusty embankment, a cow right in the path.......so, we squat. quickly. He points to the tap to wash our hands and then, asks for money, for using the water. See, we saved at entrance, but paid anyway.
A Shadu leads us to a small room, a temple with the Hindu Gods and a shrine. He blesses us, asks us whether we are married or single. Married women get a red and yellow piece of wool tied to left hand. Unmarried, then same wool on your right hand. One of us is single and the other married ( clearly mine is on my left hand!) .....now we didn't really understand the blessing but I'm either going to have more children, or no children, or will meet a husband or not meet one. We were rather confused!
On the outskirts of Jaipur, the pink city, se stop at a shop that does block printing. They still hand print all the fabrics and they are exquisite. Tops, dresses, jackets, scarves, bags, pashminas......they're all here. We girls hit the shop with gusto! Then someone said they'll make tops for you with their fabrics and deliver to our hotel. Well, it was like a stampede of women, fabric, measuring tapes and rupees! 2 hours later...........
We arrived at the hotel, Ibis Jaipur. Quite fancy, and with that all important feature, wifi! We checked in, rested and then Saheed, our driver, had invited us to his home with his wife and three children for the evening meal. He lives in Jaipur so was pleased to be able to spend a night with his family. He drives us. As the bus is passing through alleys and tiny narrow, bustling streets, the kids see us ( white ladies) and start shouting and following the bus. They must be shouting that we we white ladies, as the kids keep running out from all directions. Wide eyed, smiling! By the time we pulled up there was quite a crowd. We head up a maze of stairs to the home. They rent a room, about 2.5 square, and live entirely in that room. There is a shared kitchen with 1 other family ( who live in the room next door) and is probably 1 metre by 2 metres. They share a toilet. There is a tv on the wall, and the two boys aged 6 and 8 watch cartoons. The daughter, Mahira is 3 months old.....and adorable. Anna nurses her, then passes her to me. Before long she is asleep in my arms. She is slid down just behind me on s little quilt, and sleeps, even with 9 adults and two boys in the same room!
Eventually dinner is served, and again, none of the family eat. We do. Again, the food is flavoursome and delicious. Saheeds wife doesn't speak much English, but hand-grasps, nods, smiles and thank you's convey our appreciation. Another experience that no other tour group would experience. So humbling. So very friendly and proud.
Wednesday 16 March
We are up at 4.15am as we are going hot air ballooning. I'm fine with the early mornings, just a bit nervous about the hot air balloon ride. We arrive at the departure point, and within moments trucks arrive with balloons and baskets. Air is blown in and when they light them, the warmth is felt 20 metres away! Hot chai and biscuits are eaten and then we are summonsed to climb in. So we did. And before I knew it, we weren't on the ground anymore. We were floating. This is what birds get to see everyday. Drifting over homes, quite low, they yell good morning and rush out to see us. It is early, and a lot of People here do not rise early. Probably as they're all up so late. We see the chaser cars, the fields of wheat, different crops, the Amber Palace in the distance. The serenity other than we yelling hello, and they yelling back. A person squatting in the paddock, unaware we are floating past, cows, buffalo, goats, pigs, donkeys, camels.......all waking up and a bit wary of us in our flying contraption.
The views are amazing, and although we drift up quite high ( and I stop taking photos, and decide to hold onto ( OK grip for dear life!) the basket for a while, it is peaceful. just reminds me to breath. I try to remember. I start taking deep breaths, and then we are floating down, closer to earth, and I start to enjoy it again.
We are up there in bliss for an hour. We come in to land in a paddock, in the middle of nowhere. Again, the children spot us, and grown men and women, and again, they we running out of houses, through paddocks to see the giant balloon and the white ladies in it. By the time we land, there are probably 50 or more people. Staring at us, staring at them. Photos, smiles and communication without a common spoken word. We laugh.
We receive our certificates and head back for breakfast. We check out and head to the Amber Palace.