Our train to Jodhpur was at midday, so we had a nice leisurely morning drinking chai (how novel!). We were getting a lift to the station form the host and they checked the progress of the train before we left - just as well they did - it was running late (handy little tip; if you dial 139 from any Indian landline and you know your train number, you will be able to get a live progress report!)…only an hour delay, so not too bad by Indian standards, and as we were only a 10 minute drive from the station, we got there pretty much bang on time. We bid farewell to our host (Kunal - who had a tear or 2 in his eye!!) and found our way to the platform and our train. Strangely though, the Sleeper carriage we were in was half empty - not the scrum we'd anticipated.
So, 7 hours on a train…not too bad, even without AC…the only problem seems to be that any seat we sit on in this country makes us feel like we've just sat in a puddle of water (sweaty bum time). Still, it was fairly painless and we managed to keep our chai levels topped up. We were being met at the station as well so we didn't need to think too much about how to get to where we needed to be.
First impressions, Jodhpur seemed quite chilled (it was about 7pm)…the CrashPad hostels though, are in the more upmarket areas of town so are quite a way from the main areas (a bit of a b***** for getting in and out of town). We arrived to a seemingly empty hostel…and as the manager was in Jaipur (see previous blog) the usual staff weren't around. Almost as soon as we got there, the guy that picked us up and the only other person there said they had to go out and attend to some 'business'…so we were left alone, wondering what to do and where everyone was - quite a different experience to the last CrashPad we'd stayed in! Both of us were pretty hungry, but as we were in a residential area there wasn't anywhere close by to eat…so we headed to the roof terrace to wait it out. We'd been reliably informed that another British guy (Richard from Cambridge) was staying there, eventually he arrived back, turns out he is working for an NGO and has just been offered a 3 year contract with them (he's 24)…anyway, he advised not to eat at the hostel as the food was not great as the usual chef was away (we were spoilt in Jaipur!) so we ordered in and had a couple of beers…Back in Jaipur, I'd been asked if I wanted to be an extra in a Hollywood movie being shot in Jodhpur (The Viceroy House)…well, who doesn't want to star in a movie?! I was meant to be met by someone who would explain what has happening and the timetable for the next few days….funnily enough, nobody showed up…
We'd gotten quite used to the Jaipur hostel - the chai on tap (free!), home cooked food and a constant flow of people. This version was quite different and I think we got a bit of 'the fear' again about going and exploring just the two of us. Just as we agreed to go out, we got a call saying a car would be there to pick me up and take me to the set for filming…as we'd had no warning or had any idea how long the whole thing was going to last, we politely declined and headed out to explore…I'm sure there will be another chance to star in a Hollywood blockbuster!
We found somewhere for a spot of lunch and walked around the main clock tower area…although, bordering on having a small argument and not really feeling the Jodhpur atmosphere, we admitted defeat and headed back the hostel…some days just aren't worth pushing, we'd try again tomorrow.
Back at the hostel a bit later on, a new group of people arrived - Josi, Manon and Nick (our European buddies!)- they were on a 3 week 'tour' of India (they all met working in China 4 years ago and meet up every now and again to travel a bit - such lovely people!). Although we didn't make any plans with them for the next day, it was nice to have a little bit of life in the hostel, bar the people that were staying there for work (we've met a number of people that are working in India but staying in hostels so that they can still interact with others). Later that evening, Eric arrived from Jaipur (he'd got a free lift down but had arrived a few hours late - typical, stop off on the way to eat and meet the family!), it was good to see him again and we made plans to visit the 'famous' Jodhpur fort the next day. Podgi smells.
The Fort…we're a bit 'Forted' out after seeing a few in various places, but nevertheless, we headed up the hill as it was meant to be amazing. And it was, in parts - although we preferred the Jaipur fort where a lot more of it was open to roam around. This was just mainly the museum and we couldn't really go exploring, they had a few cafes within the grounds though and we can highly recommend the Ginger Mint Cooler….yummy! We'd read somewhere that there was a path down to the Blue City, which we found, and avoided the need for another tuk tuk down the hill. James was feeling particularly hungry, so wandering through the narrow streets of the Blue City, pointed out the first place we came across…which happened to be up the narrowest and dirtiest lane we'd come across…
But we were pleasantly surprised, not just because the guest house at the end had amazing views of the fort and the city, but also because we'd, somehow, stumbled across our European buddies - how odd…in the whole of Jodhpur we all ended up in the most random spot miles from anywhere else!
We all joined forces and went in search of a nearby lake…it wasn't that far, however the 3 kids throwing bangers (directly at the dogs sometimes) was a bit off-putting so we didn't stay long. Instead opted to work our way through the city in search of some dinner…at the point we came across the waste ground, things started getting a little interesting…not sure that foreigners ever venture that far and we all had the same thought - "how do we get out of here?!". The big group of kids following us weren't begging (that we could probably have handled)…the whole area just felt a bit seedy and we weren't feeling particularly welcome. Following Nick's map, we headed back in the direction of something more familiar. There was one old man that sticks in our mind that gestured for us to keep going and once we'd passed made a noise at the kids to get them to stop following us…well at least someone was looking out for us! Soon enough, we were back around the main square and stopped for a well-earned cup of chai and a few sunset pictures. We needed to get back to book our bus tickets to Udaipur the next day…and also make sure we were ok to stay in our room an extra night (we'd tried to sort the room out before we left for the day, but no-one was around, so we took a chance!). We picked up some beers and set off back to the hostel in 2 tuk tuks (6 people would have been a bit of a squeeze!) … only our tuk tuk took us to the wrong hostel many miles out of town!! Oh the fun and adventures!
It was all a bit odd trying to book our bus tickets….the online booking failed apparently, so we asked one of the guys working at the hostel to book them for us - which he happily said he'd do. Off he went with our money and returned quite a while later without any tickets - or any mention of tickets! Only when prompted, did he give us back the money. Some conflicting tales then came out; he would book them tomorrow, we were then told by someone else staying there that they have a habit of this and try and get guests to stay longer by not booking the tickets etc, one of the guys there was concerned about us booking tickets on a non a/c bus because of the heat ,blah blah blah. So I called the bus company…turns out the booking had been made, but the payment hadn't gone through - fine, we could pick them up and pay for them the next day. All sorted. We all ordered another takeaway dinner and spent the rest of the evening chatting and playing some random card game (sorry Manon, we still don't fully understand it!!).
Time to move on. Both of us were quite happy to be on our way, Jodhpur didn't really click with us and we're not sure, we clicked with it. Here more than anywhere, the staring was quite intense and people seemed a little hostile. We'd been assured of great things in Udaipur…the bar is set high!