Hello from Udaipur!!! We're currently into our ninth day of our tour of Northern India, so far we're both loving it! We arrived in Delhi on the 27th October mid atfternoon, checked into the hotel and had a little wander around the surrounding streets. Found a more westernized place to have dinner and had a cheeky pizza...our first meal that wasn't curry so far in India! We met our group the following day; mostly younger people from the UK, Aus, Germany and Quebec. We went out for a nice meal that night and got to know each other. We explored Delhi abit more the following day. Firstly we went on a local tour guided by a local street kid who was fully trained by the Salaam Baalak Trust; a charity that take street children off the streets and give them shelter, food and a chance for education. This was very interesting and we got to meet all the children in the local shelter. That day we also visited Gurdwara SisGanj; a large Sikh place of worship and community kitchen. The community kitchen demonstrates Sikh attitudes in that it opposes discrimination based on caste, and stresses the concept of equality. Here people of any background, religion, caste, colour and creed eat together for free. The community kitchen we visited feeds around 2000 to 4000 people everyday...I have never seen such huge pans! At the end we got to sit in a line and sample the food.That day we also visited Jama Masjid - the largest Mosque in India, India Gate, the National Museum, and Rashtrapati Bhavan - Where the President lives. That night we got on a night train and headed for Bikaner.
We slept pretty well and arrived at 9:15AM, two hours late....or exactly on schedule if you go on Indian time. In the adternoon we set off on our much anticipated camel safari into the Indian desert. We had a camel each and rode for about two hours before stopping in the shade for our lunch cooked by the guides. We relaxed for a while before heading off again for another three hours to our camp for the night. We arrived and disembarked the camel to some very stiff legs! We were just i time to climb a dune and watch the bright orange sun set. Then we cracked on the beers which an extra camel had kindly carried for us in a cool box filled with ice. We ate dinner later on in the evening which was some very nice home cooked food. Once we had finished we sat around the campfire and talked for a while before we got some music and dancing from the guides...which soon turned into us doing some ridiculous dancing and singing. Bed time came and we got into our campbeds which were lined up and fell asleep whilst gazing at the millions of stars above us. We woke up the next morning and were able to watch the sunrise without even having to get out of bed...perfect! We then returned to the hotel in Bikaner. In the afternoon myself, Helen, and a few other members of the group wanted to visit a temple we had heard alot about....Karni Mata Temple...otherwise know as the Rat Temple. Called that as it is filled with thousands of rats (http://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/places/culture-places/buildings-landmarks/india-rattemple-pp/). In the end it was pretty disgusting and we simply observed and left with our feet covered in things we didn't want to think about.
The next morning we were up at 5 to catch a train to Jaisalmer...India's 'Golden City'. Jaisalmer stands on a ridge of yellowish sandstone in the heart of the Thar Desert. Crowned by a fort containing the palace and several ornate Jain temples, Jaisalmer was positioned strategically and was a halting point along a traditional trade route traversed by the camel caravans of Indian and Asian merchants. The route linked India to Central Asia, Egypt, Arabia, Persia, Africa and the West and so has a rich history with many different influences. We had a short walk around the town and the fort that evening. The next day we had a tour at 9 o'clock in which we were guided around the Fort, which is a great place to explore with lots of little alleyways and amazing architecture. We also visited the market in the town and a local silk shop were we looked at the amazing detail of some of the different silk pieces. We had a nice lunch on a roof top restaurant offering views of the fort and city before exploring the shops and fort on our own in the afternoon. We then had a cold beer on the very top of the fort and watched the sunset over the city. Jaisalmer has been one of our favourite places yet with its beauiful golden colours, amazingley detailed architecture and fascinating fort.
The next day we were up at 5 again to catch a bus to Jodhpur...India's 'Blue City'. Called so as a great many of the city's houses and buildings are painted the same shade of blue. After arriving we walked to the market and had lunch at 'The Omelette Shop', famous throughout the World as this man has been serving omelettes for over 30 years from one pan in a simple hole in the wall type shop. He goes through 1,000 eggs a day making just omelettes. So we had the recommended masala cheese omeletter and it did live up to the hype, very tasty! After that we climbed up to the impressive Mehrangarh Fort - one of the largest forts in India - and looked around the fort and museum. We made our way back down and found a roof top restaurant to have a beer whilst watching the sun set over the fort above us (beer, rooftop and sunset starting to become one of our favourite combinations). With it being Diwali today, we had bought some fireworks and set them off in the evening at the Hotel with the staff and other Indian guests.
Our next destination was Udaipur...India's Venice of the East apparantly...called that because it's beautiful and surrounds large lakes! This involved a six hour public bus ride again. This one however was a little bit less comfortable. We set off about half 5 in the morning and after a few stops there were people stood filling up the aisle. We ascended up into jungle on windy roads and there was soon people being sick out of the windows, people weeing in bottles, a particularly large indian man trying to sit on my armrest whilst wafting his armpit inches from my face, and a broken chair that reclined when I leaned back - leaving me nearly lying in the lap of the Indian lady behind me whilst someone practically lay in Helen's lap! We made it about lunch time, where we relaxed abit in the hotel for a couple of hours before heading out into the city. We had a sunset boat ride on the lake and then went to watch a typical Rajasthani dance performance. This was great to observe and showed some amazing dance performances. We then went to a roof top restaurant and had dinner where we could look our over the lake and all the Palaces. Today we took a cable car to a vantage point above the city were we had a great view of Udaipur. We also visited the palace and explored the Old town before writing this blog. Unfortunatly the computers don't seem to have enough power to upload our photos so we will have to try another time. But for now....it's time to find a roof top bar and watch the sun set over the lake.