Well, we've made it full circle and are back in Mumbai. Since our last blog we visited the Taj Mahal which really does live up to expectations and is one of the most beautiful buildings we've ever seen.
Then we entered into the state of Rajasthan which is definately one of our favourites. We started off in the capital, Jaipur - the pink city, where we met lots of lovely people staying in a relaxing guesthouse with home cooked food and exploring the sights of the bustling city.
From there, it was a long 13 hour bus journey west to Jaisalmer, a desert town close to the Pakisthani border. We went on a two day camel trek with the infamous Mr Desert, camping overnight amongst the sand dunes. It was an amazing experience, the scenery was impressive and the stars were incredibly clear. Sitting round the campfire, we got to hear all about how Mr Desert won the famous beauty contest for men in Jaisalmer 3 years in a row and how that helped him set up his business. He even showed us a clip of him on a Coca Cola advert highlighting his fame! The next day we were a little sore being back in the saddle and a little uncomfortable in the 45 degree heat but it had all been worth it! We even got a signed picture of Mr Desert himself back at the office.
We then went to Jodhpur known as the blue city, a medieval town with an impressive fort filled with narrow streets and blue painted houses where a large Brahmin population live. We also visited some local villages and met some Bishnoi people who make a lot of the local handicrafts and who introduced us to opium tea (it wasn't particularly effective)!
The next week was spent mainly relaxing in the small lakeside towns of Pushkar and Bundi although due to a three year drought the lakes have unfortunately dried up. The atmosphere in Pushkar was decidely sombre as the local people depend on the lake for revenue and it would normally be a buzzing town full of tourists and pilgrims coming to worship by the water. We much prefered Bundi where we stayed in a lovely ramshackle haveli run by a charasmatic, ancient man. Our room was the most colourful we've stayed in, decorated with traditional Rajasthani murals and puppets. We also went to Rudyard Kipling's summer palace overlooking a small lake filled with lotus flowers where he wrote some of 'Kim'.
Next stop was Ranthambhore National Park in search of tigers...we were lucky enough to see two in their natural habitat although Vicky managed to fall out of the jeep 10 feet away from the male tiger as it bathed in a stream of water! Although she was slightly shaken, everyone else was pleased that the noise had made the tiger turn round for a perfect photo opportunity!
From there, we had a long and complicated journey to Udaipur (in which we had to detour and spend another night back at the haveli in Bundi)! Udaipur is often refered to as the white city and possibly India's most romantic destination! We filled our days with a number of cultural activities including a cooking class with the dynamic Shashi - it was four hours well spent as we created a Rajasthani feast which we got to devour at the end. The next morning, we had a fun two hour painting lesson where we each created a minature on silk of a camel and got job offers at the end! (Maybe next year!)
Now, we're back in Mumbai and loving it a second time round. We're staying in the arty area of Kala Ghoda and spent a chilled out Sunday afternoon at the Museum of Contempary Art and wandering round the Colaba Causeway market doing some last minute shopping (after all, you can never have too many bangles and ali baba trousers)!
It's hard to believe that three months have passed. We've had lots of incredible and memorable experiences, met some inspirational people, made good friends and seen some of the most beautiful cities, beaches and villages. We will definately return one day soon.
Next stop, London. See you all soon! xx