23.01.2017 - 07.02.2017 25 °C
The night train
The train's an hour late (9pm) and we arrived an hour early (can't take the British out of the traveller). As the iron monster pulls into Pushkar's platform the horn honks, guys jump onto her carriages and she screeches to a stop. Families switch their stares from our white mugs, grab their bundles and surge towards her locked doors. Men shake the iron windows while every train door is broken into - everyone using their smart phones to light the way to their already reserved bunkers. It makes no sense but we do the same!
We managed to sleep the full 12 hours and climb down to join other folk on the bottom seats at 7am to watch the sunrise and dip biscuits in our masala chai tea, bought from the seller's hot flask. We're on the train to Rishikesh to try and discover our spiritual side.
Forting around in Rajasthan
The past two weeks we've travelled through Rajasthan, scampering around ancient forts and palaces. Days revolving around foodie adventures and gawping over lake-front sun sets sending little market streets into darkness, before they are lit up by fairy lights.
We quickly recharged our batteries in Udaipur (first three photos below) after four days exploring Mumbai. Followed by an early, mad, six hour bus to Chittorgah for a speedy three hour tuk tuk tour around the fort, before catching a 3 hour train to Bundi.
Bundi is a little cup of joy, nestled in the Aravalli Hills of Rajasthan. We stepped off the train to welcoming locals (minus the pestering touts), tea shops, street food stalls, a wee little lake which mirrors an abandoned palace - and even higher up an ancient fort guarded by troops of monkeys which peers down over the town.
We stayed for a week in the old stables (converted into a humble guest house by owners Raj and Neema) which used to house the elephants belonging to the palace. The family welcomed us with open arms (even me with my awful chest infection from the pollution - which all travellers seem to catch here). We didn't venture out of the stables after dark because Neema cooked us a rocking thali every evening - so we stuffed ourselves and played countless games of shithead and Yahtzee with our new pal Hans.
We took a day trip with a character called 'Moon' - during the hour's bumpy journey (with me coughing) we passed farming villages, practiced Hindi, Moon taught me to drive his tuk tuk and he even stopped a passing tractor and demanded I got inside for a snap. We stopped in a village for chai and samosas - I was so excited! In a small piece of newspaper the guy pushed his thumbs (don't get too stuck on that part) into my crispy samosa and poured sweet chilli sauce and green hot sauce over the top. WOW. It was delicious (we've eaten many more of these since).
We spent a day clambering around the abandoned palace - Lewy in his element running up and down staircases and sticking his head into gloomy doorways - he even faced off with a hissing monkey to try and get to the top floor (he almost won - it was a massive monkey). One of the rooms still showed some of the wall paintings - telling a story of the rich prince surrounded by smiling animals, butch women and flying gods. We then battled with the monkeys (using monkey sticks and song) to make it up to explore the fort.
Before leaving beloved Bundi we printed some photos and gave them out to the locals who we'd snapped (Lewy's idea) - it was a real pleasure and the families were so happy! We left the elephant stables with a happy tear and clear from my chest infection.
Pushkar was an altogether different experience. The minute we stepped off the bus we were hassled and tugged in different directions (something we are now used to). I wrote in my diary that day 'Not impressed by the people of Pushkar and our hotel room is a shit hole and stinks '. However hate turned to love once we swapped rooms - not just because we spent a day shopping for handicrafts but because the town is magically beautiful, the street food kicks ass - and once the touts and scammers recognize your face they simply give you a cheeky grin.
So, after the night train, we've now arrived safely in Rishikesh, dipped our toes in the holy Ganges and checked into an Ashram for an undecided amount of relaxation and yoga. So we look forward to filling you in once we've become spiritual gurus. Ha.