Coming from a hot country ourselves our usual tactic in escaping the heat is to rise early before the sun has had a chance to warm up. Not in India though. While on the Sunshine Coast by 6:30 am the roads are full of Lycra wearing cyclists and the footpaths full of Latte drinkers (also unfortunately often dressed in Lycra) here in India nothing is happening until much later.
For example this morning we thought we would get up early and escape the heat by seeing the fort as early as possible but the place didn’t even open until 9 and we had to hunt around to find a man setting up his market stall to sell us some bananas. But we managed to eat and enjoy a masala chai before we headed up the hill towards the Mehrangarh Fort which sits atop a hill in the centre of Jodhpur completely dominating the skyline.
The walls of the fort are made out of the same material as the rock on which it sits which means it appears as though the whole thing is one structure. The fort certainly looks impregnable from below and as we arrived at the entrance the walls rose high above us revealing only a small gated entranceway.
There were a few others at the gate waiting for it to open but we were soon inside and winding our way up through the inner walls towards the palace which is now a museum. As part of the entrance ticket we got an audio guide which was actually fantastic. Usually we have found audio guides to be a bit long winded and quite frankly slow and boring but this one was just the right length and provided a great guide as we ambled through the rooms.
The first thing we couldn’t help notice was that while the outer walls of the fort were big, strong and warlike the palace inside had an exquisite exterior. There were amazing courtyards where we were able to gaze up at all four walls at the beautiful designs on the wooden exteriors.
The museum was a fair size and had some great exhibits of palanquins and elephant howdahs on which the royal families used to be carried around. The highlights though were the rooms themselves which were decorated with incredible opulence. Not one inch of wall, floor or ceiling wasn’t decorated and the use of stained glass in the windows just added to the wonder and mystique of the place.
The security guards were all dressed in splendid outfits topped with red turbans and most of them had brilliant mustaches which added to the scene. One of them tried to help us by offering to take our camera and take some photos from the restricted area. Unfortunately he didn’t cope very well with the autofocus of the camera and they all came out blurry but he was a lovely guy and posed for some photos with us which was fun.
After exiting the museum we went for a walk along the ramparts and were rewarded with a fantastic view of the blue buildings of Jodhpur. These were originally painted blue to signify ownership of the Brahmin caste. The colour blue also was meant to keep the house cooler and ward off insects. Nowadays anyone can paint their house blue and a lot have, the effect is quite unique as we gazed out across the city.
By this stage the mercury was well and truly rising and we decided to head back towards the city. On the way we stopped at the Jaswant Thada memorial which was built completely of marble and almost glistens in the sun. Once again the exterior was beautifully carved and was quite a sight to behold whereas the interior was very stark in comparison.
We had picked out a couple of places we wanted to stop in the town so Sarah picked first and we stopped at a cafe which made some wonderful iced cafe lattes. The owner was nice too and ended up sitting with us having a chat about India while watching the goings on of the market. The next stop was for a makhania lassi at the Shri Mishrilal Hotel. This place in noted as making possibly the best lassi in India and my word it was fantastic!! We couldn’t go passed our samosa shop without giving it another go and they were just as delicious as yesterday.
By this stage it was about 44 degrees and we decided to take a bit of a break for the afternoon in the air conditioning as it was really getting too hot to enjoy anything.
Whether it had cooled down much by 5pm is a matter for debate but we felt we still had a fair bit of the city to explore so we set out for the Rao Jodha Desert Rock Park for what was meant to be a beautiful walk through some fantastic scenery escaping the hustle of the town. In actual fact it was a walk through a very dry area of what could only be described as bleak desert. I have a feeling it would have been a bit nicer after the monsoons and the whole place was a bit greener.
We were promised some Indian flora and fauna and in the unlikeliest of scenarios we hit the jackpot. Just near a water lily pond I glanced something moving out of the corner of my eye and saw that it was a big black 2m long snake. I watch a few wildlife documentaries and thought it was a cobra so while Sarah was egging me on to get closer I wanted to give it a little bit of space. I could tell that my prediction that it was a cobra wasn’t going to be believed until it had its hood flared and was rising up in front of us. Luckily though we didn’t wind it up as we were assured the next day when we showed our picture to our guide that it was in fact a spitting cobra! Well we certainly watched where we were putting our feet after that!
We decided to head out of the park and took a path which headed towards the town. We were by this stage the other side of the fort to where our hostel was and we found ourselves walking into the midst of the Old City. The buildings here were mostly blue in colour and the streets were just wide enough for a motorbike to zoom down. We felt pretty comfortable about walking around so headed down into the maze of houses.
We took our time wandering the streets gazing at the wonderful houses and while we were there we remarked to each other how safe we felt. The locals were all offering a hello and a smile as we passed through the streets. Many of the locals were all sat outside their houses enjoying the fact that the day was cooling down and it was interesting to note that there weren’t any beggars or homeless people in the area.
I felt pretty proud of myself that my sense of direction managed to result in us coming out of the maze of buildings on the road I thought we would hit which was a return into the craziness of Indian life with rickshaws and motorbikes whizzing about and shops opening right onto the street side. People were everywhere and just about anything you could possibly want was being sold and while you were soaking all of this in a cow would walk by. It is truly a sensory overload…its wonderful and really makes you feel alive. To be fair you have to be alert as otherwise you would probably get run over.
It was marvellous walking through the central life of Jodhpur and by the time we got back to the hostel we were ravenous. Luckily there are plenty of rooftop dining options in Jodhpur and we settled on one and ordered a local dish Kair Saangri Ki Sabzi which was local beans and berries cooked in a hot gravy. It was truly delicious but maybe a little bit too hot (if I am honest it was as hot as I could cope with and I was lucky Sarah had ordered a more normal strength Paneer Do Piaza). Sitting on a roof top with the warm wind blowing, eating curry while gazing up at the lit up fort of Jodhpur was an absolutely wonderful way to finish off the day. T
Even up close the fort seems impregnable.
The only way in.
The functional walls stretched up into some more intricate designs.
The handprints of the wives and concubines of the maharajahs before the went to sit on his funeral pyre to be burnt alive!
Inside the outer fort walls the walls of the Palace were far more intricate.
The amazingly brilliant Palace rooms.
The security guard enjoying posing for some pictures.
There were a multitude of courtyards in the Palace.
The detail in the work was spectacular.
A view of the outer walls heading down the the Old City. The blue of the buildings is quite a sight.
The Indian squirrel.
Our Spitting Cobra.
The view of the Old City we descended into.
Ladies chatting away.
Brilliant individually designed buildings.
Chatting outside a shop.
The local card school.