Day 120: Chittorgarh & Udaipur, India. This morning the rain was still coming down in force. We were woken several times during the night with crashing thunder and lightning – a final effort from the annual monsoon before it packs its bags for another year.
The monsoons cause severe devastation and loss of lives across the country each year, but they’re a crucial source of water for agriculture, industry and householders. A report in yesterday’s paper said that overall, the state of Rajasthan has received 34.7% more rainfall this year, so locals must be pretty happy.
We asked the hotel to order a tuk tuk to take us to the station, but they couldn’t get one, so one of the hotel’s managers drove us through the flooded streets in his car, which was lovely of him.
We were an hour early for the train, so we settled down on a wooden bench and watched the world go by. Jim is in desperate need of a hair cut, which would would have been a good way to fill in the time, but he wasn’t too keen to try out the local barber.
We had a large cow for company at one point – it looked like it was eating a plastic bag, but then we realised it was trying to get a large piece of paper out of the bag.
When it had scoffed the paper, it dropped the plastic on the platform. It’s a shame cows can’t be trained to put litter into the bin (rather than just taking it out), particularly as that was its next port of call anyway. As we watched it shoved its head into one of the swinging metal litter bins, looking a little like a bovine Ned Kelly.
Next thing some seriously loud drumming started, and a group of men came wandering along the platform and into a room behind us. One of them had pink dye smeared on his face and down the front of his white shirt (no amount of Surf washing powder is going to get that lot out). A celebration of some sort started in the room, with people dancing to the drum beat and lots of clapping and cheering. Five minutes later, it was all over. We’ve absolutely no idea what the heck that was all about, and Mr Google hasn’t been much help either.
When it was getting closer to our train departure time, we walked across the footbridge to platform 4. In the three weeks that we’ve been in India, we haven’t seen a single escalator anywhere. Given there were ladies making their way up the steps, carrying what looked like sacks of cement on their heads, we’ve got nothing to complain about.
We mentioned in yesterday’s blog post that there were no air conditioned seats on the train, so we booked two air conditioned sleeper seats. We’d no idea what to expect (we are still working out the vagaries of Indian trains), but actually it was fine – particularly as we were travelling during the day, the journey was only two and a half hours, and we weren’t attempting to climb up into bunks to sleep.
There were three bunks each side of the cubicle – during the day the middle bunk is folded down so people can sit on the bottom bunk. There’s a yellow metal ‘ladder’ to reach the upper bunks – we can see Lil coming a cropper on one of those at some stage, given her impressive ability to fall off things.
We were given brown paper bags with sheets and towels, which we didn’t need to use – perhaps another time.
The journey went past quickly – lots of great scenery whizzing past through the window – and for once we had a window that we could (mostly) see through.
We arrived at Udaipur station, and ordered an Uber. A tuk tuk driver talked our ears off, telling us that cars can’t get into the old city as they’re forbidden by police, so we should use his tuk tuk instead. We have no idea if any of what he was saying is true, and in any case we weren’t staying in the centre of the city, but we were very happy when our Uber arrived and we could leave him behind.
Our guesthouse is about 2km outside town – it’s a heritage property, with a small rooftop restaurant. We got settled in, then headed upstairs for dinner – and of course as soon as we sat down, it started raining. A dozen of us squished around three tables under a small corrugated iron roof, while the rain clattered down a couple of feet away.
Dinner was good – paneer lababdar and aloo pyaaz paneer and lots of roti, though there was a fire in the kitchen while we were eating, which didn’t make it easy for the guys in the tiny cooking area. From what we could see from peeking around the corner, their chapati bread oven had gone on fire. Huge wafts of smoke were billowing across the restaurant, so we finished our dinner quickly and scurried off to our room.
Tomorrow we’ll either explore the city, or go to Sajjangarh wildlife sanctuary, depending on how the weather is looking. And hopefully the monsoon will have decided enough is enough for this year.