Day 122: Udaipur, India. Today marks four big months of Asian Rambles. It’s gone crazy quick, however it also feels like a very long time since we were standing at Sydney airport with our backpacks on, grinning our heads off.
Every day tells a different story (sometimes many of them), and the fun and experiences we’ve had along the way have been wonderful.
Today began with a long call to our bank in Sydney. The cancelled ATM transaction in Jaipur (when the power went out while Jim was trying to get cash) has since been debited to our account. So a dispute has now been lodged between St.George and State Bank of India. While it will likely take some time to play out, at least it’s out of our hands for the moment.
After a very late breakfast, we walked into the old town and out the other side to visit the Ahar archeological museum and cenotaphs, a group of 19 monuments commemorating the kings who were cremated there. It was a chaotic 7km walk along dusty noisy streets, with lots of local life happening.
The great thing about walking is you get to see so much more along the way, with lots of opportunity for people watching. We’ve been intrigued by the huge loads people carry on their heads here, and whether the practice causes any damage. A quick Google search later in the day indicates that it’s actually pretty efficient, as ‘it’s right on the weight bearing axis of the body, so causes no torque in the spine’. Another article suggests that carrying loads up to 20% of your body weight causes no damage.
The lady in the photo below seemed to be carrying a large collection of dried out cow pats on her head, which suggests it might exceed the 20% safety limit.
The roads we walked along sold everything from clothes to medicine and stationery – one strip of shops was even dedicated to selling drums. Along with a mix of tabla drums, there were lots of automated drum and bell combinations called arti, which are widely used in Hindi temples.
We reached the Ahar cenotaphs, and walked into what we thought was the entrance gate. It wasn’t, and we failed to spot the newly laid cement that we had just walked into – and sunk into – causing lots of amusement for locals.
With cement caked shoes, we walked around to the other side of the cenotaph grounds, but all the gates were locked, so all we could do was take a couple of pics over the wall.
We walked down to the museum just down the street. Despite one of the Udaipur tourism web sites saying the museum was open every day except Friday, and today was Monday, there was a sign hanging on a fence outside saying ‘closed today’. We went inside to double check, given it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that the sign had been left out over the weekend.
We asked an elderly man if the museum was open. He said “yes”. So we replied ‘oh good’, and started to walk in. He said “no” so we stopped again and asked if it was closed. He said “yes” followed by “no”. He was also staring intently at Lil’s shoes, which had clumps of drying cement hanging off them. Eventually he waved us out of the museum, which we assume means it was definitely closed – or perhaps cement caked shoes aren’t allowed.
Feeling a little deflated, we caught an Uber to Gulab Bagh park, 100 acres of land near the told town, which is billed as ‘a beautiful lush green place to get away from the bustle of the city’. It’s not. It’s a largely overgrown public park with a few walkways, no central focus and a shed load of mosquitos. The park gets its name from the countless varieties of roses that it had – we certainly couldn’t spot any there now. A sign also points to a public zoo which is no longer open, which we reckon is a very good thing, assuming the animals have been relocated elsewhere.
We left the park and walked into the old town in search of a beer. We spotted a sign for a rooftop bar on top of a hotel, and walked up endless flights of grimy stairs, with wallpaper falling off the walls. We eventually popped out on the rooftop, which was dismal and looked as if an explosion might have taken place up there recently. We left again quickly, saying we couldn’t stay as there was no shade, and we would burn in the sun (which is true).
We found another rooftop bar that was heaps better, and had a cold beer in the sun, with more great views. There’s hefty competition in the town to be the ‘highest rooftop bar’ – lots of places seem to claim the same title, including the one we were sitting in. Ours had another level above us, which looked like a shoddily constructed wooden box balanced precariously on a pedestal. We decided to stay sitting where we were.
On the way back to the hotel, we spotted a music van with loudspeakers parked at the side of the road. This one belongs to the Udaipur Shahi Darbar brass band, which is a popular band here for weddings.
We had dinner at the hotel, listening to one of the guys in the kitchen coughing his lungs up, and then a very early night. Lil has a head cold and maybe a touch of flu (hopefully not caught from the guy in the kitchen), so we’ll be taking it a little easy tomorrow.
More (but perhaps not very much, depending on Lil’s health) then.