Day 128: Mount Abu & Jodhpur, India. Another day, another bus, another train. After packing up this morning, we wandered up the street for breakfast at a local cafe in Mount Abu. The guys in the cafe have been hassling us to eat there since we arrived, so they were happy to get our custom at last, albeit just over an hour before we left the town, to catch a bus to Jodhpur.
30 minutes before our bus was due to depart, we finished our second coffees and walked around the corner to the bus station. The guy behind the counter said only government buses go from the station – private buses go from a bus stand a few minutes walk away.
We walked down the street, passing a cow that we’ve spotted a few times in Mount Abu, and which we labelled The Kooky Cow. Its horns are both fascinating and terrifying, and needless to say we gave it a very wide berth every time we spotted it. We were happy to say goodbye to it.
We found the right bus yard (even bus stand is a little too grand a term). There was no counter, and no indication of which of the eight or so buses that were parked haphazardly around the yard might be going to Abu Road. Plus most of the drivers seemed to have gone missing.
Another bus pulled in and we asked the driver if he could help – he said “No buses to Abu Road, you must get taxi”. We showed him our online tickets for the journey from Mount Abu to Abu Road, pointed out they were from the same bus company as the bus he was driving, and he nodded as if the conversation 10 seconds ago had never taken place, and pointed us to a beaten up bus in the corner.
The beaten up bus in the corner had a driver but he wouldn’t let us on – we gathered from a lot of pointing and grunting that he wanted us to wait on one of the bunch of dirty plastic stools by the fence. Ten minutes before the bus was due to depart, he let us on. It was one of those weird buses that’s half seats and half beds, so we sat squished in the front two seats with a tiny strip of a window and a bed above our heads.
We were a bit late leaving, mainly due to the bus driver having to search for his lighter so he could light some incense sticks for the shrine on the bus dashboard. After he’d lit the incense and wafted it around for a bit, he seemed happy with his efforts and got behind the wheel.
The advertised drop off point was Sai Mandir temple, about 1.7km from Abu Road train station. Except the bus stopped a few kilometres before the temple and waved for us to get off. Lil pointed to the drop off point on our e-tickets. The driver shook his head. Lil pointed to the ticket again, and refused to move. Eventually the driver called his assistant (whose primary job seemed to be to hang out the open door of the moving bus to make sure we didn’t fall off the cliff face as we drove down the mountainside), gave him 10 rupees and told him to find us a tuk tuk to the temple.
We ended up getting the tuk tuk driver to drive us all the way to the train station – and it was along some of the roughest road surfaces we’ve been on. We were bounced and thrown around with force, eventually landing outside the train station, feeling like we’d been through a blender.
We had hours to wait at Abu Road station for the Jodhpur train, so we had coffees and read our books, and watched the world go by. We also had some lunch in the station cafe, though even Jim was a little dubious about the provenance of the food they served. We ordered stuffed paratha. The guy behind the counter dug around and found a foil container, peeled back the lid, stared at the contents for a bit and then passed it over. Lil had a piece of cold chewy paratha and decided she wasn’t hungry after all. Jim persevered with his cold chewy paratha with pickles and a tub of warm curd, with Lil pointing out that curd is probably supposed to be refrigerated. A sign on the wall stated ‘With us you will get safe food’. Let’s hope so.
The train pulled in right on time, and we located our carriage and seats. A portly man sitting opposite us was just starting to tuck into his curry and rice lunch, and very nicely asked if we would like some. We declined, thanking him profusely. Lil recalled a sign at Delhi train station which said not to accept any food or drink from fellow passengers, as they may be trying to poison you so they can steal your luggage and belongings. Our portly smiley travel companion didn’t look like he was out to poison anyone, and certainly wouldn’t have been able to run very fast if he’d nicked our bags and belongings.
The four and a half hour train journey went quickly. Lots of glorious green and hilly scenery sped past while we read our books, did some online research and napped. It was an uneventful journey, apart from a mouse that kept running around the floor in front of us, perhaps hoping some passengers might drop bits of curry and rice.
We arrived at Jodhpur right on time, and made our way through the crowds to the station forecourt. We tried to order an Uber but two drivers cancelled, so we had to negotiate with a tuk tuk driver, with about 15 young guys standing around watching the negotiations taking place (clearly with nothing better to do).
We agreed a fare and the tuk tuk took off through the early evening traffic, weaving around busy streets, through the gates of the old town and across lots of bone shaking cobblestones. Once in the old town he expertly navigated his way through tiny narrow little laneways, and dropped us alongside the laneway to our hotel.
Our hotel is fabulous – a 500 year old haveli with old stone walls, shutters, little balconies and lots of interesting art and knick knacks. We dumped our backpacks in our room and headed straight up to the rooftop for beers and dinner. The hotel is located right beneath Mehrangarh Fort and there are jaw-dropping views of the fort from the rooftop.
We had cold beers followed by a fabulous dinner of super-spicy paneer bhurji (Jim’s latest favourite and our third different take on this recipe) and Gatta Curry (chickpea flour dumplings with cashew nut, tomato and garlic sauce), with the owner’s two adorable labrador puppies running around the rooftop causing mischief.
Tomorrow we’re planning to have a lazy start to the day, then we’ll head out to explore some of the town. And hopefully we won’t find any kooky cows along the way.