Day 131: Jodhpur, India. We packed our bags again today for a quick walk up two flights of stairs to the next level of the hotel. A bunch of new guests were arriving and had asked to stay together on the same floor, so we were asked to move upstairs.
This morning we were planning to walk to Umaid Bhawan Palace, the King’s official residence in Jodhpur, but gave up on the idea half way there. We needed to cross the railway line and the main road to take us across had been dug up and there was no way through. So our choice was to walk a decent way further up a very busy main road to find the next crossing point, or walk across the railway tracks at any point, which is what locals tend to do, regardless of whether roads are being dug up or not. Neither option appealed, so we went and had some coffee in a small cafe while we plotted our next moves.
An advertising poster on the building opposite from The Wedding Specialist Rajasthan showed a wedding party all dressed up and ready to go. All very elaborate and lovely, and good to know that traditional dress is still worn, albeit you’d need to get up early on your wedding day to get dressed up in that lot.
After coffee, we did what we always do when we’ve no set agenda – we walk. We weaved our way around dozens of streets in the old town, some already visited, some new, though it’s such a maze we’re not entirely sure which was which.
Along the way we found another stepwell which for some reason isn’t mentioned in any of the tourist or city information we’ve read online. It’s called Mahira Bag Ka Zalra and it’s another great example of an old stepwell. With no signposts or any online promotion, it’s pretty amazing that we’d walked past it a few days ago, just five metres away, without even noticing it.
While we were standing at the edge of the stepwell, an elderly man walked up and down the steps repeatedly, collecting jugs of water – good to see that the place is still in use. A young kid came over to talk to us, asking the usual questions – our names, where we’re from etc. He said (we think) that swimming isn’t allowed in the stepwell, and either his father used to swim in the water or he has gone to heaven, we’re not sure exactly which. He was making spirally signs with his hands and pointing upwards. It was a very confusing conversation, which ended with him putting his hand out for money.
The cows that freely roam the streets of cities we’ve visited are here too, but not in such huge numbers. However goats are in abundance and pop up everywhere, sifting through piles of rubbish, peeking out wooden shutters of houses and lolling about on walls and steps. Most of them have had their horns removed, which makes them look a little odd and from a quick glance a bit more sheep-like.
An article on goatworld.com (which is really a thing) explains that while horns provide useful functions (helping to cool goats in heat, aiding them to defend themselves, and allowing them to reach the ‘itch in their sides’) the horns can also be a menace when goats attack each other – or humans – or get their horns stuck in things like fences or barbed wire. The article also provides a guide to easy DIY removal of your goat’s horns (we stopped reading at that point).
One of the cutest goats we saw today had henna applied to its coat – it was looking pretty proud of itself as it lay sunbathing (and probably sitting in a pile of its own poo) on the step of a house.
A local school was finishing for the day as we walked past, with lots of over-excited kids shouting hello and waving. This gang of kids posed for us and afterwards we were treated to one of the boy’s best John Travolta impersonations, much to the amusement of his friends (and us).
On the way back through town, we stopped at the fruit market to buy some bananas. A guy who manages the clothing and textile stall next door (and speaks excellent English) jumped in to help the fruit seller (who didn’t speak any English) with the banana transaction. He managed to upsell us with a large bag of chikoo fruit which we’ve never tried before, and which we’ll now be eating for days. It’s an interesting fruit, which tastes like a cross between a pear and a kiwi and a papaya. Sort of.
On the way back to the hotel we stopped off at the Indian cafe we visited a couple of days ago, for a couple of hot strong coffees and a read of the India Times. One of the newspaper articles describes the impact the ban on single use plastic will have on India’s cow population, through the voice of two cows called Rani and Laxmi, who clearly speak very good English. It’s an a-moo-sing read.
We walked some more and then decided to seek out a late afternoon beer. There’s a guesthouse and rooftop restaurant on the cobbled hill leading up to the fort, which we know exists because every time we pass the owner tries to drag us inside for his home cooked pakoras and beer. We arrived at the door and were quickly dragged up endless steps to the rooftop by the owner (with a quick tour of the kitchen on the way, so we could see where his wife cooks the pakoras).
The rooftop had great views and a pack of lively kids that turned water taps on and off for amusement and cycled their little bikes in circles on the rooftop. We gather the restaurant may not be licensed to sell beer, as we were asked to put our half full bottles on the floor under the table (or perhaps it’s just to stop them falling off when the kids knock their bikes into the table legs). We chatted to a lovely couple called John and Jenni, a father and daughter from Northern Ireland who are travelling around India together for a few weeks, and having a lot of fun along the way. We shared experiences and learnings (and a few beers), then said our goodbyes, promising to hook up on Facebook.
This evening we had dinner on the hotel rooftop again. With no sign of the bunch of guests that were supposed to be arriving today, it was another quiet dinner with dahl and chickpea dumplings and the two cute labradors (the dogs were running around, not in the curry).
Tomorrow we’re planning to visit Jaswant Thada, a marble mausoleum up on the hill near the fort. And perhaps we’ll be brave enough to read the rest of the article on DIY goat horn removal.