India – Udaipur

IMG_6401IMG_6427 IMG_6437Well, as it turned out the car only took about 40 minutes. We had a very interesting drive to Ranakpur … probably only 3 hours but through lots of tribal villages with the most friendly people that we have come across. The women were beautifully dressed in bright yellow, orange and pink saris. The countryside was quite green with crops and when you looked out over the countryside you would see mostly green but then be surprised by bright spots of colour where the women in their colourful saris were working. Also, the older men wore bright red turbans here.

We arrived fairly late at the hotel and unfortunately it was too late to swim in the pool as they had added chlorine. We had a look around the hotel and had a beer in the lobby. We were very much in a small country area but the hotel was lovely … the friendliest people we had come across. While quenching our thirst met some great people from Jaipur. They were very modern people … the women wore western clothes and were very outspoken. The fellow was a wedding planner and organised elaborate weddings eg the bride entering via a hydraulic lotus flower!

We headed to another restaurant for dinner and Ashok joined us. Ashok was well known here and we received a very warm welcome to accompany our tasty food.

We were up early the next morning and went horseback riding. When we arrived there were about 20 monkeys being fed … they were just in the wild but someone was feeding them. Of course Mary-Anne is an experienced rider but I haven’t been on the back of a horse for 40 years. Once I was up and settled a bit I was ok. We had two guides with us and we headed into the countryside. It was great because the people on the farms weren’t used to tourists and they were very friendly. Very basic living in huts with dirt floors and open fires for cooking. Gorgeous little children running around everywhere. The children were really well nourished and were laughing and playing. Half way along we came across a small lagoon and spotted a crocodile. I couldn’t believe it! I had no idea they had crocs in India. The birdlife was fantastic as well. We had a great hour and a half ride and headed back to the hotel for a shower and breakfast.

We headed to a dhuri rug shop and watched them making the rugs. Then bought a couple. From there we drove to Udaipur via the backroads. Once again it was a fantastic drive … wild monkeys in the tress and on the road. Ashok stopped the car for us to take photos and we wound the windows down. He nearly had a fit and said … wind the windows up they will jump in!

We arrived at Udaipor to a beautiful hotel. We only had a little while there … quick beer … then off to a private house for a cooking class. We were both pretty shattered but soon bucked up when we met Anu … one of the most beautiful people I have ever met. She had a three story house. The bottom floor was rented out and her and her husband lived in the next two floors with her mother in law, son and another young boy that didn’t have any parents. She said it was a long story .. but we weren’t introduced to him and he didn’t eat with us. He was probably about 8 and stayed in the background … but the mother in law seemed to look after him. I would love to hear the story and hopefully one day I will.

So, we had a freshly made orange and carrot juice and some snacks. Anu was also an artist and had some lovely paintings which she showed us. She showed us her bedroom and then the dining room and kitchen. We were chatting away … she didn’t have perfect English but that was the reason why she wanted to do the cooking lessons to learn English. They are planning to build a 24 room hotel … which might have actually been started … not sure.

Next thing a photographer arrived. She had organised for him to come to take photos for her brochure! Which we were going to be in … apparently! We were that tired that we hadn’t even showered or got changed … we looked fine though and luckily had very colourful clothes on. Bright pink and bright orange. So, we headed to her dressing room (obviously upper class Indians – her husband was a government worker [plenty of corruption there]). We added lipstick and did our hair and we giggled together. We had photos taken in the loungeroom, the dining room, in the dressing room and in the kitchen. Incredible Indian, anytime, anywhere, any how!

Then we started cooking and the spices came out. Anu has a maid but she wasn’t there that night because she had had 25 women from the neighbourhood for a special religious celebration at her home that day. Anu had cooked the food and served etc etc… I think the maid just washes the dishes. She showed us videos of their day … the ladies dancing and having fun.

So she whipped up a chicken masala dish … I had previously thought that masala was a specific spice … but it just means a mixture of spices. Then she made a spinach dish and a tomatoe, onion and cottage cheese dish … the cottage cheese is quite like tofu … but tastes way better. Then she cooked dhal … she used a pressure cooker. Then made chapattis from scratch … it is basically whole wheat flour and water and a little salt. She buys her wheat from the market and gets it ground. She had a huge tin of wheat and a tin of flour. All of the food is organic and extremely healthy. She cooked the chapattis on a thin flat steel frypan then removed it and thru it on the open flame to rise for 20 seconds. Her husband was out, however we had met him when we arrived, but the rest of the family sat down to dinner.

Anu kept cooking chapattis while we ate. We were given one spoon to use as an utensil. We soon figured out that they only eat with their hands … rather … the right hand only. They break of a piece of chapatti off and pick up the food with it and put it in their mouths. We went through a lot of chapatti … but the meal was fantastic. They finish the meal with their hands clean … we nearly had it up to our elbows … hopeless! Anu didn’t eat because it was Tuesday and it is her fasting day and she only drinks juices. Also, she has vowed to stay a vegetarian until she has opened her hotel! Growing up she wore western clothes, but her mother in law doesn’t like her wearing them so now she only wears saris!!!!!!!Bloody hell … it is a different culture!

She wanted to cook dessert for us but we wouldn’t let her. We had left over semolina dessert from her big day with the neighbors. It must have been 11 pm by the time we left … she must have been exhausted but smiled and laughed with us all night. When we left she gave us both two beautiful glass bangles each.

We have promised to keep in touch with her and one day I would love to meet her again.

Next morning we slept in until 9.15 and didn’t get going until 10.30 am … late for us. Ashok drove us through the narrow streets of Udaipur down to the lake. We were in an area that no tourist bus could ever get down. We watched the women beating their clothes down by the lake and washing themselves. There were some men there that had shaved their heads and were praying with a priest. Ashok told us that a relative of theirs had died and they were preparing for his cremation. They were in singlets and sarongs that he said would be thrown away after the cremation. It was all very interesting to watch … the real deal and they were very friendly. Very authentic India. It was overlooking the palace in the middle of the lake … very beautiful.

From there we headed to a two hundred year old garden that a Maharaja had had built for his daughter to mimic the monsoon season. The level of the garden was below the level of the lake … so it was designed with fountains that work naturally without pumps … pretty amazing.

We ducked into a few shops and then Ashok took us to to a backstreet textile shop. That took a fare while. Once again we met a lovely Indian women and organised to have some clothes made.

Then for the first time we had three hours off back at the hotel. We had a relax, a swim and a beer before we headed out to the restaurant of a Haveli right on the water near where we had been in the morning. This was Ashok’s shout and we had a lovely meal and evening under candlelight.

Up early this morning and on the go by 9.30 am. We went to a small temple …our first working temple and it was lovely to hear the people singing and chanting. We walked to the Palace and met Ashok who had organised our tickets and audio guides. We found out that there was also a a crystal palace that Ashok said we wouldn’t have time to go through … so we raced through the palace and didn’t really listen to the audioguide … it wasn’t really that great anyway. Then headed to the crystal palace and crystal display. We loved that … crystal furniture!

Then off to pick up our clothes … mmm … very interesting. Then we hit the road to Pushkar. Boring drive on the highway. Mad driving as usual but we came across one guy in a brand new pickup sort of thing with people in the back. Anyway, he wouldn’t let us pass and was literally all over the road … right side, then wrong side on bends. Ashok sat back away from him but eventually got a break to pass him. As it turned out we went through a toll barrier in a kilometer or so. Ashok got out and went back to him and told him off. I thought the guy looked stoned when we passed him. There was a commotion and the guards came and made him get the people out of the back and made him pull over. Ashok said that he had driven a long way and would have eaten opium powder … from the dried milk from the opium plant. A bit of excitement for the trip!

Tonight at Pushkar … getting dark … will be glad when we arrive!

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