Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Jodhpur, Ranakpur and Udaipur, Oh My!

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It was during dinner the evening before that Jon and Ulco played the tourist card. Although it had been agreed on weeks before that the Taj Mahal was not on our list of destinations, and not only that, but I think I am somewhat allergic to Agra, they begged and pleaded and gave us “we’ll throw you out of the car in the middle of nowhere” eyes and we had no choice but to be the gracious hosts and give in after a lot of complaining. So instead of heading to Mount Abu, we decided to head to Udaipur by way of Ranakpur with a first stop in Mandore, the ancient city of Jodhpur, about 10 or so kilometers in the opposite direction. The thing about India, is that distance means nothing. 10 kilometers (less than 5 miles) can easily take an hour or so, and an hour or so after leaving the center of Jodhpur, we found ourselves in Mandore where we jumped out of the car, took a bunch of pictures and then piled back in and soon were back in the car speeding toward Ranakpur.

I had been wanting to go to Ranakpur to see the Jain temples, but that plan was also squashed when Jon announced that he was pretty “Jained out” and so it was decided in a three to one vote and guess who only got one vote in spite of organizing the whole thing and basically playing the role of Julie McCoy the entire trip? Yep, yours truly.

It wasn’t that I didn’t want to go to Kumbalgarh, it is just that I had been wanting to see the temples for weeks, but I reread about Kumbalgarh and decided it would all be ok. I was also assuming we could at least a few minutes and at least see the temples from the outside. Ranakpur is a village, how hard would it be to miss them?

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By the time we got to Ranakpur, we did not have the time to visit Kumbalgarh. It was over an hour drive up a windy, not so good road to the top of the mountain and then we would have had about 30 minutes of time to explore before having to come down that same road in the dark and then continue out of the mountains to Udaipur. We had had a very close call with a bud earlier in the day and none of us were keen on being in the car after dark. I only had used my driver in Delhi traffic and suddenly it seemed he had vision issues and we were 700 kilometers from home and still a week to go.

So we ended up going to the Jain temples and one look at them cured Jon of his Jain burnout. The whole temple is so elaborately carved and all held up by 1444 carved pillars, no two of them the same. Of all the temples I had been in so far, that was by far one the favorite. So many details to see and pictures to take, I could have spent the entire day there, but we had to do with just an hour or so in the complex. I was also very careful to take a lot of pictures, but at the same time, make sure I was not seeing Rajasthan via the viewfinder of my 35mm or the display of my digital camera. I made that mistake the first time I came to India about 12 years ago. 


From Ranakpur it was a beautiful mountain drive toward Udaipur with monkeys everywhere and it seemed each one had a baby latched onto it. We passed through several villages and at one point decided to stop the car at a sleepy little area. Big mistake! As soon as the car stopped, children came out of nowhere and everywhere, all wanting money. I took out what little money I had on me, and made the mistake of pulling out paper money. The 10 rupee bill was immediately torn into several pieces as the kids fought over it. The crowd kept growing and pushing and so I just went back into the car.

As was becoming our trend, we arrived in Udaipur after dark. The lake palace was brightly lit up, all bright white in the middle of the black lake and fireworks were being shot off from the Maharaja Palace behind it. It was a nice welcome to the city but t had been a long day and after a meal on a rooftop terrace overlooking the town, I was ready for bed.

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