Feb 2019 Trip to Rajasthan

Day One - Jodhpur

My 1994 trip to India took in the entire Western side of the country, but I only managed a day in Jodhpur. this time I was going a bit deeper. The hotel was certainly a bit more expensive. I noted in my diary that it had cost me one pound! this time I stayed in the much more salubrious but still fairly cheap and cheerful (1500Rs = 16GBP) Kesar Heritage Boutique Homestay. I say chepa and cheeful but the rooms were really good and told of its prior life as a rich family's haveli and still run by two of the brothers, Guru and Mahesh. The first thing I learned about Jodhpur old town was that the lanes were very narrow. Too narrow even for a Trishaw as I had to walk the last few metres to the hotel. It was in a good spot however as the rooftop restaurant had a fantastc view over the town but more impressivley to the Mehrangarh Fort, the jewel in Jodhpur's crown.

And after breakfasting on a delicious aloo paratha that is where I headed on my first morning in India. It was a fairly steep climb but of course with great views over the city. As usual I got up pretty early but it was a vain attempt to avoid the hordes of tourists as there were plenty there already. However, not so many foreigners, mainly Americans, Israilis, Chinese and Japanese when I was there and I was quickly relived of my 700Rs at the foreigners ticket office. This included a very good audio guide and little map of where to go. I have to say, it was a very impressive fortress/museum/home/palace with plenty to keep you occupied over a morning, if not more. the only slight shame was that the battlements are now off limits so You can't take in the great views. I presumed it was to stop peoiple taking selfies and falling off the extremely steep walls. Taking slefies being THE most popular pastime at India tourist attractions.

Most people enter and leave the fort at the huge gatway at the Eastern end of the fort bu tth elast photo above shows the view from the western edge of the fort and the ridge which reaches into an area of the old town near the Sarafa Bazaar. I headed out the back ext of the fort and into this area. From the photo you can see why they call Jodhpur the blue city. Apparently no one really knows why the houses are blue some say it is becasue it ,,,, the mosquitios, others that the blue is an identifyer of the Brahmins, the highest of the Indian castes. IT could be a bit of both. Over time I have noticed fewer and fewer blue buildings but most remain in this area, the best preserved.

Although it was very easy to get lost in the maze of alleys and tiny streets every now and then I gained aglimpse of the fort whioch towers over everythign so slowly but surely I got back to the heart of town which is the area around Sardar Bazaar and its 1912-built clock tower. Also near here is the Toorji Ka Jhalra, the best preserved of Jodhpur's famous step wells. Built in the 1740s to provide water and preserved more recently as a tourist attraction.

Behind the Mehrangir fort is another more hidden gem of Jodhpur, the Rao Jodha Rock Park. It was created in 2006 to restore the natural ecology of the large rocky wasteland behind the fort. There are paths and a visitor center which contain a bit of infomation about the area. As usual, I got there early in the day so there was no one there but I'm sure it doesn't get many visitors anyway, but a great place to see loads of wildlife. I saw eagles, mongooses and pelicans amongst others in just a few hours.

The Rock park was also the scene of my next adventure: Flying Fox Jodhpur. Starting from the battlements, you get to go on six zip lines whiuch criss cross the park and over a couple of lakes. A bit scary at first but totally exhillarating.

The guys at the hotel had discouraged me from my planned trip to the Bishnoi villages - "too touristy and contrived" they said, so instead I headed for the Jaswant Thada and then onto Mandore. Jaswant Thada is a marble cenotaph built by the Maharaja of Jodhpur in 1899 and serves as the cremation ground for the royal family of Marwar. the cenataph itself is a remarkable building built of intricatley carved marble attractivley situated in a manicured garden, somewhat jarring in the wider ararea of barren desert. Within the grounds there are other smaller cenotaphs and gazebos and a small lake which is a watering hole for many birds and animals. all in all it is a magical, quiet spot with the added bonus of marvellous views to the fort and town.

From here I took a threewheeler to Mandore, the ancient capital of Jodhpur. Although it is officially 10kms away, it is in many ways like a suburb of Jodhpur but does have a very different more laid back feel. The center of "town" is where the old fort and temples are situated in a park area. The main attraction are the six dewals, the domed royal chatris of the Rathors which stand in a line within lush,shady landscaped gardens. Intricately carved they are well worht a visit. Just away from these ancient buildings is th ehall of heroes where 16 life sized figures are carved out of the rock. while I was there, they were being renaovated. Next to them is the , seemingly more modern Shrine of 30 crore (300 million) gods. Here there a huge gods covered in silver leaf. This place was far more popular than the old temples and even outside devotees were wafting their hands through a large flame. Behind the temples I scrambled up a rough path which eventually led to the old fort. Although in ruins now, I could see that it was once an impressive set of buildings which are now overrun with a large tribe of grey langurs. In fact not just here, there were plenty of langurs amogst the temples down in the grounds and I thought some of the local were rather brave in feeding them. There's a bit more info on Mandore at theculturetrip.com

Of course it wouldn't be a proper page of mine without some more pics. Here is a Masala Dhosa, one of my all time favourite Indian dishes and Govind Gatta, a local delicacy. It's basically a dumpling made of gram flour, in a rich gravy. However it contains no onion or garlic. This was one of many excellent meals I had at the hotel cooked by Guru. It wa sinteresting to note that Rajasthan is home to many Jains, many of whom are not only vegetarians, like many of the Hindus in Rajasthan but also don't eat onions, garlic or even root vegetables. I didn't go that far but I went completeley vegetarian for my three weeks in Rajasthan (very unusual for me!).