On leaving the hotel we turned left and remember from the last update the road we had arrived on wasn’t much of a road. The road we turned onto to was actually just dirt and sand. Off we went with our lovely driver who had only one concern and that was to ensure that Roisin and I had a flawless journey. The road snaked up through the surrounding mountains passing through some very small villages, similar to villages you would find in Ireland once you venture off the beaten track. A little hairdressers, the local car repair, and the small shop all part of the landscapes we passed.
As the journey progressed we passed by a number of quarries and further along were numerous cut stone vendors. As seems to be the case for all business in India, your competition is your neighbour. Slabs of cut stone in as many colours as you can image lined the roadside. Brendan, my late father-in-law, had travelled to India in the mid 80s to oversee the installation and assemblage of a stone cutting machine he had designed. I had never thought about that journey at the time. I had never realized the distance involved, the climate, even the accommodation he might have had to contend with all those years ago. I assumed things had improved for the traveler in the intervening years but perhaps just in the big cities. Brendan would have been in his 60s when he made that trip. While packing up my home, before coming on this trip I had come across some pictures of that very project. I wondered if that machine was still going and would not have been surprised to know that it was, nothing is thrown away here (except bloody plastic). Perhaps this stone for sale by the roadside was cut by that very machine and there are still a group of workers who remember the Irish man who came to help with the oversight of the project. Brendan Glennon, a lovely gentle and quiet man who took such pride in his work that he would see it through to completion, even if that meant a journey across the world. This was the first time I had thought about all those beautiful kitchens, floors and patios and how far they had traveled. All those pieces of India picked up and relocated to the other side of the world. This journey has brought such unexpected thoughts and memories to mind and it can be bitter-sweet at times but it is a joy to still have them close.
It was fascinating to pass through all the villages which became more basic the further out into the country we went. Mostly it was women I saw doing the heavy lifting. The work was done not in hard hats and steel tip boots but in the most colourful and bright sarees. They would collect fire wood and carry it on their heads, enormous bales of it and confidently more than I could carry with my arms. The amazing and beautiful colours of the ladies' sarees would catch your eye as you looked out over the fields and there in the distance I could see them moving through the lush green paddy fields and vegetable fields. The countryside is a patchwork of small holdings that surround the villages. I couldn’t see much evidence of the type of commercial farming evident at home where one crop dominate the view for miles. Instead there were some fields with rice crop and then smaller fields of salad vegetables and root crops. What was even more striking was how every one seemed to work together as again the women in their colourful sarees could be seen moving along the edge of the fields at a leisurely pace, in groups of four or five and one following the other. I so admired the pace these people moved. They seemed to walk at a slow considered pace, not lazy but a pace that had the attitude of "I'll get there eventually but I will enjoy the journey". That was so strikingly different to home where everyone seems to be rushing everywhere. Even the sarees, which are of this culture, but worn with more individuality than the multiple fashion trends seen in the West. There were elections on at the time and these drew big crowds of men, very few women in attendance even though there were a number of women running for election. It reminded me of the old days of election rallies and the guys on boxes outside Sunday mass, shouting all the wonderful things they would do for us once they got into parliament. "He who shouts loudest gets heard" and then they can sit on the laurels for a few years until the next election comes around. So here is what I had been told. The previous government won their seats on the historical value of having been the Mahatma Gandhi party. In the intervening years they have become corrupt. They have redirected wealth towards projects that support and enhance themselves. They have given themselves many benefits in addition to their pay to perform the government duties and pretty much just feathered their own nests. The guy who got in last term has tried to readdress the balance and has spent vast amounts of tax rupees on many civil and infrastructural projects. The upper parliament is trying to stop all these good works but the new guy is having none of it and so he is challenging the powers through the courts. I understood he is winning not just the funds release but the hearts of the people. So I predict that the BJP will win the up coming elections in India. One of the most striking things I noticed when arriving in India was the plastic dumped everywhere. Even out in the depths of the countryside mounds of plastics clearly having been driven out and dumped on the side of the road. It is an extraordinarily beautiful country but you need to look beyond the plastic. We must have driven at least 60 miles from Prakash before the plastic disappeared and the landscape emerged. I couldn’t help but wonder if it was cost effective to pay women to manage weeds in a lawn with a trowel, surely it would be as cost effective to pay a scrap charge for plastic, it would clean this country in no time. Perhaps the incoming government may make some improvements. We arrived in the city of Jodhpur at 4pm.
Umaid Bhawan Palace, Jodhpur
The main gate was closed and a security guard on duty explained that we couldn’t drive to the entrance of the hotel as there was a wedding in progress. I understood, incorrectly, that we were being asked to walk the distance from the road to the hotel and drag our bags with us or leave them on the side of the road. I hadn’t yet realized that India is relatively a safe country especially for foreigners. I was also later told that there is little petty crime in India because if you are caught you are beaten. I imagine these beatings are not the official course of redress but I was assured they happen. One of our guides had told us a story of how he became a devotee to the Monkey God, known as "Hanuman", which may go some way to explain the interpretation of the law. According to our guide, while he was out riding his motorbike he was struck at high speed by a car. The car he believed was doing 110 miles per hour and it was a miracle that he survived. More so, he walked away from the collision without a scratch. The driver of the other vehicle was caught and accepted full responsibility for the accident. At the police station the police suggested that there was little point in pressing any charges as that would only result in hassle for everyone. Besides, our guide had no injuries and if the other driver accepted costs for the motorbike, what case was there to answer? It was the feast day of Hanuman and the police officer suggested that our guide should go and leave an offering at a Hanuman shrine in thanks for his survival. There is a certain logic, Hanuman gets gifts, police gets less paper work. Well I loathe to leave my bags and didn't realise the guard had phoned reception to send porters to pick up our bags. I might be a little relieved if someone stole that overweight rucksack I decided to venture with but my wheelie bag I could manage. I assumed the guard was trying to tell me to leave the bags and that’s why he was trying to wrestle the wheelie bag from me. Equally, as the wheelie bag had all my wealth I was not letting it go. What followed was me holding firmly to the handle of the bag and walking as briskly as possible without actually breaking into a run and waving my hand saying “thank you, no I can manage" So busy was I trying, as politely as possibly, to reject the mans assistance while looking behind and waving. I failed to notice the porter in front trying to take the bag and I ploughed into him. Apologies all around and now totally committed to holding onto this bag to the bemusement of all spectators I kept going like some deranged thing. I do believe they thought I was deranged because having made it to the reception the guy at reception looked terrified. After my four days staying here I can safely say I never saw anyone carry their own bags. Men and women leave the bag carrying to the porters. I should point out that this has been the most expensive hotel booked and that includes the other five star hotels. Our original plan for accommodation was to stay in hostels and conserve resources for our year of travel. So this particular hotel was intended to be a respite from traveling basic. It was costing €386 for 4 nights. In addition we had been contacted the previous day and asked for a further 4000 rupees each (approximately €100) for Christmas dinner which was mandatory. I did mull the mandatory aspect over in my mind and thought it seems expensive, but if I’m getting a Christmas dinner (turkey, ham, all the veg, pudding and the rest) we will go for it! The Metropolitan in Jaipur had cost €150 for 4 nights, the Palace in Pushkar had cost €150 and the Courtyard by Marriott in Agra had only cost €55 for both of us per night and all bookings had breakfast included. So my expectations were greatly raised having stayed in a number of 5 star hotels at this point.My expectations were quickly given a reality check when I entered Ranbanka Palace, our very expensive Christmas treat to ourselves, and possibly would have been a delight if we had been staying in hostels. The booking pictures of the hotel give the impression of bygone world of a maharaja's palace, built in a British colonial style. It has a central courtyard with a small pool, a green area and a dinning terrace. The two floors of rooms face onto the courtyard and are accessed by a veranda.
Ever helpful, my request was granted and we were moved to a room on the first floor which did indeed have a bath so I accepted the change and realised all the room were pretty much the same. There was no point in pursuing a better room unless I was looking for the bridal suite. The rooms shown in the advertisement were those of the bridal suite and covered an entire floor. We had a bedroom and on closer inspection a bath plumbed for water but which drained directly onto the floor. I asked myself why do we bother going to all the effort of plumbing a drain into a bath, when if the design of a wet room is competently done there’s no need! Well I accepted my lot, there was no possibility of getting a better hotel this close to Christmas. We meet our...I really don’t know what title to give him, I suppose butler! He was assigned to our room or a few rooms on this floor and if we had any requests we would field them directly to him. Our first request was to get our laundry sorted and so with laundry handed over and a promise that we would have it returned tomorrow. We settled in for the next few days.
As we moved down the road, slowed by the mid-morning traffic, our driver said he needed money for tolls. I had read that the tolls were extra so didn’t think much of the request but as he didn’t speak much English he told me how much was needed so I gave him 500 rupees (approximately €7) and figured that would be enough to cover the extras. We had booked through the Uber app for a trip from Jaipur to Pushkar, a journey of about two and a half hours for a cost of 2265 rupees (approximately €27). So, in giving the extra money for the tolls, I didn't think either of us were being hard done by. Our driver, being delighted with the loot, pulled into a petrol station and went to fill the car with fuel. As much as I hated that rucksack, I didn't fancy having all my clothes covered in petrol so I jumped out of the car and transferred my bag to the front passenger seat. It was feeling a bit squashy but you get what you pay for and this was costing us buttons, so no complaints. As we left the garage, the driver opened and slammed his door hard while driving away but I just assumed that the lock hadn't caught when he first jumped into it. Once on the motorway, the driver came into his own. At first, I wasn’t too concerned, I had witnessed this Mario Kart driving when we had been with our private driver and this was normal in India. We were about 30 minutes into the trip when our driver pulled in at a road side café and indicated he was going to get something to eat and also that we were welcome to join him, which we didn't, thinking to ourselves that it would be strange. We sat in the car and waited for about half an hour. I was very impressed with a feature of the Uber app, after 2 minutes of being stopped, Uber asked if we needed assistance. We didn't contact them but curious to know what might happen if we were in immediate danger. He returned to the car and took off down the motorway as if we were escaping from a high speed police chase. He weaved in and out of traffic. At one point he drove up the inside of a truck to overtake it in the middle lane. He then slips into the gap just big enough for the car and drives to within inches of the truck in front of us. We were driving at high speed and we were boxed in on all sides by trucks. I prayed no one needed to brake too quickly. I had no doubt that a snowball in hell had better survival odds than any bookmaker would give me, even JG Bookmakers in Prosperous! Finding it all too boring, our driver decided this was the time to call his boyfriend with whom he had clearly broken up with. He manages to dial the number while intermittently looking down at the phone in the gap between the seats and then looking at the tail end of the truck inches in front of us. I have to say for a few seconds I was speechless. His call is answered and in a pleading tone he addresses the person on the other end but I have no idea what is being said other than tone. The recipient of the call thankfully hangs up. Our driver phones again and again and the other person continues to hang up on him. This happened about three times. Then he props his phone on the steering wheel and instigates a video call. I can see the face of a young man looking totally bored and I can hear the pleading tones of our driver, as he revved up and accelerated towards the back of the truck, I found my voice and let out a scream from the back seat “No! STOP!”. He slips between the back of the truck in front and the front of the truck in the middle lane and swerves to the hard shoulder, stopping the car and giving me a look of concern. “Okay Madam” he says, I established the phone was the problem and although he seemed a little put out, he did suspend using the phone for the rest of the journey. His driving didn't improve and a number of times I did contemplate getting out of the car but kept convincing myself that the worst was over. On we went belting down the motorway with our driver beeping at every other vehicle on the road nonstop. His crowning glory of driving incompetence was when he drove off the motorway via a slip road then, being more than three quarters of the way up that road realised his mistake and decided to reverse back down onto the motorway at high speed. Perhaps he thought we were agents for Top Gear looking to replace the Stig and wanted to show us his full bag of tricks.
We drove off the motorway and made our way through a busy town with small stalls lining the streets and the cows doing traffic control. Passing through that town and through some smaller villages I began to worry about the place I had booked and to the authenticity of the photos that encouraged my booking. The road went from tar to dirt and my concern rose in equal measure as the road deteriorated. We finally came to the entrance to our hotel and with relief I have to say it was amazing. We journeyed up a long palm tree lined avenue. At the canopied entrance stood the doorman in traditional costume which included long coat and turban. With great ceremony, the car door was opened by the doorman and I did an impersonation of Pope John Paul II visiting Ireland in the 70s and kissed the ground when I got out of that car. I asked the driver what was owed as all Uber transaction in India are cash and unregulated. He asked for 3000 rupees (approximately €35) and in my state of gratitude for my survival I had forgotten the 500 rupees given and that I had a quoted price on my phone. Regardless, I paid what was asked and fell into our hotel.
Pratap Mahal Hotel Location
We booked a hotel called Pratap Mahal which is part of the Taj hotel group (best luxurious hotel chain in India). It was beautiful and had everything we could want for a few days rest and relaxation. A palace oasis in the dry desert. Gorgeous rooms with an ornate swing suspended from the ceiling and a balcony overlooking the gardens and the pool. The meals were always buffets and there was an al a carte menu to choose but every time I tried to order from it, I was told my request was unavailable. This turned out to be a pattern in India and forced me to be more adventurous with my food. It's good to try new things, makes life more interesting. This hotel set us back €128 for three nights and included breakfast. Pratap Mahal Pushkar is worth a visit if traveling through Rajastan. The next leg of the journey would take us to Ranbanka Palace in Jodhpur where we would celebrate Christmas.
Interior of Pratap Mahal
Surprisingly, the place was amazing! Once you got beyond reception, each floor had a very nice seating lounge with a balcony view via a glass ceiling into the shopping mall below. The rooms lead off from the lounge area and were well decorated and a very good size. We were quite tired after our day and so didn't check the reviews for the hotel restaurant which is where we went for our evening meal. I put the lack of customers down to the early hour which was not the case, the food was pretty bad and we made the decision not to eat there again. To add to the decision making process as we ate we could see from the window of our hotel into the Holiday Inn restaurant just across the street and it was packed full of people. Holiday Inn in India is a luxury brand, whereas, in most European countries it tends to be a budget brand. Going forward we decided we would be eating across the street.
We meet with our guide at the entrance to the Pink City for 9:00 am. We stood outside the main city wall entrance while our guide told us the history of the city and our driver waited a short distance away. This was, he said the best time to view the exterior of the palace as later the street would be very busy making it impossible to park. Next we drove out of the city to the Amber Fort which is high on a hill overlooking a man made lake. Its possible to take an elephant ride to the top but not something I had any desire to do. The elephants are beautiful and the guide said that there are strict controls as to how many trips the elephants can make in any one day and they are not allowed to work between midday until early afternoon. This is the first time I have heard any consideration for animal welfare outside of the bovine community. Ah well, with our European sensibilities we can sometimes forget that far from being exotic creatures these are working animals in many Asian countries. Its good to know there are some controls in place to ensure the welfare of these beautiful creatures. We spent at least two hours there and again there were the many newly weds in many of the stately rooms posing for their wedding albums. Additionally, we personally had to deal with locals looking to take pictures with us. Róisín hated this aspect of our travels I didn't mind as I said if it made them happy and it cost me nothing why not.
Our driver was waiting for us at the main entrance to bring us to the next part of our day tour which was back to the Pink city and the start of the palace tour. The palace is still partially occupied by a royal family and a very expensive ticket would allow us to access all areas just short of the queens bedroom. We bought two tickets which set us back €70. Roisin loves palaces and as this was a highlight for her I wasn’t standing in the way. Besides, we had traveled from Ireland to this location so thought it best to do it all rather than risk regrets not having done so. There was lots to see and we spent a few hours here before heading to the roof top restaurant for tea and scones which our guide says is a recent addition included in the ticket. It seems very reminiscent of the type of fare you would expect at any English Heritage National Trust venture back in old Blighty. I would have to say the tour of the palace was worth while and we did see many areas not open to the public in general. €35 is a substantial amount to pay for a ticket but it ensures that most locals wont be able to afford entry, which in many places I have been is a stated desire.
We left the palace heading for the central square where we were to meet our driver. The streets were heaving with trucks, cars, bikes, and people. There is a large arched gate that leads from the new part of the city to the old and although it is tall it only fits one vehicle at a time and so there is a woman who stands in the middle and directs the traffic. It is truly nerve racking and I believe if I lived 10 years or more in India I would never get used to this bedlam, at one point there is a stand off between a bus and everyone else. No surprise the bus won. Because of the chaos in the car park it took a while to find our car. Our guide kindly went into pandemonium leaving us safely out of the way of traffic. As has become the norm we are very quickly surrounded by all types of vendors who are selling all types of goods and services from hair combs to tours. We had been told that to acknowledge these people even to the point of saying "no thank you" was to encourage them. In India, we were told that "No" actually means "maybe". I loath to say that to utterly ignore a seller to the point of their non-existence does work and you quickly stop being hassled but I hated the ghosting people as if they didn't exist. We eventually found our driver and saying our goodbyes to another lovely guide we were delivered back to the hotel. This was the end of this tour as we did not intend returning to Delhi with our driver the following morning. Our driver wanted to know if we needed him that evening but no we were in for the night so he could return to Delhi with our gratitude for looking after us for the past few days.
Royal Palace Festival Room
We had been traveling now for a few weeks and usually with plenty planned for each day. At this stage, and as ironic as it may sound, we needed some rest and recreation. We had one day left in Jaipur and we were going to take this opportunity to get our parcel home. So the next morning, after breakfast we hired a tuk tuk using the Uber app to bring us to the local post office (yes, Uber has every vehicle available on demand). The driver seemed to have difficulty reading google maps and so stopped a number of times to get directions. We eventually did get to the local office and there a helpful staff member told us we needed to go the GPO (General Post Office). He also printed out a copy of the customs declaration form we would need to fill in and attach to the parcel. So out we go again and Uber for another tuk tuk which was another 200 rupees (€2.30). Similar to Dublin, the GPO is surrounded by government buildings. The GPO is beside the courthouse where many fully robed barristers stand on the street or the entrance to the court buildings waiting to get their turn and doing last minute prep with their clients. We were dropped at the GPO but it wasn’t clear where the entrance was so we walked the grounds from back to front until we found the entrance and went inside. There were a number of counters and we picked what seemed the most appropriate. We stood in line and kept a respectful 2 meter distance from the person in front of us. This gap was quickly filled by a courier who waving his hand implied he was jumping in quickly to ask a question. But no he proceeded to remove from his bag around 10 small packets which all needed to be discussed and postage applied. I am fuming and try to channel my inner Zen, telling myself to stay calm, its not like we have an appointment to keep or a flight to catch, we have all day. We get to the counter and the attendant decides this is the time to take a little coffee break. We wait very calmly and patiently and the attendant returns and point at another desk for us to go to. Off we go and queue again and when we get to the desk we are handed a customs declaration form and told to stand aside. We look around for a pen but there are none. A very kind gentleman waiting in line lent us his pen and also waited patiently for us to complete the form. This was the last kindness shown to us in the process of trying to post this parcel. We filled the form and went back in line, whereupon, we were directed back around the corner to our original staffer. Again stood in line but then we are being taken aside by security and directed outside to the side of the building. I wasn’t sure what we had done to be so ejected from the building, although Zen was struggling I hadn’t actually blown my top yet. Just outside the main entrance and to the left of the doorway there was a small group of men wrapping parcels. I thought to myself that clearly security had made a mistake and not noticed our parcel was very well wrapped being secured with an entire roll of heavy duty tape in full consideration of the long and arduous journey ahead of it. We returned to the queue again refusing to be worn down. There was a group of young men just ahead of us and one in particular noticed our parcel and told us we needed to go outside to have it wrapped. I pointed out that the parcel was wrapped and the young man explained that in India wrapping meant stitching our parcel into a sack before handing it in at the counter. We went outside again and made our way to parcel wrapper. He took a look at the parcel then looked for a reasonably sized piece of sacking to cover it. Before he got to work I asked how much this service would cost. Remember we are outside a government building with our wrapped parcel, being told we need additional wrapping by a man standing in the flower beds with various lengths of sacking and a needle and thread. He paused for a moment looked at Róisín and myself and said 500 rupees. Well bye bye Zen. I took the parcel and walked away. Our next move I hadn’t figured out yet but this was definitely an extraction of urine on a grand scale.
I sat on the wall outside the building to calm myself. The young man who had advised us earlier, approached as he was leaving the building and asked what the problem was and was shocked at the fee we were being asked to pay. We had spent five euros so far on tuk tuks and we were being asked to spend another five euros to wrap a wrapped parcel. We needed to spend more to get back to the hotel. We still didn't know the cost of posting this parcel but I had reached end game. We would try another way on another day, for now we were heading back the hotel.
The Royal Palace in the Pink City
To lighten the events of the day we decided to go to see the new Spider man movie as Róisín and I are such fans of all things Marvel. We did the entire cinema experience with McDonalds first, presenting everything you can do to a chicken burger (no beef). Then we took our place among the teens and young adults to enjoy this cinematic masterpiece. Nice end to our day we returned to our hotel to pack and prepare to travel the next morning. It wasn’t possible to book an Uber for the following morning as the search would only start 20 minutes before our departure. we decided the best course of action was book in the morning. The Uber app was definitely getting us the best price as the App doesn’t discriminate between foreigner and local. All Uber transactions in India are cash so its hard to guarantee you can get a driver but we knew we would save on the inflated hotel prices. This may have been a mistake an the old adage of `You get what you pay for` which constantly screams back at me when I remember our traumatizing journey to Pushkar but that's a story for the another day.
We decided to start the day with a hunt in the market shops below for a keyboard for my tablet. Ever the procrastinator I had bought a tablet with a pen function which I convinced myself would be fabulous for my musings. It wasn’t, and so I had another excuse not to document our journey. Roisin, who can always find a solution to my excuses insisted that we search the electrical shops and so we find ourselves on the busy market street approaching any shop or stall with Samsung in its signage. The owners were very pleasant and if they did not have English they called someone from another stall who did. I cannot imagine that happening at home. It is fair to say most young people speak English so they were usually called on to mediate transactions. Those who couldn’t help were still very polite and curious to know where we were from and conversations regarding temperature at home compared to Jordan. Finally, we found a shop and being shown the keyboard and asked for 60 JOD, I said “No, no foreign prices I want Jordan prices, I’ll give you 15 JOD”. The young lad looks over at the older man who is seated like a king on a throne at the back of the shop. The boy says “30 JOD” again I said “No, its a display piece you don’t even have the box for it, 25 JOD come on, agree 25 and I will leave here happy” At each haggle the young lad looks to the king in the back of the shop. Finally I say “25 JOD best I will do, you don’t want 25 I will walk”. The young lad looks to the king again and the king agrees. I’m thrilled I love a good haggle and now I am ready to share the details of the trip with the world. We walked further along the street and come to a stall selling bread rolls with every type of filling. There is cheese, curry, spiced, devilled chicken, ham, vegetable that will be heated when chosen. I am a little on the very nervous side in trying any of the rolls on offer. We have all heard the horror stories of eating street food and if it didn't kill you, you might wish it did for the discommoding it can bring to the body. I had thought they were just bread rolls and figured how wrong can you go with a bread roll. So now as we point to each tray “What’s this one?” the seller announces “Chicken” and puts some in the bag, “Cheese” and puts some more into the bag. This went on until we had 12 rolls in the bag and none of them were plain bread. We stopped pointing and asked how much? I thought this was going to cost a small fortune and we took out a bunch of money and ruffle through to find a 20 dinar note. He leans in over our stash and takes a 5 dinar note handing us back our 20. Turns out it was 1 dinar for four rolls. He took the money and gave us change. So incredibly honest, he could have so easily taken more and we would have been none the wiser. We chatted for a while and he asked where we were from and he told us he was Egyptian and had been working this stall for 20 years. We took our bag of goodies and headed back to the apartment.
At the apartment, we made some tea and nibbled on the mixed bag of bread rolls before eagerly getting down to testing out my new keyboard. I checked it had power. Everything was perfect and so I set to work. It worked like a dream until I realize that there was a problem with email addresses or dialogue. The "@" symbol is where the “ key should be and vice versa. I laughed so much at my killer bargain. Regardless, it works fine and its not so pricey that I’m afraid of breaking it or losing it so ‘a bargain is a bargain’.
We ordered an Uber (its a good app for Jordan) and headed out to our now favourite restaurant on Rainbow street. As we are traveling so much and staying just short duration of time in any one place I tend to stick with a good food place when I find it. The staff recognized us from the previous evening and we had another gorgeous meal on our last night in Jordan. Saying our goodnight to all we headed down the hill to our apartment. We were very relaxed as we strolled. There was a little traffic on the streets but overall the street was very quiet. As we got closer to the end of the street and more into the residential area I noticed a guy was following close behind us. I stopped to look in his direction figuring it is always best to see what’s coming rather than hope for the best with head down and walking. We stopped then he stopped. I crossed the road pulling Roisin by the arm and moved to the other path and he did the same. Grabbing Roisin by the arm again I make a quick return toward the original path and he went to do the same. I stopped in the middle of the road. I had no intention of putting myself or Roisin on some shadowy path. Center of the road, plenty of light and if a car did happen to pass there was a chance of flagging it down for assistance. I quickly turned on him, pointed directly at him and shouted “Enough, I am warning you to stop following us or I will shout Police! and that is international. Get out of here!” This I did in a voice just loud enough to get anyone’s attention who might be around but not hysterically. The guy starts apologising “Please lady, I sorry, I sorry” as he ran like the clappers up the road. The entrance to the apartment was just a few meters away so I made sure the guy was far enough away to allow us time to get inside quickly and safely. Relieved and grateful, I put the kettle on had the universal Irish cure for everything a cup of tea. I was grateful for the level of security I had seen in Jordan because I knew that if I had to shout police they would have been there in seconds and so did the guy following us. So all came right in the end. We were off to India tomorrow having had a wonderful time in Jordan.
Click below to read part two and three of our Amman adventure!
The first sound on our first day in the Amman apartment was the call to prayer which started at 5 am. The apartment as previously explained overlooked the market in the valley below and on the opposite side of this valley stood four Mosques, identifiable by there elevated towers highlighted in a green light. Mohammad, our Airbnb host, had told us that the four Mosques did try to synchronize their vocals but despite their best efforts each was out of sync by possibly milliseconds. This had the affect of creating this quite haunting echo which slinked away down the valley and over the horizon, then closely followed by the next line of prayer reminiscent of a Gregorian chant. It was spellbinding. Having listened for a while we turned over and went back to sleep.
We rose around 9 am, showered and dressed. I noticed the shower was very slow to drain but didn’t think much of it just assumed it was one of the quirks of the ancient drains in the ancient city. Going to the little kitchenette I started breakfast by putting a pot on the boil with the eggs that we had managed to track down on our hunt the previous evening. I went to wash the cups I had left in the sink the previous evening and not wearing my glasses I was a little confused about the black blobs inside the first mug, but I went ahead and washed it out anyway. On lifting the second mug and seeing the same discoloration I thought to put on my glasses and investigate. Inside the cups where hundreds of tiny little ants, in my shock I let out a scream which brought Róisín running. In a very speedy manner she identified the creatures and her analysis was “Oh cop on mam they are only ants”. So I did. We found the source and the attraction. The source was a tiny gap in the wall corner and the attraction was the residue of Róisín’s sugary apple drink which we had left unwashed in the sink overnight. We called Mohammad who was at the door in record time to sort the problem. Lesson learned, don’t leave exposed food or unwashed dishes in the sink if you don’t want visitors but you have to admire the diligence of these little creatures.
We decided that after breakfast we would head down to the market and take in our surroundings. So going out the side gate just off the courtyard we made our way down the tier of steps to the small roadway below. You better like hills if you want to enjoy Amman or, as I was to discover later, Uber will be your life saver. We passed a number of small shops not more than 4 meters wide and each stepped down from the last on this very pronounced incline. They were mainly service shops, a few barber shops, each beside each other. A man making hand made sandals and shoes which looked beautiful and I would have bought but for the journey we were doing and the limit on luggage space, I decided to leave it. We made our way down the hill to connect with the main street which was on level ground and heaving with people. We moved through the crowd attracting everyone’s attention as our chalky pallor made us stand out. Children stared open mouthed as we passed. I have to say it was a little unnerving to be the center of so much attention. The streets were packed with people going about their business. All kinds of shops were on this street, electrical stalls were all beside each other and all fighting for the same business. Furniture shops, bedding, tyres, car parts and all themed within a particular stretch of the road. To give an example, if I wanted to buy a mattress for a bed along this street there would be say four shops and each beside each other. I could only imagine that the haggle for a mattress must be cut throat. We walked along the street fascinated by the number and variety of shops. One stretch of the path had a number of sellers with what looked like old clothes, old shoes, old spectacles anything that had any useful attributes left in them were being sold here and nothing went to waste. As we went further down the street we passed some gun shops which to my eyes, coming from a country where even the police are not armed was a bit of a shock. The window displays didn’t carry any double barrelled shot guns that would be commonly used by farmers back home but had a full array of hand guns, assault rifles, and machine guns which fully challenged my understanding of normal.
We spotted the national museum of Jordan just across the road and decided to have a little nosey. The first challenge was to cross the street this was a lot harder than you might think. Pedestrian crossings sometimes mean safe for pedestrian to cross and other times you are taking your life in your hands. The problem is that its very, very difficult to figure out when the rules of the road apply and when they don’t. To cross the road is like being a moving target in an amusement arcade and my nerves were fried. I decided to just take the lead from the locals and run when they did and this strategy worked and we managed to get to the opposite side of the road. Museums can be boring but these are the homes of our history and our national identity and so it is for this museum. It is really well done because as you enter the museum you are directed in a particular direction which brings you around the display rooms from oldest to youngest. The directional discovery was made because we were going in the wrong direction and a guard came and directed us in the right direction. Although millennia of history is covered here one or two displays caught my attention more than others. So first there was the display of the different Bedouin dress. To the western eye they all look beautiful and exotic and until now I had no idea that each dress was particular to individual tribes much like the Aran jumpers design are particular to a family or island in the west of Ireland. The last leg of the museum brings you right up to date showing the huge strides Jordan is making in water conservation and renewable energy. Finally, there was an interactive piece which on picking up an ear piece allowed you to listen to classic Arabian poetry, I cant pretend to say I had any idea as to what was being said but there was pace, debt, drama, and character to the voice. It would put you in mind of our dear old president Michael D. Higgins reciting some ancient Gaelic piece of literature with heavy dulcet tones, again, no clue as to what’s being said but I know its deep.
We finished at the museum and made out way back to the apartment. Oh my God! The steps nearly killed me, word to the wise, when on steps having left the streets below there is no chance of hailing a passing taxi, that option was left on the street far below. Huffed my way back to the apartment and swore "money no object from here on, it was taxis up the hills" I would be happy to walk back down. Planned to shower and head out again but notice the water from the morning shower had failed to drain so texted Mohammad again to let him know. I could almost hear him looking at my name ping on his phone and as he recognized the name his brain goes “what now!?”. Mohammad apologized for the problems and asked if we would mind moving to another one of his apartments as he would be unable to get a plumber in at this hour. Mohammad helped transfer us to another room. The new room was fabulous with a kitchen, separate living room, bedroom and big en suite. This was one hell of an upgrade from what we had booked. This was perfect for a small family or perhaps if you planned to stay for a longer time the space would be appreciated.
We hopped into a cab and off to a restaurant we had found on TripAdvisor which had fantastic reviews. As the streets were so narrow in this part of the city most were one-way. Our taxi driver explained that even though the restaurant saw a very short walking distance he would have to go the long way around in a car. I didn’t care as long as I did not have to climb that hill again. Karen and Annette’s (my fountain of youth cousins) voices were ringing in my ears going “think of the steps Olive, every daily activity is an opportunity to exercise Olive!" Okay ladies I’ll think of the steps but I am not doing them. We arrive at the restaurant all fresh and shiny and all for the equivalent of a euro. Oh my God, I may never think of steps again at these prices I can Uber everywhere! The restaurant was fabulous and was true to all its reviews. Sufras on Rainbow street was a lovely experience with great food and service.
The next morning we realized that we had left a plug adapter behind in the old studio, Roisin went to retrieve it. She met with Mohammad again and she asked if the problem with the drain had been sorted. It turned out that there was no problem with the shower drain and here’s how we made our mistake. At home the stainless steel covers about the size of small plate in the shower that covers the drain is just that, its decorative and it covers the ugly drain well, here it functions as a plug. If pushed down or stepped on, as I did, it will stop the water and acts as a plug. Luckily I didn’t drown the place and totally bemused as to why you might want to contain 2 or 3 inches of water in the shower tray. Anyhow, Mohammad was very gracious about the whole episode and took it with good humour.
Read Part Three of our Amman Adventure by clicking below!
Hi, I'm Olive and I am the writer of this blog. I am traveling the world with my 22 year old daughter, Róisín, who has just graduated University. I wanted to document this journey because it is unusual for a woman of 58 years old to go on adventure that most students do on a gap year. I will try to share my insights into this epic journey with you along the way and maybe inspire more people my age to go on these crazy adventures too.