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.
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.