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
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.