I awoke at 6am to the sound of a local clearing his throat, sinuses and bronchial passage in the bathroom adjacent to mine so I was still dog tired by the time I actually made it out in search of the fort. Obviously I was still getting used to the fresh air, jet-lag, exercise and these early morning wake-up calls.
I knew the moment I passed the little blue house on the path up to the fort that either the little boy or his mother would spot me again (which of course they did) so I decided to quickly stop by and say hello. This time dad was at home too. He seemed pleased to see me, thanking me ironically for introducing his son to gambling the night before. “Las Vegas next!” I joked. After a quick lemonade I made good my escape, kinda promising that I would come back for some lunch after I had seen the fort. They told me that the museum shut at 1pm and so I should stay with them another hour or so until it reopened. “Not bloody likely” I thought. I hadn’t come to Jodhpur to spend it having awkward, pidgin English conversations with an overly-hospitable Indian family… and truth be told I was kinda getting sick of Indian food.
The fort was spectacular, even compared to the other palaces and museums I had already been to. Described as the world’s most impenetrable castle, I had to pass through a good four or five gates guarding its steep, winding entrance. So by the time I got to the museum door it was indeed just about to close for lunch – so I had two and a half hours free to stroll around the exterior. As I was enjoying the views over the blue city from the cannon-fortified ramparts I noticed three westerners sat sunbathing in the midday heat. It was exceedingly hot.
“Mad dogs and Englishmen.” I said as I approached, which didn’t go down well because they were Scottish. Fran, Beth and John were students from Glasgow on Summer break. We swapped stories before I waved goodbye and nipped down to see the temple at the far corner of the fort – where I had the old ‘third eye’ thing done again. Having seen all there was to see I retired to the fort restaurant and met the Scots for a cup of chai.
The museum was reasonably impressive: sporting the usual collection of artwork and weaponry laid out in cabinets. Soon after entering, I was grabbed by a Danish girl by the name of Nunu – or something equally silly. She looked flustered and, judging by her yellow socks and sports sandals, she didn’t seem too comfortable with this travelling lark.
She was relieved to meet me and had obviously had a few problems with the attitude of Indian men. She told me she was only in India for four weeks and this was the only town where she didn’t have a friend to stay with. They say that it is very difficult for women to travel on their own in India. Lecherous men are everywhere and you have to be a little paranoid all the time in order to be able to cope – which described her demeanour quite aptly.
So I invited her to walk around the museum with me. She was a student currently taking a year out from her degree in Art conservation. She said she’d had an appointment with the art conservation office at the fort – which was why she was there – so when we passed the office she popped in to say farewell.
I left the museum and sat in the shadow of the fort for a while writing postcards before heading back to the blue house. “You didn’t come to eat.” said the woman. I looked at the clock. It was 4.30. “There was a lot to see” I protested. But before she could invite me to supper, I asked if there was a post office nearby, which I knew there was, and if it shut at 5pm so I would have to hurry away. I said goodbye and promised to tell my friends of her hospitality so she could smother countless other poor tourists in the future.
I retired to the Fort View restaurant down by the station for a pizza and chatted with some other travellers: a couple from Grenobles in France and a couple of British lads, Dan and Steve. Steve said he was “Doing” India in six weeks and upon his return to the UK was planning to soak up enough football action to compensate for all that he had missed whilst being away. Dan, a graphic designer, was “Doing” the around the world thing too.
Steve had just had his hair cut at a local barbers and was complaining about the way they had shaved behind his ears. It did look a little ridiculous. We swapped stories. Steve had been pushed into hiring a car moments after his arrival – for 15 days – for an extortionate amount of cash. It was nice to meet someone who had been as naive as I had been on arrival.
I moseyed back to the hotel to check out – where I had an argument with the landlord about checkout times. We agreed to disagree and I only paid for the one night – thank goodness. I spent a good hour on the sofa in reception reading a book before catching a rickshaw to the station where my train was due to depart for Jaisalmer at 10pm.
I paraded up and down the short stretch of coaches on platform 7 for about fifteen minutes looking for my Air-con sleeper coach. At which point a kindly old gentleman said that the Air-con coaches hadn’t turned up yet – even though the train should have departed five minutes ago.
After about 20 minutes the coaches had been shunted into position and the train set off. Unlike non A/C the berths were 2 tier and had A/C units directly above them. A guard also handed out pillows – all very civilised. But cold. So cold.
503 rupees was a lot to ask for shivering to death while listening to the pocket computer game of the boy in the next compartment all night. Next time I would go 3 tier.