Makesh, one of the boys from the School knocked on my door around midday. He was desperate to have something western from me, a T-shirt ideally. I said I couldn’t really spare one. He loitered so I offered to teach him the rather over complicated card game of cribbage. “That’s western” I thought.
I won, naturally, but only by one point – he had picked it up surprisingly quickly.
After lunch Makesh took me to see where they had an ‘exhibition’ of Kashmir weaving. It was actually more of a shop and from the moment I arrived the three Kashmiri gents in there were all over me insisting that I didn’t leave without buying anything. However the rugs started at around £1000 – so I wasn’t going to succumb even to their very hard pressing sales technique which they had honed to perfection.
The work was stunning I might ad; apparently some of the finer rugs take around six years to complete, made with the finest silk, cotton and wool from Kashmir. Thankfully I eventually escaped their clutches and before popping the erotic art in the post to my parents we headed up to the monsoon palace.
From afar the Monsoon Palace is like something out of a fairytale. Perched atop the region’s highest mountain – it can be seen for miles.
The Rickshaws run on 660cc engines and aren’t really designed to cope with inclines of more than 1 in 10, so the steep winding road up to the palace took us quite awhile to navigate, with a stop half way to let the engine cool down. There were more monkeys on the roadside where we stopped.
The views over the Rajasthani landscape were spectacular, though Makesh was a little disappointed when I said Switzerland was more beautiful and much higher of course.
For the princely sum of 10Rs we were able to walk through the dilapidated Palace to admire the north view. Inside was furnished only with a couple of mattresses and a radio transmitter, behind which sat a sweaty man whom I assumed must have been a DJ in the very loosest sense of the word, broadcasting to the local area.
After drinking the view for some time we headed back to the hotel where I presented Makesh with my Sweet Valley University t-shirt – as way of thanks for his hospitality.
I enjoyed another meal at the Majur Roof Cafe before heading into town to finally catch a bit of Octopussy before I left town that night. As corny as you like but packed with the sights of India and Rajasthan. I left the Majur Cafe, not to be confused with the Majur Roof Cafe which I did more than once, and the throng of Europeans giggling to the classic lines that Bond has become synonymous with “Oh James!”.
The dark toilet
Back at the hotel I decided to empty my system of all foreign bodies for fear of reprisal during my long bus journey to Jodhpur. So naturally when there was a fairly major power cut – I had to be sitting on the throne and pressed for time, reading a book and still having yet to check out.
I managed to fumble my way through the darkness to the reception area – with rucksack in tow. Pretty impressive without my glasses on too.
I stumbled into the reception geek, a chap who said very little, charged me an extra night – for late check out (which was a fucking cheek seeing as I had told him I was getting the bus late and he said I could keep my bags in my room). I didn’t have time to argue however and left to find a rickshaw.
The city was pitch and the journey was quite scary. Got to Taldar in one piece. The bus to Jodhpur was late – so having sat in the darkness before – I did so again and squashed flying ants under my boots for amusement. After power was restored the bus turned up 45 minutes late. My rucksack went in the boot and I got in.
This was far from what I had expected – the suspension on the bus was non-existent and I could feel every lump on the road. The chap sitting next to me, by the window, couldn’t sit still and kept invading my space so that he could get comfortable to sleep; either his head was on my shoulder or his arse in my lap.
The coach was full – so up the winding mountain roads we did little more than 15mph at points. This was going to be a long night. The bus’s horn too was in regular use and so were the horns of every other road user.
Now Bombay taxi horns go “poot”; moped horns go “beep-bep”; rickshaw horns go “wirr-wir”; jeep horns go “hark-park-bar” and bus horns go “doby-dibby-dobby-doo!” – very loudly. Sleep was not an option.