Up early as we’re leaving for Jaipur at 8:30. Jaipur is about 250 km away but the ride supposedly takes six to seven hours, WTF?! As the bus pulls up on the highway we quickly figure out why; the thing hardly goes any faster than 80 km/h but more importantly, the traffic doesn’t allow you to go any faster than 40 km/h most of the time. It’s not like in North Korea where the roads were the problem, these roads are quite nice actually, it’s the general crappiness of the vehicle fleet of India!
It’s just a matter of accepting the state of things and enjoy the ride, luckily I’ve scored a seat next to Sara so that isn’t much of a problem. Sara is a surgical nurse from Växjö, so I guess we’re pretty safe if someone were to get injured! But foremost she’s a seasoned traveler of Africa and has even worked at a clinic for three months in deepest Africa! We chat about this and that and after about few hours of painfully slow driving we stop for a toilet break at some restaurant. Our tour leader Maria orders some Masala Chai and a few of us follow her example. Masala Chai is a special kind of tea that you make by cooking milk for a really long time with various spices, foremost cardamon, and then sift before drinking. Now I’m not normally a tea drinker since I think it tastes too much of water but Masala Chai doesn’t taste that much of water so it’s actually really good!
Also on the stop are the ever present throngs of beggars and con-men. One of them is a transvestite and for 100 rupees (16 sek) you could get a peek “under the hood”… All over the road are these cool, also painfully slow, Tata trucks which are covered with different hand painted logos but also purely decorative art pieces. They’re all packed to the brim of course and they probably outnumber ordinary cars by two to one.
The landscape is uninspiring and I pick up my cross stitches which draws the attention of Monica and Nina (or Piff and Puff as we’ve come to call them). They’re both into handicrafts but I get blank stares when I tell them about what it’ll eventually be.
Turns out that Maria’s estimate was more or less accurate and we pull into Jaipur in the early afternoon. After a so-so lunch we head out to Amber fort for some sight seeing. Amber fort is a large fort with a wall almost like the Chinese one snaking across the nearby hills. The fort is cool and rather beautiful but I think we spent a little too much time there and the guide was rather long-winded.
It’s dark when we get back to the hotel and due to a mixup with the rooms I come too late to join the group I’d planned to go to town with. I talk to one of the Indians that are with the crew driving and taking care of our tour bus and ask if he has any suggestions about where to go. Turns out that there is a festival in town today and everything is more or less closed. He says that we can go to where the festivities are though and that sounds cool enough so I agree. We get an auto rickshaw that takes us to a little square where there is a large effigy of Ravan in the middle. Apparently this festival is about when he is defeated and the effigy is burned to celebrate that. It’s a full hour until that starts though so I ask if there’s anything else to do in town. Monte (as in Monte Carlo, which is what he asked me to call him (what, the guy is 17, you have a right to be weird at that age)) says no but then gets the driver to take me to some sort of official building. I snap a few photos to be nice and then he asks me if I want a beer. Sure, why not? So he takes me to some street where a third guy goes to a store and buys me a beer which I’m then supposed to drink sitting in the rickshaw. I ask him if he doesn’t want any but he explains that he doesn’t drink. Maybe it’s a religious thing or they’re really hard on underage drinking here, I don’t know. He gets really nervous though when a police man goes by and asks me to hide the bottle.
As I finish the bottle I ask to get back to the hotel, this is starting to weird me out. Back at the hotel I find a few of the others who’ve also realized that there’s nothing to do out on the town tonight. So I order some food (Paneer Kofta – Cottage Cheese balls in sweet gravy, a bit too sweet for my taste). I try another Indian specialty on the suggestion of Monica: a glass of sweet lime soda. Which is exactly what it sounds like, a glass with half a deciliter of fresh lime juice, a bottle of soda water and a glass of sugar water that you pour on as you like. It’s really good and an excellent thirst quencher.