Day 2 began with a pick-up from my driver, Baloo, who would be my only companion for the next three days. He let me know that we had a long drive ahead of us - at least 4 1/2 hours - so I should just relax. Good thing that I always travel with books! Staring out the window would try my patience, which is really not my strong suit. The drive had the added bonus of a variety of creatures along the road.
You have heard about the cows - it is true that they are everywhere! Which means you always have to watch where you walk. The really sad thing is that although the Hindus worship them as gods, they do not appear to be addressing some of their basic needs. These cows do not live in fields where they eat grass all day. They are living in the concrete jungle which is the city. So they rely on trash for their food. This could turn many people into vegetarians.
In addition to the cows, there are goats, monkeys, and dogs everywhere. The dogs are not treated as pets. They are wild dogs who forage for food (they all appear malnourished), many of them carry diseases, and they look like they either nursing puppies or mating with other wild dogs. My guide told me that Hindus believe that dogs can see the devil’s face so they want nothing to do with the dogs. The government could help themselves by running a massive spay and neutering campaign!
The roads are terribly crowded, as cars share the road with trucks (many of which appear to be overloaded and on the verge of over-turning!), tuktuks, bicycle rickshaws, and motorbikes all competing for space. Everyone is honking, as if to let their neighbors know that they are passing by any means necessary. It makes for an interesting drive.
As we approached Jaipur, the Pink City, I saw two camels along the side of the road. Not much later, I saw an elephant and rider heading towards me. Both of these animals offer rides to lazy tourists who do not want to climb up to the palace and the fort. The government has recently given one concession to the animals and only allows rides in the mornings so that the animal should can rest during the hottest oft infant the day. But it still seems cruel.
My guide pulled over as the base of the Amber Palace. I expected to have a guide meet me to take me through, but this was more of my “rookie tourist mistake”. The tour company had lied to me and would not return my phone calls. So I was on my own.
It was hot! I live in Atlanta, grew up in Houston, and have lived in New Orleans, so I should be used to this! But this was intense. Climbing up to and through the palace and on to the fort (Nahargath) in the “humid season” left me looking like I had been swimming! I was invited to be in many more selfies (I bet those look nice!) and was offered a ride on the back of a motor bike up to the top. I declined.
I spent about 2 hours in the palace and the fort. There is not much to share but I am glad that I saw it. By the time I left, I was really hungry. Luckily, Baloo knew a place with truly amazingly Indian food. It was the first I had since arriving in India. Yum!
After lunch, we continued our tour of Jaipur. The two highlights were the Hawa Mahal (The Palace of the Winds) and the City Palace. The Hawa Mahal is a five-story facade covered with hundreds of windows. The ladies of the court used these windows to watch processions while keeping their faces hidden.
For me, the most interesting thing about the City Palace is that it shows what happens if you don’t stop people from feeding pigeons. This beautiful building is covered with birds, which means that it is covered with bird droppings! Really gross - not just smelly but you had to worry about getting hit from above. I didn’t stay long.
As Baloo and I talked about our plans for that evening and the next day, I realized that his schedule was off. He planned to take me to the Taj Majal on Saturday morning. I explained that we needed to go on Friday as I was flying to Kerala on Saturday morning. Baloo then told me that the Taj Majal is closed on Friday - every Friday - as this the day that the Muslims come to the temple to pray.
Now I was angry! And I realized how poorly the tour company hadn’t handled my situation. The primary thing I wanted to do in India was see the sunrise at the Taj Majal. Now it appeared that this was not going to happen. The tour company was still unwilling to take my call!
Then Baloo made an offer that I could not believe. If he could have some time to take an evening nap, we would leave at 1:30 and he wouldn’t drive through the night to have me at the Taj Majal for sunrise. I almost cried!
After a good bit of discussion as to whether this would be a safe journey, and whether Baloo was truly up for this drive, we decided that this was to be our plan. We parted ways after committing to call each other at 1 am to make sure we were up. I went up to my room, took two Tylenol PMs, and went to bed by 7:30. It was going to be a long day tomorrow.