Today, we checked out of the Metropolitan to make our way south, into the province of Kings: Rajestan. Jaipur is the capital and our destination, just 230km from Delhi, and we started at 8:30am. Our driver, the affable Mr Prakash, assures us it will take 5-6 hours, which means we will average perhaps just 35km/h, or 20mph!
We set off on one of the big modern highways leading past the airport and out of Delhi, and quickly find ourselves in a vast sea of cars weaving in and out and slowly making progress. The road is a toll road that goes all the way to Mumbai (eventually), and Mr Prakash assures us it is a good road all the way. Ha! 🙂
After leaving Delhi, a long stretch of modern India awaits us: rows of gleaming, modern office towers in various designs that would not look out of place in Manhattan or San Francisco stretch for kilometers, competing with construction materials and low huts of more typical Indian provenance. None of this was here 25 years ago on Mamta’s first visit – the highway was a dirt track in places, and there were no offices for IBM and other multi nationals.
Traffic moves constantly, but in fits and starts, and never very fast. Slow moving lorries drive in the “fast” lane next to tractors pulling ridiculously huge loads, leaving other lorries, uses, vans, cars and motorbikes to overtake wherever there is room – on the inside, or often between other vehicles. Many don’t have side mirrors, and custom is to honk the horn before passing someone, meaning that a constant barrage of horns can be heard all the way. It’s never quiet in India!
The roads have lane markings, but using them for target practice seems common; nobody sticks to a single lane. Instead, many drivers constantly weave left and right to slip through temporary gaps in traffic, sometimes to heart-stopping effect as lorries, buses and other cars pass within centimeters of what feels like fairly unauthorised manoeuvres.
It also is common to see someone drive the wrong way – motorbikes do it a lot as a shortcut, but when loaded lorries do it, it’s a bit scary. As with everything else that happens on the road, the drivers take it stoically and just drive around whatever the obstacle is, be it ghost driver, meandering cow, crashed lorry, or whatever. It quickly becomes obvious why the drive will take many hours!
Further along, the highway is abruptly diverted to what looks like an older parallel road, to allow construction on the highway to happen: they are building flyovers to allow roads to pass underneath. This happens not just once, but every few kilometers – I think I saw at least 20 such projects being actively worked on along the way!
Construction abounds next to the road as well; it is several hours before we get our first glimpse of agricultural land as until then it is built up, or being huilt up with houses, offices, shacks, shops, and general enterprises.
When we finally turn off the main highway around 30km short of Jaipur to get to our lunch stop at the Samode Palace, we breathe a sigh of relief. Here, there is actual countryside next to the road, and our eyes feast on the calmer vista of plots of land being tilled, the odd house, a small group of women walking next to the road, and the odd house, sometimes derelict and sometimes in decent repair.
The road gets increasingly narrow, bumpy and windy and we finally arrive at the Palace around 1:30pm. It turns out to be a gorgeous former Raj residence, now converted to a hotel, and we get a lovely relaxed lunch – surprisingly of non-Indian food! The proprietor/chef turns out to be Mrs Flora, a Danish lady who now lives in Mumbai, who has designed the menu to be a mix of cuisines. We liked it a lot!
The rest of the trip to Jaipur was quick, and we arrived at perhaps 4:30pm, but it is surprising how tiring it is to be a passenger on a long drive! 🙂
Our residence in the Pink City of Jaipur is the Samode Haveli, owned by the same people as the Palace, and it’s nothing short of gorgeous. A lovely old, restored building, it has all of the facilities we would want, and they upgraded us to a huge suite that is just fantastic. I am sure our 3 nights here will be super memorable.
Last night, I sent an email to Transindus with feedback on our annoying Delhi guide, and was anxious to see what they would do about it. The answer was quick: they reprimanded him, he apologized, and they not only sent a nice reply back to me but also called us directly as soon as we arrived here. Perhaps the upgrade here is also part of this?
The welcoming lady said we got upgraded because Iain is so sweet, which is of course true so perhaps we’ll just leave it there 🙂
A delicious Rajestani Thali for dinner and then bed. Tomorrow will be a very busy day seeing the sights of Jaipur and going for a elephant ride… Can’t wait to see more India!