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Incredible Rajasthan
Saturday, 03 March 2007
With the relatively quietness of Jaisalmer and it’s desert surrounding behind us we headed east again now for Jodhpur, Pushkar and Jaipur, the capital city of Rajasthan. After 3 weeks of India one thing has struck us – this is a country which gets a lot of foreign tourists. In fact we haven’t seen the real package tourists being brought in by the busloads since France and Greece. Maybe Rajasthan is a very touristy part of India – but this was something we didn’t expect to find. We arrived in Jodhpur on local roads passing many small villages with local crowds on the streets same as we seen in Pakistan. Our first impression of Jodhpur was absolute traffic chaos – we arrived in the stone cutter area west of Jodhpur.

Everywhere we looked we saw deep pits cut into the ground and rock. People with iron rods, hammers, ‘worn to the thread’ pneumatic equipment & stone saws where cutting red chunks of stone. Extremely battered TATA trucks were hauling the chunks of rocks from the pits and bashed themselves onto the terribly degraded road defying any traffic rule you can imagine. This in an area packed with people, children, cows and dogs in an unimaginable stench of waste and the deafening sound of roaring trucks and stone cutting.

There we where in the middle of this mess looking for any point which could help us navigate our bums to the Jodhpur RTDC. The only thing we managed to do was to avoid collisions with other trucks and follow something resembling to some kind of a road.

Somehow we got out of this lovely place and seem to enter something of a city which could possibly be Jodhpur. Still no clue where we were we asked directions and followed a road which got busier and narrow and packed to the max with traffic. Welcome to Jodhpur sir, shoe polish? Which country? We kept following the right road after asking directions several times more. Which country sir? The RTDC finally emerged in a cloud of exhaust fumes, motorcycles, cars and roaring trains on 50 meter distance. Shoe polish sir? We stopped at a “no honking” traffic sign at the gate of the RTDC and a policeman jumped out of nowhere and said “no parking here“!. Thank you for your help sir – with the noise of  continuous and loud honking on the background. Which country sir?

We decided to stay a few days in Jodhpur at the RTDC parking. We saw the Jodhpur fort which is quite worth the time. See our picture album for an impression. Also we spend some time at the Jodhpur bazaar, in fact the blue city underneath the fort. From the top it looks blue, inside it only smells blue from the exhaust fumes. This is a maze of small streets where rickshaws and motorcycles make it in an interesting traffic hazard stroll.
Many many shops, but after an hour or so the merchandise starts to repeat itself over and over again. At some point you get to ask yourself how people can live on selling so much of the same things in a penny economy? Between all those shops we found several “firework” shops, the stuff you buy when it’s wedding time. Shops packed with powerfull fireworks upto the ceiling!! In the Netherlands one has to build some sort of a bunker to get to sell this stuff. At least the owner seemed like a non-smoker, but none the less we got the hell out of this highly explosive shop.

Next stop was Pushkar – the hippy place - where we parked near the lake at the RTDC again. Quite a nice place, lots of space to park the truck and for Indra to roam around. We spend a few days here also, among the old-timer hippies, package tourists and neo-hippies strolling through the streets packed with handicraft shops. A strange mix, although it seems it’s quite good for business. Before we left Pushkar we tried to find the “The Animal Tree of Life” project located somewhere outside of Pushkar. It’s a shelter and hospital for animals raised and supported on a voluntary basis. After calling 3 times and asking directions many times outside Pushkar we unfortunately didn’t find the place and decided to head for Jaipur.

In Jaipur, the state capital city, it’s not easy to find a place to park a truck of our size. We read several websites of travellers who tried to do the same but all of the mentioned places didn’t take motorized travellers anymore. Digi’s Palace even mentioned someone ruining their gate with a truck, so move on. Anyhow, we just decided to give it a try and maybe we got lucky. As usual we entered the city in mega rush hour with a bad map and only two possible places to park. We looked at 2 RTDC’s in the main city centre after riding thick waves of traffic. One too small, the other without gates so pretty public on a terribly busy square. (hint: there are 2 more RTDC’s in the north-east of Jaipur)
After driving around for another hour in this hellish traffic we passed a patch of  4 guesthouses on Moti Dungri road – and parked there at a private parking of one of the guesthouses. We got lucky, but it was a close call – it was near dark in insane traffic.

Jaipur has a well developed bazaar area with shoes, clothes and a LOT of handicrafts. Endless shops, all with people eager to sell anything. Walking there is getting the same questions over, over, over and over again, “’look sir?”, “please come in?”. But beyond all this the goods sold are not bad at all – but haggling is obligatory. Without you end up buying stuff against prices which are equal to European markets.

One thing about the people of Jaipur caught our attention the first day already. This is a city where the rupee is hunted as no other city we have experienced in Rajasthan. Haggling was not only obligatory, you also have to be real careful about the definition of what you are haggling about.  And still rickshaws drop you off still asking for more, even though the price for the ride is set loud and clear. It’s clearly a struggle here.

As an example of this struggle, Janine did her shopping at Reliance Fresh, a supermarket store new in Jaipur. It’s was insane inside – very very busy with the middle class Indian shopper. The fruits and vegetable department was selling at the street price, which is about 20 rupees / Kg. This is outright war! The local veggie shops must have been hit very hard by this. It seems to us the middle class Indians highly value the clean, fixed price market of Reliance fresh.
This in extremely sharp contrast with the haggling veggie sellers at the streets doing their business in heaps of filth and waste which is so common in Indian streets. Later we read an article about a demonstration in Jaipur at Reliance fresh by local veggie sellers. They had seen their turnover drop with 50 % or more – this while having to throw away their unsold crop. Yes, they got hit hard!

In Jaipur we visited the city palace and that was it. We spend a few days catching up at our parking place at the guesthouse and left while having to haggle about the price to fill a water tank. After a few minutes we paid nothing – and we got our water.

Looking back at our weeks of travelling in Rajasthan, we like the remoteness of the desert area, the hustle and bustle of the bazaars in the bigger cities and the local produce like handicrafts, clothes and food. The traffic is a real big pain – outright dangerous – this is where India clearly looses against other countries.
Last but not least, so far we didn’t have any experience with large crowds building up round our house. Our nights where quiet, no knocking on doors – not what we expected but maybe Indra makes a big difference. People don’t approach us when we walk Indra, they keep their distance and stay away from the door when Indra looks out.


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