The usual tourist track in Rajasthan includes Jaipur (the capitol with a impressive fort), Udaipur, Jaisalmer (a place to ride camels in the desert), and Jodhpur (another nice city with a fort). We moved every day or two in Southeast Asia and we really wanted to take India a bit slower to get a good feel for each city we were in, so we opted to skip Jaipur based on the fact that other travelers said it wasn’t worth a special stop on a tight itinerary and we also ruled out Jaisalmer on account of the fact that we saw some camel safari pictures and the desert had power lines and looked much less impressive than the sights we have seen in Colorado and Utah. So, we headed over to Jodhpur: our second and final stop in Rajasthan.
When we finally convinced ourselves to leave Udaipur, we booked a six hour taxi to Jodhpur. Yes, busses make the journey, but there are two fantastic sights between Udaipur and Jodhpur that can only be visited with a private vehicle: Kumbhalgarh Fort and the Ranakpur Jain Temple. The taxi arrived at 8am to pick us up and we stopped by another viewpoint on the lake before we left town. We hit the road which was dusty, bumpy, and windy, and stopped at a breakfast place in the middle of nowhere overlooking some gorgeous scenery. We had some butter toast and aloo paratha, an Indian breakfast dish which is essentially a savory flatbread with spiced, potato/onion mixture.
When we were finished, we got back on the road and arrived at the Kumbhalgarh fort. It is by far one of the most impressive sights we saw in India and one of the most impressive manmade structures of the whole trip. We only had about an hour and a half to visit in order to keep with the taxi schedule, so we quickly got to work walking up to the massive building. This fort is literally in the middle of nowhere and was only overtaken once, for two days. It has a wall extending 38 kilometers, wide enough to fit six horses side-by-side. This wall is second only to the Great Wall of a China in terms of length and width. As we looked out over the valley at the enormous structure and the rough terrain, it seemed to make sense that this fort was highly impenetrable. It felt like we were touring a castle and we practically ran around the grounds checking out all the features and levels. We could have spent an entire day or two walking around this thing. We saw what we could, wandered over to a nearby temple on the grounds, and then left the fort to get back into our taxi to move onto the next sight.
The road to the Jain temple was very rough and a bit scary. Driving in India is terrifying in general, but dirt roads with enough room for one car in one direction make it even worse. We had forced the driver to dig out the seat belts before we began the journey back in Udaipur, and we were glad we had as we bounced around in the back seat.
The bumpy road was worth it because the Jain temple was gorgeous. We paid for the audio tour which lasted about 45 minutes and walks you through all the different marble columns and details of the temple. We stumbled upon a statue of an elephant and were told by some Indian tourists that it was good luck to pass through the elephant’s legs. Being as small as I am, I was able to pass through without a problem, but John (a bit thicker than I) took a bit more time. Overall, it was one of the more impressive structures we had seen.
Once we were finished, we got back into the taxi for the final three hour journey to Jodhpur. We made our way off the dirt roads onto a highway and our driver buckled his seatbelt. Now, when a driver in India buckles his or her seatbelt, you know they mean business. We were terrified at what was ahead of us and rightfully so. We sat back and held on as our driver weaved in and out of oncoming traffic, playing a constant game of chicken where he would wait until the last possible minute and then merge over to safety. I kept thinking about Chevy Chase in Christmas Vacation when he pulls under an 18-wheeler in a station wagon because he waited too long to get over. Every move seemed to be a close call. Nothing was comfortable, easy, or safe. We just prayed to arrive in Jodhpur sooner than later and in one piece. I had to go to the bathroom at one point and the driver pulled off the road and said “open toilet!”. Woo hoo, I get to pee on the side of the highway with hundreds of people passing by! I found a spot behind an abandoned building in a field and came back cursing India for having bad drivers and no toilets. I was thankful to have gone in a field though because it was certainly cleaner than any random bathroom we would have found.