Some things in life are worth waiting for. Which is good because sometimes the waiting is not only long, but extremely testing. Case in point: when it was time to leave Jodhpur we innocently hopped on another bus, where again we would pass on drinking water so as to not need to go to the toilet. Various reasons led to this decision but mainly the fact that there was to be ONE toilet stop in another 8 hour trip, for which the bus would stop for five minutes at a rather over-crowded (read: fairly unsanitary) destination where everybody from that bus and potentially many others would all fight for the loos in an attempt to quickly go and run back to the bus before it took off through the desert without us.
Okay, this is familiar territory by now. No worries, chicken curry.
Firstly, the types of buses we were travelling on were local double decker buses. A ‘normal’ bottom half of the bus has pairs of seats from the front to the back. Then perched above these are sort of cabin-like arrangements where people can climb up, and somewhat lie down (albeit in a rather foetal uncomfortable looking position) in a little box with a window and a door.
A second unique feature of travelling in this way is the fact that these particularly buses will stop as often as possible to pick up whoever wants to get on the bus, regardless of how many people you would think can actually fit onboard. The end result being of course that people are crammed into every nook and cranny not only in the cabins and seats, but also up the aisles, under the ladders, in your face. Everywhere.
There are no photos to illustrate this point. Why? No room to move our arms. Or anything else for that matter. H-J, in fact, had her head leaning sideways for most of the journey to avoid the bottom of the guy who had his lower half tucked into the space where her upright head should have rested, in the normal scheme of things.
Anyway, that’s not too bad, right? We’ve taken into consideration the lack of toilet stops, we were expecting crowding – it is India, after all – and we’re off, down the looong road to Udaipur.
And that’s when it gets bad. Because the road to Udaipur is not paved with gold or any such illustrious metal. Oh no, its not paved with not much at all except horrendously winding stretches, snaking up and down over hills, over rugged and bumpy terrain…which equals – motion sickness. Neat.
Its at this point that things get really interesting. No, we’re not sick, we’re far too hardy for that. The poor locals, however, resting ‘comfortably’ in their upper decks and in the gaps of every nook and cranny, start to vomit. One leans over our friend Vanina to throw up out the window – and misses. H-J, having swapped seats with Dan to avoid bum-guy, nearly gets hit in the face as vomit flies down from the upper cabin, out their window, into the window below right beside her. She slams her window shut, just in the nick of time.
Now we can add to already healthy check-list of fun the following: not only are we dehydrated in the interests of not needing the toilet but now we can have NO AIR for the remainder of the journey with the sudden necessity to keep the windows shut at all costs.
And then, to provide the final cherry on top, the young kid who has suddenly appeared in the aisle beside Dan, shits his pants. And bawls. Which is fair enough, really. We feel like crying too.
Suffice to say, we were pretty bloody happy when we finally lurched over the final hill into Udaipur. Let’s just say by this stage of the proceeding we would have been happy to arrive pretty much anywhere that would let us get off the Bus From Hell.
Having seen our fair share of cows, dirt, dust, grey skies, overcrowding, hawkers, rubbish, rickshaws and the like by this stage of our Indian Adventure, expectations of first impressions being great were low. However, Udaipur blew our tiny minds. It was like we had ejected from our vomit-ridden bus torture straight into the scenery from a movie. In actual fact, we had. Turns out Udaipur is where the James Bond movie Octopussy filmed and even now, some 20 years after it was filmed, every hotel in the town advertises nightly showings of the great Bond classic. Pimp.
Scenery aside, our surroundings in Udaipur are noticeably different from everywhere we’ve been in India thus far. There is an absence of hawkers. There is space to move. There are no crowds of people, no piles of rubbish and very few wandering cows. The smell of urine is undetectable. For the first time in a while, we relax and look forward exploring as much as we can without feeling slightly stressed by the concept. Setting off for a walk, we are enchanted at every turn. Like everywhere in India street food beckons and draws us in not only with smells but with the insane proportions of the cookware, the beautiful colours and the artfully arranged displays. H-J’s eyes particularly light up when she spies potentially the largest pot of Gulab Jamun she has ever seen in her life. Its about day 14 of her daily Gulab Jamun dose by now, so she’s considering herself a bit of an expert on this syrupy, addictive treat. Dan’s fancy was also taken by something he has become rather an expert on – the local barber scene. He settled in for a quick trim round the edges while Chirag looked on with fascination/horror at the somewhat unkempt instruments being wielded at Dan’s beautiful mug. Luckily, he survived and came out clean(er) shaven and handsome as ever.Continuing on our way through the streets, Udaipur continued to be fascinating and inspiring at every point.
When just wandering around aimlessly proves this photogenic, it gives you rather a sense that this is going to be a pretty spectacular couple of days! Bus ride now completely out of our minds (and the grime washed from our bodies), it was time to kick back, relax and get ready for the surprises Udaipur still had to offer up.