The phone rang; “Your driver is here!” Well, that’s one way to wake yourself up! I had slept the sleep of the dead in the cool climate under the blankets, with the blackout curtains to hide the dawn. We got ready and met our new driver, Praveen, outside. We piled into his car and set off towards the hills surrounding Jaipur for a day of exploring the forts. As we drove up to the mountains we passed by a lake with buildings seemingly floating in the centre. We jumped out and took a few pictures of the Jal Mahal and dodged the souvenir sellers and camel rides to continue on our way.
We drove past some elepgants coming back from their shift giving rides up the hill, and the terrain became more rocky and as we headed up to the medieval Amer Fort, a towering sandstone palace with what seemed like hundreds of rooms, twisted staircases and balconies, connected by spectacular decorated doors and screen windows. The architecture was Muslim in style, with gently pointed arches and lots of geometric patterns carved into the stone. The manicured hardens and mirrored mosaics really reminded me of my visit to the Alhambra in Granada, Spain.
There were lots of tourists from all over the world looking around the site, and there was an elephant stalking around with its trainer in the courtyard. Before we left we grabbed a surprisingly tasty chicken burger to keep us going as we’d skipped breakfast.
From the Amer Fort you can see the Nahargarh Fort, which was our next short stop. We travelled further into the scrubby mountains past troupes of goats eating thorn bushes and got out of the car avoiding the snack sellers and spent the first half hour walking the walls of the fort and looking at the views of Jaipur and the Amer Fort, and spotted a movie set into the bargain. We finally went inside to another beautiful palace, which seemed to be built on a grid with lots of symmetry and repeating patterns.
Praveen took us to the next spot, the Jaigarh Fort, where the first order of the day was lunch. We went to a restaurant on the hill that Praveen had recommended to us, which was very, very nice – we had paneer two ways (by accident) and roti, as that’s the Rajasthani way! The cuisine in Jaipur in general would be more familiar to Brits I think, as there are a lot of thick, creamy sauces and bread on offer, as opposed to the the idly and dosa of the south.
After filling up on cheese, cream and bread we climbed up to the centrepiece of the Jaigarh Fort; the largest wheeled cannon in the world. The cannon was certainly huge and its mouth was painted with divine symbols to help send you on your way…
We came down from the hills back towards Jaipur and Praveen took us to a camel leather shop, where Sellappan picked up some more bargains and I got some supremely comfortable embroidered shoes – not that I know where I’ll ever wear them…
We got back to the town, which was very busy with more animals and types of vehicles than any other place I’ve been to (pigs, donkeys and camels for a start, not to mention the pedal rickshaws and black and yellow autos), and went back to the guest house to have a nice easy evening. I read some of my airport book (Three Dog Night by Gouri Dange) and then we had a light meal in the guest house, getting prepared for the next day’s early start and our trip to Agra.