Some of the signs in India are a hoot – this one in particular. can you imagine a crash course in brain surgery!! JOLLY FAT GO is another one that got me laughing. So what’s that about? Then there was LIVE KABABS. Will one of these walk off the plate if I’m too slow to put it in my mouth? The mind boggles. THE MARRIAGE PLOT is commonly seen and it refers to the piece of ground hired out for weddings, rather than a conspiracy between the inlaws. What about the tiny PISSA sign squeezed between laundry and car parts advertising. I’m not sure I’d be asking for takeout on that one. A complimentary sewing kit in Lynne’s hotel room said, SWING KIT”. Usually in the roadside dhabas where I’m sleeping, the only swinging going on is in a hammock – maybe I’m not paying enough!
While signs jostle for space amongst telegraph poles with dangling wires, what dominates the landscape the most are palaces and forts, something Rajasthan is reknowned for. Each one appears more splendid than the last. After the first few I thought I might be “forted” out, but they are all very different and stunning, not only in their architecture but also in what they contain.
The Taj Mahal in Agra is the jewel in the crown with its marble and precious stones and it’s hard to imagine it could be surpassed, but my personal preferences have been further west from Agra. The Amber Fort in Jaipur was pretty amazing with beautifully carved stone. The Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur though takes the cake. From the impressive gates with huge spikes used to defend it from elephant driven attacks, to the latticed windows of the havelis where women from the harem could observe the streets below without being seen.
A fantastic collection of howdahs, (elephant seats & palequins), weapons, and armour take visitors back to another era. Cannon ball holes in the massive walls barely dented the stone, demonstrating how this was the only fort never to be invaded during the Mughal empire. In the late afternoon as the sun sets the golden red walls glow as a backdrop to the blue city below. It’s the wedding season and everyone wants their picture taken so no problem with getting a great variety of photos from old men in turbans with flowing beards to scores of women in vivid saris adorned in their finest gold jewelry.
After a few days spent sightseeing, cleaning my gear, fixing broken spokes & doing minor repairs I was ready to get back on the road again. We’d stayed at Devi Bhawan Guest House where we were warmly treated. Meeting up with fellow travellers made a nice change as we swapped tall stories and enjoyed a cold Kingfisher beer.
I’m finding it hard to take pictures with the bike included apart from the usual groups standing around looking at it. I need to practice with the helmet camera as shots I taken so far arn’t too hot. It’s challenging trying to twiddle with levers on the bike, operate the camera, watch the road & stay upright, all at the same time. While I had planned to get some photos of the bike at different locations, the Taj Mahal for instance, no vehicles were allowed near the entrance and once I ride the bike to a major attraction I can’t just leave it there and wander off sightseeing. The crowds for one thing make this sort of exercise difficult and with all my gear exposed it wouldn’t be the smartest thing to do. Being on my own poses a few problems. I’ve asked people to take photos of me on the bike, but given most of them have never held a camera before, the pictures tend to be blurred or are focused on something other than the FN. Still, I’ll keep trying.