INDIA

12th NOV. 2006  WAGAH to AMRITSAR

We got to the Indian side of the border and were welcomed with a very sweet, milky cup of tea. Very hospitable. We sat and had a good chat with the passport and carnet guys, then went over the road to the customs department where things got interesting. It all started with the usual, “Are you married?”, “Any children?”, “No! Why not?” We’ve tried the culturally easy answer; “Rose is unable to have any”, which usually results in Dave being offered someone’s daughter to do the deed (Turkey) Or the advice to have a mistress (Iran) Or to take a second wife (Pakistan). Initially the man offered us the use of a bed in his office but I decided it was time to lay the blame on Dave. “We don’t have children because my husband does not want them and has had surgery to prevent him having any.” The bloke was horrified. “You’re husband has had family planning surgery?” he gasped in amazement, “but you want children?” “Yes” said I shaking my head sadly. The result was that instead of me getting the look of shock for not doing my duty, it was Dave. The only down side was that when we went to leave the man shook my hand with a secretive palm finger tickle!! The whole official side of things went smoothly but they stamped our vehicle into the passport as well as our carnet papers. Makes no sense we know but they did it with everyone and it means you will have trouble if you want to fly out for a short break anywhere.We set off for Amritsar and Mrs Bhandari’s guest house which was not easy to find without GPS.  We had settled in well when the fireworks started next door– it was like a cannon shot where some type of gas firing device propels an overgrown tennis ball shaped object packed with explosives into the air. Only trouble is that some don’t explode mid air and instead come hurtling back down to earth, smouldering with an almighty thump and just miss you. Imagine if that hit you, your dog or worse still your roof tent? To say we were not amused was an understatement and whilst a French couple and their dogs took cover in the outbuildings, we demanded that the staff go next door and put a stop to it or at the very least get them to aim in a different direction! We spent the next few days enjoying the sights and visited the beautiful Sikh golden temple, Ram Bagh museum, the hindu Sri Durgiana temple and Jallianwala bagh. Being able to relax and getting a massage to ease our backs was great.

We managed to buy a sim card for our phone which allows us to call home for 5Rs a minute. Since writing this we have had a nightmare with our phone. You must read our top tips page, the problems and solutions section, before buying a card. To avoid the same trouble you must hand over a copy of your passport, visa, hotel bill and a passport photo. Stand over the man in the shop and demand he scans and faxes these through to the head office in front of you. We also found some car insurance, only one company in town will issue 3rd party as all the others have stopped due to the high volume of claims.

New India assurance co. Mall road.  N 31.64096  E 074.87550. We also took a trip to the closing ceremony at the border. We arrived at the border and queued with the locals to get onto the viewing platforms, when the guards drop the rope it’s a free for all and what pursues is a rugby scrum of epic proportions with shin kicks and elbow digs galore. It was great! We made it in one piece to the far section nearest the gate, only to watch some slightly more savvy travellers casually strolling round the back way and sitting in front of us. Oh well, we scrummed with the crowds and really enjoyed it. The whole “show” was brilliant with hip popping stomps and high kicks that would make a cheerleaders eyes water from the Indian guards and, some really impressive stomps and shuffle marches from the Pakistan side, with a movie star turning up for our side we had a great time.

ARRIVAL DATE: 12th NOV. 2006

EXCHANGE RATES:

85 Rupees = £1

$1. 86 = £1       

BORDER CROSSING

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 GOOD CAMP SITE

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SIM CARD

+

CAR

INSURANCE

DID YOU KNOW? All packaged products in India have a maximum retail price on them. Look carefully before you pay!!

10th DEC.  2006  BUNDI to SAWAI MADHOPUR

We left at 7.30am which seemed to be a good move as the roads were quiet. It was the usual mix of single lane, and in the process of being upgraded, so it was bumpy and dusty in parts. Arriving late morning, we were very lucky to be given a space to camp in the gorgeous grounds of the Sawai Madhopur Lodge, a Taj Hotel. A bathroom was supplied in the beautifully converted garage, and we were treated by the manager to a family BBQ that evening up at the Maharajas old hunting lodge, which is surrounded by jungle that has leopard and sloth bear. Unfortunately, the famous Ranthambore tiger park was closed due to a legal dispute over which vehicles are to be allowed entry, and after 2 nights of luxury and amazing food we had to move on. Lots more to see.....

12th DEC.  2006  SAWAI MADHOPUR to FATEHPUR SIKRI

85% of this road was single track, and most of that was riddled with large broken areas of tarmac or impacted rubble (it sounds bad but we did enjoy the sights and the quiet traffic.) One drop was so bad that we thought we would need our sand ladders, but luckily a local jeep was ahead of us and they laid stones to create a ramp. The last 30km’s were torturous, full of tucks moving stone from a roadside quarry and a completely broken road surface. We tried the well placed Goverdhan Tourist Complex, but the very pleasant owner explained that he was holding a wedding party tonight,as a result, had no parking. Next we drove to the Gulistan Complex, where the staff were horrid and wouldn’t let us use the bathroom. So we tried the local DAK bungalow, (these are government owned properties that are placed all over India and have accommodation for visiting officials, usually you can turn up and ask to park for a small charge, they always have security.) This one was very officious and refused unless we had a slip from Dehli HQ so, we did the next best thing and set up beside a high wall mid way between the Dak bungalow and the security post for the entrance to Diwan-i-An, reassured that both have 24hr security guards. We cooked our meal undisturbed and waited ‘til dark to set up, so far so good, we thought. Within 30 min’s we felt someone climbing up the front ladder and, by the time Dave shouted and got dressed the culprit had gone. 20 min’s later we felt him climbing up the back ladder, again by the time Dave got dressed and looked out, he had gone. This time Dave left his clothes on, and within 10 min’s we heard movement outside, quietly Dave got out of the tent, armed with his pepper spray. He found the man hiding under nessie, (we suspect waiting for us to fall asleep before he tried to break in)  and, as he crawled out from underneath Dave gave him a face full of spray before he could get to his feet. Staggering he tried to get away- but fell over blinded and shouting that he was police, security and finally a friend of the security guards– with each lie Dave gave him a hefty kick. By now the man was screaming for help- no one came. Which raises the question: What if it had been us screaming for help? He made off toward town. The staff at Dak got to hear of the event, took pity on us and let us into the grounds to camp. We had a quiet but troubled sleep.

13th DEC.  2006 FATEHPUR SIKRI to AGRA

We were sitting at the entrance for opening time and were treated to having the place to ourselves. It was a lovely collection of some of the best preserved buildings we have seen so far. This city site was once the capital of the Mughal Empire, but was only used for 14 years as it had been built in an area that had a chronic shortage of water. The Jami Masjid square was huge and full of lovely buildings, it was well worth a visit. We left and drove the short distance to Agra along a road that is laughingly called a main route, it was on a par to yesterdays road conditions! By luck, we found the Hotel Mayur on the Fatehabad Road, perfectly placed with large gardens and a friendly owner –only problem was that he had a massive wedding on tonight and had no parking spaces free! We trawled the town for a safe place to set up with no luck -so we had a complete brain storm and booked ourselves into the Clarks Shiraz Hotel. Very expensive and not included in the final budget. The next day we visited Agra Fort and the Taj Mahal.

TOP TIPS: If you visit the Taj Mahal first, your ticket gives you free entry to the Fort and 3 other sites. Also take a small torch to shine against the gem stones within the tomb. Try to visit the Fort around 10-11am as the marble is so fine, that when the morning sun shines through, it becomes  almost transparent. We found a supermarket called Big Bazaar on the Fatehabad Road but, to be honest, you get a better selection of food in the corner shops of Sadar Bazaar.We got invited to stay in the beautiful gardens of a top caterer who lives near Sadar Bazaar- so spent our last night there. We were invited to share a meal with the family and it was during this social event that the daughter announced she had typhoid (after Rose had spent 2 hours shopping and eating with her and her mother). It was a conversation stopper!!

16th DEC.  2006 AGRA to BANBASSA

The following morning we drove past Lauries Hotel, this is the hotel that all overlanders stay and, as usual, we found it as we were leaving! We drove round to Mehtab Bagh for another view point of the Taj Mahal before leaving. We left Agra at 9.30am and reached Banbassa at 6.30pm. It was a truly awful day. We saw countless road accidents, pedestrian hit and runs and the road conditions were terrible. Then we got sucked down a narrow alley after finding the main road shut because of a faulty train barrier at Badaun, and I had to guide Rose through a 4 point turn just to get round the corner, luckily the open sewers either side of the alley bought us some wing mirror space! We swapped over 1/2 way, as normal, but I had to take over again for the last stretch as Rose was physically wrecked with the drive and, of course, the drivers were absolutely mad. Rose swears I become rabid with road rage- guess that explains the horn overheating and, I end up playing dodgems with everyone (glad we’ve got a good bumper). Rose handles it by slamming on the brakes once she’s overtaken them just to piss them off for not letting us overtake for miles. All very childish we know, but it makes us feel better. We held onto the thought that once we got to the border we could camp there overnight. Wrong. We arrived to be told by the armed guards that it was not safe for us to stay there and we should go back into the centre of (a typical border) town and camp outside any shop!! I don’t think so!!By now we had been driving for an hour in the dark, which was utter madness, and headed back to town with no idea what we were going to do. Lady Luck shone on us yet again and we met a shop owner who made a call and handed it to me, only for me to hear “Good day mate” at the other end! Turns out that an Australian couple run an orphanage down the road and they invited us to spend the night. So here we are, in an orphanage for over 100 children, we’ve been fed a wonderful meal, given a bedroom for the night and a big bucket of hot water to freshen up with. LUXURY and very ,very humbling. Makes the bad day we’ve had seem pathetic. The family sold their home in Australia and put all the proceeds toward this very worthy cause. Not only do they care for these children but they also provide homes for leper families. They desperately need funds to develop school and medical facilities and receive no formal funding from the government. PLEASE click onto the web page and have a look for yourself. www.thegsam.com

17th DEC.  2006 NEPAL

We got up for 5.30am and drove the short distance to the border. Vehicles can only cross between 6am-7am, 12-2pm and 4-6pm. You have to drive over the bridge before you reach the first checkpoint, where you are given a tax slip. Then you drive over the next bridge to get to the carnet and passport office (none of which are clearly marked) then turn left through some shacks and stop at the barrier to hand in your tax slip. All reasonably easy and only took 30 minutes in total.

INDIA SO FAR

We have visited almost every tourist site in Rajasthan and have thoroughly enjoyed each one.

If your budget won’t stretch that far- here is our ‘BEST OF’ LIST:

Best Fort: Jodhpur

                                                                                 Best Jain Temple: Ranakpur  

                                                                          Best all rounder town: either Jaipur or Udaipur

                                                                                            Best Haveli: Jaisalmer

                                                                           Best non touristy site: Chittorgarh

                                                                            Best ancient city site: Fatehpur Sikri

The countryside in Rajasthan is wonderful, ranging from desert to lush rice fields, temples and forts.  We drove through villages where the women were bedecked with bangles, from wrist to shoulder- a traditional way to protect their skin from the fierce desert sun and the men wear outrageously elaborate turbans. Between Ranakpur and Udaipur you pass through a country side littered with oxen driven waterwheels where groups of women and children share a water trough with the animals to wash themselves and their clothes. Every corner brings a new sight, from elaborately decorated camels pulling carts, to women carrying water jugs on their heads. It was a visual feast and we couldn’t recommend visiting this area highly enough. Just don’t do it on a self drive holiday!

DRIVING IN INDIA

We reckon you’ve guessed how we feel about road users in India, but just in case we’ve left you in any doubt, here’s some tips on how to blend in with the worlds worst drivers;

No. 1: ensure that all your tyres are bald, threadbare and, if possible, externally patched.

No. 2: remove all mirrors and if this is not possible, turns them inwards.

No. 3: always drive with the belief that you are the only road user.

No. 4: never ever use your indicators, instead stick your hand out of the window and follow through with the manoeuvre regardless of what    everyone else is doing.

No. 5: continuously use your horn and have your music so loud that you cannot hear a thing.

No. 6: try to drive the wrong way down a road at least once a day and if you are a truck or bus driver do it at high speed down the fast lane of the motorway.

No. 7: never look to see if the way is clear before joining a carriageway.

No. 8: if your car has a maximum seating capacity of 5- squeeze at least 10 people in.

No. 9: if you are a pedestrian, never look or listen before crossing the road and on no account should you move off the road, even if a truck is thundering toward you.

No.10: if you don’t have a near miss with at least 6 other road users a day then you can’t hold your head up as a good driver.

No.11: remember that the white lines in the middle of the road are there for you to aim the centre of your vehicle. Never deviate from this, even if oncoming traffic will collide with you.

                                                                                  © www.nessiesadventures.com, 2006, All rights reserved

CHITTORGARH     

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                     BUNDI

HAVING

TO

USE OUR

PEPPER

SPRAY

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AGRA

TOP TIPS

Next country

16th NOV. 2006  AMRITSAR to MCLEOD GANJ

We left for Mcleod Ganj and were instantly hit by the appalling standards of driving here and a road that in parts resembled the KKH. We swapped over after 2 hours of driving, as that was the maximum we can handle without a break, and arrived at Mcleod Ganj, home of the Dalai Lhama, by early lunchtime. Luckily we found the HPTDC Bhagsu Hotel which has a large parking area at the rear and couldn’t believe our luck when we saw lots of very large monkeys hanging around the trees right by our vehicle. We strolled around the temples and streets of the town and had the chance to watch the monks debate with hand slapping and foot stomping to make a point- it felt as if we had stepped into another country and was a real insight into the history and culture of the Tibetan people. A little too much of a hippy scene for us, so we only stayed for one night.

17th NOV. 2006 MCLEOD GANJ to CHANDIGARH

Today we set off for Chadigarh and were immediately thrown into the chaos of driving in India, with the road from Mcleod to Mandi being narrow  and full of trucks and buses, by Mandi I had been counting the miles and was very keen to swap over and let Dave drive the second half. As usual Dave got the better road conditions as from here it widened to 2 lanes, however we regularly came round a blind corner to find a truck on our side of the road, had several near misses and full blown emergency stops. The worst incident was when we came round yet another blind corner to find a bus full of school children on our side of the road overtaking a truck. The bus had tyres that were so bald the ribbon was hanging in tatters around the rim, how we missed each other I don’t know but, it took several minutes for the screams of the kids to die down. Dave by now was stressed to the max, so when we met yet another bus on the wrong side we stopped and refused to move over. The bus driver got extremely agitated but Dave had topped out and was making a stand, so with hand gestures that indicated, “this is our side, that is yours, YOU MOVE!” the driver eventually took the hint and Dave thanked him by calling him a  * head. Not very diplomatic but we were extremely stressed. We arrived in Chandigarh to have one car roll back into us and a bump with another when he tried to push us over. Fortunately, nessie was undamaged not that the other drivers stopped to check and, when you see how scratched and dented all the cars are, you understand why the insurance companies cannot afford 3rd party insurance anymore! We had fancied our luck in the “small forest” area of the Hotel Mount View as an overnight site, but were disappointed to find that the “forest” was a few trees planted around the garden, so we set off for the lake and were told by the police that we could camp anywhere in the city, just not there! We then drove the short distance to the Bougainvillea gardens and set up under a large tree. The gardens are situated in the VIP area of town and have regular police patrols driving past plus an army guard tent on either side. A very respectable elderly couple, who were strolling in the park, offered us their bed for the night but we explained that we wanted to stay in our vehicle and thanked them for such a kind offer. There are no facilities here by it made a good safe overnight stop and, more importantly, it was free. We had been saving a packet of Sainsbury finest raspberry and white chocolate cookies for my birthday, but as a nerve calming treat, we ripped them open and settled in for a typically noisy Indian night.

18th NOV. 2006 CHANDIGARH to BEHROR

With great trepidation we left the gardens and, I must confess that, I completely wimped out and took Dave up on his offer to drive first. Within 5 minutes of driving, Dave almost killed two blokes on their scooter when they cut right across us. That set the tone for the entire days drive. We drove to Dehli with each mile being as crazy as the last, and after passing the Red Fort, we tried to find a spot near Nehru Park that had been recommended to us as an overnight camp stop. Our hearts weren’t in it and we were desperate to get as far away from the traffic as possible, so we found highway 8 and aimed for Jaipur getting as far as Behror where we found the Rajasthan Motel. It was a surprisingly good place to stop but we were beginning to wish we could wave a magic wand and go back to Pakistan. Dave mounted the air horn onto the bumper to try and get the maximum volume from it, but the poor thing had died of overheat and exhaustion, so he looked out our old horn to make do ‘til we find a new one in Jaipur.

19th NOV. 2006  BEHROR to JAIPUR

I forced myself to drive today even after Dave offered, I realised that if I didn’t face my fear Dave would end up driving the whole time in India. A very unfair solution. Much to our relief the traffic was far easier, maybe because it was a Sunday, and we lost the remaining trucks at the Mumbai turn off 40 km’s before Jaipur. We were in town by lunchtime and settled into the gardens of the Ashirvad guest house . We spent the next few days visiting the Palace of Winds, City Palace, the amazing Jantar Mantar observatory, which looks like a modern art sculpture garden but was in fact, built in 1728 and has a sun dial that is accurate to within 2 seconds, the Amber Fort (which we took an elephant ride up to) and numerous other amazing buildings. Unfortunately we got a dose of travellers trots from a dodgy bottle of water and spent 3 days vomiting and sitting on the loo.

All was not lost as we found a web engineer who took those days to fix our web problems and finally got us online.

TOP TIP: Go to supermarket in Raja Park to stock up on uht milk as it is impossible to find once you start to head west. We have really enjoyed our first taste of  the Rajasthan region.

1st DEC. 2006 JAISALMER to SOMEWHERE IN THE DESERT!

After 2 great days we decided to drive to the Saim dunes in the Thar desert and find a quiet corner to bush camp. We were really disappointed to find more desert tourist tents than dunes- so turned around and drove toward Jodhpur. Just south of Pokaran we came across an area that looked perfect-we drove over the crest of a dune where we were hidden from sight of the road. Shortly after setting up were treated to the sight of two desert foxes play fighting by their den, with gazelle running past and the usual array of fabulously coloured birds it was a magical spot. There is a track to follow, but it appears to be a camel and trailer track rather than vehicular- we spent an undisturbed afternoon and night here. Watch the large green bush to the left at dusk for a sight of the foxes.

2nd DEC. 2006 DESERT to JODHPUR

Very reluctantly we decided to leave today but were treated to another view of the foxes- as normal we were too slow with the camera. We arrived in town and camped at Ratan Vila -Yet again we have landed on our feet with a family that are exceptionally friendly- www.ratanvilas.com  We spent the next 2 days visiting the imposing Meherangarh fort and catching up with the web page. We also had our first meat since Islamabad in the form of a chicken supreme pizza from Pizza Hut, followed by hot chocolate cake. YUMMY! As it is Rose’s birthday this week, we booked a table on the candle lit terrace of the fort for a romantic evening meal. The city views were amazing.

4th DEC. 2006 JODHPUR to RANAKPUR

We left Jodhpur with a solemn promise that we would return sometime to go hunting with our landrover, to the owner of the Ratan Vilas! The drive to Ranakpur was fantastic with a new view round every corner and a nice quiet country road. We spent quite some time wandering around the beautiful Jain temple here which reminded us of Angkor Wat with it’s serene atmosphere and beautiful stone masonry. We set up camp at a hotel 10km’s out of town. The parking area was uninspiring but was more than made up for by the fantastic service. We only asked for 6 chapattis but were given a table, full set of crockery, cutlery, condiments, papads and assorted side dishes, then after our meal the staff lit a camp fire for us up on the terrace.

The following morning we awoke to find that nessie had been washed while we slept!

5th DEC. 2006 RANAKPUR to UDAIPUR

8th DEC  2006 UDAIPUR to CHITTORGARH

After 3 days of excellent sight seeing and even better food, it was with great reluctance that we left Udaipur. The road was dual carriageway, and not  too suicidal ,so we arrived in Chittor reasonably relaxed by lunch time. We looked at the RTDC, but it was too close to a noisy road, then the Pratap (which had no parking) and finally the Padmini- who’s staff were horrid and they wanted 500Rs! We decided to go sight seeing first- so drove up the long sweeping drive to yet another fort. It was fantastic. Not a foreign tourist in sight, lots of ruined palaces, temples and water tanks covering a huge area. We tried to cook a meal outside the beautiful Ratan Singh Palace (which resulted in the usual Indian experience) we were surrounded by locals within 2 minutes of opening the rear door- they were lifting the lid of the pan to see what we were cooking, trying to open the doors to look in and spitting that horrible brown saliva that is everywhere in India. We ate quickly and drove away, hiding behind a ruined palace and some trees where we had a great and very quiet night. This problem answers the question of, “Why do you always park in hotel grounds?”!!

9th DEC. 2006 CHITTORGARH to BUNDI

Again a reasonable drive, although most of the road is being upgraded to highway standards so can be a bit bumpy and dusty. We arrived in Bundi by lunchtime and found the Lakeview guest house- situated just below the fort and overlooking a lake it was well placed, but a very tight squeeze to get nessie under the arch and with Dave having lost 12 kg’s since the start of the trip- he packs less of a punch when standing on the back to drop the suspension. We took a bone shaking tuk tuk ride up to the top of the hill and walked down through the ruins and fort- not worth going to the top, but the murals in the lower part are famous and lovely.

SEVERAL

NEAR MISSES

And

TWO

ACTUAL

BUMPS

26th NOV. 2006  JAIPUR to PUSHKAR

Still feeling delicate we drove to Pushkar today and, after a couple of hours pleasant driving, we arrived on the outskirts of town to be met with a barrier (which was lowered quickly when they spotted us) and were asked for 55Rs as a “town tax”. We turned around and drove the other way into town where we sat and watched who paid, who didn’t and how much. We agreed on 15Rs, as that was what other vehicles were paying, and insisted on a receipt. We did not enjoy Pushkar, it was too much of a drugs and hippy scene for us, but if you find yourself here make a point of being at the ghats for sunset- it’s gorgeous!

27th NOV.2006 PUSHKAR to BIKANER

It was freezing last night and we are still surprised at how cold India is in November. Once again we had a really enjoyable drive through some great scenery to Bikaner and stopped en route at the famous Karni Mata Temple. It’s the temple that is full of rats. We decided against going in- as we didn’t fancy having our toes nibbled, and settled on admiring the stonework from the outside. Once we had found somewhere to stay we began looking for a new horn, as half way through the narrow back streets of Bikaner, it had died AGAIN! We spent a couple of days roaming around the lovely fort, town and thoroughly enjoying all that Bikaner had to offer. For the first time since Europe we found fresh pasteurised milk -hidden away in a shack which surprisingly had a refrigerator- it was a great change to uht.

29th NOV. 2006 BIKANER to JAISALMER

After yet another great drive with good quiet roads and lovely scenery, we arrived in town ( tourist tax barrier =50Rs)  and found the lovely Jawahar Niwas Palace Hotel. Feeling bold we drove in and asked if we could set up in the gardens and were amazed that not only did they say yes, but they  gave us the key to a bedroom so we could use the bathroom whenever we wished. With a hot shower to die for, a pool that takes your breathe away and a roof terrace that gives you stunning sunset views of the fort, we couldn’t believe our luck and promptly informed them that we would be staying 2 nights. Jaisalmer turned out to be one of our favourite towns in Rajasthan with a fort that is still inhabited, fabulous Jain temples and the beautiful Patwa-ki- havelli- it was a treat to spend time here. Laugh at the hotel’s camel ‘jive walking’, the baby cows mooch food from you and the chip monks are expert biscuit box raiders. You have been warned!

CHEEKY

CHIP

MONKS

+

A

FABULOUS

TOWN

BUSH

CAMP

SPOT

WITH

DESERT

FOXES

  GHATS at PUSHKAR                                                       BIKANER FORT                                                HOLY MAN in JAISALMER

 JAIN TEMPLE at RANAKPUR   +   JODHPUR FORT        &            OCTOPUSSY ISLAND– UDAIPUR

FATEHPUR SIKRI      +           

                                            TAJ MAHAL

SOME OF THE SIGHTS IN AND AROUND JAIPUR

         A local bank guard                  Golden temple Amritsar            Monk at Mcleod Ganj                   Dave wanted to make a donation– shame

                                                                                                                                                                                                     he’s a jaffa                                                                         

BACK 2 TOP PA GE                                                                                                                   

Yesterday we were lucky enough to catch the eye of a gentleman as he drove past the hotel who loves landrovers and stopped to have a closer look at nessie. Turns out he is the corporate general manager of HRH India- a group of sumptuous hotels including the fabulous City Palace Complex in Udaipur. He invited us to ‘pop in’ to visit him and said he would, “find a corner somewhere for us to set up.” So today we set off with the comfort of knowing that we don’t have to spend the usual hour searching for a suitable site. We were delighted to find that not only had he found us an area to stay, but we were treated like royalty and, after spending a couple of hours looking around the museum and beautiful buildings of the City Palace, we were told to drive out to the Maharajas old hunting lodge. The Shikarbadi Hotel is situated 4km’s out of town, has a stud farm, cricket ground, landing strip and is in a lovely location. The “corner” that was found for us was beyond perfect -views over the stud farm and cricket ground to the jungle, and a private bathroom for our use. The icing on the cake was the hotel- with a pool overlooking a small lake and a restaurant that serves absolutely fabulous food. We settled in for the evening and went to watch the deer and peacocks being fed. The following day we visited the Crystal Gallery, a room full of crystal that includes the worlds only crystal bed. The crystal was bought by the Maharaja but he died before it arrived in India, so his family left it unpacked for over 110 years before it was opened and displayed to the public. Then we took the boat trip around the Jagniwas Island (Octopussy Island) and stopped at the gorgeous Jagmandir Island (this was where the designer for the Taj Mahal took his inspiration from) for a romantic lunch, before heading back to the City Palace complex. We visited the Garden Hotel to view the huge vintage car collection before making our way back to the palace to watch a ceremony of dancers and music.

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