Jodhpur has exceeded expectations, in almost every way. It’s been one hell of a ride!
This has to be the ‘Badmington Horse Trials’ of India. One has to fly over such hurdles and negotiate the most frightening water jumps just to make it down the street.
But it is so worth it. There is an authenticity here that is wondrous, even if one does pick up a couple of faults over the course. I’ve nearly broken my ankle four times which has not amused Mr Kennedy, who’s accused me a being a silly filly more than once.
‘Bugger you’ I’ve said in my best Camilla Parker Bowles accent. ‘At least I got us to the farking place!’
Living beneath the majestic Mehrangargh Fort, has been magnificent.
Gazing up at this historic beauty from our room has been a real treat. Quite magical. Andrew has actually taken the side of the bed that provides the best view of this majestical sight. So last night, I requested he give me the mighty erection to which to awaken, for a change. He kindly agreed.
I drifted to sleep imagining Maharajas and princesses doing their thing. As I veered in and out of sweaty reverie, I could have sworn I was an extra in ‘Game Of Thrones.’
Then, in the middle of a particularly scorching night, I woke with a jolt. Confused,at first, as to the violence of my rude awakening. I soon realised what was happening, when my stomach contracted painfully, in a way any mother of quadruplets would recognise. I was no longer a bit part in the fantasy series of which I’d just been dreaming. I was the star! As I lurched towards the toilet as fast as I could, the vomit shot up into my mouth. At the same time as the remainder went south!
Sitting, painfully on the pan, my own version of ‘Game Of Thrones’ had just begun. I spent most of the wee small hours perched on my own throne, with my head slung over a bucket in a most unsophisticated manner.
Even by dawn, there wasn’t the hint of an abdication. I couldn’t move!
As morning merged messily into afternoon, I lay in our room, which now smelt like an Indian latrine. I was running a fever as well as just, well, running!
My limbs felt like hot metal. As if some evil sculptor had filled me with bronze when I’d been sleeping. They were so heavy I could hardly move.
I felt like Shirley Eaton.
As I lay in a deep malaise, I could only watch as Andrew cheerfully downed the odd ‘Kingfisher’ lager, and munched on greasy samosas, containing a filling which reminded me of something unspeakable that I’d earlier filled into another container!
The time limped on, as did I, and I had nothing else to do but think about the overnight train we were to take later that evening.
We thought we’d be brave and take cattle class. Actually, we had no choice, as all of the carriages on the ‘Jaisalmer Express’ were of that variety. The toilets were notoriously uncompromising, and bedding unheard of.
At least there would be fresh air, as the bars at the open windows allowed for this.
We thought it would be a great adventure to travel in such a manner. That was, until my insides decided to have an adventure all of their own. Now the whole idea was seeming as unsavoury as Andrew’s lunch.
And the ‘Starshite Express’ was beckoning!
We’d booked the rail tickets the previous day. As, unsurprisingly, none of the Indian online booking facilities were working, each one stalling you at the last hurdle. So we were forced to go in person to the railway station.
We stood in front of a sign which read ‘foreigners only’, whilst several Indians muddled around us. We attempted to form a queue, but in this country that seems pointless. I’m not sure they exist here!
The universally accepted, and generally effective manner in which to garner the ticketmaster’s attention, is to gather around his or her booth, and shove one’s hand through a small aperture in the glass, attempting to steal a pen. Or a rubber. Or even a stapler! This usually involves a slap on the wrist, but allows the perpetrator to say his piece. Which then culminates in him getting his problem sorted. Try that at a local London Post Office and you’d have your arm ripped from it’s socket by the old girl behind!
The other tried and tested method, is to shove your booking form so hard into the face of the railway employee, and scream like a banshee! This also appears to achieve the desired result.
All of this behaviour is most ‘unbritish’! After all, we would queue for our death certificate if we were told we had to !
After an hour of this jostling and ballpoint jousting, it was my turn. Well, it wasn’t, but I took it. It was the only way!
‘ME NEXT’, I said, in the most uncharming tone, sounding very like Patsy from ‘Ab Fab’. I forcefully thrust the booking form at the morose, heavy woman behind the glass. She thrust it straight back, and used her big, podgy fingers to point out that I had left the postcode off of my address.
‘Surely that doesn’t matter’ I retorted, still a little ‘Lumleyesque’!
‘Yes’, she said sternly.
‘Do you have a pen?’ I asked, less Patsy now, and spying the array of coloured biros she kept behind her printer, out of the greedy reach of her usual customers.
‘No’ she replied firmly. She then pointed out, using the writing tool in her hand, a shop where I could find one!
By this point, I’d had enough. My politeness had got me no where, except to the back of the queue, I decided to use a dose of lethal charm.
‘Oh, please don’t do that to me.’ I crooned cheesily. ‘I can see you’re so busy, being the only one here, and you’re doing such a wonderful job. But I’ve been here for over an hour now.’
She stared at me. (I nearly had her).
Smile. Giggle. Flutter eyelashes etc.
There was a pause. For a moment I thought I might get a swift ‘Piss Off’ in Hindi, but then, the miserable, officious woman shot me a wide smile. Fast, yet as glamorous as Rita Hayworth. She looked into my eyes and handed me HER pen. Unheard of, apparently.
I scribbled in the six letters and digits and a second later handed her back her coveted writing instrument. This seemed to surprise her, and she briefly smiled again.
‘Thank you so much’ I said as she eventually handed me the tickets, via a printer William Caxton would have given up on!
I smiled broadly and said goodbye.
She scowled back.
We got out as quick as we could.
We were to join the train at Jodhpur Junction at half-past eleven in the evening. Then seemingly, all going to plan, we were to wake in the desert city of Jaisalmer, near the border with Pakistan. I should have been excited but my stomach was in knots at the thought. I just hoped this choo choo had a useable loo loo!
When arriving at the station in the middle of the night, we were surrounded at once by a sea of sleeping families. Small children lay outside on the forecourt, some with their parents, some without. Scattered among the soporific cows and languid dogs, these night-time inhabitants, in their colourful coverings, reminded me of pictures I’d seen of London’s Blitz. Entire families sleeping rough on underground platforms. They looked content as they slept, even though there is no world war here to make this necessary. It was a touching moment as we staggered across them carefully, with our heavy rucksacks and my mood to match.
We found the train. Again it looked terribly warlike. Barred windows and no hint of a dining car! But we had no choice.
After mercilessly kicking two ‘gappers'(I’m beginning to loathe them!) out of our reserved gaps, we settled in for a bumpy night.
I, still cramping, cramped myself into the lower bunk, and Andrew made his way up top. It’s not usual for him to take that position, but knowing I was sick, he made an exception. I miserably made myself uncomfortable and tried to fall unconscious.
Andrew then began a party. A big one! With a young group of travellers who happened to be on his upper level – in every way!
It was minutes before he began passing round a bottle of Indian whisky and getting into lots of trouble with the more mature Indian ladies in the carriage, who were attempting to sleep. He was not very popular in carriage S2 on the ‘Jaisalmer Express’. He was told to shut it on more than one occasion.
I had neither the energy nor the inclination to be embarrassed.
I woke many times during this journey, sometimes I gazed out of the window into the black starry night, and sometimes I had no idea where I was.
During one of these vague awakenings, I was sure I could see the shadow of Andrew wandering up and down the inky carriage, ‘Royal Stag’ in hand, attempting to get the party to continue. I was certain I could hear his ‘West End’ voice, loudly encouraging our fellow passengers to party on, and not be so dull ! Or words to that extent!
It was less ‘Some Like It Hot’, more, some like it not!
I crushed on a very strong ‘Piriton’ tablet one of the more lovely gap girls had given me earlier. She was a veritable pharmacist, I was quite unsurprised when she told me she’d be studying chemistry at Bristol from September.
I think it worked, as the next thing I was aware of, was chugging unevenly into a brown and dusty railway station, and then the usual mayhem, when a train stops in this country.
Rucksacks and knees bashed me in the face until I managed to move out of harms way. I heard Andrew from the top bunk.
‘We’re here babe’.
I’m sure he was slurring.
But I didn’t care. I’d survived. I no longer felt like Mia Farrow in ‘Rosemary’s Baby’!
And better still – I no longer looked like her!
Andrew on the other hand ……