(Note: we spent a day in Jaipur as well, but I’ll document that in a big summary of the entire trip)
We’re now driving from Jaipur to Jodhpur on NH-8, a one-lane (in each direction) highway with no divider. This means that every minute or so, Saje passes a bunch of slower trucks, and the rest of the time, he is riding both lanes to see oncoming traffic so that he can judge his next maneuver at 100-120km/h.
The occasional cow sits in the middle of the road (or worse yet walks around), but patience is high!
One interesting item of note was a sign for an all-women’s college of engineering in Rajasthan. Rock!
We just reached a car accident between two vans. Everyone (not us, but our driver for example) that passed by got out of their cars to help. Within a minute or two, they flipped a van back over (with people inside it), and cleared the road so traffic could pass. Two ambulances showed up a minute later, which I did not expect. It looks like everyone is in relatively good shape.
We next drove through “Marble City,” where even the hospital is named “Marble City Hospital.” Every shop (open-air lot) is a marble shop, wherfe you can buy mostly unfinished 1mx1mx3m blocks of marble. Saje tells us that the marble is Makrana marble, from a quary 300 km away.
This trip reminds me a lot of Dave and my trip to the southwest. Specifically, the road, houses, establishments, and surroundings look like Navajo country in Arizona. There is flat desert with mountainous formations in the distance. You can see houses far from the road, and every few kilometers, you hit a town that stretches for a while.
There is a steady stream of army trucks traveling in our direction. Saje explains that we are 400 km from the Pakistani border, and while nothing bad is forseen, there is some army buildup on both sides of the border. Our conversation with him was funny. After he explained the trucks, we asked him if anything bad was brewing, and he said no. We then got into an awkward (mostly one-way) conversation with us describing how we’re supposed to read the news daily, but don’t have access to it, and don’t know if anything of note has happened recently, to which Saje explained that the Mumbai attacks (now clearly not news more than a month later) are to blame for the buildup.
Along the way, we stopped at the the Jain temple (red temple) in Ajmer. We weren’t allowed into the temple proper, but we went to an attachment that had a really neat display of the story of Jainism’s religious history. The display was probably in a room of size 30mx20m that took up three stories. It showed the mountain that Jainism started at with its first of 24 prophets, and 13 planets, whose significance I don’t quite understand. A local “artist” showed us around for free, claiming 22 members of his family (starting with his grandfather’s father) took 30 years to create the display. I believe it took someone 30 years, even if it wasn’t his family:). Anyway - the display was amazing - it used 500 kg of gold to coat the scene and thousands of detailed figurines. There were many thousands of emeralds, and the walls were painted with stone/vegetable colors, which the artist claimed don’t fade at all. As with most monuments, the walls (on the outside of the display, which was protected) were completely trashed - etched with (mostly english) grafiti that destroyed the mood a bit. For a final surprise, the artist magically had a business inside the temple, where we were his “guests” and he showed us pictures of him being an artist, gave us tea, and then sold us some very nice paintings. We chose to visit this temple, so we didn’t feel screwed, but it was very clear that our driver got a cut from the deal.
We stopped for Saje to take a break from the long ride, and saw a few camels, a peacock, and some green trees at the side of the road.
Also along the way, we stopped at an amazing restaurant, which we all agreed had the most spectacular food thus far. We had Paneer Paratha (bread stuffed with cheese), Kaji Kowa (the best dish), Paneer Bhuti (also delicious, but we don’t know what was in it either:)), and Kashmiri Briyani. The food came to 240 Rs (about $5) for the three of us, which should scare you, since this is the exact type of highwayside cafe that destroys travelers with horrible sickness.