Friday, December 7, 2012

NEVER GET OUT OF THE BOAT! India 2012 part 7

Hindu good luck. Madhogarh.
Another early morning meeting in our hotel lobby. We bid the Hotel Royale Residency adieu and jumped into our mini cars. We would be taking a bus to Fort Madhogarh. Never spent a night in a fort before. We were very excited. Our cars dropped us off at the bus station. We packed our bags in the rear of the bus and went in to get our seats. I bought chocolate Oreos and bottled water at one of the stands. As we were taking off, a man standing outside of the bus began yelling at our bus driver. I'm not sure what was going on there, but it sounded like the guy was mad about something. For all I know, he could have been telling our driver to have a good day!

The bus ride was another awesome experience. I loved traveling through the city observing how Indian people lived. Their neighborhoods were so colorful and brimming with life. The bus ride to the fort would take about 4 hours. I did a lot of sight seeing! Again, the Indian countryside is beautiful. I kept seeing these little huts made from tree branches. There were many Indian women in dazzling saris strolling down the road carrying everything from water to bundles of sticks perched on their heads. One brave lady had a sheet of metal on her head. 

The soundtrack to my trip was supposed to have been Sibylle Baier's Colour Green and The Seer by Swans (same thing happened to be in Hawaii and it was supposed to have been Earth's Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light II). But for some reason, those tunes didn't stick. The few songs that did stick were from the soundtrack to Wes Anderson's The Darjeeling Limited. This is a brilliant film about three brothers and their train journey across India. I used the movie as a slight reference on what to expect on my journey across India. The soundtrack to the movie has some great music but the two songs that will forever be a part of me and that totally represented my trip were "This Time Tomorrow" and "Strangers" by The Kinks. These were on constant play. 

We took a small break at a rest stop and stretched out our legs. There was a restaurant where you could purchase food to go. In front was an ice cream stand. There were a few red buildings in the back. One of them had a sign that said "Bar". I would have bought a beer if it hadn't been closed. I relaxed on a bench and watched a group of monkeys lounge in the India sun. Delhi was covered in this grey sticky smog. Agra too. The air here is so clean. You could actually see the blue sky and it felt great. I feel like our trip was really starting now. My mom had some bananas she bought earlier today. The boy who sold them was pushing a cart full of fruit outside of our hotel. We bought a bunch despite the boy changing the price a few times. After our purchase, he kept asking me for more money. My mom gave him a twenty dollar bill. He stared at it for a few seconds, folded the bill, stuck it in his jeans and continued on his way down the street. He had a slight speech impediment and noticed that part of his tongue was missing. My mom was eating a few of those bananas at the rest stop. The scent brought out a few curious monkeys who crowded around her looking for some scraps. My mom threw a few bananas their way and the monkeys snatched them up. There were a few monkeys eating from the trash can.

Chillin' at the rest stop.
Rest stop tiger.



I wanted to ride this so bad!

Damn! It was closed!

Behind the restaurant. 
After a few hours of sleep, our bus pulled of the highway and dropped us off on the side of a dusty road. Cars speeding by us, honking. There were four jeeps waiting for us. We jumped in our jeeps and they sped down a dirt road towards Fort Madhogarh. This was the best ride of the trip so far. As we sped down the dirt roads, dust flying everywhere, children came out from their homes and waved hello to us. The older villagers pretty much dropped what they were doing and stared at us intensely. We were out in the country and I loved riding through theses country villages. My jaw dropped as our driver pointed a long finger to our final destination. High above the village on a mountain top loomed Fort Madhogarh. We jammed up a cobblestone road, passing a few cows and goats, and parked our vehicles on it's steep driveway. There, the fort staff were waiting for us. They welcomed us by placing flower necklaces over our heads and painting red dots or drawing red lines on our foreheads. We sat in the courtyard while our luggage was being unpacked and drank glasses of soda. The fort was incredible. There was a sand pit where a man was sitting painting pictures of peacocks. We were then handed our hotel keys and told to return to the courtyard for lunch after we inspected our rooms. I was starving!!

These were the jeeps that took us to the fort. 
Our rooms were pretty much kept in their original state. We had a little window that had a good view of the village below. Once we unpacked, we set off exploring. The place was huge. There was a little old lady cooking something over a clay oven. I wonder if this was lunch. No matter where you were at in the fort, the views were spectacular. The sun sat glowing on the land below. Our group checked out each other's rooms, admiring the layout, commenting approvingly. The owner of the fort was below talking to Saurabh, our group leader. The owner gave us some history on the fort. Fort Madhogarh was built over 400 years ago by Madho Singh Ji. It was built to protect the nearby city of Jaipur. The owner, a descendant of  Madho Singh, saw that the fort was falling apart and renovated it into a heritage hotel.  He was a young guy. It was fun meeting him. We had lunch, an Indian buffet, and talked about how much we liked this place. After lunch we would go on the village walk.
Fort Madhogarh
You could see forever up there!

This side of the fort was still undergoing some renovation.

Yeah,  a long way up (and down)!
I didn't know what to expect on our walk. I brought my electric ukulele as I wanted to bring something to the Indian people. I figured that music was a great offering. I packed my instrument in my backpack and my mom and I made our way to the front of the fort. The rest of the group was waiting for us.

Inside Fort Madhogarh.

Views for miles. 

Down below where the chairs are is where we would eat our lunch and dinner. 

Way in the background you can see our artist friend. 
We meet our guide for the village walk. I didn't catch his name. He had the greatest mustache I've seen on the trip yet. We walked down the long driveway and made our way to the heart of the village. Children started gathering around us asking to take their picture. The houses are mostly square shaped and painted in bright colors. The roads were all dirt. Most of the kids were barefoot. I noticed that most of the homes had the Hindu sign for good luck painted somewhere on their walls. I even spotted one made from cow dung. Cows are holy here and so is their excrement. I would see some interesting things made from cow dung on this trip.

I love this color of blue. 

One of the many cool houses in the village.

Here's our auspicious tailor. Ready to take some measurements. 

A temple?

There's our fort.
There were little shops set up throughout the village. We saw many other businesses in our walk. We met a man who was making pottery. A tailor who was working furiously over a sewing machine, stopped what he was doing and told us to come back so he could alter some of our clothes. We paid a visit to a shop set up specifically to employ the females of the village. There they weaved textiles to be sold in the city.


Saurabh asked us if any of us would like to chai. A large numbers of hands went up in our group. We stopped at this rustic hut. There were groups of villagers already enjoying their beverage. Saurabh placed our order and a few minutes later, our drinks arrived. There was a young man tending the fire. This chai was hot and delicious. We drank from tiny clay pots. A small group of villagers came up to see what we were up to. I pulled out my cell phone and played some Wolf Eyes for the kids. They must have thought my phone speaker was broken. A boy on a bike pulled up and asked to see my camera. I gave it to him and he starting taking pictures of me and our group. I grabbed his old bike and pretended to ride off with it. He lost interest with me and took off. A few members of our group ventured towards the main road to hang out with the monkeys. There was wildlife everywhere.
Here's my cool photographer friend. Check out the three elders in back dressed in white.
We gave back our pots and hung out with the guys at the chai stand for a bit. I took a picture of my mom with a few of the village elders. They all had amazing looking eyes. They were all dressed in white and were extremely friendly with us. We headed up the road to make our way back to the fort. A group of kids came up and pointed to my ukulele. I pulled it out of my bag and played a short impromptu set for them. I'm not sure what they thought. I small crowd gathered and I did my best Jimi Hendrix impression.

As we made our way home, families started coming out of their homes and waving to us. It was great. At this point I felt so relaxed here. Our group took many photos. We were to send the photos to our village guide and he would distribute them throughout the village. I need to get those to him ASAP.





Back at the fort we took a small rest. The images of the village walk filled my head. It was an incredible experience. I know that the rest of the group felt the same way. I remember one young man on our trip saying that he played a brief game of cricket with some of the kids from the village during our walk.






At dinner, the hotel staff dressed our group up in saris for the women and turbans for the men. There was small band playing and some of our group got up and danced. Then we ate dinner. Indian buffet! We all hung around the dinner table talking with each other and really trying to get to know each other. Like I said, I feel that our trip has just begun.
Here's our awesome guide for our village walk. 
Our group went to the top of the fort and watched the sunset. Nobody wanted to leave!


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