As we wrap up our stay in Jodhpur, and head to Udaipur, the final leg of our journey, I think I’ve spent enough time here to reflect on some things that make traveling to and through India not for the faint of heart:
1. The heat. I know, I know. I chose to come here during the summer, and would do so again if the alternative was to not come, but sheesh, it’s really, really hot. Visiting Jodhpur’s mountain top fort yesterday in pre-monsoon heat and humidity redefined hot. Although it finally rained there last night, cooling things down just a touch, the humidity lingered like a wet, warm blanket.
2. Navigating the streets and roads. Like I’ve mentioned numerous times, whether driving or walking, India is an obstacle course of cars, trucks, mopeds, animals, and yes, squalor. People are always sweeping and picking up garbage, but their efforts are futile against the mounds of garbage. In spite of this, against this same backdrop, I’ve seen beautifully groomed children and their mothers accompanying them to school in their kaleidoscopic butterfly-wing saris. Somehow India’s contrasts are part of her pulse, and she is alive.
3. I have yet to have a decent cup of coffee.
4. Unless you are truly brave, going off the beaten path, e.g. eating outside the hotel or tourist class restaurants is not recommended. Much of the street food looks and smells good but, spoiled American that I am, I couldn’t wrap my head food preparation in the atmosphere mentioned in #2. We’ve been careful but even we haven’t completely escaped “Delhi belly.”
5. Shopping. With Jodhpur and Udaipur as a notable exceptions, browsing peacefully through stores or market stalls is unheard of. The minute people recognize your status as a foreigner, they start throwing things you absolutely do not want within six inches of your nose. That and the guides who try to get you to sit through captive presentations for oriental rugs, marble, jewelry, textiles–you name it. Getting out of these requires firmness and consistency, as they WILL try to bamboozle you into going.
6. Indian drivers use their car horns the way we use our blinkers, brakes, and car radios collectively. I honestly cannot conceive how one could drive here with a malfunctioning horn. You honk when you intend to pass (and you always intend to pass). In fact, the backs of all trucks are painted with the words “Blow Horn” to let the truck driver know you’re passing, which of course you can do on the right or the left. Honking to pass overhead is only inhibited by the car’s lack of wings. You also honk to shoo away cows, donkeys, sheep herders and their herds; the cacophony is endless.
7. And, if (involuntarily) watching public urination were a drinking game, I’d be in Kingfisher beer induced stupor right now.
8. Final piece of advice? If you can make it here, come. India is worth the effort.