Missing the Train to Jaipur

After Haridwar, we’re back in Delhi to change trains, heading off to Jaipur in Rajasthan. As we have a few hours to spend, we go on a tour organised by the Salaam Balaak Trust, who work with street children in Delhi. There are 200,000 in Delhi alone, so it’s a huge problem. Their work is truly inspiring, and their dedication humbling. Here’s Diane with some of the kids at one of their centres.

Later, we’re off to Old Delhi Railway Station for our train to Jaipur. We allow 80 minutes to travel the 5 Km to the station and all goes well for the first part of the journey. Then, we encounter a large crowd, blocking the opposite side of the road, and this eventually halts all traffic in the area. Everything. Autorickshaws, lorries, buses, cyclists, cycle rickshaws are all jammed together, trying to make progress. We can’t even get out of our autorickshaw at the start, so close are we to the vehicles around us. Time ticks by, we move about 200 metres, and eventually we decide we’re going to have to walk at least some of the way. Our driver says go to the corner and turn right, get a cycle rickshaw, it’s quite a way. So we fight our way through the traffic, walking in the road with our backpacks on, cyclists turning their wheels to let us through, cars folding in their wing mirrors as we push past. We reach the lights, join the throng crossing to the other side of the road, and jump into a cycle rickshaw, saying “Old Delhi Railway, Old Delhi Railway”. Twenty minutes to train time, and counting. The old guy starts pumping the pedals, weaving in and out of the traffic, shouting at cars and cyclists. At the end of the road he turns right again, and we go slightly downhill through a market area, cars flying past us, swerving round pedestrians, cyclists and cows. A dreadful suspicion starts to form in my mind, but there’s no stopping him now, we’re really cranking. My suspicion become a near-certainty, and two minutes before train time, we arrive at New Delhi Railway Station, and as it’s the wrong station, we’ve missed our train.

If you have to miss a train in Delhi, this is the place to be, as it houses the International Tourist Bureau: a special office where foreign nationals can book tickets. Thanking and paying the old guy for his efforts, we make our way upstairs and explain our predicament to the tourist information desk: no problem, says the man on the desk, there’s another train, from here, at 19:55 this evening, and it has spaces. As we have an India Rail Pass, purchased in England, we’re sent to a special desk, so we don’t even have to queue. The very helpful lady there asks to see our tickets, and then says “Ah yes, Sanjeev mailed me about you.” Sorry ? “I have a ticket for your journey on the 19th of December, the one that was incorrect on your India rail pass.” Sorry ? I’m still not getting it. Eventually, we realise that this is the exact person that Sanjeev, of SD Enterprises, of Wembley, England, who booked our rail passes, talks to in Indian Railways. I noticed a week or so ago that the date of one journey was wrong on the pass, and she has issued a new ticket for us. She hauls out a big, hand-written ledger, and there we are, all our journeys, the train numbers, and all the carriage and seat numbers written in red pen. She hands us the ticket. We sit there, astonished, and then thanking her, explain our current situation: no problem, in short order we have a ticket on the later train. Is there anything else she can do ? Well, yes, there is, we’ve been thinking of rearranging a couple of trips: is this possible ? It surely is, and more tickets are issued. This is a way better result than I had been expecting, and all because we missed our train ! The word is serendipity, a happy accident. What would have happened on that trip on the 19th if we hadn’t had cause to visit the International Tourist Bureau? We’ll never know.

So, we’re in Jaipur to visit the City Palace, still occupied by the Royal Family, although only one section, with the rest open to the public. It is the wedding season here, and seemingly every beautiful public space such as this is being set up for a wedding. Here you can see several large gold-coloured elephant tusks being made ready for the main event.

The rest of the palace is beautiful, with many painted, carved doorways and arches.

Next to the City Palace stands the Jantar Mantar, which is an Observatory. It contains many instruments used to fix the time, and also the position of celestial objects such as the Pole Star, built around 1730. They are fascinating: the one below is a giant sun dial, accurate to the minute.

The day after, we go to see the big attraction of the area, the Amer Palace, also known as the Amber Palace. Instead of going straight there, we travel to the Jaigarh Fort, on the Hill above the Palace. It was built to defend the Palace, and is connected by a road way. The Jaigarh fort is being prepared for a wedding: hundreds, literally, of people are setting up, moving furniture, building a stage, installing lighting and rehearsing dance routines. Our driver tells us that the family one of the richest in the world, from Mumbai. The wedding set features an eighty-foot igh Golden Buddha you can walk into.

From the walls overlooking the wedding venue, you get a great view of the Amer Palace.

The entrance way from the fort to the palace is through a narrow roadway, and then an underground passage. Once inside, it is a spacious and beautiful place.

Here you can see the Jaigarh Fort in the background.

In the later afternoon, on the way back, we stop at the elephant village. Visitors to the Amer Palace can take a short elephant ride from the car park area to the entrance, but only in the mornings until 11:30, when the day gets too hot. The elephants that provide this service are Government regulated, and must live in the elephant village where they share a dwelling with their drivers, who wash and feed them. Diane absolutely loved our elephant, called Elisa, as you can see. We went for a stately 20-minute walk around the compound: here’s some photographs.

So, that’s it for Jaipur, we’re off on an overnight train to Udaipur.

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