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By Mikey
Monday, 6th December 2004 12:24

Since our train was running five hours late we didn't arrive in Jodhpur until 2.30am. I had called ahead to warn our guesthouse that the train was late as they were arranging to pick us up. At the station a tired looking man called Boblu bundled us and our heavy bags into his auto rickshaw and we set off in to the deserted streets. The streets soon turned into narrow alleyways that were barely wide enough to accommodate an auto let alone drive it at speed past parked scooters and motorbikes too but Boblu seemed to know what he was doing.

We stopped beside a building that could easily have been missed if you didn't know which one you were looking for although in the middle of the night any new town or city is confusing. We apologised to the man who opened the door about our lateness but he sleepily made a gesture that said it was ok, the fault of the trains. He and Boblu showed us upstairs, some steep and narrow stairs, to an unexpectedly delightful room. Our Rough Guide had described the Shahi guesthouse as "quirky" and that had probably been one of the things that made me choose it. I was also curious to find out exactly what a haveli was. Now we had an idea. Haveli, this one in particular, are 350 year old houses that are as unique as the people who live in them. Some seem to have courtyards, some don't. The few that we've seen have grated metal floors in the centre of the building that allow you to see from top to bottom however many floors that may be. Presumably this also facilitates the hoisting of furniture to the upper floors that would surely have been impossible otherwise as the stairs tend to be steep and narrow. Despite our tiredness, we spent several minutes exploring our vast room after Boblu and Bantu (the owner) had left, we just couldn't resist it. Sleep came very easily afterwards.

We woke at a fairly respectable time to the sounds of life going on outside. We eventually emerged from our room on to the terrace to survey the scene. Easily visible and not very far from us we could see Jodhpur's impressive fort standing high on its hill. We climbed to the very top of our building and found that we were surrounded on all sides by the same sort of interesting buildings that we now stood on. Following a quick daylight inspection of the nooks and crannies in our room we sat outside on the terrace and had a most welcome breakfast courtesy of Bantu and got talking to the guesthouse's other resident (there are only three rooms), Volker.

Volker (the Indian pronunciation of which sounds like a word for chappati) was a nice chap from Germany who was taking a few months away from work to travel around India. He had done it many years ago by motorbike but was now taking it a bit easier. We chatted for a while and were soon joined by Bantu. It wasn't long before we decided to change our travel plans slightly. Originally we had planned to take an overnight train to Jaisalmer the following night, stay one night and then take another overnight train back to Jodhpur and then head down to Mumbai. This wouldn't leave us long in Jaisalmer and certainly it wouldn't have been long enough to do a camel safari. Our new plan, thanks to Bantu, was to do a camel safari nearer to Jodhpur starting the following day and staying for one night in the desert. We would then take a bus to Jaisalmer, stay one night and return to Jodhpur the next day in time to go to Mumbai. That of course left us with the rest of the day to see Jodhpur and we elected to do a whirlwind auto rickshaw city tour with Volker.

At 11am all three of us leaped into Boblu's rickshaw, which was surprisingly roomy, and headed to the fort. Volker, Claire and I all had audio guides and spent the next two hours or so wandering around the fort. I have to say that after the Taj Mahal it's the the most impressive building that I've seen in India. A film crew was even setting up to use it as a set in the film One Night with the King, I didn't know that Luke Goss (of Bros fame) was acting now.

We saw a smaller marble temple just next door to the fort and then went to the ruined site of the old fort and associated gardens. There were lots of monkeys around too.

On our way back Boblu took us shopping in Jodhpur's market but that was it for the day. Bantu made us an excellent supper and I had a most welcome Kingfisher beer. Not enough places in India serve beer.

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