I can't believe another month is already over!
This month, we celebrated two months in India, and three months on the road. We're really starting to get into the groove now, and have been super busy over the last month!
Where we've been
We started the month back in Goa, attending a frisbee tournament and celebrating Holi. After a brief stop off back in Mumbai to rest our very weary bodies, we headed North into Rajasthan, starting in beautiful Udaipur. From there, we went to beautiful sandstone Jaisalmer, where we spent a pretty average night in the desert... Next stop was Jodhpur, the blue city, for more exploring and even a touch of zip lining, before detouring to Pushkar to hang out with the hippies. Our last destination in Rajasthan was Jaipur, the capital, where we took our first cooking course in India, and we've just arrived in Agra to visit the Taj Mahal to finish out the month (we're here until Monday, so we haven't written our Agra post yet).
This month, we've travelled:
- 1051km by plane (bringing our trip total to 13,709km)
- 614km by train (trip total 1,612km), and
- 1,452km by automobile (bringing our trip total to 3,414km)
It feels like we've moved around a lot more this month, but since the places we've been to in Rajasthan have been relatively close together, we haven't covered as many miles. Its been nice travelling by train more often than overnight bus too. Being able to get up and stretch, look at the views out the window, and enjoy the on board chai makes for a pleasant journey!
- Holi Goa Sixes
While the tournament may not have quite gone the way we expected, we still had an incredible time getting to know people in the ultimate community, and reconnecting with the friends we'd met in Bangalore. As an added bonus, we ended up playing on the same team as an american girl we'd met in Chiang Mai, Thailand, while on our honeymoon in 2015 - small world! In addition to all the frisbee fun, it was the weekend of Holi, so we got to 'play Holi' with all our new friends!
- Rao Jodha Desert Rock Park, Jodhpur
Spending a couple of hours exploring this desert conservation area was awesome. Our great guide gave us lots of information about how they're working to regenerate native plants in the area, and as a result, bring back insect and bird life. As New Zealanders, dealing with invasive species is something that we can easily identify with!
- Cooking Course, Jaipur
Booking a group cooking course only to find that no one else is there so you have the cook to yourself is a pretty great treat! Add in some incredible food and wonderful hospitality, and you've got a recipe (see what I did there?!) for success.
- Cycle Tour, Jaipur
Another group tour that ended up being a private tour, and another experience made even more memorable by wonderful hosts.
- Taj Mahal, Agra
This one just squeaked the list, because we just visited today, on 31st March! It's not often you visit somewhere that's so well known that actually lives up to the hype, and we're delighted to report that the Taj Mahal does. Despite the crowds of people, it was still a peaceful place to be. We'll write a blog post about Agra in the next couple of days which will include the Taj Mahal.
- It was actually really hard to pick highlights for this month, because Rajasthan has been amazing. Filled to the brim with forts and palaces, there's a new highlight every time we turn around.
- In the last month, we had our first real lowlight of the trip - our overnight desert safari in Jaisalmer.
- Zev getting sick in Goa...
- Me getting sick in Udaipur. Boooo.....
- Finding out in Mumbai that Zev's credit card had been scammed to the tune of $9500NZD! Luckily, with the help of ASB, the money has been refunded, but it was a hell of a scary moment when we laid eyes on that credit card balance!
We've had a great month of accommodation, with lots of guesthouses in heritage houses in Rajasthan!
- Our beautiful haveli guesthouse in Udaipur came at a fortuitous time, given that I spent most of our time there in bed. The rooftop restaurant had stunning sunset views too.
- Our guesthouse in Jaisalmer was another treat, and an excellent respite from the heat. Our hosts were amazing and friendly, and the rooftop restaurant had great views of the fort.
- By far the most luxurious accommodations though were those in Jodhpur. Our room was huge, with stained glass and stunning lanterns everywhere. Again, the rooftop restaurant afforded beautiful views of both the fort and the town.
- Yet again, we've been lucky enough to have a dud-free month! In fact, the only accommodation that gave us any reason to gripe was our tournament accommodation in Goa. Actually, the room was nice and big - the only problem was that there were four of us sharing the room, and only two twin beds. Zev and I volunteered to take the mattresses on the floor, which was fine because we tested the beds and they were just as hard! After a long day of frisbee though, falling onto our rock hard floor mattresses was a little soul destroying!
- An incredibly romantic and tasty meal at White Terrace in Udaipur. Sitting on the rooftop under the stars, surrounded by candles was a pretty great welcome to the city. The food was incredible, and the ambiance was out of this world!
- Cafe Royale at ClockTower in Jodhpur. In addition to the tasty Vada Pavs and refreshing cold drinks, the family who owned the cafe were so kind and friendly. The son filled us in on lots of tips for travelling around India, and we left with a few new apps that have been helping us out since!
- While not necessarily the best meal we've eaten, we enjoyed a tasty breakfast at The Laughing Buddha Cafe in Pushkar. In addition to serving lots of healthy food, a portion of the profits from the cafe are given back to the local community in the form of donations to a local school. As well as giving money, the owner helps to link volunteers to the school. If we'd known about it sooner, Zev wished we'd been able to stay and help at the school, but sadly we only found out after we'd already booked our train tickets to leave.
- Our 500r ($10NZD) Cokes at the City Palace in Udaipur!!
- Our first impression of 1st Gate Home-Fusion in Jaisalmer was great - we walked in the door and were greeted by a German Shepherd, a German Shepherd puppy, and a pug. Sadly, this was the high point of our experience. We'd sought out the restaurant as a break from curry, so I ordered pasta. It was bland and tasteless. Zev had a pizza that was good, but the staff and service were so bad that it didn't matter. The place wasn't busy, and there were five waiters, but we had to keep asking for things over and over again. After the second time I'd requested the bill, then watched the waiter walk away and not get our bill, I just walked up to the desk and asked the guy sitting there how much we owed them.
- We had a similar experience in Pushkar at Laura's Cafe. In search of a late night snack, we climbed 5000 flights of stairs to the rooftop restaurant, only to discover music so loud it was hurting my eyes. Too tired to be bothered moving, we stayed. After several attempts to get the attention of any of the five staff, three of whom were sitting at tables with customers, drinking beer, we ordered, and were eventually served some lackluster snacks. After again trying to get the attention of the staff so we could get the bill, I eventually got up, got a menu, and figured out how much we owed. We left the money on the table, and stood up to leave. Suddenly, all the staff came to life, clearly thinking we were trying to do a runner. If only they were that attentive during our meal. We indicated that the money was on the table and left.
- While the meal actually wasn't bad, our surprise $60 meal at The Great Kabab Factory in Jaipur was certainly a hit to the wallet! Anticipating a cheeky kebab, but instead receiving a $30NZDpp set menu, we were a little taken aback. While the food was good, it certainly didn't justify the insane price tag (by Indian standards).
Despite a brush with bankruptcy when we copped Zev's scammed credit card bill in Mumbai, we're still ticking along nicely on the financial front.
This month has felt a bit more spendy than the past, because we've been moving around so much, and Rajasthan has had so many sights to see. With all the forts and palaces, the entry fees (not to mention the audio guides...) start to add up.
In addition to that, we've also done some pretty cool, but pricey (relatively speaking) activities this month: ziplining in Jodhpur cost us $70NZD, and our cooking course and cycle tour in Jaipur cost us $100NZD per activity (largely because we had such a great time that we gave pretty generous tips). By far the most eye-wateringly expensive single attraction of the trip thus far has been the Taj Mahal, with entry fees of 1000r ($20NZD) per person. While I know that in the real world that's not expensive, that's CRAZY in the scheme of Indian prices. The price for locals is 50r ($1NZD)! Totally worth it though - it's stunning.
This month we've also booked flights from Hyderabad back to Delhi for the end of our trip (more on that in a minute), and *gulp* we've just booked our flights from Nepal to the US for the end of May. At just over $2000NZD, that's a pretty big dent in the funds! I'm already looking forward to the cheeseburgers...
This month has been pretty rough on the old bodies to be honest! From Zev's brush with heat stroke in Goa to my brush with cold/gastro hell in Udaipur, and a subsequent 12 hour relapse in Jaipur, we're really starting to feel the strain of eating out for every meal and not being able to get into a proper routine. After three months on the road, and two months in India though, I suppose we're overdue for a good bout of sickness!
Where to next?
The day after tomorrow, we leave Agra and head to Delhi. We're both excited and nervous about Delhi, one of the most polarising cities in India!
From there, we're not sure where we're going. Our friend from the US is coming to India for work on 23rd April, so we're flying down to meet him, before flying back to Delhi on 27th April in time for our flight to Nepal on 30th April.
Between Delhi and Hyderabad, we're not sure what we'll do. We're thinking of heading to Rishikesh, the yoga capital of the world, and to Varanasi, right on the banks of the Ganges. Other than that, we don't have any plans yet, so for sure some of our time in Delhi will be spent figuring out a game plan for our remaining month in India.
It's starting to get seriously scorching hot here. At the moment, temperatures are reaching the high 30s every day, and it's just going to keep getting hotter. Aside from our jaunt to Hyderabad, which we know will be UNBEARABLY hot, we're hoping to keep heading North to counteract the rising heat.
After two months here, we're starting to feel a little more road weary. We're beginning to get curried out, and our tolerance for dealing with the day to day annoyances of being on the road is starting to feel a little lower. We're hoping that some time in Delhi, a big modern city, will offer us another 'holiday from the holiday', and the game plan we think up while we're there will reinvigorate us for the rest of our time in India. A couple of trips to malls and movies, and maybe an escape room or two will help. At the very least, we have our catch up with Cads in Hyderabad to look forward to - we're even hoping to catch an IPL cricket match while we're there!
At the end of next month, we fly from Delhi to Kathmandu, we're we'll be embarking on the Everest Base Camp trek. Depending on our acclimatisation and fitness, we'll be spending somewhere in the vicinity of 22 days hiking in and around the Himalayas, topping out at 5,554m. We're getting very excited, if a little anxious about our lack of fitness, and are very much looking forward to seeing the mountains (and hopefully experiencing a drop in temperature!).
From Kathmandu, we have a hell of a flight (about 18 hours total) to New York! As yet, we're not sure of the plan from there either. Zev is meeting his Dad for some fly fishing, and then we're going to a family reunion for Zev's family at the end of June, but we have some time up our sleeves to do some touring of the US. We're crossing our fingers for more catch up with friends (both those who live in the US and some from NZ) while we're there. We're looking into buying a vehicle of some sort and undertaking a road trip, but we'll see how the logistics pan out. Hell, we don't know what we're doing in two weeks - June is a LONG way away!
Wish us luck!
Until next month,
S & Z