Leaving Ranakpur we have a two and a half hour journey ahead of us to Udaipur, and we’re planning to leave at 8am.
Steve and Ella head down first and as they arrive apparently they wake the staff, who then roll up their beds from the dining area. Yawning, they serve us Aloo Paratha with minimal English, and a lovely attitude. We feel guilty and grateful, and make sure we tip.
From Ranakpur, the journey is through the ‘jungle’ landscape, trees and hills and the chance of a bit of wildlife. As jungles go, there’s a lot of space between each tree and I really don’t know how or where the numerous Leopards and Sloth Bears are hiding, but they are…
Shakti spots a cool yellow-backed woodpecker, and then a Painted Stork.
Later I spot something, and Shakti starts to reverse up… I’m backpedalling equally quickly as I don’t want to put him out… ‘ah, don’t worry, it was just a big heron or something’. Oops. Ruined any bird-spotting-credibility I may have gained (if that’s in any way a thing, I suspect it is an example of a contradiction in terms). It was a Sarus Crane – the one that’s the size of a (small) man.
Jack needs an emergency toilet stop and Shakti earns himself further ‘better parent than us’ points, as he manages to find one at a restaurant within about three minutes rather than the ‘Jack, you’ll have to hang on til the next services, probably about half an hour’ line he gets at home.
Steve and Shakti talk trees at length, and we see a banana tree and the Rajistan national flower, Rohira, as well as various others…
Shakti also points out water being pulled up from a well by a couple of oxen. The little daughter of the oxen-driver comes to the car window and we give her and her brother a kit-kat each. Given that she wanted a pen I can only imagine her confusion when she gets them opened.
Further along the road he points out some fruit bats in a tree – we notice again that without Shakti we wouldn’t see nearly so much – he has the eyes of a hawk…
As we reach the outskirts of Udaipur, Shakti contacts his friend, a tuk tuk driver to meet us and take us to the centre. He drives us around the edge of a large lake, as he says once we’re there were not going to see this particular view (I think there are two or three lakes in Udaipur – the ‘Pichola Lake’ where the main centre is, and then this one…)
We meet his auto-rickshaw friend, and briefly say our goodbyes – Shakti has a seven or eight hour drive ahead of him to get home for a wedding.
So there it is – he leaves us to be independent travellers. The wails of ‘Shaktiiiiii’ from the kids (and Steve) fill the air as he heads off into the distance.
We arrive at the hotel in Udaipur and the room isn’t quite ready. We have a look at it though and it looks great – it’s a family room, with one bed in the window, and a seating area just outside (a balcony which looks like it’s communal for hotel guests, but we hope to make our own very swiftly).
We have a cup of tea on the rooftop terrace, looking out over the lake, and congratulating ourselves on our hotel choice – this one is £150 for 4 nights, so significantly less than Premier Inn prices! While we’re sitting enjoying a very good Black Masala Chai (first time lucky) Ella realises she has left her Kindle under her pillow in the previous hotel (not the first time this has happened – when it was in Harrogate and Northumberland it was easier to rectify though). We pretty much say goodbye to it at this point, but I email the hotel just in case… I don’t know how quick the postal system is in India, but the dress which was posted three days ago from Jaipur hasn’t arrived yet… Still, there’s an outside chance.
Ella and Jack go down ahead of us to sit on the balcony, and after a while we get a text from Jack, saying ‘COME DOWN NOW’ followed by ‘IT’S IMPORTANT’. It seems important, and the thought flashes through my mind that they might be in some difficulty, then I decide he probably wouldn’t text if he was being abducted. Or would use less words, probably.
We head down anyway and find out that the matter of importance was an enormous tortoise, which was with them on the balcony. I remember now, this was one of the booking criteria when I chose this one… Or it genuinely tipped the balance in its favour anyway.
So the kids take many pictures and videos of the tortoise, and after a short while the ‘awwww’ noises are replaced by an ‘ewwwww’, as the tortoise empties the contents of its tortoise-bladder (I imagine that’s what he has….), which, judging by the size of the pool it creates it must take up space in the majority of its body. The smell of ammonia fills the air, and we decide it might be a good time to move on.
We explore the immediate area around the hotel – it is clear there’s a bridge to get to the other side of the lake, and what appears to be the main bit, of Udaipur, and then there’s this side, where the hotel is. Jack decides that today the limits of our exploration are to be this side of the lake only ‘to save something for tomorrow’, and since we’ve had a fairly intense 8 days with not so much down time, we’re happy to agree to this…
We find a restaurant, Ambrai, which we know Scott and Josie have particularly enjoyed, and have a look at the menu with a view to booking one evening when we feel better! The prices are OK and we need to eat, so we decide to get a small lunch while we’re there. The food is very good, and a little squirrel type thing amuses the kids by nicking a sugar sachet and half a chappati off a nearby table.
There are great views of the Lake Palace from the restaurant. We are also fascinated by an antiquated looking boat which appeared to be cleaning the lake. At first it was interesting, as it got closer it became clear how noisy it was, and then it pretty much worked the little bit of water next to our table for the next 20 minutes of our meal.
The waiter is the most disinterested we’ve had in the whole time we travelled – we tip anyway as we’re coming back, but the contrast between his manner, and that of last night/this morning’s waiting staff at a significantly less-fancy hotel was marked.
At the simple village hotel we’d stayed in there were many ‘namaste’s’ and ‘spicy or not spicy’ and really trying to understand our needs (which food wise are many and varied – no milk, no yoghurt etc). On the way out we look to our waiter for a cheery goodbye, as EVERY place we’ve been to this is what happens. Nope. He doesn’t make eye contact. Maybe we’re just too needy waiter-wise and shouldn’t require this stuff, but actually I think it’s just basic friendliness I’m looking for…
Back at the hotel, I pick up an email response from the hotel telling us he can send the Kindle in a car the next day, and also that he has found a pair of shoes (Steve’s – he’d wondered where they were).
We have a pleasant evening meal. We’ve heard that they show the James Bond film ‘Octopussy’ every night at 7pm (which I belatedly discovered is set in Udaipur, I did wonder what the relevance was, or whether the manager was a bit of a fan)… We arrive at 8.30pm and see to our relief that the film is not on, although the staff ask if we want to see it. We enjoy some nice enough food, sitting outside looking out across the lake.