Instagram Stories

The Rajasthan Chapters

A few years ago I’d promised myself that I‘d travel at least once a year. Having not figured where that would be for 2016; by chance one day an Instagram page I follow announced that they were going on a roadtrip. A thirteen day trip across Rajasthan, I was totally sold and signed up for it.

For the shutterbug in me, it was perfect; taking photographs of the amazing and varied landscape Rajasthan offered.

The photo series is titled Instagram Stories-The Rajasthan Chapters for the predominant usage of the ‘Instagram feed’ as a visual device.
Time to kick-start with the drive, 1st of Nov in Delhi

With all the details sorted I took a flight to Delhi, ground zero for the road-trip to Rajasthan.

So on a chilly, foggy morning in Gurgaon, New Delhi; two MUVs, a tourer motorbike and 10 people from all over India; Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Kochi (yours truly), LA, you name it, got together for a brilliant road-trip. Familiar companions and new, we bunched together in the cars and bike and headed off to the city of Alwar; first on the itinerary.

Left: We get moving slowly away from the National Highways and through roads by the countryside, Right: Some North Indian fare for lunch at Fauji Raj Dhaba off Alwar

We reached Alwar later in the afternoon. Bala Quila also known Alwar fort, is a shade of what it may have been.The first of my Rajasthani forts, it nevertheless is still impressive with its tiny towers and long tapering walls across the hills of the Aravalli Range.

Later in the night after a punctured tire and chai-sutta breaks, we finally reached Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan.

Left: The Pink City is loud, modern and bustling with life, Right: Morning quick fix? Chais, Kachoris and Jamuns

Jaipur, called the Pink City for its distinct use of the colour pink for it’s buildings since 1800s, is a cacophony of the modern and the traditional. Co-existing together, with the Hawa Mahal set against the backdrop of the Jaipur Metro Rail works.

Palace of Winds, technically a high screen wall for the women of the royal household to discreetly observe the proceedings outside
The Jal Mahal

Next on the list was the Jal Mahal. A quaint palace built in the middle of the Man Sagar Lake, a mix of Mugal and Rajput style of architecture. An even more impressive sight at night.

The Amer Fort was the first of my rather opulent and grand palaces of Rajasthan. The palace is laid out on four levels, each with a courtyard. You could only barely imagine the lives the Maharajas’ used to lead.

Amer Fort, one of the most magnificent palaces in Rajatshan, with a view to boot
As dusk falls, Amer Fort turns up as an impressive sigh

To top the day off, we decided to check out Padao, a restaurant at the top of the Nahargarh Fort. They arguably have the best seats in town with a spectacular view overlooking Jaipur. As we all set off in our respective vehicles, unfortunately my car ran into a small technical snag. Google maps took us on a wild-goose chase back through the city. Nearly two hours later and with quite a bit of backtracking, we finally found Padao. The view made up for everything in an instant, we kicked back and took in the gorgeous view.

Beautiful, is an understatement
Jaipur special coffee and cream rolls

The next day we were off to Jodhpur. Making a quick detour at a Jaipur Dairy Booth at Panch Battia, a place highly recommended for coffee. As much as I didn’t mind tea, I am more of a coffee person. It was a huge relief to finally have some decent coffee.

With over 350 kms to cover, it took us a day of driving to reach Jodhpur
Jodhpur finally! Walking through the narrow roads of Brahmapuri

Jodhpur, the Blue City, finally! We were put up in this over 500 year old quaint family house over four stories tall turned into a home-stay called The Blue House.

The Mehrangarh Fort from Gulab Sagar Talab

The city is distinctly more reminiscent with Rajasthan’s traditional roots. With the Mehrangarh Fort set against the vast landscape of blue houses, it’s managed to largely preserve it’s legacy by holding onto traditions.

The Mehrangarh Fort was one of my favourite stopovers from the road trip

The Mehrangarh Fort was one of the most well maintained forts I’d seen this trip. The fort houses several palaces and a well stocked museum. I personally loved the architectural beauty of the fort, with it’s intricate and imposing ramparts.

Jaswant Thada, the royal cenotaph

The rest of the day was left for exploring the blue of Jodhpur. It’s a visceral feeling to roam those blue narrow old streets, a visual delight. The deep hues of blue continued as we moved deeper into the old quarters. The photographer in me kept on halting at every opportunity to take a picture. And at some point even got lost as I separated from the group.

Exploring the Blue City was a delight

I found the group eventually and after an exhilarating rickshaw ride back to where our cars were parked. Later as we got together for dinner I found out to my dismay that during my solo transgressions, I’d missed out on a vantage point of the blue houses.

Luckily I wasn’t the only person having been separated from the group, so the two of us decided to depend on google maps and try finding the spot early in the morning the next day.
Sunrise at the vantage point
Another chai sutta break before we took the road to Ranakpur

After downing a few Kachoris and chais we checked out of Jodhpur and was on our way to Udaipur. We took a small detour on the way and stopped by the village of Ranakpur to see the grand marble Jain Temple.

It was one of the most marvelous piece of skilled work I’ve seen carved on stone.

The hostel’s rooftop restaurant has an amazing view

We reached Udaipur later in the night, put up at a hostel next to Lake Pichola. Even at night, Udaipur is quite the sight, the shimmering lake set against the grand resorts and the palaces.

Trying to get the perfect frame took me over 30 minutes

The lakes in Udaipur are artificial fresh water lakes built primarily for drinking and irrigation. The multitude of lakes is how it draws it’s iconic title as the City of Lakes in India.

Udaipur arguably has this romantic nuance which kind of rubs off on you. The lakes & palaces covering the city, makes it grandiose as it truly deserves to be. The City Palace is huge, grand and a testament to the flamboyance of the royals from those times. Visiting it gave us an small idea of the heydays of the maharajas’. The Lake Palace is set in the middle of Lake Pichola, now taken over by the Taj Group of Hotels and run as a luxury hotel. It is one of the most beautiful palaces in the world converted into a hotel, a popular backdrop for photo & video shoots. And to top them all of is the Monsoon Palace, set on top of a hillside with a panoramic view of the city and the hillsides surrounding it.

Shilpgram, half an hour’s drive from the city is a quaint little arts and crafts complex, depicting life of the rural folk from that region.

It was arguably the two best days spent on the trip.

Udaipur brings to life a dormant corner of your heart
Left: Uaipur lit up at night Right: Shilpgram a model rural arts village in Udaipur

After two well spent days in Udaipur, we packed up for another day’s drive to Ajmer -The final major stopover. We reached Ajmer later in the evening, with a small halt at the Chittorgarh Fort in between. Ajmer is around 30 kms away from the famed Pushkar Mela, one of the world’s largest camel fairs; the highlight of our trip.

Camel traders from all over have congregated for the Pushkar Mela
Campfires early in the morning

We headed for the Pushkar fair grounds early in the morning. Earlier the better to capture some gorgeous shots of the sunrise, tents with the nomads littered across the dunes and the camels.

Shutterbug or not, the camp grounds is a very vivid for any person. The groups of herdsmen bunched around various campfires with tobacco smoke snaking from their chillums, families getting ready for the day, merchants with their wares and food stalls being set up, camels being herded, various conversations among groups, the chilly morning wind; the sights, sounds and everything, it’s something else.

With the afternoons being too sunny and tiring, we decided to settle for early mornings and evenings to explore Pushkar and the fair grounds, shuttling between Ajmer and Pushkar daily.

I enjoyed Pushkar for the very stark contrast experience it gave me compared to Udaipur. Very raw and rustic, it complemented the grandeur of the palaces and forts of Rajasthan. Two days and several bhang lassis’ later we were ready to return home with a quick stopover in Jaipur.

Enroute to Jaipur; a quick stop at the flats of the Sambhar Salt Lake
GaltaJi, a popular pilgrimage site

The amazing thirteen day trip was finally coming to and end with the drive from Jaipur to Delhi.

We stopped in between at Galtaji, where a series of temples is built in the crevice of the hills. Pilgrims throng here to wash away their sins, as penance. A very vivid sight.

This trip barely glanced the surface of the amazing place that is Rajasthan. But it gave me dozens of amazing memories, friends and photographs. I believe a rich vein of what you learn from life comes from traveling; the experiences and people you meet that help shape you as a person.

Visiting Rajasthan was the highlight of 2016 (pic courtesy: Shravya)

Most of the photographs from the road-trip have made its way into my Instagram feed. You can follow my Instagram feed under the handle thebaconvader.

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