Long Black (Lung) Train to Bundi

Trip Start May 17, 2012
Trip End Jun 03, 2012

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Flag of India  , Rajasthan,
Thursday, May 24, 2012

(S) A quick note about why you are not seeing any photos of my illustrious travel partner: Our loyal little computer, which we have had since we first moved to Florence in 2007, refuses to read the memory cards of my large digital SLR. This is disconcerting for many reasons; one you don't see any photos of Chad and two, I can't back up my photos. Ugh. So, sadly, you will have to wait until we return to Boulder to see my travel partner and how much he looks like Indiana Jones in the Temple of Doom. (Update: there are now photos of my snazzy travel partner). I write this again as we are aboard a train. This time from Chittor to Bundi. Right before we got on I told Chad of a huge train accident near Hampi which killed at least 25 people. He was not thrilled with me, but we got on anyway. Also, our train seems to be diesel train and it smells like an old tractor, only in a very confined place. My travel partner breaths through his shirt when we are stopped at a station so as to not become asphyxiated. We made it to Bundi and found a 15 year old rickshaw driver, who wore a big bandana and listened to loud music. And was ALL business. This was the first train station where we were not harrassed, and instead where helped to find the exit. The streets of Bundi are narrow. And busy - with all manner of things. And I think I love this place! We get dropped off at our haveli and our driver speeds away. He obviously has places to be. We walk into the courtyard of our haveli and all street noise disappers. It is a true oasis. It is over 200 years old and has been owned by the same family the whole time. It used to be the home of the prime minister of Bundi. We had our choice of rooms and chose a large room with antique furniture and furnishings, but a comfortable bed. Dinner here is "large" or "small" and you get what the kitchen is making. Since we are pigs, we order "large" and get soup (tomato and corriander - yum!), chapati bread, daal, 3 vegetarian dishes (usually one with paneer - cheese, one with potato, and one with another vegetable like ocra or eggplant), and dessert (fresh mango!!). Oh, and we're the only ones here. Naturally. Who else would travel to India in May, when it's 1000 degrees? We eat in the family's large dining room and are entertained by the owner's daughter, who is also having her dinner. Later, she does a little dance for us, unbeknownst to her mom.

(C). Here's something we have discovered is not awesome.  Taking the diesel train.  I haven't ever been on one and i guess its better than walking or taking a rickshaw for 200 km, but it's starting to fill my head and lungs with soot.  AC in our car works but the air is not really what I like to call, fresh.  Weve been looking for, but haven't seen any cows watching tv, but we did see one yesterday trying to lick a mango off a fruit cart with his long cow tongue.  Today we saw a hatch of puppies in a hilltop fort and had our picture taken with about ten families.  They either think we're movie stars, or getting your picture taken with the ginger kid is amazing luck!

There is a lot of Logan's Run theme going on here, with fortresses of comfort and plenty surrounded by vast fields of poverty. We've been staying in some pretty incredible hotels and right outside is the most stark contrast.  Incredible India. That's what our driver keeps saying.  He says that, when dodging cows on the freeway, and, "my gott" a lot - mostly when people try to run into us, or park in the middle of the road.  It is a true feast for the senses. The poverty is stark, but not pitiable. It just is. Incredible India.

A word about the slums, which have been much written about and popularized lately. It's kind of hard to define them. There are so many "slums" but the whole way of living is so different here it's kind of hard to distinguish. You see shanty towns all over - in the city and the country - but they are sometimes hard to differentiate from the "nicer" houses actually made of brick.  The cities are definitely more cramped, but the people in the country are just as poor.  It's just so many people packed in a tight space.  1.2 billion in an area half the size of the U.S. and only limited services like electricity and water.  Some parts seem to make most of Mexico seem like Beverly hills, but most people are so normalized to it, it often doesnt actually feel poor. We are even getting normalized to it.  We drove from Udaipur to Ranakpur today through a lot of country, past cows, people, trucks, motorcycles, fruit stands, buses and donkeys, all in the same one lane road. We could reach out the window and grab a mango much of the time and it seemed normal.

The food has been awesome.  It helps if you love Indian food.  Which we remind ourselves often is just called food here.  No real Delhi belly yet, but I did get a pretty gnarly case of the gassy lassi.  Just took one day to recover, but the cramps come back and remind me dvery now and then to stay away from the yoghurt.  We haven't had much in the way of drinks - not even a single colonial-style gin and tonic - mostly because when it's 115 outside, all you want is water all the time.  But it's a dry heat so there's that.  I did have a giant kingfisher beer at lunch today.
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