We could have skipped Chittorgarh and would have avoided a depression we both went into. It is one thing to stay at cheap places that are maybe a bit shabby, maybe a bit dirty but benefit from nice owners who at least try to make the place nice by using colorful bed sheets, by painting the walls in cheerful colors or by cooking nice food. It is another thing if everything is bad, the hotel management, the city, the food, the service, the dirty bathroom with a hole in the ground (I just can’t get used to squat toilets) and a dripping tap, the room with depressing grey walls and windows consisting of a frame and a mosquito net in a desolate state, lacking glass and facing a dark atrium to just name a few things. It was also very noisy – as we couldn’t close the window and the hotel staff performed works in the atrium starting at 8pm. To kill time (we couldn’t even think about sleeping) Johan developed a great business idea for new and comfortable ear plugs which still need some further investigation (so far it is just a plexiglass bubble covering the ear, which might be challenging for ‘side-sleepers’). We got warned ahead by our travel guide but the city was just at good distance for us and the fort worth visiting as well. But it took us a few days to get out of our depression. In the evening we both sat bad-tempered in the freezing cold restaurant (there was just no alternative to go to) when two Indians next to us ordered a bottle of Whiskey of which the first sip had to be poured over the wall. We looked with open mouths and big eyes at this procedure and the one Whiskey guy just said: “This is our culture.” Oh wonderful India!
The next day we visited the fort by bike as it is 5km long and 1km wide and were quite surprised by its nice temples, palaces, lovely nature with a lot of parks and lakes and for once not many people there (just a few posh tourists with their drivers in big white SUVs). We could have easily wild camped there and got even more depressed knowing we had to go back to the dirty fridge. We went to bed very early, eager to leave before 8am the next day as we had another long distance to cycle and this time the motorway would only take us halfway to where we wanted to get.
In the meantime it has clearly become winter in Rajasthan and it hasn’t been as cold in years we were told. The reason is the cold Himalayan wind that is blowing very hard. This is causing a few problems for us as we are getting cold as soon as we step off the bike. As there is no heating in the houses we have to put on all our clothes in the evenings to be still cold. The only warm place right now is our sleeping bag so all day long we look forward to go to bed again (the last time I felt like that was when I was still working, sleeping time was the nicest part of the day :-)). The Indian government hence decided to give children another seven days of school holidays due to the cold and some people have already died in Delhi.
We were very much looking forward to our next destination, a for us unpronounceable place – Bhainsrodgarh fort – and a very expensive heritage hotel where we pitched our tent in the garden with the most stunning view over a huge lake (I think with a lot of crocodiles in it), mountains and some farmland, where we had dinner in one of the lovely rooms from porcelain plates, where we had breakfast with real coffee on the roof top and where we enjoyed the luxury of a beautiful and clean bathroom. The only downside was that poor Johan had a very upset stomach from some street food and the previous hotel and couldn’t eat much and spent most of the evening and night on the toilet.
We paid a total of 14 EUR whereas a room starts from 115 EUR including dinner and breakfast. The fort itself is 200 years old and has been family property since then. We were shown around and the rooms are just beautiful and very tastefully decorated and we were tempted to rent a room for 30 EUR (the highly discounted rate) but chose our tent instead because we didn’t want to spend so much money for just a bed. You might think we’ve become real Dutch or Scottish, but as we don’t earn any money and only spend and as we have some business ideas for later for which we need every penny, we have to economize. By the way the owner of the fort is a cousin of another hotel owner who recommended this place and also made sure we could pitch our tent here. We are most grateful to him as it was a beautiful and peaceful spot surrounded by nature we love, all we needed to get rid of our depression.
And before I forget: the area we cycled through is the most fertile area in Rajasthan as there is a lot of water. It is also the area where they grow opium and each field we passed I asked myself “Is this Opium?” as I don’t know much of the crops other than mustard, but I of course know poppy. It is being harvested in February/March, and we unfortunately haven’t seen any poppy fields at all. One out of five men is addicted to opium, which honestly doesn’t surprise me having seen so many weirdos here. I really can’t describe that well, you have to see them yourselves to believe me: the guys that are hanging out of their trucks to yell something at us, or the tractor and truck drivers with their blaring, deafening and music sounding tinny, grown-up men calling me all kinds of names with high-pitched voices as if they were babies or looks from men you wish you would have never seen.
We left Bhainsrodgarh late in the morning to give Johan some rest from his diarrhea, to dry the tent and to enjoy the stunning views. If we had know what’s up next, we would have left earlier. But that’s another story.