This was the first real day of our tour. It was also the day we finally posted that parcel but not without some drama.
The tour itinerary included an early start with a metro ride to see Connaught Place and India Gate, the national war memorial. Because Trump was in town for the day our departure had been brought forward to 7:45 am and then to 7:30 am with breakfast available from 6:45 am.
I woke feeling somewhat better, though not yet 100%, for having almost 8 hours of sleep. Majella claimed to have had little sleep wondering about me and listening to what seemed like a major dog fight that went on for ages in the street outside. We were first down for breakfast. I managed cornflakes and coffee. Majella added an egg.
By 7:30 am everybody was packed into the bus and we were on our way. Ruby informed us that because of Trump some roads were closed and it was impracticable to get to India Gate this morning. Instead we would immediately head out toward Jaipur and stop for a temple that was not on the usual schedule.
About an hour later after driving through thick smoky mist and heavy traffic, we paused briefly at Mangal Mahadev, a temple honouring Shiva. Ruby explained some basics of Hindu beliefs about the gods and we had a little time to look around at the large statues of Shiva, Krishna, Rama, and their consorts.
At that point we had cleared Delhi but there was another hour of heavy traffic before we cleared the cyber city (new technologies and call centres) adjacent to Delhi. Beyond that we were into the countryside, which was dry and dusty. There were still many trucks on the road and we could see crops growing either side of the road. Some way further on Ruby called a halt at a McDonalds for anybody who needed toilets. We stopped again for most of an hour at about 11:00 am to access food at a new looking building, really a large barn style shed, with a collection of food outlets on either side of the ‘food street’. We had coffees from Costa Coffee but there was Pizza Hut and several other outlets if we had wanted to eat more.
After lunch the bus travelled on approaching Jaipur at about 2:00 pm and taking another 40 minutes or so to cross the city through the usual melee of traffic to our hotel. Subtracting stops, it had taken close to 6 hours of actual driving to cover about 270 km from Delhi.
The Bissau Palace Hotel is a 300 year old heritage building that has been converted to a hotel. The family that owns it had connections to the local royalty and still live in the upstairs apartments. The building is charming and reminiscent of the Best Marigold Hotel.
As we arrived at the hotel Ruby had summoned a tuk tuk to take us to the post office in hope of posting our parcel. Once we had dropped our bags we took off for the post office with agreement the driver would wait for the return trip and assist with the transaction. First step at the post office was to get our parcel wrapped up to standard. That involved a man who was running a little business in the PO front yard making a cloth sack for the box and then stitching it all around to make it secure. He then put on the address label he had cut off and taped it every which way along with the customs declaration that Majella had completed. With the parcel ready we went inside. There was a long queue that did not seem to be moving. Our tuk tuk driver tried to jump the queue without success. Meanwhile I was wondering if I had enough cash to pay so I tried the PO ATM but it was not working and I was left hoping. After about 10 minutes, Majella had still not moved in the queue so our tuk tuk driver used his influence with the wrapper who led us around the back of the PO to another building where he was able to persuade somebody to deal with our parcel. Postage cost 2680 rupees (about $56) but we were just glad to see it on its way. Majella wondered if we would ever see it again , but we enjoyed the adventure of getting the thing in the mail! Our tuk tuk driver returned us to the hotel with a pause along the way for me to replenish my cash supply at an ATM.
We had about half an hour to rest before the group set out at 4:30 pm for a walk through the markets and into the Pink City. That is the old walled part of the city, built to a planned grid pattern in 1727 and painted pink by the ruler to impress Prince Albert on his visit to the city in 1876. We enjoyed the fruit and vegetable market and the spice stalls though the waft of chilli powder got up some of our noses and had us sneezing. Ruby was able to lead us up onto a roof top for a better view over the street scene.
From there we travelled by pedal rickshaws to Raj Mandir, a classic movie theatre listed as number 3 among the best 10 in the world, to see a Bollywood movie, Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan. The story is about a wedding that goes astray because the groom is gay and ends happily with him marrying his partner after family conflict and reconciliation. Majella bought samosas which she ate and some popcorn which we shared. It was bland enough for me to tolerate and by then I was getting hungry.
Most of the group went to dinner afterwards but we had eaten enough and were keen to get some rest for our 6:00 am cycling adventure tomorrow morning.