We awoke early prepared for a long day of driving from the lakeside tranquility of Udaipur toward the western desert and Jodhpur. Out drive began with the high desert reminiscent of Arizona. There were sandstone and clay mines then ravines and empty gulleys from the lackluster monsoon this year. Locals are very worried for the next spring since so little rain fell in Rajastan this year.
We moved into the high mountains for a stop at Kumbulgargh Fort with a steep ramp walk all the way up thru seven gates. It was hot but only one flight of stairs for the impressive view of the 13thc ramparts and wall “wide enough for 5 horses” to ride abreast. The fort and wall are visible from space and comparable to the Great Wall of China. And the fort was full of large school groups all in their uniforms and anxious to say hello and shake our hands. The kids had that excited-to-be-out-of-school exuberance and their turbaned chaperones looked either harried, bored or exhausted.
Once we moved off – again driving – the landscape shifted to sugar cane fields and dark rich soil gardens in a narrow valley, which obviously retained the moisture. Terraced fields began as we drove on shifting to the backside of the mountain and a protected nature preserve.
All of this was one-lane road with the required horn beeping and regular games of chicken with approaching vehicles. As we went through a small-town crossroads the stone walled fields turned to switchback mountain curves. The Persian wheels for ancient irrigation shifted to government provided water pumps around every corner.
We arrived mid-afternoon at the exquisite Jain temple of Ranakpur with over 1400 individual carved marble columns supporting elaborate domes and terraces. As an orthodox Hindu sect, the Jains have 4 major pilgrimage temple sites with this being the oldest and most revered. The temple continues to be maintained by the family descendants of the craftsmen who took 60 years to build it beginning in the 15th century.
We reversed our path back to Kumbulgargh and our royal residence at the HRH Maharajah of Udaipur mountain resort now the Aohdi Hotel. We awoke the next morning to peacock and parrot morning crows and a troop of monkeys thundering across the roof very much reminding me of our African safari mornings 15 years ago.
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