I leave Nitesh and his family and make my way past the Pink City towards Jaipur Railway station. I’m on a fast train to Kota. Waiting for the train, I’m immediately approached by a couple of friendly Indians who want to practice their English. One of them, an 18 year old student, sits next to me and makes me his new best friend. Throughout the journey he buys me chi and a variation of foods. He talks non stop. I want a little peace but he won’t have it. He smiles constantly and is overly generous so naturally, being a polite European, I feel a little guilty for wanting him to stop talking so much. Two men in the carriage are gettng off the at Kota too. They learn from my new friend that I am going to Bundi and that I am a teacher. Teachers get ultimate respect in India, a little different from my homeland. They immediately offer me a lift to the bus station which is 3km away from the train station. An offer I accept gratefully.
The railway station sees me being harassed by tuk tuk drivers but the big man I follow brushes them off. I get into a car, my full trust in them, and we drive to the bus station. On the way, Ajay, the driver, gives me his card and tells me call him if I need help or if I get any problems. He also stops to buy me some more food, a Kota delicacy which I have completely forgotten the name of. What a genuine guy.
He drops me off to the packed Government bus that goes directly to Bundi. Cheap and cheerful business, the Karrimor and I squeeze on. As darkness falls, the bus sets off and I am again befriended by two more Indians, a young Hindu and a younger but slightly more rounded Muslim. We discuss the Raj and bacon sandwiches. They are revolted by the idea of eating pigs and saddened by the worlds use of cows as a source of food.
These experiences example the amazing generosity and friendliness of a the Indian people. Not everyone is trying to sell you something. I find that the nicest and most sincere people I meet are on the trains. The last three days have been a pleasure.
I arrive at Bundi bus station. No tuk tuks. No touts. I’m a little surprised but genuinely happy about it. I stop for a wee in the open sewer next to the bus and go find a tuk tuk. I do the backpacker tour of the local guest houses looking for the best price. I settle in the Shivam Guest House. It has wifi. Bonus. I stay in a plush 800R room for 300R. Bonus. On the sunroof that night I meet my new neighbours, a bunch of monkeys. They jump on the terrace and try to steal our food as the two, very strange, but I’ll get onto that later, guest house workers try to hit them with sticks. Fascinating. Welcome to Bundi.
I get up early and run around the lake called Nawar Sagar. The sun just warming up I get the usual stares from locals who laugh and joke hysterically at me, the running white man. There is a festival today and all the Muslims are out in force. The mosque is over the other side of the lake and hundreds of Muslims sit on the green floor mats laid out for them. A man reciting what I believe is the Koran blaring from the speaker system. At this point, high up on the mountain, I notice the Taragrah, a disused fort, and the ancient Palace. I’ll freshen up and venture up there later. Today is a good day. Yes it is, a very good day indeed.
As I walk up to the Palace, I notice that Bundi has a large population of pigs that roam the streets. Pigs in Rajasthan are a rarity, but this place has many. Bacon sandwich images enter my mind. Behave Mr Craig. the Palace is ancient, over 800 years old and one of the only Palaces the Moghuls didn’t attack and destroy. It’s seen better days but the gardens and views make the journey up there worthwhile. I meet yet another school on an outing. I have to shake hands with every single one of them while their teachers practice their English. I’m honoured but I sneak off. The monkey fort awaits.
The road leading up to the fort is steep and slippery. The huge doors that greet me are closed. Strange, I paid my 100R for a ticket. I notice a small door that has been broken next to the big gate. I squeeze through, unsure if this is the right way. I look at the view over the wall, breathtaking. I’ve climbed along way. This is the point I meet my first snake. I’m alone, the traffic too far away to hear, it’s hot. The snake is more scared than I am and bolts. I walk on. The scene perfect for a horror movie. The presence of monkeys is suddenly obvious. Swinging in the trees, watching me. The Bassment Jaxx video for ‘Where’s your head at’ gives me a little
shudder. I suddenly feel very alone. I pick up a thick stick. Security, just in case. I’ve heard about monkey attacks from the red faced little lovelies, but the black faced ones seem to run if you whack your stick. I push on further and further up the mountain.
When I get to the top and squeeze through several broken doors, I get to the disused fort area. A huge area of baths, buildings and a large tower overlooking all of Bundi and the surrounding areas has laid empty for over 500 years. It’s a bizarre and rather eerie place. Overgrown bushes and grass prevent many tourists from exploring but I spend the next 2 hours wandering in and out of buildings, meeting many monkeys along the way. At the bottom of the tower is a sign, ‘keep out’ in large letters should have been a warning not to proceed. I haven’t seen or heard anyone for a long time so naturally I make my way to the top. There are a couple
of satellites attached to the top of the tower and as I get closer I see a small man sitting inside, reading some kind of meter readings. I greet him but he ignores me. Strange. I sit at the top, looking out over Bundi and into the horizon. This place scares the hell out of me, it’s just me, the monkeys and some geeky man in the tower, anything could happen up here and no one would know. I suddenly feel a bout of enthusiasm to get into the film industry, ‘Murder in the monkey fort’.
On the way down, I am greeted by a huge army of red faced beauties. There must be 100 plus of the wee ones. They are traveling up and I am going down the only pathway that leads me back to civilisation, and the pigs. I walk slowly, tense and aware that these bastards can attack. They walk on the path, brushing past my legs, they swing from the trees and are walking along the top of the buildings. More seem to come out from the buildings. I’m alert. There’s a loud noise of monkeys scrapping behind me. The monkeys seem fixated on this rather than me. I slip past them. I think I’ll be OK. Just a few more to get past and I’m free. I jump down a step and I startle a monkey. He turns to me, his teeth gri and he hisses loudly. I grip my stick, step back and slowly retreat away from him. This seems to work. He forgets about me and follows his buddies up the path. My breakfast in my pants, I’ve survived what I first thought was going to monkey murder. I smile and continue down the path.
A friendly man shows me his art work. It was stunning, but clearly an amateurs work. the shop looked as if he hadn’t had a costumer for years but he smiled a passionate smile whilst showing me his work, stating the ridiculous length of time it took him to paint each piece of silk. I like the guy and his pictures but the last thing I need is a piece of silk with a painting on it. I do wonder sometimes about the profits some of these businesses return.
That afternoon I walk down to the bazaar. It is a colourful market with lots of food on offer. The first thing I notice is the lack of hassle I receive. I’m a white tourist with a backpack and sandals on. I’m expecting to be shouted at, called into shops and sold things I don’t want, but Bundi is relaxed and lets me look around the bizarre hassle free. In my relaxed state, I wonder the market, trying all the street food there have on offer. I buy fried foods, fruit and some delicious sweets.
This place is cool. Monkeys are cool. Shame that I haven’t met any cool backpackers to go to the waterfall with, c’est la vie, I’m sure I’ll see a few more waterfalls by the time I have to get back to reality. I’m heading over to Pushkar tomorrow to meet up with the guys. Bundi gets the thumbs up.