Having been initially revived by the quieter pace of Pushkar I soon succumbed to a weird energy-draining malaise. The effort of waking up and eating breakfast would drive me back to bed for several hours and so on throughout the day. This kept me in Pushkar many days longer than needed.
On my last day in Pushkar I lost my temper, properly and in a very childish way. It was however extremely cathartic and I am sure responsible for my subsequent and enduring good mood. Whilst trying to send a package home and having been messed around by one courier office already, I found an office promising “Rs150 per Kg to Europe”. I enquired after the price of 3Kg and was told “Rs450”.
I returned with my package and was then told “Rs1200”. Indignant at the lies and at the continual ploys to get my money off me I lost it. I called the man a liar and then pointed to the zerox-paper poster written in black marker pen, stuck to the door with sellotape. “you are a liar and this poster is a liar too!” With that, I ripped the poster off the door with a righteous flourish. I seem to be mastering turning on my heel and marching out of places.
My intention had been to go to Bundi until I then found out that this is the year of the Purna Kumbh Mela. An extremely holy festival celebrating the Hindu creation myth of an ancient fight between the Gods over a pitcher (Kumbha) containing Amrit – an elixir of immortality. During the battle Lord Vishnu managed to make away with the pitcher but spilt four drops of elixir. They landed at the four places where the festival takes place: Allahabad, Ujjain, Nashik and Haridwar. The ‘Purna Kumbh Mela’ takes place every 12 years, ‘Ardh Kumbh Mela’ every 6 years and ‘Maha Kumbh Mela’ every 144 years. The last one was in 2001and was attended by over 60million people.
This is where my madcap intrepid scheme to see as much as possible during my last three weeks in India was first hatched. The luck of being in India during the Kumbh Mela meant that I should try and see something of this amazing spectacle and also a fabulous way to shoehorn Rishikesh (right next to Haridwar) to my itinerary.
I had it all planned. The festival lasts for three months and thousands of pilgrims, Baba’s, Sadhu’s, Yogi’s and Guru’s flood into Haridwar to bathe away their sins in the Holy Ganga. Over the course of three months there are several important bathing days. I would arrive two days before Sunday 14th (bathing day) leaving enough time to find accommodation before everything became crazy as the pilgrims poured in from all over India. However, ‘Best Laid Plans’ dictated that this was not to be, for some reason the travel agent didn’t bother to book my ticket, so that was the end of that.
I returned to my original plan of Bundi, Udaipur, Jaisalmer, Amritsar and Dharamsala before returning to Mumbai for my flight to Thailand. Bundi is described by Lonely Planet as “the Rajasthan of the travel brochures” but not on the typical backpacker trail and with a fairytale castle chucked in for good measure.
On the bus I met Christine from Nice and we were able to fight off staring men, pushy conductors and seat-stealers together. The first day at breakfast a group of six of us banded together to take the trip to the rock paintings and the waterfalls that Bundi is also famous for.
Kukki, the very man who discovered the rock painting in 1998 was to be our guide. An enthusiastic amateur archaeologist, he was able to tell us everything we needed to know whilst making us clamber in and out of rock shelters, through dry river-beds and over, what I would describe as ‘rocky mountains’. He showed us how to make paint from stones and water and paintbrushes from bamboo.
The searing Rajastani desert heat bearing down on us drove us to the waterfall. Actually the driver drove us there but our moaning made him get there faster. More clambering (slipping) over rocks nearly made me grumpy but I contained my emotions and, fully dressed, slid into the deep pool at the bottom of the waterfall. I cannot say I enjoyed the experience, the water was algae-green and (apparently only to me) smelt like pond. I immediately swam to the ledge under the cascading water and sat there in the ‘rain’ watching the rainbows dance over the water.
The Brahmin-blue houses of Bundi are certainly picturesque and sunset from the fort was magical. I spent one of my best days in India doing nothing much in Bundi.