#9 A rally drive to Udaipur

Sent: Thursday, October 04, 2001 8:50 AM

We harbour no regrets about our relatively short stay as the bus pulls away from Jodhpur and we find ourselves scanning the guidebooks to check the size of the places we intend to visit as it seems increasingly true for us that small is beautiful. We are on our from Jodhpur to Udaipur which has a population of 50,000 so is in our good books from the outset, but between it and us stands 160 miles which will take us 7 hours. The bus is the best so far, which is a good start, with enough legroom that even I have some freedom of movement.

All proceeds as expected until 2 hours into the journey when we suddenly turn off the broad, 2 lane, smooth road we have been following. The track we join is one and a quarter vehicles wide, it was mettled sometime during the term of the penultimate Viceroy and has gone unrepaired ever since. The sandy plain it traverses is determined to reclaim the road as its' own and has eaten chunks out of the margins all along its' length. After five minutes of pitching rolling and yawing like a tiny boat adrift in a Force 10 gale I turn to Sausage and shout through the clouds of dust 'Don't worry, I'm sure we're just cutting off a corner and we'll be back on the main road in no time.' > Three hours. Three hours on the single-track road, being driven by a bloke who looks Indian but is definitely, indisputably, actually a Finnish rally driver, probably called Sami Nobrakeiinen or some such. Imagine a large pink blancmange, allowed to set in a plastic bowl the transferred into another bowl, identical in shape but 0.5cm bigger in every dimension. Put a lid on the bowl and shake it violently for three hours. That is how our brains felt.

But, just before we regressed to a point so close to being primordial soup that our only peers would have been Neil Hamilton and Russell Grant, the bus stops shaking sufficiently for our eyes one again to focus and we see something quite unexpected. Ever since our arrival we've lived in two dimensions, pimples in Pushkar aside Rajasthan has been as flat as a pancake. So imagine our excitement as smooth dark mounds become hillocks become hills, the bumps in the road ease and we hurtle along a valley bottom adjacent to a rocky stream bed in a setting so green it could almost be the New Forest were it not for the monkeys and the lorry we pass left upside down in the stream next to the droad.

We climb, in a style reminiscent of Sausage in Pushkar, slowly and noisily and eventually crest a ridge into another setting altogether. We are on a relatively high plain, a pitted, almost lunar landscape of golden coloured earth covered in rocks, boulders, low-slung trees and cacti. We can feel that the temperature has dropped slightly. Sami Nobrakeiinen, unaware of our excitement at the change of scenery, presses on, keen to make up time on Tommi Makkinen driving the lorry in front. We drop down slightly from the plain onto one of the most bizarre stretches of road I've ever traveled along.

We round a corner and there is a marble merchant on our left. It sells white marble and has every size from un-hewn blocks approximately 3 metres cubed, through large sheets and all the way down to tiny panels maybe 30cm square all arranged in neat slanting rows facing the road. Opposite the marble merchants is another, identical to the first in every way and also identical to its' neighbour and the merchant opposite its' neighbour and so on and so on. The twin lines of identical marble merchants face each other across the road in two unbroken ribbons stretching for 8 MILES. It sounds preposterous but it's true. The dancing bears have lost their No 1. Spot in the Ridiculous Retail Groupings Chart.

We climb another pass and begin a gentle descent to Udaipur, which sits at an altitude of 600m and so should prove to be slightly cooler than Jodhpur.

I am typing this sat in our first floor room at the Lake Star Guest House. Out of the window I look across the lake to the City Palace on the far bank and the Lake Palace which sits in the midst of the lake apparently floating, weightless. All of this against a backdrop of green rolling hills. This feels like somewhere we may like.

Lots of Love
The Travelling Sausages