Saturday, November 25, 2017

Jaipur Comes to an End. Galtaji.

At Galtaji Temple Complex.

Original Post Date: June 17, 2017.

It took a few hours of resting in an airconditioned room to cool me off. I tell you, the summer heat in Jaipur is brutal. Yes, it's a dry heat but it's still hot!!

Unfortunately, because of the heat, we've not hit up as many of the sightseeing spots as I had planned for us to do.  But, there was one place that I really wanted to take Chantale to and that was Galtaji Temple Complex which is located quite a distance from Jaipur.   The complex is located on a hillside high above the city.  One of the temples in the complex, Surya Mandir (Sun Temple) is a recommended spot to take sunset photos. Chantale loves to shoot photos of sunrises and sunsets so I thought she would enjoy the opportunity to capture a sunset view over the city.  It's our last sightseeing stop in Jaipur as we leave for Delhi tomorrow morning.

Around 5:30p, we headed back out to the main road to catch a tuk-tuk to Galtaji.  This time, we negotiated for the driver to take us there and from Galtaji and back.  Actually, we needed him to take us from Galtaji to the restaurant that we were going to be having dinner with Rohit and Ritu, the very nice couple that picked us up from the airport two days ago.

We are now Jaipur tuk-tuk veterans!



As we neared Galtaji, the sun was beginning to make its way down to the horizon.  I was trying recall exactly how we get from the entrance to Galtaji to Surya Mandir and words, *30 minute walk* kept coming to mind.  I was hoping we would arrive in time for the sunset or Chantale will be really disappointed.


It was quarter past 6 when we arrived.  It was a much longer ride than I had anticipated.  There were quite a few vehicles in the lot so I decided I would snap of our tuk-tuk so we knew which vehicle to come back to.  Probably wasn't necessary as I was also sure that the driver would stay as he knew he was getting paid to ferry us back to town.


We had barely walked a few feet when our path was intercepted by a young man looking for tourists to guide around.  We were the perfect pair.  Chantale was on the sole mission of getting to Surya Mandir for the sunset so she really wasn't interested in a guide....nor was I.  But he persisted and the next thing you know, we're negotiating a fee for Vikas to take us around.  The macaques couldn't be bothered by all the human noise around them.  Cheeky fellas.


Chantale made it so clear that she only had one mission in mind that Vikas made the point that we really had to hurry up.  Indeed, it would be at least a 30 minute uphill walk to get to Surya Mandir and the sun was setting fast!  Chantale just cannot help herself.  As much as she knew she had to scoot along, she had to pause to take photos.  Lots of pauses equals a lot of seconds lost.  Vikas kept hurrying us along.  Poor guy.  Had he known this was what he was going to have to do, he might have thought twice about taking us on :-)

In fact, we were so busy hurrying that Vikas had little time to tell us anything about the complex or the buildings we were scurrying past.  I will have to try and look things up when I get home.



In contrast to Amber Palace and even City Palace, it looks like there has been little restoration done here.  I actually prefer to see the decay of a building over time.  Adds to the character.








We eventually made it to place that I recognized from the images I had see in my pre-trip planning.  Natural waterfalls and springs flow down the hills into several man made tanks.  This is one of those tanks.





We followed Vikas as he took us on an uphill path - not the prettiest of routes.  We did pass by another water tank.  This time, there were some people bathing in it.  29.9 seconds to go before Surya Mandir.  At least that's what I thought.





After a bit of uphill walking, we came to a small shop that sold snacks and drinks.  Two motorcycles were parked out front.  Vikas already had an idea in mind.  He threw out the suggestion that we rent the bikes and two drivers.  It would cost us 300 rupees for each bike and driver.  I thought about for a minute.  Since I was not all that keen on seeing a sun set view, I declined the offer of one bike - Chantale could go on her own.  Enterprising Vikas countered that we could do one bike and one driver with both of us riding on board.  It still seemed like a lot of money but in reality, it's less than $5 USD for the two of us and not only would it save us at least another 20 minutes or so of walking up hill but it would ensure that Chantale would make it in time to see the sunrise so we agreed to do the one bike thing.

Chantale got on first and held on to Vikas.  I brought up the rear.



Vikas started up the bike and we made our way up the hill.  It was slow but very bumpy ride on a cobblestone road.  I tried to shoot video of our experience but it was hard holding and operating my dSLR with my right hand while clutching on to Chantale with my left.  I gave up.


The motorbike easily shaved off at least 19 of the 20 minutes that we would have walked.  It was quite the experience.  We were both happy that we made it safely up and off the bike.  I'm sure that Vikas was relieved as well.



Unfortunately for Chantale, the sunset turned out to be very disappointing.  First of all, there was a lot of haze obscuring both the city and the sun.  It was hard to make out anything.  But she was happy to be distracted by a few devout pilgrims who had congregated around the temple to pray and meditate.  In the meantime, Vikas and I struck up a conversation which at one point did get a bit uncomfortable for me because I felt like he was trying to hit on me.  I remember mentioning several times that I was probably old enough to be his mother but that still did not distract him to asking me to join him and his friends for a drink later on.  I was flattered but no, not interested.


Since we had made the trek up here mainly so that Chantale could take sunset photos, I let her call the shot on when she was ready to leave.  By the way, I never went around looking for Surya Mandir so I have not one single photo of the place.  I guess I will just have to come back here one day! :-)

We pretty much coasted our way down the hill.  This time I did manage to take a bit of video.  You can hear Vikas serenading us in the background.  Overall, the bike experience was more entertaining than seeing the complex itself.


We deposited the bikes back where we picked them up and we paid the the guy the money we owed him.


We retraced our steps back to the entrance.  Again, Vikas was hustling us because the complex was about to close for the day.  I guess I timed our visit just a wee bit too tight.  Note for next visit.



Next trip will have to be in the winter when the day is shorter.  That way, I can take more photos during the blue hour....one of my favorite time of day to take photos.



We were walking fast and with the low light, it was challenge to focus the lens.  I have a few blurry photos.




Vikas escorted us back to our awaiting driver and his tuk-tuk.  Vikas had also repeated assured me to not worry about our driver not being there.  I was happy to see we had transportation back into town because there are no other options otherwise.  It was really helpful to have Vikas translate for us otherwise, it would have been very difficult for us to tell the driver where to go.   Chantale had been in contact with Rohit so she knew the name of the place - somewhere in the C-Scheme neighborhood which is where our Airbnb apartment is.  I had no idea where we were going - I left myself in the hands of Chantale and Vikas.  We thanked Vikas for his services, giving him the fee he asked for plus a bit of tip.  We then exchanged goodbyes and Chantale and I climbed into the tuk-tuk for the long ride back into town.  Luckily, we weren't expected at the restaurant until 9p and it was barely 7:45p.  I kept hoping that would be enough time but with the crazy Jaipur traffic, who knows.

We settled in for our ride.  The first part was quite enjoyable.  It was the first time we really experience a bit of the sights and sounds of Jaipur at night. Then, came the traffic jam.  It was insane.  We were literally stuck in either traffic that was moving at snail's pace or we were not moving at all.  Though we were on what looked like a two lane road, we were surrounded by more lanes than that of traffic.  There was a lot of honking of horns!

Chantale has been donning a surgical mask for her tuk-tuk rides and one went on as we made our way through this traffic jam.  The pollution and dust that gets kicked up as you are riding in an open air vehicle is horrible.



At one point, I looked to  my left because I heard someone shouting out my name.  It was Vikas!  Even though he had left Galtaji after we did, he managed to catch up to us.  Motorcycle is definitely the way to do here!


We made it to the restaurant a few minutes past night so we were late but not badly late.   Chantale and I made our way through a lovely garden and then to the entrance of what I would describe as a very upscale dining restaurant that was housed inside what I would describe as a colonial era building.  It was a very nice. We were definitely WAY under dressed for the place though I have to say that at least I had a nice shirt on.  Just don't look down at my hiking pants and hiking sandals.  Rohit and Ritu were already seated and waiting for us.  They greeted us big smiles on their faces.  It was so nice to see them again.  They have been so hospitable and kind.



Usually, I will take a photo of the menu so I can remember the name of the restaurant later but tonight, there was no menu. It was obvious that Rohit and Ritu had been here many times before.  He just spoke with the waiter and between of them, worked out what the meal was going to be.  While we waited for the appetizers to arrive, we had a very nice conversation with the two of them.  It was really nice to get to know them better.   As it turns out both are big time Facebook fans so I did get a friend request from Ritu!  Of course, I accepted.

It was past 10p when our main meal arrived.  It was a classic meal of Northern Indian dishes.  I do have a new Indian food obsession now - boondi raita.  The boodi do add a nice crunch to what is already a delicious sauce.  It was slightly past 11p when we left the restaurant.  But the meal wasn't over yet.  Rohit felt like having a bit of ice cream so we checked out the offerings at the small coffee/pastry/ice cream shop adjacent to the restaurant.  Nothing to his liking so we piled into his SUV and he and Ritu took us for a short night time ride through the city.  I guess they must do this often because Rohit knew exactly where to pull over to where a few ice cream vendors had parked their carts.  I was so stuffed from dinner that I declined his offer of ice cream though I think I could've made room for some pista kulfi - my absolute favorite India ice cream.  At home, I can easily down a small container's worth in one sitting.  I love pistachio ice cream to begin with and that thing is delicious beyond delicious!  I'm going to add "how to make kulfi" to my list of things to learn how to do when I get home.

Rohit and Ritu dropped us off at our what has now become our usual pick up/drop off point.  Since Chantale and they have children attending the same university, I have no doubt they will all see each other again.  I don't know when I will be back in Rajasthan but I do know I will be back and I know I will also return to Jaipur.  There was so much I didn't get to see here and I'm sure I missed out on a lot of fun to-do's as well.  So, before I leave the comfort of my bed to pack my suitcase, I will close out my post with the photo of the four of us.  Seems appropriate as Rohit and Ritu were the first people to greet us in Jaipur and will be one of the last to say goodbye to.

This time tomorrow, we will be in Delhi.  I cannot wait to return to one of my favorite cities!

Goodnight from Jaipur!