Saturday 1 November 2014

Day 161: Chittorgarh - The devil's in the detours

Gaumauk Reservoir, Chittorgarh Fort
We had driven from Delhi to Bundi on a new dual carriageway where progress was rapid.  Admittedly, every so often we had to swerve away from a head-on with a stray cow or a vehicle driving down the wrong side of the road (on a dual carriageway? You have to be joking!).  Nonetheless it was a smooth ride.  So the road to Udaipur took us a little by surprise.  It was winding, potholed, and sometimes shorter on tarmac than William Hague is on hair.  We bounced around and held on tightly to our metaphorical hats.  Could this really be the way to Udaipur?

Apparently not.  Our driver decided that, first, he would take us to see a waterfall in the middle of nowhere.  I had just discovered that the great fortress of Chittorgarh lay only a few kilometres from our day's route, so I was annoyed by the waterfall detour.  If we were going to detour anywhere today, it would be to Chittorgarh.  But when we stumbled out of the car and across some newly-engineered rail tracks (let's hope it isn't time for the Delhi to Mumbai express, eh?) my irritation evaporated in the heat at the same rate as my morning cup of chai.  A wooded gorge fell away before us with a braided waterfall plunging into its depths.  It wasn't Niagara, admittedly, but it was a great deal bigger than Aysgarth Falls, and much more surprising.  This is Rajastan?  I thought the place was supposed to be a desert.

Bhimlat Waterfall near Bundi
Feeling pretty happy with our aquatic sightseeing, we cheerfully put up with a great deal more bouncing before we ended up on the dual carriageway to Udaipur - travelling in the wrong direction.  But no problem.  Apparently it's okay to reverse for a mile or two down a dual carriageway to get to a u-turn.  It's also okay for a shepherd to drive a herd of sheep along one, just so long as everyone remembers that cows have priority.  Got that, Susan and Guy?  It's all okay.  This is how it works.  Get the hang.

Just before lunch, we spotted a sign telling us that Chittorgarh was now only twenty kilometres away.  I have seen pictures of this amazing fortress before but had failed to realise that it lay close to the route of our already-tight Rajastan itinerary.  Still, we couldn't pass within a dozen miles of the place and not visit.  I persuaded our driver to detour and soon we were making our hurried progress around the palace behind the entrance to the fortress.

All routes around Chittorgarh are hurried, unless they last several days.  The place is vast.  Miles of ramparts enclose a gargantuan hillside.  Within, the palace holds rank with a tower and numerous temples, without an inch of stone left uncarved.  The work was sharp and impressive.  Even the bats thought so; they'd decided to colonise the tower in their thousands.  We stooped under their raftered domain with trepidation then escaped into the sunlight, where another shrine overlooked a pool and further ramparts stretched away into the distance beyond.  We could see more temples dotting the hilltop, but we could also see few hours left in the afternoon.  Lunch beckoned.  But not to worry; the ruling dynasty of Chittorgarh later moved to Udaipur so we will be hearing more from them on our travels around Rajastan.

After this detour, we returned to the fast (except when cows are crossing) road to Udaipur, where we arrived in time to see the afternoon sunshine lighting up the city palace.  All we needed to complete the day was a rooftop restaurant with a view across the lake; what a good job we picked a hotel that possesses one.

And so the day ended with chana massala, lights beading on the city palace, shadowy waters, Rajastani rice, happiness, sleep.

Rajastani nomads making good use of the new dual carriageway.
The guy in front was really pissed off at us for stopping the car right in front of his camel caravan!
The city of Chittorgarh as seen from the ramparts of the fort 
The victory tower (full of bats) at Chittorgarh Fort 
Detail of carvings from one of the temples at Chittorgarh
Inside of a temple within Chittorgarh Fort.
The eyes reminded us of Easter Island Moais.
The Lake Pichola Hotel (a bit of luxury in Udaipur).

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