I was just 8km outside of Udaipur and too busy hanging onto the back of trucks to notice my back tyre was, once again, completely flat. Typical. I really couldn’t be arsed to unload my bike, take the back wheel off and fix the puncture so I decided to push my bike to Bunkyard Hostel, our home for the next few days.
In hindsight it would have been quicker for me to just fix the puncture in the first place as I was walking with my bike for over an hour. I was exhausted so we dumped our stuff and headed to Rainbow Restaurant who do an awesome Veg Jalfrezi high up on the rooftop, looking over the lake. Udaipur is known an the Venice of India and I can see why. Most hotels and restaurants have rooftops you can admire the city from and enjoy the city’s unique cool breeze, even in the height of summer.
As we were flicking through the menu on top of another rooftop restaurant, something took Hugo’s interest.
“Excuse me Sir, so this special Lassi, err, just how special is it?” Hugo asked the waiter
“Really quite special” they guy said
“Well, I think I will have one of those then please” said Hugo.
The guy walked away with the cheekiest grin. I say no more.
Firmly in our routine I woke up super early and headed for a walk to the Fateh Sagar Lake. Not many people were out at this ridiculous time of day but I managed to have tea with a few guys outside a stall and watch them make the morning Samosas and Kachori. I’m a big fan of Rajisthan’s street food which has more variety than the Vada Pav’s in Maharashta.
The northern end of town above Lake Pichola has much more of a “local” feel than the area around City Palace. I saw a man walking his elephant so I went over to stroke it. I haven’t seen as many elephants than I expected during my time in India but each time I do it’s pretty amazing standing under these incredible giants.
High up on the hill, Monsoon Palace is probably the best place to admire the view over Udaipur but you’ll have to get a vehicle there. After a hair-raising TukTuk ride from town, we had no other choice than to get a death trap uncontrollable jeep 4km up to the top, if we wanted to make it before sunset. Of course, it was inevitable that Hugo and I would get car sickness. Bike is best!
The view was magnificent and could just about be seen through the thick haze covering the sky in front of us. I could see the whole of Udaipur plus the biological park on the other side of the hill. Eagles near identical to the American ones swooped down in front of us, it was fantastic to see them hunting this close. There’s certainly no shortage of wildlife in Udaipur. Every evening hundreds thousands of bats suddenly appear just after sunset. I’m not sure where they hide during the day but they certainly dominate the sky for a couple of hours at night.
One thing I have noticed is that many things in India have the same name, especially hotels and restaurants. Everyone had recommended the Thali at Natraj Hotel so I asked Hugo if he wanted to join me for a multi-dish Indian feast. After walking for over 45 minutes in the scorching mid-day heat we finally found the place and sat down to order. Alarm bells rang when we asked what types of Thali (Gujarat, Rajasthan etc) they had and they just wobbled their heads, a polite way of saying no. Along came our mystery Thali which didn’t look at all like the pictures on TripAdvisor. It was then I realised we were at a completely different restaurant to the one I wanted to be at, just up the road. What idiot names their restaurant after the one down the road serving the exact same dish?!? I was SO disappointed.
While I went to my fancy rooftop pool, Hugo opted for the no cost version – a swim in the lake. One afternoon I joined him, Jack and the many local men for a dip. Jack and I watched as Hugo swam out to the building in the middle of the lake with some kids – someone had to watch the bags after all! As one of the kids took a run and jump off the building, his foot became caught in something causing him to nearly trip over dragging this thing along the ground. He and everyone else looked down in horror at the dead pigeon. Not the best thing to have tangled in your toes.
“Don’t put off ’til tomorrow what you can do today” my mother always says. I had been putting off fixing my dreaded puncture for three days, but with good reason. It took me over four hours to change my back tyre tube with the help of local TukTuk drivers, shop keepers and hostel staff. My precious Marathon Plus Tyres have totally lost their shape because I’ve ridden for so long on a flat, or so I’m gathering. This means it’s almost impossible for the tyre to go around the tube and reach the edge of the wheel. Soon after conquering this tedious task, I noticed my tyre was flat AGAIN. This time I decided to patch but the next morning I woke to ANOTHER flat. Agh!.
I spent three hours trekking around Udaipur trying to find a bike shop that sold the correct size inner tube. The cycle mechanics who don’t keep stock in their shacks, got on their pushbike and cycled off to try and find me one. I visited seven shops in total and waited over an hour for various men to return on their bikes. I then spent what must have been another hour trying to explain that I am fully aware that I need a new tyre but I only have two weeks of cycling left, so for now, only a new tube is required.
Mr Punjab from Punjab Cycles was the only guy in town to have the “correct” size tube and jammed it all in at a reasonable price. If I had a pound for the number of times I got stopped to ask about the bicycle tyre I was carrying. “Do you live here?” “Where did you get your cycle from?” “Do you cycle?” “What is wrong with your cycle?” it took me forever to walk home. I am PRAYING this tube holds out for just a little longer.
After nearly a week of being lazy, I felt like I ought to do something cultural touristy so I joined new friends, Jack, Jimmy and Ali, at the Dharohar Cultural Show. Packed with puppetry, dancing and some rather peculiar acting scenes, it was actually pretty impressive and a good way to spend a pound (100rupees) if you have a spare hour or two.
Some guys from the hostel had booked onto Shashi’s cooking class so I decided to join them despite not feeling 100%. The class itself was pretty average with us mainly just watching Shashi’s son and his wife cook while we took notes (we didn’t actually see Shashi). With only a small fan in an equally small kitchen, we asked the strict alcohol-free family if they would get us some beer and a bottle of rum to cool us down in the insanely hot kitchen. In India “anything is possible” and soon after the cooking class turned into a bit of a party as we danced around to our requests on the family’s ghetto blaster.
The three hour class went on until 11pm (over five and a half hours!) so not only did we all get a little bored of “cooking”, the beer had long run dry. By the time we sat down to eat, we were all so tipsy/hot/hungry, it was gobbled down in seconds. So the cooking class may not have gone quite to plan but I had one hell of a laugh in the kitchen with new friends.
We ended up calling BunkYard Hostel home for a whole week. Great social space, clean dorms and a super hot receptionist – you must check him it out! 😉 I pretty much spent my entire time doing absolutely nothing apart from hanging out with people at the hostel. I have become nocturnal, keeping awake with sugar drinks and carbs. It is only a matter of time before I crash and burn.
Udaipur is beautiful and there’s certainly no shortage of things to do. It’s probably the only place in India where I’ve felt I could possibly get “stuck” with unlimited access to the rooftop pool of course. In my eyes, Udaipur is must if visiting Rajasthan and I can now see why my good friends Kate and Sam spent their honeymoon here. Good times.