We left for Jodhpur early in the morning so that we could stop midway to see the Jain temples of Ranakpur. It takes 5.5 hrs to drive from Udaipur to Jodhpur, and we were glad we had arranged a nicer car (Toyota Innova) for the trip. The car was almost new and had seatbelts, which are pretty hard to find in India. One of the weirdest things we noticed in India is that in every taxi we got into the seatbelts and headrests had been removed (or hidden). Many people tried to convince us that it’s safer without seatbelts, and whenever we insisted on a car with seatbelts, people seemed to think we were completely crazy.
The road from Udaipur to Jodhpur was only two lanes, one in each direction. Cars on both sides pass constantly, so we often found ourselves staring at a large truck or car barreling directly towards us in our lane, wondering if it would get back over on the other side in time to avoid a head on collision. There were also plenty of rickshaws, motorbikes, and cows, and even the occasional herd of goats crossing the road.
We saw many motorbikes carrying entire families. We also saw women riding sidesaddle on motorbikes and holding babies, which seemed terribly dangerous in any circumstance, but especially so on these roads. We felt pretty safe in our larger car, and our driver was good so we didn’t find the drive particularly hair-raising… until we reached a very hilly area where the road had many switchbacks.
As we climbed through the hills, our driver pointed out some monkeys on the side of the road, so we asked him to stopped the car. Much to our surprise, several of them climbed on the car! One even refused to get off, until we started moving – you could really see the panic in the poor little guy’s eyes.
We reached Ranakpur around midday to tour some well-known Jain temples before lunch. The main Jain temple in Ranakpur is very famous, and it has over 1400 exquisitely carved pillars on the inside. First we stopped at a smaller temple, where a guard insisted on taking our picture and then demanded money (a common occurrence in India, which we indulged occasionally).
Then we headed over to the large temple, which was quite impressive. There were a few tourists around, but most of the people there were Jain worshippers.
The inside of the temple was amazing, with beautiful carved ceilings and pillars. We took so many photographs, but no one picture could capture the whole area.
After visiting the temples, we drove a few kilometers further to Maharani Bagh, which is a tourist resort with a highly recommended restaurant. We weren’t sure what to expect, but the restaurant turned out to be wonderful (and there were even clean western bathrooms!). We ate in a large thatch hut with nice tables while a ravanhasta (Indian folk fiddle) player performed on the side. A large group of German tourists was already there, and the waitstaff were very attentive, so we could tell they were used to getting a lot of tourists.
The food was excellent – pea and mushroom curry, a paneer korma, and the very best roti we were to have on the entire trip. They had three different kinds of roti: maize, millet, and whole grain, all of which were so tasty we ordered seconds. Also, the ravanhasta player let Shana play his instrument. It was surprisingly difficult, though, and it took a few minutes just to master Frere Jacques.
After a very satisfying lunch we continued on the road to Jodhpur. The drive was pretty uneventful – which is a good thing in India – and we arrived in Jodhpur in the late afternoon.