Sunday, February 10, 2013

Deli to Udiapur

Sunday, January 13th. Deli to Udiapur.

As usual, I wake before John, shower, dress quietly and leave the room to drink coffee downstairs and write. I slip into the dining room and request only coffee.  My plans to write for an hour, sip coffee leisurely and return later for breakfast with John do not unfold when my computer will not start up. I return to the room, anxious and disappointed, but gratefully, my computer comes to life when I plug it in.  Seconds later, Skype flashes on my screen and Tabra is calling! She noticed me online and I quickly push “accept call” and there she is! I arranged this trip to India via a friend of Tabra’s, and we talk excitedly for 15 minutes.

John and I head downstairs for the familiar and all inclusive buffet breakfast. He eats heartily but I am not very hungry; my cold is coming back and I feel slightly under the weather.  We have several hours before we will be picked up and taken to the airport and the hotel pool beckons John.  We sit outside in the courtyard and pass a leisurely hour. John draws and I write and sniffle but when the day begins to warm, John goes swimming. There are only a few guests seated at tables in the garden, and one young and pretty “au pair,” poolside, tending a 2 year old boy.  The water level is even with the edge of the pool and John does multiple flips into the pool splashing and sloshing water over the edge.  A Chinese couple takes photos of John, encouraging him to perform. He obliges and after many more flips he gracefully breast strokes several lengths of the pool. Two tables with business men feign disinterest, but I sense they wished they could be this free spirited and handsome American man-boy.

John poolside at the Royal Plaza Hotel

Poolside flips at the Royal Plaza Hotel

The hotel is prepaid by voucher but I must check out and pay my internet bill. At 11:45 promptly, Nanveet and our driver Maneesh are there to transfer us to the airport.  It is Sunday and the traffic is relatively tame and the drive to the airport uneventful.  I tip our driver for his prompt and incident free driving and Nanveet, for his three days of service. Nanveet takes his leave at the entrance to the airport terminal because security mandates that no one can enter the terminal without a ticket and a passport.  We show our documents and enter the airport to check in for our flight to Udipur. We are much too early but John is happy and energized and we wander the duty free shops for over an hour before settling down to eat a fast food lunch. John opts for McDonnalds and I pick the chicken out of a soggy sandwich and drink delicious mint lemonade. My cold is escalating but the mint lemonade makes me feel better. John and I write and draw until it is time to head to our gate.  Boarding is quick but our plane delayed on the runway for over 30 minutes.
Deli Airport - Bronze Yoga Sculpture
It is 4:15 p.m. when we land roughly in Udaipur, collect our luggage and are met and transported to our Trident Hotel, a 45 minutes drive from the airport. There are hundreds of trucks on the road as this is the main highway between Deli and Mombai. Most of the trucks are decorated with tinsel and garlands and there is the usual jostling for lanes between motorcyclists, trucks and cars. Most motorcycles carry two to 4 passengers and the saree wearing women, ride side saddle behind and without helmets. Often, one or two children are sandwiched in the middle.
Decorated and overloaded busses

Family on a motorcycle

The drive to Udaipur is through the countryside and there are ranges of low mountains on the horizon.  We pass through many small towns and I click photos from the rolled down window. 

The Trident Garden hotel is several miles from Udipar, and I am disappointed to be so far from town but the grounds are beautiful and John is thrilled with the hotel. Our foreheads are anointed with red smudges of color and we drink a welcome glass of mint ice tea. I pass over the required passports and travel vouchers and we are escorted to our room. The room is lovely and spacious with a garden view and John jumps from bed to bed like a little kid. I chide him to be quiet and we quickly leave the room to explore the grounds.  John does back-flips on the expansive lawn as dusk settles in.
Trident Garden Hotel - Udiapur
We ask directions to the pool and learn that we have missed the 5:30 P.M feeding of the wild boar and spotted deer kept on the property. We are directed towards a tree-lined red gravel path. Peacocks are roosting in the branches, settling in for the night.  John spots a small wild cat, slinking along the base of a low stone wall less than 30 feet away. At first we think it is a large feral cat, but decide that it is some species of wild cat with oversized ears, muscled shoulders and a bobbed tail. It watches us warily and then bounds atop the wall and disappears from sight.  

We climb ancient stairs to our right to look out over the marshy edge of Lake Picolla and side step the fresh scat that this wild cat has left. The lights of Udaipur city reflect in Lake Picolla and a fairytale resort or palace is illuminated in the distance.  I want to turn back but John insists that we explore further. Further along the path we climb stairs up to a seemingly abandoned terrace, overlooking the lake and an enclosure of wild boar. An 80+ year old man, wearing a suit, is sweeping the terrace at this once elegant but now abandoned section of a hotel.  He welcomes us warmly and takes us on a short tour of several interconnected rooftop terraces. He has been caretaker here since 1951 and points proudly to a brass plaque with his name and the dates of his service inscribed. He leaves us taking photos and walks stiffly down the stairs, supported by his cane, and disappears into the night.
View from an abandoned terrace

View from an abandoned terrace

We walk back to the hotel and John takes an evening swim before dinner.  I am resigned to be “trapped” in the hotel for the evening and we wish to enjoy and luxuriate in our confinement.  We peruse the drink menu in the hotel lounge and order two mojitos, the most reasonably priced drinks on the menu. Alcohol is very expensive in and heavily taxed in India but these beautiful drinks arrive in large Hurricane glasses with fresh mint and lime wedges accompanied by a dish of nuts and potato chips. The mint lemonade earlier today was a good tonic for my cold and this Mojito seems to cure it entirely. Our appetite abated, we head to the dining room, order lightly and eat an unmemorable chicken curry and cauliflower dinner.

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