Bundi is a small town in southern Rajasthan. We decided to go to Bundi after Udaipur because we heard from other travellers that it was less touristy than many places in Rajasthan, so we got curious about it.
We arrived at night by train and went straight away to a Haveli (old mansion or house – most of these were converted into guesthouses over time) we had picked from our lonely planet and called, to make sure they had rooms available. We were welcomed by a guy and an old lady, Kamla. The place looked like a real family home and a few travellers were around in the living room.
Kamla said she didn’t actually have any rooms available but she would let us sleep in her room for that night, but the day after, she said, another room would become available and she would give it to us first thing in the morning. She assured us “this is a family home, I’m like your mamma”.
Kamla is a peculiar character and, as a Rajasthani woman, she has a similarly peculiar story behind her. A few years ago her husband died leaving her with her daughters. In rural Rajasthan the condition of women is not that high, unfortunately, and women are not expected, if I can say so, to start and run their own business – that’s a men’s thing. But Kamla had to do something, for herself and for her daughters. They started with agriculture, but for two years the weather conditions weren’t particularly favourable and they had to quit. Finally, instead of giving up, they decided to convert their house (the haveli) into a guesthouse and open their door to paying foreign guests. Kamla and her two daughters were seen in the village talking to white men at the bus stop or the station, or accompanying them to markets and shops, and it didn’t take long before the villagers started to talk behind these brave ladies’ back. Some men apparently also tried to sabotage Kamla’s business. But one day Lonely Planet and other guides included her in their listings, plus a British and an American newspaper talked about her – which brought a lot of travellers (and business) their way and contributed to create a steady flow of financial resources. Kamla’s daughters don’t work with her anymore, but she has another two guys now that work in the haveli and one is part of her family. She likes when her guests call her Mamma.
Tired as we were, we thanked her and went to bed. The morning after, we realized there were a couple of mice in the room, who probably had kept us company while we were dreaming. The rodents were so small and nice and playful you wouldn’t call them rats. Not yet.
We finally left the lady’s room and took the other room. A couple were leaving. They were from France and they were cycling their way around the world. All the way from Paris, through Europe, Turkey, and a few of the Stans (including Pakistan, etc.), they were now in India, but looking at going to South East Asia. Now how does that look compared to what Romana and I are doing? If you thought we were brave for embarking on an 8 months round the world trip, imagine how brave can be this French couple!
During the morning I started to feel sick and vomited a couple of times. I ended up resting in bed for the whole day as my energy was very low.
The day after, I wasn’t feeling sick anymore but I was still feeling somehow weak. Once out of the Haveli I was struck by the amount of monkeys, cows, pigs, goats and squirrels around. It looked like a zoo. Monkeys were actually quite nice to observe and photograph. They looked like playful children jumping around. Except monkey jumped a lot higher!
We went to the palace (yet another palace – Rajasthan is full of forts and palaces so after a while you get an overdose!), and despite the heat I was able to climb up there (I assure you it’s a quite steep up hill, and it looks even worse if you’re not on full power when it’s around 30 degrees outside). It kind of drained me so after this walk I went straight away to bed again, and remained there for all the afternoon.
When Romana got her laundry back (she had given Mamma a full bag in the morning, and Mamma had passed this bag on to the laundry lady) she found out that a couple of white tops she had were now pink. Big frustration! No matter how she insisted, and how she tried to have the laundry lady resolve the problem, everyone said everything is ok, no problem, but of course the tops are still pink and poor Romana has to get along with it. Not that the tops were of any particular importance to her – when
you travel for long you should never take with you any clothes you really care about, but still it was more of a matter of principle.
We understood that although Mamma had a nice story and we were happy to contribute to her success, the staff was lazy and too laid back for our taste. We also found that, no matter what Lonely Planet said, the food wasn’t that good (probably the worst we had) and the kitchen was filthy, so we avoided eating there as much as possible.
The following days there was a huge amount of rain and power cuts were quite frequent, so we spent a lot of time in, sitting with other travellers and Mamma in the living room. Like a family – but with a handful of mice running around us.
When the rain left us alone we finally had a chance to take another couple of walks and take some pictures. As we are at the beginning of the Hindu wedding season, we saw a lot of marching bands across the village and groups of women in their sarees carrying out some of the wedding related rituals.
Also, we explored the vegetable market and there we met the chilli man and the aubergine man.
Though we didn’t have much time to explore, we decided to leave because we wanted to arrive in Pushkar in time for the camel fair.
We found Bundi a beautiful little town and very genuine, because it’s not entirely “made for tourism” yet. However, it’s slowly developing and, based on what we heard, it is increasingly becoming more popular with backpackers.
We finally left Bundi early in the morning and took for the first time a government bus. The bus station was surreal, with cows shitting all over the place, dogs sleeping on the benches, and rats passing by. The journey to Pushkar itself was an interesting adventure, like many other journeys we have done so far. Moving from point A to point B in this country can be anything but boring, but we will leave the stories about our journeys for other posts.