Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Day 10. Not much to report

Not much to report. Today was a day of land travel, from Jaipur to Udaipur. It took us about 7 hours for 300 kilometers, so you can figure how slowly we went. Dry, flat country, occasionally interrupted by green agricultural fields. For you geo types, we have started across the Indian craton, so you see gneisses and schists in the road cuts.

We arrived to Udaipur about 4 pm, and for the first time I got the impression that we had arrived at a neglected city. We passed the school of engineering and medicine, and they looked abandoned, as if they had been last used while India was still under British rule. The city looks gray, as if someone had carefully painted it with a layer of grime. So I was ready to rejoice with the rest of the party when we drove into the Hilton complex of gardens (I am normally not one for excess luxury, but this time I would force myself to accept and even enjoy it). Alas, it was not to be. There had been an error in the booking, and it turned out that we had no reservations :(

OK, so we packed ourselves in our travel vehicle, got going, and then Chrissy found out that she had forgotten a bag at the Hilton. Rather that submit ourselves at the indignity of being escorted out of the hotel one more time, we boys alighted in the English Wine Junction shoppe, and proceeded to make a shop keeper very happy by acquiring a large amount of bottles of wine and spirits. Aurora was horrified when she saw our purchases, and reminded us that we were flying to Mumbai in a couple of days, and what were we going to do with so many bottles. This put Klaus in a reflective mood, but at the end he concluded that we could safely leave the bottles here in Udaipur, as Mumbai probably had enough empty bottles of wine and whisky.

So we finally arrive to our new hotel. Quaint. It had been (and the key words are had been) the country club when the Brits were in India, but it has fallen into disrepair ever since. The beautiful surrounding grounds are now dusty and brown for lack of irrigation, the plumbing is 70 years old, and once again I get the feeling that we are seeing the last remnants of a bygone age.

All along I have been noticing the many similarities between India and Mexico. Their fantastic ancient history, their mountainous and dry landscapes, and their vast natural and human resources. But now I notice a significant difference. In Mexico nobody was there to bring the country into the modern age. Mexicans built the country themselves. In contrast, India is rising from the ashes of the British Raj, and although this is barely perceivable in other cities, it is strongly evident in Udaipur.

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