Desert Rain

by | Nov 27, 2019 | Guest Blog, Travel

(JP/ALL- Jaipur/Pushkar- India)

Imagine the cities of Jaipur and Pushkar, two big hubs of tourism in Rajasthan, home to the Thar Desert. I know what your first mental image would be- two cities, dry and hot, a climate fitting of a desert? My friends and I recently realised that, that isn’t always the case, and as we later found out, so did many locals!

The Maotha Lake, used as a moat earlier, has now run dry.

Over the Independence Day long weekend, my friends and I pretty much knew that we had to take another trip, so it was decided that we’ll go to the places that usually don’t get much rain in the monsoon? Rajasthan, then. “The state has a full desert, it can’t get too much rain?”, I thought, while we decided to go to the capital, Jaipur, and the closest famous town, Pushkar. More so, a lot of websites said that there’s usually just a little bit of rain in August, but never too much. We were about two weeks away from the concerned weekend, so we quickly booked our travel, and our accommodation, and were really pleased with ourselves. That is, until someone checked the weather forecast for the weekend. I kid you not, it’s been a while since I saw the forecast for a full week, and not once was the forecast clear or sunny. Either rain or thunderstorms was all we’d be blessed with, Accuweather seemed to suggest! However, optimistic as we are, we went ahead with the plan anyway.

The first building upon entering the city palace.

We awoke almost to a gale early in the morning on the date of departure, the 15th of August. As we reached the train station, we hoped the weather in Delhi didn’t carry over to Jaipur. And as we reached Jaipur, four and a half hours later, we saw it didn’t! It was cloudy but was not raining at the time. However, soon after, as we left the station, it started raining, quite heavily. After a short cab ride, we reached the hostel we had booked for the two days we were at Jaipur, GoStops Jaipur.

The reception at GoStops.

GoStops Jaipur is located at Prithviraj Road, a major road near the Vidhan Sabha, or the State Legislature. That being said, the hostel was near the old city, where the City Palace was located. On reaching Jaipur, we found out that the rain was only the second most concerning news that we had to worry about in Jaipur. The manager told us that communal riots had broken out a couple days back and Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code, had been enforced, so a major portion of Jaipur did not have a lot of basic amenities, as well as internet facilities. However, after a quick barrage of phone calls to ascertain that the tourist spots were still open, we set out, to first eat a heavy brunch, and then go to see Jaipur!

The autorickshaw that had to carry us to the City Palace.

After a quick brunch at Fat Lulu’s, at the intersection beside our hostel, we were to go to the City Palace, part of which has been converted into a museum. Because of the rain, the effects of the riots, the fact that it was both Independence Day, and Raksha Bandhan, our group of seven, had to fit in one small autorickshaw- one sitting on a cushion at the back, and six of us having to twist our legs into complex pretzel-like forms, with the legs of those sitting at the edge almost hanging outside the autorickshaw! Half an hour later, we reached the City Palace, with 7 people and 12 numb legs.

The entry to the City Palace. Here, you can buy your tickets, as well as audio guides to the place.

City Palace has been converted into a museum, but a large portion of the Palace still houses the Royal Family of Jaipur. Because of this, a few of my friends were, however, more interested in trying to meet the current king of Jaipur, Maharaja Padhmanabh Singh, or “Pacho” as his friends and family, and my friends call him! Unfortunately, Pacho was nowhere to be seen, so we took a quick tour of the palace. This was impeded by a quick bout of rain, which prompted part of our group to return to the hostel. However, the remainder of us wanted more, so we took an auto to Gatore ki Chattriyan, to see some more of Jaipur.

Rain at the City Palace.
Gatore ki Chattriyan.

When we were about halfway there, we got a phone call- I had the only key to our hostel room! So, I ran back to the City Palace, where I had told our friends to wait, but due to a huge misunderstanding, they were waiting, at the hostel, whereas I was waiting at the Palace! The Auto driver had told us that it would take only a few minutes to get to our hostel from Gatore ki Chattriyan, as we reached the place after 15 minutes on the auto from the City Palace. We later found out, it did take only a few minutes, and maybe some more.

Sunset at Gatore ki Chattriyan, taken from atop one of the higher structures.
The first building visible upon entering Gatore ki Chattriyan.

Gatore ki Chattriyan is a complex set of temples and tombs at the foothills of the Nahargarh Fort, and was quite possibly, one of the most beautiful places we saw in Jaipur! The ornate marble and sandstone structures are a somewhat hidden treasure and is great for viewing the sunset. Rushed as it was, our little trip to Gatore ki Chattriyan really impressed us, but we had to almost run back to the hostel, so we set out, on the auto that brought us there, even though the auto really struggled on uphill climbs, and had a top speed of, like, 5 kmph! We sped across the city, and finally reached GoStops- around 45 minutes later.

Tal Katora, a lake on the way to Gatore ki Chattriyan.

For dinner, we decided to try out this place called School, and while the food was really good, and the place was interesting, since it had a “back to school” vibe, there were some things we didn’t really enjoy. We chose to also try out this place called 360°, which was suggested for its chicken and its live music. As fine as the chicken was, the musicians at the rooftop restaurant, which is atop an eye hospital, made us wonder why the doctors didn’t also open a hospital to treat ears right there too!

Outside Patrika Gate

The next morning, we were scheduled to hire a Zoomcar, which is a rent-a-car service, and go to Amer Fort, one of the two grand forts in the area with Jaigarh Fort. On the way there, we stopped at Patrika Gate, one of the 13 gates to the original city of Jaipur. Funnily enough, I noticed, that unlike some of the other gates that we had seen over the last two days, Patrika Gate wasn’t exactly like a gate. It was at the side of a major intersection, and passing through the ornamental, artistic gate leads you to a beautiful garden. We took a few pictures there and departed for our main destination- Amer Fort.

These columns, and the artworks that go with it make Patrika Gate one of the more famous of the 13 gates around Jaipur.

Amer Fort is a massive fort a few kilometres outside Jaipur and takes a fair bit of time to cover on foot. More so, if you don’t know that you can park cars uphill, inside the fort, and park your car some 500 meters from the primary gate to the fort!

Right by the main pathway leading up to Amer Fort. This viewpoint can be used to see the fort and the lake with it.
From the viewpoint, Nikhil sees the opportunity for a great picture.

As we made our way up to the fort, Veda downloaded the app that is used by the fort for its audio guides, and acted as our free tour guide, gathering some of the most spiteful looks from tour guides, bothered by their loss of potential clients to scam! It would certainly be cheaper if you choose to do the same, seeing as the app is available for free, and doesn’t try to scam you!

This great view can be seen from one of the buildings up on Amer Fort.
The main palace building at Amer Fort.

With the sheer number of rooms, passages, and pathways, it becomes hard to imagine how paranoid the king would have had to be to have made a secret tunnel to the Jaigarh Fort, and the Fort itself, on a higher hill, just in case Amer Fort ever got attacked, which, it didn’t. Amer Fort is grand beyond compare, with Rajput and Hindu architecture intertwined in a play of Hindu and Muslim adornment, making the red sandstone and white sandstone ceilings and walls all the more beautiful. There’s even a building made out of curd and spices! You can’t take out a spoon to take a taste, though.

Nikhil and I share a light moment at the room made of spices.

Our visit to Amer Fort, like City Palace was cut short by a heavy bout of rain. And unlike the City Palace, we had to almost run down the steps from the fort, and to the car park, around 1.5 kilometres away! It rained so much, we had to take an auto rickshaw to reach the car faster, but this time, we didn’t share a single one!

The Jal Mahal.

On the way back, seeing as the rain had slowed down, we halted at Jal Mahal and Hawa Mahal to take pictures, not taking a chance in spending more time at those places, and mostly because it was already 3:30 in the afternoon, and we were all starving! We took a stop, for a quick bite, at Rawat Misthan Bhandar, for the most famous Pyaaz ke Kachori in Jaipur, and Ghewar.

The Hawa Mahal.

In the evening, Rohan invited us to Royal Heritage Haveli, his uncle’s hotel, and a former part of the royal estate, for dinner with Rajasthani food, like Dal Baati Churma, Ker Sangri, and Laal Maas! We overate to another level, despite almost not eating any lunch! We returned, overly full, and equally satisfied with ourselves. The next morning, we were supposed to leave for Pushkar, so we, after a round of taboo, and tired from driving around all day, we called it a night.

Rain-soaked, we set out for Pushkar.

The next morning, we were ready almost right on time, having seen our bus arrive at the hostel around half an hour earlier than it was scheduled. So, amidst a steady drizzle, we boarded our tempo traveller, on our way to Pushkar. Even as we saw the drizzle progress to more steady showers, and then onto a full-fledged rainstorm, we hoped for a considerably less rainy experience at our destination.

The Pushkar Lake, and the lamp posts that usually line the lake, underwater. Taken from Cafe Nirvana.

Pushkar is a holy town around 150 kilometres away from Jaipur and is surrounded by hills on 3 sides. Ordinarily one can expect to hear bells and drums from its many temples and ghats, including one of the only temples in the world devoted to the God Brahma, and calls from shop-owners to buy their wares, in a vibrant mix of piety and tourism. However, as we reached Pushkar, we were met by a rain-drenched near-ghost town. There were a number of people on the streets, but the places where one would generally see stores selling a variety of goods, from tie and dye clothing, to swords, we saw shut, and people running from the rain.

The common area to Moustache Pushkar, and their pet turtles.

We reached the hostel for our time in Pushkar- Moustache, having carried our bags for a good 2 kilometres from the bus parking, in the rain. As we entered, we were informed that the hostel did not have electricity at the time and had also run out of water. Why so? As it turned out, it had been raining in Pushkar for 30 hours straight, something not seen in the town for around 40 years! Not letting the rain hold us back, we decided to leave the hostel to go for lunch to Café Nirvana, suggested to us by a number of people.

Angad and Sukanya protect themselves from splashing cars.
One of the umbrellas we had to buy at Pushkar.

Soon enough, however, we regretted leaving the comfort of our hostel and its attached rooftop café, Unearth. As it turned out, Pushkar Lake, much like the rest of the town, was not prepared for the kind of rain as was seen, spilling out onto the streets.  After buying overpriced umbrellas from a stall, we carried on, now determined to make it to this highly publicised café. We even had to take an autorickshaw to get by a seemingly tricky bit of waterlogging. However, soon enough, we reached the rooftop café with good food, and a great view of the lake.

The view from Cafe Nirvana.

Due to the rain, we decided to be restricted to the confines of our hostel for the rest of our time in Pushkar, until the rain subsided at least. That being said, the rain, having continued for the 30 or so hours prior to then, didn’t really feel like it would just stop now, so we stayed at the hostel, and stuffed ourselves for dinner at Unearth, hopeful that we’d see some sort of sunlight the next morning.

Sunny day, and everybody was back to business!

The next morning, we woke up to a hint of sunlight. However, it was still quite cloudy, just that it wasn’t raining anymore. So, in the couple of hours that we had before going to Ajmer, on our way back to Jaipur, we had to see the primary tourist attraction in Pushkar, the Brahma Temple, and some ghats. So, after a quick breakfast at Unearth, we went to the Brahma Temple, about 5 minutes away from the hostel. The Brahma Temple is a place people can go to, see around, and come out without having to worry too much about having to spend thousands of rupees. After a short trip to the temple, we also tried going to a couple of lake side ghats, to our dismay, considering we couldn’t see anything in the nearly submerged ghat.

The Brahma temple.
Stalls submerged at the ghats, Pushkar was not ready for the rain.

Ajmer was very similar to Pushkar, in the sense that there was a cloudy day, a somewhat o verflowing lake, and a religious establishment in both, with Ajmer having the Ajmer Sharif Dargah.

The one with 0 functioning legs decided to climb atop the bus!

The Dargah is one of the holiest places in Islam and is one of the most significant places of pilgrimage for people of all religions. However, beautiful as the Dargah may be, due to its religiousness, people are discouraged from going into the Dargah if they are only there for the tourism.

The main administrative building to Mayo College.

After our short trip to the dargah, we went over to Mango Masala, which is one of the two most famous restaurants in Ajmer, alongwith Honeydew. The two restaurants are so famous that Rohan had to take an order for Honeydew’s Butter Chicken back to Ahmedabad!

Mayo College, justifies its name as the Eton of the East.

Overfull for the umpteenth time, Rohan decided to take us to Mayo College, where he studied for two years. A sight of grandeur and an authority for education in India, Mayo College is widely known as the Eton of the East, and one can see why. Everything that can be wanted out of a school is available there, at the expense that they don’t allow students to go outside campus that freely. Once we were done with seeing the school, we had to go back to Jaipur for our bus back to Delhi.

Almost done with the trip, group photos were in order.

Back in Jaipur, we went to Aditi’s uncle’s house for some time, and went to Kanha, a famous local eatery for dinner. As we got onto the bus going to Delhi, we realised something. We had forgotten the umbrellas from Pushkar, the only things we had bought as memories from this trip in Aditi’s uncle’s car though!

The dog was enjoying the weather, and we couldn’t agree with it more!

The best time to visit Rajasthan would be between October and March, when the days are cooler, and the temperature doesn’t generally go above 30° C. And as we discovered this time around, Rajasthan gets a fair amount of rain in the monsoon, so it’s best you skip that time of the year too.

I’d like to thank Veda Singh, Manasa Ramakrishna, Aditi Ladha, Sukanya Joshi, and Nikhil Kumar Dutt for their help with the pictures of the trip!

Shayak Mitra is a law student at O.P. Jindal Global University in Haryana, and has been writing about his travels from 2016. Having recently experienced Rajasthan in the monsoon, he wrote about the experience on his own blog, This Beautiful World.