Most Inspirational Moment
At Bundi we stayed in the king's heritage hotel, which was round a courtyard with the royal family occupying one wing. The king (Maharao Raja Vanshvardhan Singh, and later his wife came and chatted too) came and talked to us before a lovely meal in his hotel restaurant. He was a charming young man, and spoke about his plans to renovate the huge palace halfway up the steep hill side and how as he ran farms himself that he acted as spokesperson for the farmers to his political contacts. He was very keen on promoting tourism to get money into the area to improve the infrastructure for the local people. The next day the king's assistant took us on a tour of the old palace (some has been renovated enough to visit), including accessing rooms usually closed to the public containing marvellous paintings.
Thoughts on Group Leader
Our group leader, Raj Sharma, was fantastic. He was an expert in India's history and knew a lot about all the places we visited, the land we travelled through, and the peoples who lived there. He had excellent suggestions for places to eat, and what food to try. He liaised with hotels over any issues (nothing major). For example, in one of the first hotels the hot water supply was not sufficient - Raj then ensured he phoned the hotels in advance for them to check the supply in the rooms we were to occupy. Raj thoroughly enjoyed being back tour leading following the Covid break, and his desire to show us Rajasthan (warts and all at times) was evident. Raj was approachable, diplomatic, sensitive, amusing, and could "read the room" and make tweaks to the itinerary to suit our needs.
Advice for Potential Travellers
Advice : Mini-bus: There is a lot of time spent travelling in the mini-bus between sightseeing stops. Raj ensured the bus stopped every few hours, for a coffee, lunch or tea break plus use of washrooms. The locations for breaks were well chosen. Despite the totally mad (to us) traffic (it is the norm to drive the wrong way along a carriageway) we never felt unsafe on the bus - our driver was superb. Fitness: Although there are no really long hikes, there is a lot of up and down steps at times. This can seem like hard work, especially in the sun (it does get hot particularly when walking across stone floors). Money: We found some ATMs (including the airport one) refused to cooperate with our cards - Raj was very helpful getting the bus to stop at alternatives. Those who brought sterling or US dollars found it easier changing their money - there are a lot of money changing places. Hotels: We found the beds reasonably comfortable, clean sheets. Bathrooms varied from very good to ok and in one we couldn't get hot water. Not the end of the world. Several hotels had nice swimming pools - worth packing a swimming costume. Where there are two night stays it is possible to get clothing laundered (we paid about £10 for six days worth of shirts, a dress and underwear for two of us. Socks were quite pricey so we washed then in the sink!) Food: Breakfast at the hotels usually included a boiled egg or omelette, and toast, alongside a variety of rice and other more local breakfast type items. Coffee generally was instant. Eating lunch or dinner we found (with Raj's help) some really good restaurants and meals. Portions were generous, and we usually could share one rice between three people, especially if having naan as well. At lunchtime don't be worried about asking to share one meal between two if you don't feel that hungry. Per person, lunch was about R500, and dinner R750 plus beers (other beverages are available, apparently!) at about R350 (Autumn 2022 prices). Of course these vary between establishments. Sim Card: I bought an airtel SIM card at the airport (about £6) which gave pretty much unlimited calls/texts and 1GB data per day, for a month. After phoning to register it, it started working within an hour. It could have been useful in case we needed to contact Raj, but in fact I only used it for browsing the internet while on the bus! Toilets: At every stop western style toilets were available and were acceptably clean (there was a variation in this). Even when walking through a market there was a toilet block which had western style facilities and was reasonably clean (there was a small fee). You may need your own loo roll, and sometimes a small denomination note for the attendant handing out paper towels. Begging: We encountered relatively few beggars, and none were aggressive or pushy. There are a lot of sellers of (eg) fridge magnets and trinkets - some of these would make quite good small gifts. It is obvious there is poverty, and we felt a donation to a charity working to improve water supply and sanitation would be an appropriate response. (Incidently I was impressed by the number of "improved water" pumps everywhere including the countryside).