Our drive to Jaipur began by passing back through Karauli and along the same country road as we came in on. After a while we rejoin the main highway. It is a good highway, the only problem being the occasional slow moving truck. Here the trucks seem to stay in the fast lane and we have to go around them! After a couple of hours we stop at a hotel/restaurant for a drink break. As I’m drinking water I decide to explore the impressively large emporium of all things touristy, artefacts, books, jewellery, clothes etc. there are many eager employees willing to help. As the others finish their drinks they join me in the emporium. After half an hour we are back on the road. The journey is quite long but we finally reach the outskirts of Jaipur. It is a city of about four million, the same population as Melbourne roughly. It is noticeably cleaner than anywhere else we have been in India. It is a well designed city with an architect planned old city dating back several hundred years. The shops in the old part of uniform size and coloured amber brown. Back in the mid 1800s When Prince Albert visited it was painted pink but over time this has changed slightly to amber brown. We finally make our way through the usual hectic traffic to our hotel, the Mahal Khandela, yet again another oasis of calm with a lovely pool and a fountain in the entry area. We have a short briefing in a lounge, put in lunch orders and then go to our rooms. We have room 211. It is beautifully painted white and in the style of the palaces here is decorated with floral painted designs. We meet again in the lobby with a new local guide, Nagee, a tall, well dressed, charming man. Onto the bus and off we go, enter ing the old city after some time through one of old gates. We make our way to Jantar Mantar, an amazing observatory set up in the early 1700s by the maharajah, who was a keen scientist and mathematician. It has many large measuring devices, such as sundials, accurate still today. Next we walk to the City Palace, most of which is a museum nowadays. We start outside with an explanation and after a few phot stops head into a costume/ clothing museum. Next we explore the many courtyards. Finally we go into a sponsored artists workshop. We are given a demonstration of the fine painting style common here and some of our group make purchases. As we exit camels and elephants, all dressed up for important visitors, are waiting in the courtyard so we get a few snaps. Back onto the bus and we make our way to another maharajah palace which has been converted into a hotel and restaurant. We are having dinner here but the highlight is the Rajastani cultural performance. Music, dancing while balancing fire pots or water pots, fire eating, puppets etc we enjoy dinner of chicken curry, veggie cheese ball korma, rice and delicious cheese roti with an ice cold Kingfisher beer. A great night which ends with a brief tour of some of the city’s beautiful floodlit buildings. Back at the hotel we have success with the wifi and enjoy a drink with Helen and Andrew, the two poms, whose son has just announced his engagement in Thailand to an American girl. It has been a great day and we are keen to sleep when we reach our room after 11:00. Wednesday October 16th Up for a 7:00 buffet breakfast as we need to start early at 8:00. Our main destination for the morning will be the Amber Fort but along the way our guides, Shalindra and Nagee stop twice for a quick photo stop, once at the Palace of the Winds and the other time at a meeting point in the old city for dairy farmers to bring milk in large containers to sell to city dwellers and businesses. After that the bus driver made his way out of the city centre into the nearby hills where the Amber fort is found high up above a lake. As we approached traffic got heavier. We were told that we would be leaving the bus in the fort precinct and going up to the fort in jeeps. The other alternative which is slower is by elephant. We crammed into the jeeps in small groups and off we went. The streets in the town below the fort were narrow and every time vehicles came towards us we either slowed down or in some instances stopped. After a short time we were at the fort entry and our guides asked us to follow them. The path was wide but steep. After a few minutes we were in the first main courtyard. We were briefed by Nagee about the history of the fort then had time to take photos. After that we continued up to another courtyard. When we gathered again he told us more. We could see the elephants arriving up a separate path below us, all dressed up. We continued to the next courtyard area where the maharajah had conducted his business and legal system. Finally we came to the uppermost court area via a ramp inside a tunnel. This was the queen’s courtyard and quarters. We had time to take photos of the fort/palace complex as well as the nearby fortified walls and the town and lake below. After the tour finished we had to make our way down the steep outside path to the jeeps which took us back to the bus which was parked near to the lake. On our way back into the city we stopped for a photo opportunity at the fort in the middle of the lake. Now it was shopping time. First we went to a gem workshop and shop. Precious and semi precious stones are cut, polished and fashioned into jewellery of all kinds here. Some of the group made purchases here. Next we went to carpet and textile factory and warehouse shop. Carpets were displayed and techniques explained. For a price they could be bought and shipped back home. Next the fabric and clothing centre. Karen made a few purchases here. You could have clothes made to measure which Tina, from our group did. It was about 12:30 by their time so off to the other main attraction for the day – the cricket one day international game between India and Australia at the Jaipur stadium. The bus dropped off twelve of the group and our guide Salindra as near as possible to the correct gate. As we approach the entry gate we are searched to the highest level. Even our water is confiscated! No cameras either. We are taken to our seats, sadly not in the shade but in the second front row. Security is still high because our view is partly obscured by wire fences topped with barbed wire. Must be crazy fans here at times! The game starts pretty much to time at 1:30. Australia has won the toss and has elected to bat first. We take our padded, sheet covered seats. A young Aussie couple sit in front of us. there is probably only another half a dozen Aussie supporters in the crowd. However it isn’t long before Karen and Tina are seeking shade near the last entry gate. The heat is amazing! Just as well we have sunscreen and hats. The sweat really starts to pour. Must be high 30s with high humidity. Occasionally there is as light breeze. We are briefly saved by the arrival of our lunch boxes and cups to get filtered water from large containers. The lunch includes a sandwich, chips, mini muffin and biscuits.The cardboard becomes a lifesaver as we fashion sun visors and arm covers from them to keep the heat off. We continually fill our cups with the water. Australia starts well and is soon on top of their bowlers. The crowd is loud and appreciative. At one point Australia is over 180 with the loss of only one wicket. As the overs pass the score creeps up and by the end of the innings the score is 5 for 359. The Indians need 360 to win, which seems a big ask. In the break we are served our dinner packs. There is rice and four different veggie curries. By this time the sun is going down, the stadium lights are on and it is a balmy night. More Indian supporters have finished work and are filling the stands. At the start of the Indian innings their openers make it clear they are going to chase hard and by the tenth over they are about fifteen runs in front with no loss of wicket. It takes quite a while but we finally get a wicket. The Indians remain undeterred and bat brilliantly, especially Kholi who ends up making over a hundred off only 52 balls, an Indian record. The crowd near us are going wild. It is a great atmosphere. In the end the Indians make the score with several overs to spare. We are waved goodbye as we leave. The vast majority of the crowd is good natured in their banter. Outside the ground Salindra tries to secure auto rickshaw rides for us. Finally we get 2-3 vehicles and squeeze in. Our tuk tuk has six passengers, a driver and his mate, presumably the navigator. The ride is wild. The traffic is heavy and it is quite a way back to our hotel but we make it after about twenty minutes. We head straight to the shower to get rid of the sweat and grime. Then we join our group on the top floor terrace for a quick drink before bed. What a day! (Turns out we saw the second highest ever aggregate score by two teams in a one dayer!) Effort of the day: undoubtably V Kholi scoring a century in 52 balls.