Our group has been gutted by the terrible news of the Christchurch massacre. Of our seventeen members, three are New Zealanders, the remaining 14 being roughly half and half Australian and British. The Antipodeans are united in their disbelief, and we are all shocked to the core - this sort of thing has no place in NZ. Half the world's maps don't even feature New Zealand on them, so how did this bastard find us, and how was he able to purchase a semi-automatic?
It was a five hour drive to Jodphur on good roads that ran straight and true through the desert. Scrubby trees eek out a living on the dry soil. They must get barely enough rain each year, but somehow they survive.
As we neared Jodphur the land changed, becoming rocky and hilly. My NZ heart rejoiced to see the hills. Since we arrived in Delhi we've been travelling over vast plains - most of them fertile - that spread for miles in every direction with barely a hillock in sight.
We had a brief walk around the Jaswant Thada. It's pretty, like a mini Taj Mahal, being built as a memorial to her dead husband by the widown of Jaswant Singh II.
The massive Mehrangarh fort is built on a rocky hill that rises, a bit like Edinborough castle, above the town below. In spite of numerous battles and sieges the fort has never fallen, and looking at the ramparts, it's clear to see why. To ensure the fort was propsperous and pleased the gods, a man was sacrificed and placed alive and walled up in the foundations for it's success. He volunteered for this, and a plaque on the wall records this sacrifice. His family was of course looked after from then on. He may have thought it worth the price, but it would be a bitter way to die.
The path that leads into the fort passes massive gates, then a second pair of gates 100 metres further on. The third set of gates are set around a corner so that war elephants couldn't build up speed to smash into them - also, fearsome rows of spikes are set at head height to deter the animals.
The palace inside the fort is beautiful. There were ornately decorated meeting rooms around every corner - and this place is a maze. Still owned by the princely family, a trust maintains the property. The tourist trail through this warren has been well organised. We were provided with a headset and player, and were able to wander from post to post over the fort, receiving clear information at every point.
There were tremendous collections on display - palanquin and howdahs; swords and armour; clothes and textiles.
As we descended from the fort we passed the sad red imprints of women's hands beside the gate - the place where the wives of the Maharajah stopped to print their hands before going out to die on his funeral pyre.
Scrub and low hills on the way to Jodphur
First sight of the impressive Mehrangar Fort, Jodphur
Jaswant Thada. A royal cenotaph built for Jaswant Singh II by his widow
Inside the Mehrangar Fort
The Brahmin blue town
Inside the Mehrangarh Fort
The history of opium use
Magnificent mirror room
Other perspective on the mirror room
Inside the palace
Beautiful decorations in the rooms
Weapons of war
The courtyard where women used to sit
Formal room for Durbar
Hand prints of women going out to commit suttee
Statue of Jaswant Singh