Crews enjoyed a relaxed morning in the Rambagh Palace with a leisurely breakfast in the gardens where peacocks roamed freely – a little too freely for Alison Martin who was about to enjoy her croissant only to have it pinched by a hungry bird.
As with the previous day, some crews decided to head out to see more of the sights of Jaipur and in particular the Amer Fort.
Located high on a hill, Amer Fort is known for its artistic style elements. With its large ramparts and series of gates and cobbled paths, the fort overlooks Maota Lake, which is the main source of water for the Amer Palace, which the fort is also known as. Mughal architecture greatly influenced the architectural style of several buildings of the fort. Constructed of red sandstone and marble, the attractive, opulent palace is laid out on four levels, each with a courtyard.
Sight seeing turning into shopping and soon it was lunch which meant time to depart for our short journey to Samode.
The route out of the inner city was pretty straight forward despite the amount of construction with a new flyover and metro lines currently being installed. However, the highway was rammed with people celebrating a Hindu festival to celebrate the start of the birthday season of Lord Krishna. Brightly coloured marquees lined up for some 10kms, with loud music and dancing, as lots of food and drink were enjoyed and even motorists passing by were offered brightly coloured drinks and fruit. It was one hell of a party and everyone was invited.
When we’d finally cleared the traffic, we headed to the north-west of Jaipur to Samode, which according to the Rajputana Gazetteer of 1879 was a large and flourishing town. Nestled into the side of a mountain, The Samode Palace came into view like a mirage rising above the cobbled streets and stone houses of the village of Samode.
Into the courtyard, and the Prince of Samode’s own car collection greeted the crews with vintage Chevrolets, Fords and Mercedes to name a few.
We weren’t here for the cars though. Tonight was a very special ‘Durbar’ evening. The Durbar was the room where kings or rulers of the noble court held all discussions regarding the state and would be where our final banquet of the night would be held.
But there was plenty to come before that. Dressed in fabulous Indian outfits they had purchased along the way, the crews looked magnificent. The gentleman had turbans tied in the courtyard as the ladies complimented each other and a photo shoot naturally occurred.
Then we all were put into Jeeps that took us away from the palace and to the outskirts of the village. A marching band awaited us along with camel karts, each with a brightly coloured canopy over the top.
Once crews were installed and accompanied by torch bearers, the camel karts followed the band, making quite the procession through the village with locals of all ages waving and smiling as we went past.
Arriving back at the palace, we were greeted by fireworks, which included the rally name in lights, before the palace was illuminated to show off its all splendour.
Climbing the stairway on the red carpet with rose petals thrown into the air and a beautifully fragranced garland placed around each neck, it was then into the Durbar suite where champagne and canapés awaited.
The Durbar Suite is a fantastic mix of colours and authentic walling, some that we had seen in the more opulent palaces over the past couple of weeks. The crews were taken aback by the striking rooms as they made their way down into the Durbar Hall itself.
But there were more surprises to come. Opening the doors onto the terrace, the Maharajah Marathon rally plate had been recreated in different coloured rice, with a local having spent all day creating it for us. Many pictures followed before we moved to an intimate seating area where local musicians and dancers performed before getting many of our rally goers up to dance and join in the fun.
Finally it was back into the Durbar Hall for a sumptuous dinner and as it finished, each guest was given a piece of local pottery as a souvenir.
A night none of us will forget in a hurry…