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  • Writer's pictureNatalie Dimmock

Pink tuktuks, elephants and samosas

On Wednesday 11th January, we flew from Mumbai to Jaipur at 11.20am (flight cost 10,806 Rs, £107), we picked up an Uber from the airport (598 Rs, £6) and checked into Doongri House Hotel (3,256 Rs, £33 for two nights).

After a little bit of shopping for Tiger's fresh milk and essentials, which was easily found in the market in the standard 'milk in a bag' option (!), we headed out to Mangal Vihar Gopalpura Bypass Road about 3 miles away for a samosa cookery class booked via Airbnb experiences. We tried Uber to get there, but when that wasn't forthcoming, we jumped in an auto rickshaw instead.

To make it more exciting we had actually hooked up with Laura Rana and her twin daughters Opi and Mahi. Laura and I hadn't actually met before in person, but we found we were both in Jaipur at the same time, so it was fun to meet her finally and quite hilarious to be attempting a cookery class with three three year olds - total chaos! The cookery class was lots of fun though, and hosted by Harshita. It was a great way to integrate with a local family and cost £22.27 for one adult and one child.

The following day, Thursday 12th January, was an amazing, but a tad expensive, day worth every penny. I had really wanted Tiger to see some elephants in India and found Elefantastic, which comes highly recommended on Tripadvisor so booked in with them and also booked a day tour of Jaipur. I paid 10,000 Rs for the visit to the elephant sanctuary plus 4,000 Rs for one day car hire and 2,000 Rs for a guide, totalling 16,200 Rs or £161. This is probably the most money I have ever spent in one day in India but it was out of this world.

We started with the guided tour to Jaipur City Palace, Nahargarth Fort, the Jantar Mantar observatory - a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and to the Amber Fort in Amer, where we first saw elephants. Here, there are elephant rides up to the fort but whilst we admired them from the balcony of the fort, we saved ourselves for the elephant sanctuary.

We arrived at the elephants around 4pm. They are located in a rural village, and the whole 'experience' is honed to perfection. If you are looking for a very authentic and 'at one with nature' experience, this ticks all the boxes. I fervently hope that this is something Tiger will remember for the rest of her life. We spent a completely unrushed time feeding our elephant who was called Shakur, with Tiger sat on a little stool with the Mahout (elephant keeper), passing the elephant bamboo and sugar cane.

We then took Shakur for a walk and run around in the village with one other elephant and two French tourists. I noticed the Mahouts being very attentive that Tiger did not get stepped on and it was an amazing time, especially when they went for a run!

When we returned, we painted Shukur with organic stone colours - definitely a highlight for Tiger. And then gave the Shukur a good bath afterwards to clean her up.

Our final destination before we got back to the Doongri Guest House was to stop for a delicious evening meal with the Elefantastic owners.

The next day, Friday 13th January, we had an early start with a 'Wake up with Jaipur' tuktuk tour with Pink City Rickshaw Company. This is a company run entirely by women, with all the rickshaws being driven by women. It aims to provide a new aspirational employment opportunity to 200 women from low income households in Jaipur. It really is still quite an odd thing to see as 99% of rickshaws are driven by men. We started the day bright and early at the flower market and saw the morning aarti (prayer chanting) at the Govind Devji Temple at the City Palace. Our tour was 2000 Rs, £20.

The absolute highlight though was Tiger going on a 'unicorn with a broken horn' aka horse. She was walked off into the distance, being lead, on the road so far I could hardly see her and came back with an enormous smile on her face. I think we paid 200 Rs (£2) for the privilege!

Back at base at the hotel, Tiger enjoyed learning to fly a kite on the hotel roof while I packed our bags, before we jumped on the 14.20 flight to Delhi (5,580 Rs, £55) with Indigo. I really should give a shout out to the hotel at this juncture. The guest house was really wonderful, very well priced and the team were so kind and helpful.

We landed back in Delhi for 15.25, and headed back to the Hotel Natraj Yes Please (1,961 Rs, £19.50) for the night before the taxi to Delhi airport at an 11.30am departure to London Heathrow, landing at 16.00. Although it was a Saturday night, we were both so exhausted I think we were in bed in the Heathrow Premier Inn and asleep for 19.00 UK time (half past midnight in Delhi!). The next day we awoke considerably refreshed for our final flight from Heathrow to Manchester, then the train back to Windermere. Thank you to incredible India. We will be back soon!

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