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_Today we went to Amber Fort which is 12km north of Jaipur.  The weather in Jaipur is brisk -- dry and chilly when you are in the shade and very warm when you are in the sun.  This brisk morning we were on a bus heading to Amber Fort.  When we got there the first thing that caught my attention were around twenty monkeys grabbing food from each other, chasing each other around and jumping through crowds of pigeons causing them to scatter in a cloud.  When we got inside the gates to the Fort there was a long walkway over a moat that led to a huge stronghold overlooking the valley.  Following us were a whole bunch of vendors and hawkers who were yelling prices at us and telling us to buy their stuff.  Being seasoned travellers of India by now we knew to . . .

_keep our heads down and ignore them because this is the only way to communicate to them that we do not want their useless junk.  One of the vendors caught Mom off guard when he said "One doll for twenty" - this is a little under 50 cents - so when she agreed, she was cornered. She pulled out a twenty rupee bill, but the man shook his head and said "twenty dollars", and looked quite taken aback when my mom literally laughed in his face. I like my mom. They kept following us through the terraces, walls and gates up to the main citadel, where there were uniformed guards who put a stop to our harassment. 
     We didn't know that much about the castle so we agreed to pay for a registered tour guide with a uniform and name tag. - Thank you Teacher Ali]! - Anyway, when mom and dad were sorting that out, I got bored so I took a video of a mother monkey and her baby eating noodles out of a styrafoam bowl. I was recording at a safe distance, when the baby got curious and started moving toward me. The mother scooped him out of harm's way and jumped at the potential predator - me! She took a swipe at my leg and ran off. I screamed some words that I should not take note of here, because I have heard that monkeys carry potentially deadly diseases and I am skeptical of the quality of Indian hospitals. Luckily, I was wearing jeans and not shorts, so it didn't actually touch my skin. I still was trembling for like a minute after the scare because of the dose of adrenaline the whole thing had given me.

_We started our tour and our guide showed us the palace garden where the Maharajah would hold dances to celebrate victories.  He also showed us a room that was studded with thousands of tiny convex mirrors, so when they put down a rug the entire room turned the same colour as the rug.  Our guide also took us up to the roof where we could see the entire citadel.  He told us it was built by a Maharajah in the fifteen hundreds and took about one hundred and forty years to complete.  The existing fortified walls around the city were recently rebuilt and took three years to complete, they encircle the Fort and the neighbouring villages spanning twelve kilometers.  Looking at the walls I knew I wanted to climb and hike all the way around them and asked my family if they were up to it, Mom and Allegra said No Thanks and Dad said sure. 
    When the tour was over we went through a section of the fortified city where people had set up bazaars. Mom made us wait for a half hour while she was deciding whether to buy a tablecloth, what size the tablecloth should be, what patten, colour, et cetera. By the time she was done, it was just past two thirty, and I really wanted to go for the walk along the wall, so I was kind of mad that she held us up for that long. When we got to the main square, we bought some provisions - water, mango juice, and KitKats. We split up, Mom and Allegra headed for the bus, while the boys started their trek.

_ As we climbed up the huge stone steps -- some of them knee high -- I began to realize how little exercise I have done in the past month.  My breathing quickly turned heavy and then I reminded myself how strong my legs actually are, each step was lifting a hundred and forty pounds of weight up two vertical feet and there were a lot of steps!  We quickly got up the first incline and took pictures.  We kept walking, now more of a gradual slope, to the first watch tower.  We took more pictures!  The hill started to slope downwards which made the going a lot easier but the path was about four feet wide with a twenty foot drop, without a railing or any sort of barrier.  I was just thinking how great it is being up on the wall, with nobody trying to sell us stuff, when some kids flying kites try to sell them to us! How Ironic! We made our way down, the slope getting gradually steeper, when the wall stopped abruptly to make way for a road.  Of course the road was probably here before the wall was rebuild and we found some stairs leading off the wall and headed across the road.  There were not another set of stairs leading up the wall on the other side of the road so I hiked up ahead of Dad through some alleys and up the dry, scrubby hill until I found a spot where the wall was lowest, around eight feet high.  Hand holds were easy to find and I climbed right up and Dad said we should just turn back but I was determined and he climbed up without too much trouble as well and we kept going. We climbed up the steep, uneven steps for what seemed like a long time, though is was hard to judge. We passed the second tower, which looked and smelled like it had been used as public toilet by locals. We came to a second peak where the wall took an abrupt right angle turn, and we could see the whole entire wall, the wall that we already climbed and the wall the remained. 
Debbie Greene
1/31/2012 03:43:30 pm

What a hike! those steps must of been brutal Birch. The views looked stunning. Love Deb

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Margo
2/2/2012 02:28:12 am

I love that picture, Birch, and your writing goes along so well, I could really imagine what that sight must have been like when you turned that right corner. Thank you for writing such great descriptions! Keep up the great work! Auntie Marg

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Zia Angela
2/4/2012 12:52:12 pm

Birch you are ambitious! That looks like quite the hike. The view from the top is spectacular. You took some beautiful pictures. It was well worth it! Great to hear you are having a wonderful time. The monkey would have scared me too! Lots of hugs to you and Allegra, Mom and Dad
Love,
Zia Angela

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