Amazing Race 14 recap 5: Jaipur, India brings some to tears

If you took two places and put them on a spectrum to show a contrast between opposites, you could do no better than Siberia, Russia and Jaipur, India. Icy, white snow switched for dry, yellowish dirt–frigid cold for scorching heat, and organized traffic patterns for chaos. This week’s Amazing Race 14 took teams from one end of this spectrum to another.

Because the teams were all on the same flight from New Delhi to Jaipur, the excitement didn’t start until it was taxi time. Ah yes. Getting from point A to point B in India is a challenge. Some taxis needed gas. Other drivers didn’t know where to go exactly; some taxi drivers walked off with bags still in the trunk; and the traffic, as typical, was horrendous.

Because I lived in India for two years, and went to Jaipur as part of a tour of Rajesthan, I was curious to see what would be highlighted. First off, it was clear once more that India is a country that would seem startling if one didn’t have much warning before ending up there. On little sleep, it can make a person weepy.

That’s sort of what happened to Luke and Cara as their taxis took them through Jaipur. Luke with his mom, and Cara with Jaime, cried buckets on their way to find Dhula Village and the sacred Peepli Ka Pedh tree, the site of the first clue.

Unfortunately, when one is only given a look outside a taxi window of what poverty in India looks like, it can be overwhelming. There’s no frame of reference. India is really a place to stay awhile, otherwise it can become a caricature in a way.

In this episode, one might think that Jaipur was merely a place of camels, men in turbans, cows that mill about garbage dumps, and women who wear clothing of the most brilliant colors. The city has a visually stunning quality and a fascinating history. It’s one of India’s cities of architectural gems that were mentioned by Phil’s narrative, but the cameras didn’t linger much.

In their disorientation of being in a new country without familiar focal points, it took the teams awhile to figure out that the red phone under the sacred tree held their next destination. An Indian voice told them to head to an Amber Fort parking lot to find the next clue. There they found a task of filling wooden trough with water and replenishing a pile of hay up to a certain height, an arduous task, mostly because of the heat. Mike felt bad that Mel, his dad was doing the task, but frankly, Mel smoked it.

One of the things I noticed while watching this section was the traditional rakes. We have one of those that we bought at the Pushkar Camel Fair. It’s one of my husband’s favorite items. Also, there was the typical camel attire of textiles embellished with intricate, colorful embroidery and mirrors. Any textiles from Rajasthan are wonderful. After two years in India, we bought our fair share.

While watching the teams swelter below the Amber Fort, I thought it was too bad that they didn’t have time to see the inside. The Amber Fort, built in 1592, is quite lovely on the inside and a testament to the opulence of the times. But no rest for the weary, not when a million dollars is at stake.

When the camels food and water stocks were sufficiently replenished, the teams were off to Johri Bazar to find a Rajasthani puppet store. These puppets make great gifts for kids. Every nephew and niece and kids of our friends have one of these as well.

At the puppet show, the teams could decide whether to dress up like a traditional Rajesthani dance troupe member to try to get 100 rupees out of passersby or to haul a cycle rickshaw loaded with barrels and hay from Sanganeri Gate to Zorawar Singh Gate, dump the load, and then search for a small silver elephant. Everyone, but brothers Mark & Mike, opted for the dance troupe task.

Before they could do the dance troupe, however, Christie and Jodi had to decorate an elephant with colored powder in a pattern typical for a festival.

The one hitch any team had with the dancing was Cara & Jaime. After they danced, they couldn’t find their taxi for 20 minutes. The driver was probably off drinking tea or something.

Taxi drivers in India are more than willing to wait since it means they can count on money, but no one likes to sit in a vehicle in the heat. They’ll go to the taxi stand where there’s shade to hang out while they wait.

Mark & Mike had a heck of a time finding the silver elephant which gave Christie & Jodi a fighting chance to not come in last after they completed their extra speed bump, a necessary task caused by their last place distinction in Siberia. Still, it wasn’t enough. Mark & Mike arrived at the Pit Stop at Jaigur Fort a couple of minutes before.

Victor & Tammy, who now are getting along swimmingly well, won this leg. For their efforts they were given two ocean kayaks. Great for them. (These are the two I like the least. They seem to really like themselves.) Of the others, I don’t really have a favorite team. They’re all likeable.

[Photos from the Amazing Race Web site]