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Sore Bums and Sandy Feet – Rajasthan Part II

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From Udaipur we took a train to Ajmer (which is apparently a Muslim pilgrimage spot on par with Mecca, which we were surprised to hear as we had never heard about this), from where we took a local bus to nearby Pushkar. We didn’t have much fun in Ajmer as Rach was feeling a little under-the-weather and Tess got grumpy with local men pushing in at the bus ticket stand (this happens quite often actually as many Indian men consider themselves more important than women and so they shove their way in front of you, Rachel is now on a one-woman mission to bash this behaviour out of them by giving a good telling off). The bus journey was also hot and uncomfortable as it was the usual cramming in of many more folks than you would ever think could fit into a bus, can’t complain for 10Rps though and fortunately it is only 25 mins to Pushkar.

At the Pushkar bus stand we were pounced on by loads of touts offering rooms and/or taxis. We batted them away and called Jeetu whose number we got from Manu in Udaipur. He came to pick us up and we went to look at his place. It was quite odd, with some rooms in a hotel building surrounded by safari tents in the grounds and frequented by yoga practising, weed smoking artist types. The safari tent felt exactly the right thing to be staying in for a place like Pushkar so we took one of those. Basic but ideal probably best describes it.

After a welcome chai, we wandered into town to see the lake. On the 15 minute walk we were accosted by 3 or 4 different blokes all wanting to give us petals that were supposedly meant to be thrown into the lake as a good luck ritual. We both took some, thinking ‘whatever’ but held onto them. As we approached the lake another guy ushered us towards one of the 52 ghats (ghats are steps along Indian rivers or any waterways where anything from religious rituals, bathing, clothes washing, gossiping…take place). As we approached the ghat we were both jumped on by two guys claiming to be Brahmin priests. One led R to one side of the small petal throwing area and the other led T to the other side. They then started to give us odd ‘blessings’ where we were made to repeat several Indian gods, hold a coconut(!) and eventually throw in the petals. By this point we both knew that a monetary donation would no doubt be asked for but we let it happen as it was quite an amusing experience. Sure enough, rupees were demanded rather than asked for! I told my ‘priest’ that 50 rupees is all he’s having! They were both quite pushy and we then realised that the whole thing was probably a scam. We later learned that many unsuspecting tourists are scammed this way and many are robbed of way more than just 50 rupees, usually foreign currency such as dollars or sterling is asked for. A nice Aussie couple we met at later on were duped out of 1500 rupees and the guys even made them go to the cashpoint saying that if they didn’t then their families would be cursed! Now luckily we were having none of it and 50 rupees is all they got, the scoundrels. So, if you are going to Pushkar, beware of this!

Pushkar itself is a very strange place. A small rectangular lake surrounded by over 400 (apparently) temples and mosques and a mixture of pilgrims, young backpackers, artists and old hippies milling about together. The sounds of Pushkar are also fascinating-constant drumming, chanting, rave music and calls to prayer all jumbled up into this cacophony of sound which goes on for 20 hours a day (a mini break occurs from about 1-4am!)

We spent the days sampling yummy food, visiting temples and hiking up two ‘mountains’ for great views of the town and chatting to a couple of artists, an older guy from Croatia and a young Greek lady, as they painted the canvas wall of the restaurant tent at our place. It was very chilled out and we enjoyed it a lot.

After Pushkar it was on to Jodhpur, the blue city (as many houses are painted blue, apparently as an insect repellent). Here we stayed in the guest house run by Bablu, the cousin (we think) of Jeetu who we had stayed with in Pushkar, he was a good guy and was most helpful in sorting a new SIM for us as the one we had spent 3 days getting in Jaipur had been blocked, so we are now on Indian SIM number 3, let’s see if this lasts until we leave India! Jodhpur’s fort was excellent, our favourite of all the forts we have visited recently (which is many), with great views over the blue city. We had a very special perspective on the fort and around via the FlyingFox zip-line adventure course, the usual scaredy-Tess once again was very brave in doing this! Other than the fort and admiring the blue-ness, there is not much to keep you in Jodhpur so after just two nights and one full day we were on our way to the very desert town of Jaisalmer.

As the train approached Jaisalmer we knew we were really in the desert now, the landscape was like nothing we’ve seen before; it was also notably hotter. Continuing the chain, we were met at the station by Sawai, friends with Manu and business partner of Jeetu, since they had all been good guys we decided to stick with the recommended contacts. His hotel was built into the fort wall itself, looking out towards the desert, so we really felt like we were at the heart of Jaisalmer. Whilst there we read that tourism within the walls of the fort was compromising the foundations of the walls due to the water-use, so we might have stayed outside had we known. Tess took this as an excuse not to shower most of the time we were there…

The must-do activity here is a camel trek through the sand-dunes, so off we went for 3 whole days on camel-back! The camels were much nicer than we had expected, especially Marco who Tess was riding for a time, he was quite a character. Rach rode Pepsi who was gentle and docile but had a dirty face. With us were 3 blokes each traveling alone, we had much of NW Europe represented with one French, one Dutch and one German.

The trek started comfortably enough – after about 2 hours riding it was time for lunch under a big tree (shade is very much needed between 12 and 3pm). The wood to make a fire was collected from dry bushes and small trees and a delicious desert meal of veg curry with chapatis was rustled up by the camel boys. After a small siesta and getting to know our fellow travelers, it was back on board our camels and further into the desert, passing through two very typical desert villages. Small children would immediately surround all of us demanding chocolate, pens and rupees, which at first was amusing and then got a bit annoying! Just before sunset it was time to find camp for the night. We stopped at some amazing sand dunes and watched as the sun set behind them. Then it was time for dinner and a beer and some singing around the campfire. Al fresco bedtime after that was a very special experience. Blankets (which had formed the cushioning on the camel!) were laid out in the dunes and two duvets each were provided to keep us warm and cosy under the stars. As night fell it was great seeing the moon and stars moving across the sky and just listening to pure silence. Don’t think either of us had slept so well since the beginning of the trip!

Morning started with chai and a toast (made over a fire, of course)/jam /fruit/biscuit breakfast. Being back on the camels didn’t seem as comfortable as the day before. Thigh and bum muscles were starting to ache as it turned out that camels are not the most comfortable creatures. When they walk, they sway you back and forth as well as slightly sideways and the sitting position definitely makes you glad to get off of a while!

After lunch we had to say bye to two of our party – Leon and Erhard. Both guys had been really good company, Leon with his chit chat and Erhard with his German singing (plus the Beatles)! So the two of us plus the lovely dreadlocked Frenchman Arno trotted on further to our second night under the stars in the dunes. Again, it was a brill experience sleeping outside and we all woke up at sunrise refreshed, then enjoyed a breakfast of fruit and millet porridge. I don’t think any of us were looking forward to more camel riding as bums were definitely becoming sore! But off we trotted and we even did some camel running, which really made sore bums even sorer!

One final morning of trotting and a final lunch in yet more dunes, we were really ready to get off the camels by then and fortunately not too much later when we got down and were collected by jeep to take us back the 30km to Jaisalmer. We returned to Hotel Desert for a further two nights and spent the days mostly wandering the narrow streets of the fort and eating any food that was not veg curries and chappatis, which we had a little tired of after twice a day on safari. We met up with Arno to go out for lassis and another day bumped into Erhard who walked with us to see the lake (yes, a lake in the desert!).

After a few relaxing days in Jaisalmer we had an 18Hr overnight train to Delhi, which we were sure would be quite a contrast!

Posted by TessAndRach 08:17 Archived in India Tagged desert travel backpack safari camel rajasthan pushkar

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