Sleeper Train, Rat Worship, and Camel Rides

Trip Start May 18, 2008
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Trip End Jul 20, 2008


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Flag of India  , Rajasthan,
Friday, June 27, 2008

A few nights ago, we took an overnight train from Varanasi to Delhi in 3rd class sleeper with no AC. We were prepared for the worst, but found the car to be a little bit cleaner and cooler than we imagined.. until the car became fully loaded, and we didn't want to kick a family out of one of our seats. Sarah and I ended up sharing a bunk in the back of the car by the bathroom while Carrie layed across our bags towards the middle of the car to protect them.. The bunks are barely big enough for one person (about 5'9 long which gave me about an inch of head clearance, and 2.5' wide and tall). The middle bunk also does not have a window like the lower bunk or a fan like the upper, so it got pretty hot. Worse than the heat was the masala #1 and 2 smells coming from the hole-in-the-floor bathroom. Then we had fleas, moths, grasshoppers, and crickets to share the bunk with as they came in with people and flew in through the windows. After a short nap, I woke up with something slightly crunchy in my mouth (probably from the snack I shared with a local earlier on the train), but I joked (I think) that a bug made it into my mouth. The trip was 13 hours, but it went by suprisingly fast. We were stinkin' and stinkin' tired when we got off the train. The good news: we arrived uninjured, nothing stolen, and for only a few dollars.

We were lucky enough to have a local take us to New Delhi on the Metro, and we found a cheap hotel, "Hotel Shiva Delux", supposedly with A/C for 350rs. It was too good to be true, and the A/C turned out the least of our concern. There was no water or electricity for the first few hours, so we waited impatiently and still stinky from the train ride. Quick highlights on the Delux stay: a man came in and stacked two rickety stools on the bed to stand on and speed up the fan and fell, almost on top of Carrie; we nearly got bitten by crazy rabies-infected dogs in the alley in the middle of the night; the electricity went out and Carrie and Sarah thought they were going to die from the heat at about 3AM; some random hotel boy came into our room in the morning when we were in bed and pretended to check the cabinet for something; the doorknob broke and we got locked in, forcing me to break it.

The next day we were at the train station in Delhi looking into tickets for our proposed week-long trip into Rajasthan and ended up just hiring a driver to take us around in a sweet Indian ambassador car. Not so sweet is the driver we got. Jay seemed cool at first, doing a pretty good job reading the girls' palms, talking about how he learned palm reading and Ayurvedic medicine from a Sadhu at one of the Himalaya temples, and saying pretty much everything we asked for was in the trunk. He turned out to be a dishonest and horny old man, taking us to places where we would be overcharged and he would recieve commission, and begging Sarah and Jenny to sleep with him. "Please, just give me 10 minutes," and similar things, he said to the girls when my back was turned.

We left Delhi around 11 PM and drove all night to Bikaner. There was almost no traffic, so at about 3 AM, when the driver, Jay, seemed a bit tired, I took over at the wheel. I had been craving to drive through the desert for a while now, and I finally got my chance. At about 6AM, we pulled over at a small shop with cots out front and had a nap for a few hours. We got our first taste of the Rajasthan desert scenery in the daylight here. It was a strange place to stop, but at least our driver didn't just drive with his eyes closed. At Bikaner, we found a decent hotel for 350rs without A/C. We figured it would be cool in the desert at night, but somehow the bed radiated its own heat all night. Highlights at Bikaner: a rat kept us (Jenny) entertained (shrieking) at Amber restaurant; THE RAT TEMPLE, sand dune sunset. There is a temple outside of town where people worship rats. It is really a beautiful temple with marble floors, only there are thousands of rats (which might just be big mice) all over the place. Here, you are considered lucky if a rat crawls across your feet or if you spot an albino rat. Jenny didn't go, and Sarah and I were hesitant to enter a rat-infested temple barefoot (you always have to take your shoes off to enter Hindu temples). It was definately worth it. There can't be too many places on Earth as strange and unique as to have a marble temple for dirty, mangy, and smelly rodents. The temple was surrounded with food and milk dishes, and there were rats coming out of every hole, surrounding every doorway, lining the walls (dead and alive), scurrying in every direction (even above on a net). I could go on and on, but I'll be posting a video when I get a chance so you can see for yourself.

It was a 6.5 hour drive from Bikaner to Jaisalmer. I woke up from a short nap and looked over at our driver to find him asleep at the wheel. He is such a bad driver! I drove for the next two hours through the desert while Jay slept in the passenger seat and dreamt about driving. As he had the other night, he woke up startled and reaching in front of him for the wheel. I suspect that he has fallen asleep driving before and has nightmares about it. We stopped for lunch and met a Finish couple, and some Dutch girls we had run into at the hotel. The drivers were apparently all friends, and wanted to combine our groups. We got to a small village outside of Jaisalmer, called Khuri, to embark on the highlighting adventure of our trip: a desert camel safari. We rode to the sand dunes, played in the sand (ran, jumped, slid, raced, took photos of camels and Rajasthani people, got a ty-dye turban wrapped on my head by some locals, danced to some kids playing drums and wooden clapper things), returned to the "resort" for a good dinner, and went back out on a cart in the dark to set up camp a few bad jokes and Dutch songs away into the desert. They provided nice cots off of the ground though we would have been fine sleeping right in the soft sand (unless a snake got in our sleeping bag). The stars were the brightest I've seen in my life, and I saw at least 12 shooting stars. The milky way stretched all the way across the sky, and the moon didn't come out until about 2 am. With sore muscles, a few shots of vodka at dinner, the peace and quiet of the desert, and a few hits from the hooka, I slept deeply.
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Comments

sarahcarrie
sarahcarrie on

holy!
woah, i can't wait to see your footage. i'm going to send it to my friend who was hoping against hope that i'd go to this temple.

I can't believe Jay turned out to be so terrible! I mean, of course, I totally can, having been there for the discovery of the shisha and vodka. But that sleeping thing is really dangerous! I'm glad you're once again looking out for the group. How was driving? Did you do it at night without much traffic? Did you use the horn? A lot?

i wonder if this is how jana(? You know, mr. monobrow) get his sexytime with the ladies, and he coached jay. naiyees!

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