Pushkar Camel fair and Jaisalmer
Trip Start Oct 01, 2006
20Trip End Jan 26, 2007
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We had a pretty interesting 30 hours of traveling on the train from the Himalayas via the Punjab to Rajasthan. This journey - the only train we could get on to, entailed jousting with the average Indian (and their entire extended family it seemed!) just for a place on the bed / seat we had booked! We also spent what seemed like the whole 30 hours being stared at by half of India!
After this my dear wife and I arrived at the extreemly Hindu holy oasis town of Pushkar in much need of some R&R and luxuary. We fortunately found this at Camp Thar. It was from this haven we ventured out each morning and evening (often staying out in between) to explore the bright allure of turban clad tribesmen negotiating camel and horse prices while sitting in circles smoking a hubbly bubbly. The term "Ye merre putne he!" ("This is my wife") was one I used on more than one occasion to ward off enquiring tribesmen who showed an over zelous interest in my beautiful wife!
What an adventure to see this festival before the real masses of razzlers arrived to spoil it. The 4 days we were in Pushkar were reported to be the best time to be there as the majority of the actual dealings went on then, and the masses of spectators and pilgrims were yet to appear.
Apart from the animal trading, we had holy family ancestor blessings performed at the "Holy Lake"(which costs a cosy sum too, so our ancestors had better be looking out for us!) and Sarah managed to sneak in a little shopping. We also saw a 5 limbed cow....a very HOLY COW we were told!
We had the most amazing first anniversary on the 29th. We arranged a sunset camel ride which was beautiful. Much to our surprise the camp made a massive effort for us and upgraded our accomodation, and gave us a special candle-lit dinner (with real Indian [birthday] cake, crackers and a squeeky tribal desert mandolin man to serrenade us). Such a special treat and so unexpected.
The sleeper train from here to the Gold city of Jaisalmer was a great deal better as we managed to book on a higher class of carriage which was also air condition-what a gift!
We arrived just before sunrise to be met by a man who offered to take us to our Haveli (hotel) which in true Indian fashion we were not told about. Hence we were so surprised to see our names on a board - initially we thought this was some con!. Fortunately it wasn't and our havli was a real find. It was inside the old walled fort looking over the city.
The man who ran the place, Mukesh, is from the Rajput caste which is the only caste besides the Brahmin caste who can live inside the fort. He took a liking to us - it must have been Grant's friendly 'charm' and invited us to his house for a real Indian meal. We obviously obliged and ended up having a rather marvelous experience meeting his wife, children, mother and extended family while being offered Indian whiskey and being shown one photo album after the next. The food was delicious, a little too hot for Sarah's palate but a truely authentic experience.
The fort itself is a mass of little streets with endless shops mainly for tourists. Alas this meant wherever you turned there was someone trying to sell you something. After a few days this become rather tedious so you begin to just ignore these vendors or use the useful Hindi word Challo which means GO!
We did a half day trip into the desert first in a jeep and then on camels to go into the dunes to watch the sunset. We went to a number of rural villages along the way including a moving gipsey incampment which was a bit of a scary experience at first with all the children and women pulling at us wanting money and sweets.
Going on camels up on the remote dunes to see the sunset felt like going back in time and being part of Laurence of Arabia's entourage except that we were not clad in the finest silks and jewels.
In all the Gold city of Rajasthan was incredibly and a must see. Next stop Jodhpur, the blue City of Rajasthan.