In the Desert- Rajhastan (from diary)
I met two people from Gapyear.com in Udaipur- Tina only stayed for two days and then had to get going up North, so James and I continued West into the desert. I wasn’t keen on Udaipur, I thought it was touristy and quite dull- it’s not the actual tourists that bother me, I’m probably one of the biggest tourists out there (I even bought one of those sunhats), it’s just that the place felt false- everything was geared towards foreigners, the people in the shops were the most persistent I’ve ever come across, they all sold the same things, and the buildings were all nice but I just didn’t feel like I was in India.
Apart from the cows, of course. There are cows just everywhere, but it’s particularly strange here to see them all just lying about in the streets and in the middle of roads. We were having coffee in one of the thousands of western cafes, and this massive white cow just sauntered in, pushing the door open with it’s horns. It got half way in before the waiter realised and tried to shoo it out, but he was reluctant to push it so he gave it some food instead.. It stood and ate it, really slowly, then gave him a really dirty look, and just swaggered off down the street. They have a serious attitude problem, the lot of them.
Another thing I saw in Udaipur that reminded me I was in India was a couple of massive great elephants just stood on the side of the street- there was a little man running about trying to get tourists to go for a ride, so it wasn’t completely authentic… but it’s not often you come across two elephants in the street.
Although, a few weeks ago when I was in Delhi coming from the bus station back into the city, we were on this freeway type thing- a wide road were all the rickshaws, cycle-rickshaws, cars, bikes, taxis etc just speed about wherever they want- and then out of nowhere this elephant came plodding along and no one batted an eyelid. Just a normal man, riding his normal elephant into town. Business as usual. I love Delhi, stuff like that happens all the time. I’ve seen a camel wandering around on the roads as well. There is a darker side of course- like early in the morning all the drug addicts are still sprawled out all over the place completely comatosed, some of them look like they might actually be dead. And the other day when I was back there I swear I saw a guy doing crack on the side of the road, in broad daylight.
Anyway, so after Udaipur we took a night bus to Jodhpur- we thought we’d done pretty well for ourselves as we had a sleeper, with our own little private bunk and window. It turned out to be an unpleasant trip though because it only stopped for the toilet once, and James’ glasses fell out of the window, and somebody robbed my shoes. Yes, that’s right, somebody has actually /stolen/ my shoes. I took them off before I got onto my bunk, and when I got off they had vanished. And I looked properly too, because I loved those shoes. The joke’s really on the theif though, because they were a mess- they were covered in concrete and had holes in the sides. Still though, they were MY shoes.
So we got to Jodhpur and it was such a relief, hardly any hassle and everyone was dead friendly and I felt like I was back in India again as all the bazaars (markets) were really authentic and they had people making pots and things on the side of the street. We stayed there one night, because other than the (albeit impressive) fort there isn’t much else to do there, so we moved on to Jaisalmer. We took a public bus, my second… but this one was much better than the hellish 23 hour bus I took from Kanda, mostly becasue it was only 6 hours and I didn’t have to sleep on it. I could just look out the window at the desert scenery.
When we got to Jaisalmer it was night time and we were mobbed by touts (they are the bane of Indian transport) who we actually had to physically push away before we could actually find someone to take us to our hotel. But Jaisalmer turned out to be nice as well, though a little more taxing than Jodhpur with the hassle. And also because of something which has quickly become the thing I hate most about this country, the goddamn motorcycles. The streets are just /too/ narrow, and there are too many cows and people and fruit carts, (and there are NO pavements ANYWHERE) for motorcycles to be acceptable.
The other thing was the heat and humidity, I was so unbelieveably hot it was difficult to just move around and do things- I sweat so much on the next bus we took I felt like I’d actually changed shape when we got off. This one was just an hour or two to a little village called Khuri, where we stayed in a guest house (slash fancy mudhut) and then did a camel safari the next day. It was pretty cool, it was just us and the two guides and the two camels, and we stopped off at an even smaller village (it was like Russian Dolls) which was literally just mudhuts and camels and the odd local. We stopped to buy some ‘Desert Wine’ from the locals, which tasted suspiciously like spicy vodka and came in a dusty old plastic bottle… it was actually alright though, apparently you eat it with raw onion, but I think the guides were just seeing how far they could push us..
The trek was good, we saw desert mice and lizards and deer etc, but we had to stop for about 4 hours in the middle of the day and sit in the shade, as it was just too hot to be out riding. Then we camped under the stars. Well, technially we camped under the stars… we couldn’t actually see them through the coud, but it was fun anyway. Unfortunately we had set up camp exactly on top of a thriving community of dung beatles which kept popping up out of their holes and creeping under my blanket. I was quite smelly-they were probably trying to roll me back to their nests. I counted 20 of them the next morning, all scurrying about in the sand looking for dung presumably. Twenty!!
The bus back from Khuri was eventful… there was no room for us /inside/ of the bus so we were ushered onto the roof with about 40 be-turbaned men (I counted these as well) and had to sit in the middle with our knees poking into peoples’ backs. For some reason one of the locals took it upon himself to be my protector, and kept shouting at people who got on at the next stop for standing on me and grabbing my head to balance themselves. Then he made everyone move up so I could sit on the side and dangle my feet off the edge which was awesome. He took my bag off me and everything (don’t worry, he wasn’t going anywhere with it) so that I had more room. Nice chap.
Anyway, we got back to Jaisalmer and had to stay in this hotel where the manager was a grumpy old moustacheoed man who kept shouting at us for leaving lights on and accusing us of letting too much water get away when we used the showers, and told us he shut the doors at 11pm so we’d better not be back late. Which was funny because it was actually called Hotel Swastika. Apparently the Swastika is a symbol for good luck in Jainism Buddhism and Hinduism. Fun fact.