Saturday, March 12, 2011

Jodhpur and Jaisalmer

Here in Bikaner.

So, somewhere awhile back I said that pol meant neighbourhood but realized the next day that pol means 'gate'  (but i'm sure that's what she said).  Just a reminder to everyone that I'm typing all this stuff from my best recollection (which we all know sucks at the best of times) so just wanted to say that please don't take everything I say as verbatim - there's always the internet to check . . . . . except the people stories, they are true. And of course, have left out a million details - will need something to bore you with when i'm back.

Jodhpur was a nice place, I loved the fort but otherwise, not that much to do.  Stayed with a Jain family in their home which was ok, I felt a bit weird walking through their living room and kitchen to get to my room, but they were very nice - they had just opened for business two months ago so were almost too anxious to please.  When I couldn't find anyone else to share a guide to the local villages (which meant paying twice as much) they said they'd never been on the tour and would come with me to share the cost; and when they showed me the rooms, they were a little pricy, so they told me to name my price which was nice.  When I was leaving, the guy took me to the bus stop on his motorcyle - my napsack on the gas tank and my suitcase between us - still much less than I've seen others with - and the streets are so narrow that there's no cars and you can't go very fast (cows and now pigs too).

On the bus, it was very full, I ended up sharing my seat with a woman and three little kids (the forth had to stand) which I didn't mind.  Then one of them vomited.  Not sure which one, I handed over my toilet paper to the mother- she looked at it as if she didn't know what it was, but got them all cleaned up as best she could, and used newspaper for the floor. I escaped relatively unsplashed and just kept my face out the window, but then the mother is motioning  for me to open the window more, I thought to throw the garbage out, nope, she's passing me a kid to hang out the window.  Fortunately, she wasn't sick again (the bus was going so fast, it would have come back in on us, so I was very relieved) and she went back to her mother.  She was probably 5 or 6 but the size of a very skinny 4 year old. After the second time out the window, she stayed on my lap which was fine and was soon asleep.  I had noticed earlier that she didn't have underwear on so was really hoping for no more surprises.  Then her little brother fell asleep on my arm so all was quiet.  Mother was feeding the baby. By the end of the trip (only another half hour), I won't say we were covered in flies, but lets just say there were a few.

I was in Jaisalmer for 4.5 days and now wish I had stayed just another day or two.  My favourite place so far, quiet, very few cars by the fort; really nice hotel owner; wonderful windowseat/sofas built into the rooftop restaurant. Really loving Rajasthan - took me 7 weeks in the south to fill my camera's memory card, took 2 weeks up here. Camels pulling the carts and on the road are the norm here.

The camel safari was great - just me and a young, chatty Brazlian guy Daniel and the two camel drivers. Daniel was our team photographer - he even brought his tripod along.  The two camel drivers have lived in the desert all their lives, no school, have been to Jaisalmer only a few times "the desert is the best".  While we were not in the middle of nowhere all the time - could see power lines and windmills off in the distance sometimes - we got a feel for what it wold be like.  It was warm but there was a breeze so at no time did I think 'can't take much more of this'.  The desert is mostly scrub and small trees with a few small sand dunes.  The stars at night were amazing, 5 shooting stars spotted altogether although they're so fast, i only saw two.  We had 3 more people join us at the dunes in the evening.

My camel was kind of slow, but much easier to ride and direct than a horse.  They always had to make a sound to get him to move a little faster. Late in the afternoon he started trotting all on his own, i thought, finally, some energy!  He had spotted some females off in distant, they told me to rein him in and that worked for about two minutes then he was off again.  The drivers took the reins as we entered an area with at least two dozen females.  My camel was a good boy and behaved well (on a foot of rope he had no choice).  Next morning, he had energy again, and not because of a good nights sleep - had to be a little more forceful but he behaved himself.

Have met lots of interesting people but again, not enough time to write about all of them.  Met a man from Dublin who retired to India 10 years ago (looked like an old rock star).  He said he tries not to pay more than 200-300 per night and has wandered all over india, leaving every 6 months to renew his visa.

From Bikaner my route will most likely be Jaipur, Agra, Kujaraho (sp?), Varanasi and Delhi.  I've changed my flight to leave on April 8 because I want two weeks to switch back to reality (Canadian time), get off caffeine and back to the gym, find a place to live, etc.   I love India , could definitely live here and am still having a great time and still have a whole month of places to see.

Love you Bubba XXXOOO

Jodhpur from the fort
Mehrangarh fort built in 1806 (i think India's youngest fort)
Village outside Jodhpur - potter is using a 100 year old wheel used by his father and grandfather.  Made lids that precisely fitted the pots just by eye
Tilt left - Bishnoi men have opium every morning for energy to do farm work and every evening (they didn't say what for, didn't ask).  he offered me some, i declined.
Opium guy's daughter was redoing their cow-dung floor.  Didn't smell at all, creates a seal on the dirt that's very easy to sweep clean.  Makes wonderful wallpaper too (have seem some with inlaid mirrors . . . .)
Their home.  Was spotless and cool inside.
Tilt left - visited the weavers and yes, got carried away and bought a carpet but not the one you see.  note their loom is made from wood logs - again, used by parents and grandparents.
When I first got on, the camel was showing his teeth.  I asked if he was angry, they said no, he doesn't like the sun.
Stopping for lunch.  They tie 3 of their legs together so they can't get too far.  Still, they had to use the one to round up the others.
Making lunch.  The farmer on the left came walking out of nowhere and joined us for lunch.
The dunes were very narrow, you can see the scrub on either side but still very neat.  Our footprints started to be swept away after only a few minutes.
Camels are very easy to get along with
Just walking, so no females in sight.

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