On The QT

Rambling in Rajasthan – Part 3: Jodpur and Pushkar

Blogger: Katie Burke

The next day we decided to venture further west into Rajasthan. Our first stop would b Pushkar. We travelled from Jaipur on a five hour bus…one of the nicer busses we had encountered which is always a plus. The travel agent who had set us up with the bus had also given us a number for his “friend” who had a place we could stay. Another case of everybody getting a cut. But this time it worked to our advantage because the second we stepped off the bus in Pushkar we were engulfed in a sea of tuk tuk drivers shouting at us and pulling us in every direction. Then one of us spotted the name of the hotel we had been recommended on a jeep so we all made for it and were welcomed by the driver leaving several bemused tuk tuk drivers in our wake.

The hotel/hostel was odd. It had some large tents in the back garden with private (non functioning) bathrooms attached. For the craic we took a tent…it cost a tenner between us for the night so we thought why not. After settling in we headed for the town. Enroute we decided to book a sunset camel safari, hoping against hope it would be better than our elephant experience.
In the meantime we explored  the town. We were surprised with the high level of Westerns, particularly the level of scantily clad, dreadlocked girls. But such is India.

Pushkar is actually a pilgrimage town for Hindus. It is located in the desert but there is a large lake at the centre of the town. According to Hindu mythology a lake formed in Pushkar  form the tears of Lord Shiva as he mourned the death of his wife. In accordance with this the town is centred around the lake with any amount of temples and ghats surrounding it. We were unaware of this when we went in search of the lake and so accidentally ended up entering a sacred ghat while wearing our shoes ( the ultimate disrespect). A Sadhu (holy man) appeared from nowhere and began screaming at us. Once we understood what he was saying we apologized and attempted to leave the area and go to another ghat but that didn’t impress him either. He basically chased us up the steps and back to the street. A little bemused we waited until all was calm, entered from another ghat and just relaxed by the water until it was camel time.

Of course I ended up on the camel with behavioural problems. To be fair three out of the four camels were a bit mental but mine was in a league of his own altogether. We had two guys with us. One was about 18. He took a shine to Kate and boarded her camel while signaling to his 11 year old assistant to board my crazy camel. The fun we had trotting down the road, my camel stopping to eat everything and peeing continuously while the little boy, who seemed very frustrated, verbally abused the camel and sometimes shouted to the other guy for assistance, which he never received.

All of that aside the trek was fun and interesting. We rode to the desert and stopped there to watch the sunset while a local man on a hunt for money played some type of home made string instrument that captured the perfect desert sound. It would have been magical if it wasn’t for the camels farting and peeing throughout. Also when they were resting I attempted to pose for a photo with mine. He snapped his teeth and attemptrd ahead butt so I decided just the memory of our evening together would be enough.

It was dark when we returned, we asked the owner/ manager if he could organise for us to be dropped to the bus in the morning to which he replied with the usual over enthusiasm of “yes, yes, as you wish…don’t worry be happy.” We even settled our bill that night to save time. Yet when we awoke the next day he was nowhere to be seen. We decided to attempt to walk quickly to the bus and actually ran into him along the way. He smiled and waved as if nothing was wrong. To this day I don’t know if he misunderstood or was just having his own private laugh at us. Either way we got to the bus on time thanks to the unsung hero that was the drunk smelling taxi driver who magically appeared on the road. Beggars can’t be choosers.

The bus to Jodpur was not anywhere near as nice as the one from the day before. We travelled primarily on windy, potholed, country roads. I spent a lot of the trip gazing out the window until at some point I heard a terrible wheezing sound. I assumed a sickly old man had sat next to me but on turning I discovered the cutest little boy with the biggest brightest eyes sitting on his fathers knee, straining himself to breath. I instantly wanted to help him but didn’t know what I could do. Then I remembered that I had some cough sweets in my bag that had been given to me as a substitute for small change when I’d purchased motion sickness tablets. I know a cough sweet is completely useless for a wheeze but it was something. I quickly found one, tipped the father on the shoulder and motioned that he give to the boy. The father was thankful and the little boy flashed me a lovely smile. I ended up giving them all of my sweets and we chatted a bit but then when their stop came they hopped out with out so much as a goodbye but thats just how Indian’s are it seems. After they left, in a bold move I purchased some pakorah (deep fried veg) from a street vendor who had hopped on the bus. The pakorah like most street food was wrapped in newspaper. I don’t know why but for some reason the writing caught my eye, perhaps because it was in English. On closer inspection it appeared my food was wrapped in a page from the classified section, entitled “Matrimonial Adds”!! What a fantastic read it proved to be; “Prominent Hindu Industrialist Family seeks proposal for their beautiful, 27 years, 5‘3″, MBA from NL, daughter from well settled, vegetarian, non drinking family. The boy should be qualified, settled, smart and handsome. Caste no bar. Send details to…” These adds kept me entertained for the rest of the bus journey.

When we finally arrived in Jodpur, the Blue City, we were exhausted. We had nowhere to stay but after yet another fight with tuk tuk drivers we got something to eat and found somewhere ourselves. We walked into the hostel to find an empty reception desk with a phone that had a note on it saying “Call 123″. We called and said we were looking for a room and were told to come upstairs. After climbing quite a few flights of stairs we eventually came across a man who somehow seemed surprised to see us but found us a room all the same.

Having only an evening in the city we set off exploring. Our first port of call was the Mehrangarh Fort which can be seen from anywhere in the city towering above it. This fort was hands down the most organised tourist spot that I came across in India. For a small charge we all received personal audio guides and a map. It was a highly informative tour and the surroundings were opulent, amazing and rich with historical importance. We all throughly enjoyed the experience.

After this we explored the city’s huge central bazaar and climbed the clock tour to get the best views and watched the sunset over the city from there. Then we returned to our hostel’s rooftop restaurant  for dinner. For some reason I just didn’t feel hungry, which is most unlike me. But I made myself have some simple fried rice as I knew we had to be up early to return to Jaipur and didn’t know when I’d get fed again. But a mere half an hour after dinner my stomach decided to reject it and for the first time in my six weeks in India I was sick. The next few hours were unpleasant and the five hour train journey back to Jaipur could have been hell if it wasn’t for my 30rupee motion sickness tablets (apparently containing some strong anesthetic components) knocking me out for the whole journey.  All in all it could have been a lot worse and apparently no trip to India is complete without at least one bout of Delhi belly. I spent the rest of the weekend recouperating in my hostel in Jaipur (apart from one brief but hilarious trip to the post office, but that’s another story) to prepare myself for the next leg of my journey, my first venture completely alone, I needed to be ready.

Blogger: Katie Burke - Adventures in India
Katie is an aspiring writer who is originally from Galway. She has been travelling in India for the past two months. She has had an eclectic journey including everything from experiencing the culture shock of Delhi to teaching baby Buddhist monks in Dharamsala and so much in between. This blog covers the highs, the lows and the hilarious of each site and situation visited and reveals the madness that is India from the naked eye of a first time visitor.
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