Ok, I finally succumbed, stopping at the two hundred kms marker to take a photo, three tiny children sidled up and began cooing, rupees, chocolate. There we were, absolutely in the middle of nowhere, crazy Westerner is taking photos of a mile marker, I just had to, yes, I gave them money. Everywhere, absolutely everywhere you are told not to, it’s bad for them, it’s not PC, they will not go to school and instead end up hustling for chocolate and rupees at the mile marker. Well, I haven’t seen a building for an hour, well not one that you could call a house, so the chances of those little ones ever going to school is remote. Do I feel bad ? Yes of course I feel bad, for them, and a system that lets me ride around in a car, with a driver, and gives them nothing whatsoever. Oh the life of a bleeding heart, tree hugging, pinko liberal. Desperately searching for a reason to go on living I will say I raised big smiles on the faces of three children who live close to the two hundred km marker from Jaisalmer and maybe tonight they will be able to tell funny stories about the Westerner who took photos of mile marker.
Last night’s hotel was a great success, I had a quick walk around the closed fort, looked in some shops, failed to find the craft market, had dinner and went to bed. At about four thirty I discovered the disadvantage of staying in a room on the top floor, it was just about adjacent to the towers of the Buddhist Temples of the city, consequently, when the amplified prayers began I almost fell out of bed. I don’t wish to sound disrespectful, it was very melodic, it’s just there were three temples in my immediate vicinity and others in the distance and they were not, shall we say, in sync. The prayers went on for about an hour and then the calls to prayer from the towers of the Mosques started. It was not exactly a restful night.
Undeterred, I was up early, grabbed a handful of breakfast and off on the high road through the desert to Jaisalmer. It is not quite like the archetypal desert, yet, it is sandy, yes, but trees manage to grow, goat herds survive, there are buffalo, cows and bullocks of course, camels and donkeys, and the occasional village. Desert colored, a bit drab to my eyes, dusty and isolated there is something remarkable to see in each and every one. The women ! Well their clothes anyway, you cannot see any part of them, they are so heavily covered and veiled, it’s the colors, the colours. Every color of the rainbow, and a few more besides, no two can possibly be alike, or even similar. Bright blues, yellows, pinks, turquoise, purples, orange, they stand out like beacons of light against the harshness.
It’s odd you know, every time I see Rajasthan written on the side of a truck I say to myself, oh yes, right, Rajasthan, but even now I still half expect to see an Attenborough pop out from behind a tree, microphone in hand, proving that this is in fact a movie. There is another thing, Pakistan is just a few miles away. I received some concerned comments about the proximity of the border but I have to say we are in good hands. We have just passed through a tank convoy, seen the Border Guard HQ and a massive camouflaged encampment. Santosh also just commented that we are passing through an old nuclear testing ground. I am sure everything will be alright even if India did beat Pakistan in the cricket last night. We just passed a large number of anti aircraft guns lined up alongside the road, seemingly ready for action.
One more thing, there was a sign inside the gate at the Bikaner hotel that read “Please do not ask for a commission”,puzzled I asked Santosh what it meant. He shrugged and feigned ignorance or lack of understanding. We stopped for lunch at a nasty place aimed solely at Western tourists,mine was so revolting I refused to eat it, how can a vegi samosa be disgusting! The daal and rice was ok, but to serve samosas with ketchup, in India, really people. The point of the story: I remarked to Santosh that my lunch was inedible, and he said, I know, then looked very sheepish and started talking very fast about something else, incomprehensibly. The penny dropped, he rakes in a percentage of everything I spend, hence my lunch at the most expensive caff in the whole Thar Desert. What a hick I am, I won’t even start on the story about his friend who wanted us to come for tea, who just happened to own a silversmith shop. I just maintained my happy smiley face, but how many no thank yous do I need to say before I make my point.
On to Jaisalmer, what a treat for the senses, the fort, containing the old town completely, dominates the surrounding plain, it burst into view ten kms out and is everything I could have imagined, maybe more so, it dwarfs last night’s fort in Bikaner. Fabulous sandstone walls, some crenellations, turrets, Havelis, little decks, verandas and terraces, some falling down bits and of course the occasional a/c unit and satellite dish. My hotel, for two nights, is ok thanks, my room faces the fort, it has a rooftop bar, restaurant, hangout space gaily done out in multi colored covered lounging big benches, more like beds in fact. It has the wifi. It has the chill techno music. It doesn’t appear to have any people. The walls of the fort soar up in front and the desert stretches out infinitely behind.
I am here, I made it, my ultimate Rajasthan fantasy come true and it’s better than I ever could have envisioned.
The left end. There is a bit in the middle which you can see behind “my spot”.
The road was quite crowded sometimes.
Wonderful, so pleased you got there and it was as you expected it to be, if not better.
Oh it is, it is. It must be like Wadi Rum. Maybe I will have to put that on the list.
Looking out of the window at Arroyo on a rather grey morning, so smiling as I read about your day and see the photos of the view in that remarkable light. Rather sad though about the children who have no opportunity to improve their situation, so I am sure they had a moment of joy with the crazy westerner!
Good, glad you liked photos. Have realized that tablet takes better photos than camera tho feel such an idiot using it. Generally get a comment or two. Still very moved by children incident, may get over it, may not. Sorry it’s grey today.
I hope no Mosques or Buddhist Temples in the near vicinity? Hopefully you’ll have a quieter night/early morning! It all sounds amazing. I hope you took some photos of the women in their colourful clothes? Stay safe.
Interestingly no mosques here, and no kites tonight. Hope you have seen some of the pretty ladies photos.
Wonderful stories and equally wonderful pictures, the iPad comes through again. The landscape looks like something out of The Sheltering Sky, although a different continent. Sad about the kids and sad about the tourist guide getting commission. They know its wrong but they are desperate and so they get a pass. A trip like this changes you, as it is sooo different from western civilization. We are under cloudy skies, ready to rain again. Can’t wait to see the crazy Westerner home soon, giving hand outs to the across the street neighbor….
Yes Jeannie, ok, I agree, thanks. Glad the photos are coming out for you, hope they look good on your big Mac. There are of course a lot more. Taken with replacement camera, iPad, iPod and phone. May have to buy a new hard drive. The lady I met in Viet Nam, Ms Beveridge Bean, said it was going to take her longer to sort the photos than the length of her trip.
Those beautiful children will remember you forever.At least their lives are uncluttered by our materialistic ways.Tears all round. It is so great to be able to share in your adventure. The ladies clothes are so beautiful. Take care.
Thanks Victoria, such kind words. Jodhpur tomorrow.
Sounds amazing Dad!!!
Not sure if this is in your neck of the woods but a friend went here and loved it!!
Also, are you going to be anywhere near Gujarat? My old prof Vivek who I went to India with is now the head of the university there! He is the one who likes manvar on his facebook page.
Looks like I will be driving past Manvar tomorrow on the way to Jodhpur, may try and stop there for lunch. Alas not going to Gujerat, though did meet some students from there in a shop today.
Loved the photos of the children.Reminded me of the two little Arab boys who used to come shopping with me in Tripoli and carry my shopping in a large basket on top of their head in return for a few coppers. Life doesn’t change I am afraid.
Wonderful pictures but shall be relieved to hear you are not so near Pakistan border despite what you say about safety.
Shall eagerly await pics from Jodhpur today.
Keep safe. All well here and longing to see you a week tomorrow.
Mother and Maurice
This today and tomorrow business is very confusing I agree. Today in Jaisalmer, tomorrow we drive to Jodhpur. Found myself asking “so this evening will be Monday morning?” ! We will be moving away from the border, fear naught. I know it’s coming up faster than I can deal with, see you in a week.