Notes from Bikaner and Jaisalmer, India

Nobuko shares her current travel notes with us.

7 July 2012  in Bikaner

Arrived in the morning by bus from Pushkar. The night ride was not so hot, but dusty!  I had to cover my face with a scarf to get some sleep. This sleeper did not have a sliding door like the others, only curtains that flapped around with the wind – not great for keeping privacy.

I managed to doze off here and there, but when I woke up, I found men staring at me. Although I have normal oral motor control, I often drool when I sleep. It might be an amusing, but not a pretty thing to watch.

The first guest house near the bus station did not answer the door, so I ended up going to Camel Man, which is about 4 km from the town center. The rickshaw driver agreed on 50 rupees when I got on, but argued that I should pay 100 when we arrived at Camel Man.  Mr. Vijay, the owner of Camel Man, was very kind and paid the driver 100 rupees out of his pocket. It must not be easy to be a rickshaw driver, but I really, REALLY dread dealing with them. But without them, I cannot get around.

Bikaner had been HOT, even hotter than Pushkar with 43 or 44°C ( = about 107 F). I did not do much of anything besides washing clothes and sleeping. I met a couple from Denmark and we agreed to do a camel safari the next day. I was not doing so great with my stomach function.

I wanted to be ready for the safari ride, but inside my medicine pouch, all I had was medicine that had expired in 2010. Come to think of it, I have not replaced any meds in the pouch for four or five years. Stupid! I took it anyway, and am happy to tell you that it worked. Pharmaceutical companies should put more accurate expiration date on their products.

8 July 2012 on a Camel Safari

Off to the safari. We started at 10am and rode for two hours. At noon, we rested under a tree shade while guides whipped out a very good lunch (veggie curry, rice, chapati). We thought we start riding again after lunch, but the guys appeared to be getting ready to take a nap – rolling out carpets and lying down on them.

The three of us killed time by chatting and camel watching. Camels seem to munch on something constantly, always masticating. And they can look like a giant, featherless chicken when seen from behind because of the way they fold their hind legs when they sit down.

At 4:30pm, we started again, but this time through a large farming area where people were setting up sprinklers. We arrived at the camp 6ish after being blessed many times by camels’ farts. The dinner was awesome – rice, chapati, dal, curry (different from one we had for lunch!), etc. The beds were placed outside, and I was so impressed that it was covered by a clean white sheet and even came with a pillow!

I love sleeping outside. Although that night the sky was overcast for the most of the time and we could not see the stars too well, it was still heavenly.

9 July 2012 on a Camel Safari

Woke up 7:30 – by this time it was already getting very warm. After breakfast we headed back. The Danish couple left that afternoon. My bus to Jaisalmer was again the night bus at 10pm. The family at the guest house was friendly and chatty, but all I wanted to do was to laze around and cool off which means, I stayed in my room, being kind of anti-social.

10pm was the bus departure time, but it did not roll into the station until 11:15pm. The sleeper I got this time had sliding doors AND curtains. This made me very happy!

10 July in Jaisalmer

Arrived in Jaisalmer by sleeper at 6:45am (scheduled arrival 5:30am). I was the last one on the bus. It must have arrived on time, but no one woke me up to kick me off the bus and they just let me sleep. A taut from a hotel fished me with “a fan room with a private bathroom for 200 rupees”. I took it, but this place was relentless with its sales pitch, always one of eight men asking me every 30 minutes to join one of their overpriced tours. They even came knocking on my door after I finally retreated to my room!  It is called Shiva Palace. Don’t go there.

Jaisalmer is a small city with a magical fort that made me feel like I was in one of those places talked about in 1001 Arabian nights. People still live inside the fort and that makes this fort a place that is very much alive. I met many many local guys (aka business men), but did not find Aladdin…

Here they sell this legal concoction Baad Lassi, made of curd and pot. Perhaps the tales of riding on a magic carpet and travelling the night sky in the desert were born from people drinking this.

The first evening, I saw one of the most beautiful things. Wind picked up its gusto and blew sand all over the city. I was on a roof top, and saw the whole sight become like a picture seen through a sheer cloth. Breathless moment.

Notes from Bikaner and Pushkar, India

My friend Nobuko, sharing her travel experience through India.

7 July 2012 in Bikaner

The temp is around 44°C  during the day. At night, it is still a sweltering 37°C! But so far I have been managing with just a ceiling fan in my room. An A/C would be comfortable, but I know my body does not take extreme temperature differences well, so I would get sick if I had an air-conditioned room.

I’ve met a nice Danish couple today, and we plan to go on an overnight camel safari into the Thar Desert tomorrow. Wish us luck!  I am going to wrap my face and head like an Arab woman to stay cool and not to lose too much moisture from the heat and dry air.

4 -6 July 2012 in Pushkar – A Mixed Bag of Holy Glory and Sleaze

I have changed hostels, going from the Shree Palace to the Aroma Hotel and it was the right decision. The energy shifted right away and I met some very good people, other tourists and locals alike. By July 4, a nice breeze came into town, which made it much more tolerable to be there.

I had initially gone to the Aroma Hotel to take a yoga class – as advertized throughout the town with flyers. But the teacher, a guy in his early 30s, said it is too hot to do a yoga class. Instead he offered,  “What about a whole body massage instead? Very cheap, I make special offer for you. 200R for one hour, whole body massage!”  The fact that he kept emphasizing “whole body” (perhaps another way of saying “No body parts left behind” = “I will touch you everywhere”?) and not agreeing to do yoga at a cooler time made me say NO. Apparently this is the low season for him,

not only in terms of business, but also in terms of getting carnal pleasure. He should wait until October, then he might get lucky.

I finally made it to the Holy Lake which is surrounded by ghats/temples. It’s not a very welcoming place, but I guess it should be so since this place is a pilgrimage site, not a tourist attraction. Along my around-the-lake walk, I was approached by men who gave me flower petals to the lake to pay my respect. This was actually the notoriously reported Pushkar Passport scheme, where they insist on you to give a hefty donation. I said, “No, thank you.” and walked away. But I’ve heard other people’s stories, who felt threatened enough to pay something.

After a full stroll, I asked a friendly looking young couple from Belgium to take my picture with the lake in the background. We had drinks (non-alcoholic, of course) and talked for a bit which was such a nice respite from dealing with people, who either want to sell you something or act sleazy.

I have also been getting up early – not because I am disciplined, but because of the heat.

On the next day, the same couple and I took an early morning walk to a Hindu temple on a hill. It was a mere 800 meters, but the climb was challenging and squeezed every bit of sweat out of my body. We were greeted by a group of monkeys along the way. The young ones approached us without hesitation. They are small, but I am scared of monkeys… One was cradling an incredibly cute newborn who kept looking at us. I admired them from a distance. Once we got to the top, there was another group of monkeys and they were aggressive! Then I was too scared to go into the temple.

I have frequented the Aroma Restaurant for the last few days. It does not have a lake view, but so what; the friendly staff, great (and cheap) food, and the garden setting with ample shade made me go back there time after time. They serve great Thali, and also two dishes called Bati and Dosa (Rajsasthan dishes) which are very tasty!  And one more reason for my patronizing this place is because I developed a crush on this one waiter, for his voice… Now I feel like a dirty old woman!

Quite honestly, I have had enough with bazaars. I am not a shopper, so it lost its initial charm after seeing so many of them in every place I have visited. But Pushkar has so much one can do. I guess that is why this town is so popular with long-term visitors. I went to take a dance class at the Saraswati Music and Dance School. I wanted to try classical dance, but the teacher told me that he cannot teach me anything in one class. So he taught me Bollywood dance instead!  In a tiny room, without windows, the air heavy as in a sauna,  but two huge mirrors, I jumped around mimicking the teacher. Afterward he complimented me so much that I misinterpreted it as an official invitation to join his dance company and go onto Bollywood as an extra dancer. After my expressing the excitement, he politely clarified that this was not the case.

I also had a massage from the teacher’s sister, Deepa. This is the first and only Indian massage I have had so far, so it’s premature for me to form an opinion, but it is almost too gentle. It reminds me of a Swedish massage, but without localized kneading.

Dhanna Das is an artist, who had shows in Delhi and Paris in the last few years. He works at the Aroma Hotel and right now he is also painting the walls of the Aroma Restaurant. He did a sketch of me, and gave it to me. In return, I let him have my sketch of him. That was a fun project for me.

Pushkar initially appeared boring, but it grew on me. Maybe I will go back there once more for a longer term and train to be a Bollywood dancer since I have a self-acclaimed rare talent!

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