Saturday, 6 September 2008

5 – 6 September 2008: Jaisalmer

Arriving into the desert town of Jaisalmer at dawn, we were immediately besieged by touts waiting for us on the train platform. We managed to evade the first bunch by telling them not to waste their time on us and that the train was still full of tourists (which it wasn't). Unfortunately, leaving the station we we had to wade through a sea of shouting touts, eager to get us into their hotel.

Our guest house has a really old door to the room with a bewildering system of chains and metal hoops to lock it. Hearing me struggling, the owner came up to reveal the simplicity of the mechanism. The rooftop view of the cows and pigs intermittently raiding the vegetable market is very entertaining. The view of the fort came a close second.

After our early start we were low on sightseeing energy, so proceeded to plan the next couple of train trips. Enthusiasm for the 29-hour trip to Amritsar's Golden Temple evaporated. Instead, we plan to travel straight to Delhi, onwards to Varanasi and then buy a one-way ticket to Nepal. Queuing for two hours at the ticket reservation office, we explored the meaning of life and the human condition. When we'd finally reached the counter, one man pleaded with us to be allowed to jump the queue. Yeah right!!! To the back... (Apparently, one of the perks of being a woman in India – yes there are some – is that you can jump to the front of any queue. After one hour and forty five minutes, Jen regretted not exercising her rights because of some vague notion of fairness).

Desperately needing a beer, we headed over to Trio restaurant which was apparently 'the pick of Jaisalmer'. Andy's spicy dish was notable for the absence of spices – the camel train must have got lost in a sand storm. However, the rather bland food was still leap years ahead of the local entertainment: a singer literally doing an impression of a stuck record/mating frog. Jen had a great time watching the horror on Andy's face, as the singing started. For Andy, it was the straw that broke the camel's back.

We got a welcome break today from the heat with cool and overcast weather (27 degrees). The maze of streets inside the fort – 'Indian Disney' – were lined with souvenir shops and lacked atmosphere. The fort palace itself was underwhelming and expensive. The main attraction was trying not to disturb the bats that were busy sleeping/mating above you. The smell of bat urine was only surpassed by the entrance fee.

Luckily, we met fellow traveller Rod on the windy ramparts. His anecdotes and insights, gained over several trips to India, made our day. His holiday enthusiasm had faded one week before his return flight home to the UK. Similarly, our travel plans for Nepal have been brought forward.

We're off on a camel safari tomorrow for two days. Jen's even bought herself a Taliban scarf in anticipation. As our karma would have it, Bear Grylls was on TV last night giving tips on desert survival. Highlights included how to survive encounters with cobras, eating scorpions and sucking water out of dry river beds. We're hoping that our little adventure will be far less eventful.


Anonymous said...

Hi Andy/Jen,

Could do with some of your sunshine here. Still raining after 36 hours so far....

Mum & Dad