I know I’m behind on my post updates but I just don’t have enough time to update this blog or I don’t have Wi-Fi available. Let me continue, as I said in previous post, I arrived in Jaisalmer from Jaipur and found that it’s a nice city, especially the fort part of it. It is obviously on a hill so no cycle rickshaws here, only auto rickshaws and taxis. The rides are a bit more expensive here because gas is sold at higher price here. One of the annoyances is the frequency of blackouts, they occur approximately every 6-7 hours (at least the did while I was there). I also hated all the flies that are in the city, there was an unbelievable amount that I hadn’t experienced elsewhere and I was happy to leave Jaisalmer mostly because of that.
The Fall location
Jaisalmer fort is one of the filming locations from The Fall and it was shot from outside the southern wall. The scene actually shows the exact hotel that I stayed in, which was kinda cool. Here’s my shot of the same location.
Things to see
One of the sights that is worth seeing here is Fort Palace museum which is a bit pricey for my taste but it has the most amazing view of the city since its rooftop is the highest point there. Admission fee is 300 rupees but it includes an audio guide (I don’t actually care for these at any of the sights) and a single camera permit. There weren’t that many visitors while I was there an I visited it only because it was the only open sight in the afternoon (it is open from 8 AM to 6 PM) and I needed a break from the persistent safari agent at my hotel. You should also try and visit Jain temples, of which I visited only one and seen other only from the outside. They close quite early, at 1 PM. Also, there’s a bunch of havelis that are pretty nice but nothing special if you already visited other places that have them. On my last day in Jaisalmer I visited Gadi Sagar that is a 14th-century tank where you can relax for a bit by hiring a watercycle or a boat (50 to 150 rupees for half an hour).
I’m going to the desert, yes, I am
After a sleepless night (because of all the noise in the hotel) I was on my way to Khuri by local bus. I knew I will have trouble finding the bus stand but I eventually succeeded. I also bought a funny-(moron-like)-looking safari hat on my way there for some 60 rupees. It was dirty as hell but I wore it nevertheless.
After getting on a bus I arrived in Khuri an hour and a half later, where Mr. Badal greeted us (there was a couple in the same bus who had an arrangement to go to safari with Badal as well) and took us to his place. We relaxed for a bit and then saw one of the rare occasions in the village – a women procession through the village in which all the castes are participating equally. I can’t remember what that event is called but it involves young unmarried women carrying special water bowls on their heads and they get to a specific tree (this one was near the bus stop) where they pour the water then as an act of helping the tree grow.
In the meantime, Badal’s wife was preparing lunch which was simple but unbelievably tasty one, a real example of home cooking. We then had an afternoon nap in the huts while we were waiting for another traveler to join us for a safari. At half past four we mounted our camels (watch out, the camel raises from the back so you first have to lean your body to the back and then to the front as it raises its front legs) and headed to Thar desert.
A camel ride
This was my first camel ride ever and it was kinda fun. The others in my group also liked it but they complained about the pain in their thighs afterwards. On our way to the sleeping grounds we’ve seen only a couple of sand dunes but we stopped in a near by village for some insight into desert village life and had some chai there. During our break, one of the camel drivers approached us and discretely asked whether we would like to buy a couple of bottles of their local “wine”, which was actually some sort of a whiskey made of sugarcane. It was quite expensive but the other guy from my group and I bought a bottle each. What annoyed me was that more than half of each bottle was later drunk by our camel riders. I don’t mind sharing but come on, guys, if you wanted to get wasted, you could have brought at least some alcohol for yourselves.
We came to our sleeping area just at the right time for the sunset so this Italian guy’s girlfriend and I wanted to get some silhouette shots of our camels but they were already eating and resting so we had to ask our guides to lead them to the top of the dune. They were not really compliant so we decided to take matters into our own hand and led the camels where we needed them by ourselves. We were entertained by our sunset shots while the guides were gathering wood and preparing dinner. When the sun went down, we all sat around the fire and listened mostly to this Italian guy, Marco who was so funny that you can figuratively piss yourself while listening to his thoughts and stories.
Marco was actually quite an interesting character, he left Italy five years ago for a few-months-long trip to southeast Asia where he met his current Malaysian girlfriend Kim. He started working there and got a scholarship for his PhD on a subject of evolution of punk music or something (I can’t actually remember the whole thing). In the past he was a member of several different punk bands and was in fact very popular in South America where he had, if I remember correctly, seven records published. Once he met Kim, he stayed in this part of the world and never returned to Italy. They travel together all the time on budget (since he makes way less money now that he’s in Malaysia) and both enjoy it to the max. I was so glad that I met them as they brightened up my evening. There was also an Aussie girl Stephanie in our group. All of us stayed up long after the camel drivers had gone to sleep, we drank that whiskey, ate chapati and listened to Marco’s amusing stories. After Marco and Kim left to catch 40 winks, Stephanie and I stayed up and I entertained her with my card tricks. We later dozed off on our mattresses and that was how I spent my first night in the desert.
It was a relaxing night and the sound that camel bells are making is so lovely I could listen to it each night before I go to sleep.
The morning after
Next morning we woke up around 6 or 7. Stephanie left to do some yoga, camel drivers were making some chapati and preparing chai and Marco, Kim and I went to take some sunrise shots but weren’t very successful in our attempt because the sun was already too high. After our breakfast, we got on our camels again and went back to Khuri. None of us really liked the fact that we were going with a pace too fast even for a comfortable ride and we couldn’t even think about taking any shots with our cameras. That’s one of the reasons why I didn’t tip my driver that much. The others are listed above.
We came back to Badal’s house at half past nine, I took a quick shower (not an actual shower but used the bucket of water instead) and then Badal took me to his neighbor’s place to see a baby camel. It was one of the cutest beings I have ever seen, so fragile and scared of everything.
Back to Jaisalmer
After saying our goodbyes, we took off to a bus station to catch a 10 AM bus to Jaisalmer which was 50 minutes late and overcrowded. I was hoping there was going to too many people to fit inside as I really wanted to ride on the roof of the bus so my dream came true. It is fun for the first 10 minutes but then you can’t feel your feet for the rest of the ride because you stop you circulation by sitting to the side of the roof with your legs over the railing. I should also mention that this bus was carrying two goats as well and these poor creatures were crammed to the trunk with a bunch of bags next to them. The conductor wanted me to put my bag inside as well but I wanted to leave at least a bit of room for these animals so I took it to the roof with me (which was a bad idea as people don’t really care what’s in your bag even if you have fragile stuff inside). We finally arrived to Jaisalmer at 1 PM, we went our separate ways. I was tired and had a short walk to the Desert Boy’s Dhani where I had lunch which was no that good. The service was also terrible as the waiters were actually 10 to 12 year old boys who were doing their own stuff and you have to wait some five to ten minutes each time you wish to order something. I wouldn’t recommend the place. After my lunch, I met a rickshaw driver with whom I spent the rest of my afternoon.
VIDEO OF MY RIDE ON THE ROOF OF THE BUS WILL BE ADDED IN A FEW DAYS
If you know what the ritual with water that I mentioned is called, please leave a comment. Have you ever ridden a camel or been to the desert? Share your experience with the rest of us.