India – Jaisalmer

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It was a very big drive into Jaisalmer took us about 6 hours. We stopped at a very nice little tourist stop on top of a hill with an interesting view. Lovely cup of tea and managed to buy a packet of biscuits. We haven’t been bothering to eat lunch each day … we did buy lots of nuts and snacks before we left Australia and they have been great for the long drives in the car.

I have to tell you that I am quite exhausted by the end of each drive … because I keep my eyes on the road the whole way … talk about back seat driving. Do say a prayer for us that we make it safely all of the way around. The driving is crazy, the roads are crap and add in a few million cattle wandering around doing whatever they want, it is very hairy! Ashok is pretty good, but he makes a few bad judgements when he gets tired in the afternoon. 50 000 people per year are killed on the roads … the highest road toll in the world. Ashok was telling us this morning that if he hit a goat and broke it’s legs the farmer would come out and break his legs. If he killed the goat the farmer would kill him if he couldn’t pay a huge amount … maybe A$1000. And the police wouldn’t blink an eye.

When we arrived in Jaisalmer we booked into the hotel and then headed into the city. Ashok took us shopping at his childhood friends shop. We bought some beautiful pashminas that we haven’t seen anywhere … very beautiful. We bought a few other very interesting embroidered pieces that we did actually see in a few other shops and we got a much better price … which made us feel better.

Then on to the silver shop … but we had booked a massage in the hotel so cleared out of their pretty quickly.

Massages … I forget to tell you about the massage that we had at The Very Best Exotic Mandawa Castle. We booked a massage and headed down the stairs into what seemed like a dungeon. As we entered the door slammed behind us … we just looked at each other … in retrospect we should have taken it as a sign and bolted then and there. Anyway we headed down, down, down and eventually found a little old man and some very dodgy, dirty vinyl cracked beds to lie on and some dodgy grungy looking towels. Anyway, decided to go ahead with it. It was pretty ordinary I can tell you. The oil looked like they had cooked a million naan breads in it and the massage was just weird. We had our heads stuck on a hard pillow. All in all a complete disaster and we had sore necks the next day.

We had a quick dinner because we were exhausted and then all I wanted to do was scrub myself …no hot water and the toilet wouldn’t work. We got a plumber and MA had more idea than him and got the toilet working and after running the water for 15 minutes some warm water appeared. Pretty stupid thing to do in the middle of the desert.

… Back to the massage in Jaisalmer … it was fantastic … probably one of the best I have ever had and she fixed my neck thank god.

The next day Ashok had organised a guide to take us through the Jaisalmer Fort … which has 3000 inhabitants living in it. So it is more of a walled city with Jain Temples inside. We really enjoyed the walk around the fort. The streets were very narrow and of course full of bloody cows. So we had to dodge the bulls by climbing up and over steps and doorways. Bloody things, I feel like buying a gun and shooting them!

Speaking of guns, we are pretty close the the Pakistan border here … the last big town before you hit the border about 120 km away. There is a very large military presence here and our waiters told us last night that they are booked up until the end of May because they have Russian soldiers staying there.

We went back to the hotel after our tour and had a bit of lunch for the first time and lay by the pool for an hour, but the water was too cold to go in. Then got ourselves organised to head out into the desert for a Camel ride.

It was about a 40 minute drive towards the Pakistan border to reach a very poor desert town. There were women walking around everywhere with metal urns on their heads carrying water from the wells. They looked fantastic in their very bright hot pink and orange saris. Very exotic.

I don’t mind telling you I was pretty scared as to how I was going to manage to hold on while the camel stood up. Of course I had the tallest camel … biggest person!

I had a right to be scared … it was very hard to manage to hold on while it lurched up. I was pretty wobbly to start off with and thought that I would fall off … but dug those thighs in. When on the straight it was fine, when going up it is fine, but going downhill is scary. We walked along for about 40 minutes … all the time I was thinking how am I going to get off this thing. Well I soon found out when we got on top of the dunes, because we stopped. Ashok was great and made them get him down first so that he could help me. A couple of big lurches and I was down. We spent another 40 minutes on the dunes looking at the scenery, talking and watching the sun slowly go down. It was very beautiful. I thought that it would be really, really touristy, but we could only see a couple of other camels where we stopped.

Then it was time to get back up again … it was way worse the second time, it must have lurched another way. I was fine though. As we went over the dunes there were several more camels … probably about 30, but still it didn’t feeling all that commercial. The sunset was spectacular.

Our camel leaders were just kids … my boy was 12 and they all owned and worked their own camels. Cheeky little bugger! A couple of times he let go of the reigns and of course the camel just headed straight for the bushes … a few lurches later!

We headed back and dismounted … managed it a second time. All in all we loved it and very glad that we did it.

Today we are driving to Jodhpur … the blue city. Just stopped for lunch … tomato soup and naan bread … with vegemite! Ha!

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