Merry Christmas!

Trip Start Aug 26, 2012
Trip End Dec 22, 2013

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Flag of India  , Rajasthan,
Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Another long travel day was in the cards for us today, leaving Delhi at 6:15am and not arriving into Bikaner until about 7:30pm. It was a really cold (made it feel a bit like Christmas) and very foggy which made the first few hours of driving out of Delhi very slow due to the visibility and the amount of lorries on the road also held up by the fog.  Christmas morning was passed by listening to Christmas songs, napping and trying to keep warm. Towards mid-day, the foggy lift and it started to get warm enough to peel some layers of clothing off.  Trying to find a place for lunch (a nice as it's Christmas after all) was proving to be difficult and it was about 2:30pm when we found a place by the side of the road; Paneer tikka masala (Red for Christmas) along with chapatti and a Dal curry.

After lunch, Kit our nominated Santa donned on a Santa suit Joel and Tanya managed to find in a shop in Delhi and greeted us all back on to the bus.  Then we played "Secret Santa steal" were basically you go around in a circle and you can either chose the present the person just opened or select a new one.  Most people were polite and not steal except for a couple of presents.  Oddly enough Santa ended up with a leather whip.  I picked a marionette puppet which was really quite beautiful.  But due to it’s size I wouldn’t be able to carry it around and Margo got the booby prize of a roll of toilet paper so I gave the puppet to her as she was eye-ing during the game but was unable to steal as I was after her. The game passed some of the time away and I think lifted our spirits up.

Our hotel for the night in Bikaner was I will say adequate but definitely not one of the highlights as far as accommodation goes.  Arriving so late, we all went straight to the rooftop for Christmas dinner.  I just had enough time to squeeze in a phone call home to wish Mom, Dad, Alex and Caley a Merry Christmas. It was so good to talk to them and hear their voices; definitely the highlight of the day.  Dinner was good and while I’d like to say Christmassy; it wasn’t. More curry, paneer, rice and roti. Because of the long drive most people retired right after dinner. A shame as it was Christmas but completely understandable after the day we had.

The next morning Amanda, Zoe and I got up early to meet the owner of the hotel to take a ride ( in his Land Rover which at one point he was driving at 150km/hr) out to his farm(about 20 mins away) and see his Marwari horses that he breeds for sale.  Three of the horses were pregnant and would be delivering next week and we saw a mom and a fowl (one month old). The horses were beautiful and Amanda and Zoe was able to have a quick ride on one of them.   He was a lovely man and it was very nice for him to take us out.

We arrived back a little late for the farm and the rest of the group was waiting for us and our bags so delayed our start to the Karni Mata Temple (aka the rat temple) by about 15 minutes. Not that I minded.  I think visiting the rat temple has been the thing I’ve liked the least so far on this trip. Sorry folks, no pictures of this venue as they charged extra for cameras and I knew I didn't want pictures of rats (google it if your curious). Once you’ve stepped inside this marble arched doorway you start seeing free-roaming rats, known as kabas everywhere.  There are shrines all around the perimeter of the temple and some of them have big bowls of milk and feed that the rats are drinking/eating from.  The rats were really quite mangy looking and Joel said that he saw one eating its own tail. Fortunately there were not the thousands of rats I’d been told of, but definitely in the hundreds.   I took a quick peek inside the innermost shrine but was not able to see much as there was a crowd of people in there giving offerings.  Apparently the practice is to bring offerings for the rats to eat and then it is considered auspicious to eat the leftovers after they have been eaten by the rats.  I did not see that happening but to be honest I didn’t stay long to find out.  Between the look of the rats, the smell and trying to avoid stepping in rat pee (no shoes allowed but socks) after about five minutes I’d had enough.  I stayed in the middle of main courtyard (safe from rats) for a while and observed people going to each of the shrines and making their offerings and prayers. 

Tanya had the unfortunate of stepping on a rat (accidentally while trying to take a picture and avoid other rats) which if you do you are supposed to donate a gold model of a rat to placate the deity. Not knowing this at the time, we are going with the theory that because she didn’t mean to she will continue to have good karma and she promises to be extra nice to the next rat she sees.

Not having had breakfast and a little queasy from the rat temple I treated myself to some potato chips and soda for a mid-morning snack; as did most of the group.  It was a good thing I bought two bags of chips because our lunchtime stop was a little more than a hole in the wall on the side of the road.  Not feeling comfortable with ordering something off the menu I had my second bag of chips for lunch.

By the time we arrived in Jaisalmer I had a splitting headache and was relieved to see a nice hotel and a even better hotel room with comfy beds and duvets.  Popping an Aleve I went straight to bed for a nap and was feeling much better after a couple of hours.  I think my headache was brought on by the lack of proper food during the day and being dehydrated; not drinking enough to avoid the roadside toilets and it is so much drier here in Rajasthan then in Utter Pradesh.

The day ended with another really good buffet on the rooftop of the hotel and then early to bed for a goodnight's sleep.  Speaking of food, all of our meals I have to say have been top-notch with the excepting of a couple of lunches; but for those we were even lucky to find food.
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Uncle Don on

Happy New Year Molly!

May your travels in 2013 be as memorable as those in 2012.

Love Don and Lisa

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