Instant karma and camels galore

Trip Start Feb 29, 2004
Trip End Apr 12, 2005

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Flag of India  ,
Friday, November 19, 2004

So I've had a newborn goat suck on my finger, have run over the foot of a sacred cow lying in the middle of the road on the way to the Varanasi rail station (well, the rickshaw driver did anyway), been gored in the thigh by a sacred cow in a fit of instant karma (ok, more like head-butted) in Jaipur, spent the night under a flap tent on the roof of a full hotel, and been groped by both a camel herder and a small boy (different times!) at the big camel fair in Pushkar. And that's just the last 72 hours.

As you can see, India continues to be a very unpredictable and extrememly NOT boring place. I've now come clear across the subcontinent to the western desert state of Rajasthan, parking myself in the little holy town of Pushkar to witness the incredible camel fair and holy mela (festival) going on at the moment.

Words just can't do any justice to wandering around a dusty, hilly, scrub-filled and arid desert area packed with tens of thousands of beasts (cattle and horses, too) (and groping camel men and small boys), carts and pilgrims in the brightest colours you can imagine who have come to see the spectacle as well as wash in the very holy Pushkar Lake (which is thankfully MUCH cleaner than the Ganga river in Varanasi).

All-in-all another amazing place and experience. More details and camel pics to come...

Btw, what's with the advertising in the entries now?? Eeewwwww.....

Meant to stay here in Pushkar a few days to get a general feel for the whole camel/mela/festival thing and then move on, but have now been here for almost 2 weeks. Hhhmmmm, another easy place to chill out for a bit.

Have met interesting people again, like two British guys at my first GH who decided on a whim to buy a camel, cart and supplies and set off across Rajasthan for a 10-day camping trek to Jaisalmer! And have spent some good times with 2 fab Dutchies, Gina and Barbara. They're India/Pushkar experts, having been here before, so they've been showing me the ropes. Besides the normal festival fun, we've been on the hunt for the best Italian food in Pushkar (chapatis and curries can get old after awhile--variety is absolutely the spice of life). So far the Moon Dance cafe is the winner by a long shot-- cheesy/tomato-y lasagne like I haven't had since....I can't remember!

Have witnessed many unique and bizarre things befitting an event of this nature (i.e. a camel/religious festival on the edge of the Indian desert): a turban-tying contest, camel and horse dancing contests, a moustache contest, the continual buying and selling of creatures and all the equipment and clothes you might need to go with them, more sadhus and holy men (many of whom don't seem so holy once you get to talking to them) than you can shake a stick at, fortune-tellers and cobra-charmers and magicians with crowds of kids and adults with gaping mouths circled around them, and the kind of fascinating people-watching that you can imagine naturally goes along with a place and situation such as this.

Nothing beats sitting for a couple of hours, sipping chai and freshly-pressed juice, talking to people and watching the world go by in an infinite array of colours, shapes, styles and sizes. And Rajasthan seems to be the universal center for colours and amazing people. We find that we end up being the center of attention as well, because here the people-watching is very active and absolutely goes both directions. The digital camera continues to be an incredible way to connect with people (in both good and bad ways!), and I've met so many local famlies and have shaken so many hands and been in so many photos I feel like a politician.

On that note, I have to say that Indian people so far have been incredibly nice and warm and welcoming--not just here, but everywhere I've been--and I can't count the number of times I've been invited to go with a family to have chai, or to just walk and talk with them, or to visit their house, or to accompany them to a temple or the lake. Even though I'm travelling 'alone', I have never felt alone in this country of 1.something-billion, that's for sure!

But tomorrow I'll say goodbye to this funky little town and head west nearer the 'real' desert, first to Jodpur and then to Jaisalmer to hopefully do a 2-3 day camel trek...After that, I'll probably head north to the state of Himachal Pradesh--home to a huge Tibetan refugee population and the Dalai Lama--and to the mountains, which I've missing lately. Must be autumn!
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