Jaisalmer and the Rajhastani Desert

Trip Start Feb 04, 2006
Trip End Apr 01, 2006

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Monday, February 20, 2006

The last time I wrote, Chris and I had just secured the last two berths on the train to Jaisalmer. A feat which was only slightly degraded when we found out that the ticket-wallah enjoys brightening the lives of all foreigners by telling them they've got the last two tickets to wherever. And to this, I say, damn good idea. Adding that element of improbability and luck, however false, into a tired travellers life must always bring welcome smiles to his desk.

Catching my first Indian train, I wanted to be sure not to miss it. I wanted to be dead sure. So we arranged to arrive an hour early to find our spots and be ready to jump aboard, find our sleeping berths and get a good 9 hour sleep in before awaking for another 3 or 4 hours of desert train ride before our destination. What a lovely way to travel. What actually happened: Train was delayed for 6 hours. We alternated sleeping on the platform in Chris' army bivouac and watching our bags all night. ANd by sleeping I mean trying to block out the strong smell of sewer eminating from the railway lines and the constant and ear-shatteringly loud announcements over loudspeaker while ignoring the beggars that congregated around us. It was a surreal night: although I adopted many postures, images of me sitting on a box of raw silk scarves watching a punjabi music video on MP3 from a friendly kid en route to a wedding in ajmer keeps flashing into my mind when I think of that night. The train did eventually arrive and we found our bunks and slept a little, before everyone began waking. Some hindi guy in the bunk opposite apparently thought it was kosher to sit up in the middle of the night and turn on the big overhead light in order to read what appeared to be religious phamplets out loud. I'm not sure if he was making a show of his devout nature, or if he can't read without sounding out the words, but no other Indians were doing it. Therefore I assumed it wasn't culturally necessary for him to be doing, like muslims at their horribly early prayer time. So I did what anyone would do, I started coughing and refused to stop until he stopped talking. WHen he would stop, I would stop, when he would start, I would start again. It escalated in my mind into some kind of mad vendetta. I was going to cough my lungs up before this guy managed to get another word in to KRishna. He finally stopped and put his books away somewhat bewildered. And I was so pleased with my victory, I couldn't sleep.

Awaking on a train in the middle of the Indian desert was magical. I went and hung out of the open doors at the side, just like you see in old films but that no insured Western railway would allow without a liability waiver. Sand in my face, wind in my hair, we passed desertmen that work on the railroad and they would let out long hoots at the foreign women hanging out of each of the cars. The land was dead flat and you could see forever and yet not very far at all. It gave the perception of being empty but in fact, occassionally, just when you began to think Im really in the middle of the nowhere now, some man would come walking out of the sand, or a women carrying a pot. I have no idea where they were going to or what they were doing as they're appeared to be nothing, but as I'm beginning to understand in India, there are so many people, that no scape however inhabitable, lacks the shadow of a figure for very long.

Jaisalmer, truly is a magical sandcastle city. A dusky pink fort rising out of the desert surrounded by a small growing town. I'm sure you want to hear all about it but I have to go now as I'm expectedon the roof by our new friend Delboy the hotel owner, for goodbye dinner as I leave tomorrow for Jodphur. I have the most wonderful room. Its up a medieval stone tower at the top, with a small sitting balcony full of pillows that overlooks the busy market below and my own roof top above as well. The doors and shutters are all at least 200 years old and draped over with light yellow gauze. THe room is entirely stone with alcoves for altars and candles and a white mosquito net falls over the bed. It's exquisite, although I am paying the fairly outrageous price of $5 a night. I've been here a week and went on camel safari into the desert for two days, where I experienced the camel mating call which necessitates its own entry to follow.

Oh and poor Chris is down with Delhi belly. So I have to pick up a lassi for him too. I seem to be impervious to indian food. I've been eating like a hog, delicious food, from street vendors and dirty kitchens (the only kind) and no problems at all. I taunt it. Do your worst, bring it on. Ha ha ha, I laugh in the face of food poisoning.
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