Trip Start Jun 13, 2005
Trip End Dec 05, 2005

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Monday, September 5, 2005

Monday 5th September

I returned to Delhi and, contrary to the doctor's expectations, escaped the need for a hospital visit and thus escaped Delhi after another week. Before I left, I met an Australian newcomer to India and went with him to see the Qutab Minar, another Mughal marvel in South Delhi, so I did at least get out and do something new. The rest of the week was spent hiding out in my hotel room or at Akshay's place, being fattened up by his mother who, when it comes to piling hot, fresh rotis onto your plate, doesn't take no for an answer.

On Saturday night I boarded a sauna on wheels to arrive in Pushkar, Rajasthan, at midday yesterday. Mica had been here a week already, so I was spared the usual groundwork and checked straight into her guesthouse.

First impressions of Pushkar are good: it's a charming place in the middle of the desert, built around a holy lake where pilgrims and sadhus go to bathe. The town is home to the only Brahma temple in India - one of the reasons for its holy status. It's touristy but nicely so; big enough to spend a good few days exploring; small enough to bump into several people you know, which is what I'd done within an hour of arriving.

Having found Mica, we had chai at the westernised Enigma Cafe; somebody walked towards me, smiling: it was Omri, sans dreadlocks, which made him difficult to recognise; he and Karien arrived a few days ago. Later, I ran into another South African I met several times in and around Leh.

Mica's guesthouse was nice, but the one recommended by my South African friend has a swimming pool, so I was obliged to move once I'd seen Mica off on her bus to Pune: I now have the grand distance of 3m between my door and a reviving swim. It's going to be tough dragging myself from the pool to explore town in this heat, but I'm here long enough to take it slowly.

Wednesday 7th September

Despite its crowded bazaar teeming with touts, Pushkar has been relaxing on the whole. Just don't mention heat or mosquitoes. Whenever I get back from my activities in town, I either flop into the pool or onto the bed and stay very, very still, as even the smallest movement works up a sweat.

Last night I hired a moped for 24hrs and this morning Karien and I left an ailing Omri in bed and headed out of town into the semi-desert. It's heavenly out there: one long stretch of asphalt ribbon stretching for miles over hills, dunes and rocky plateaus, leading past occasional villages where old, turbaned men sit quietly under thorn trees watching the passing camel carts.

Most people we passed were friendly and waved or shouted greetings; others were not as welcoming. Many young boys wielded sticks or cricket bats and raised their "weapons" as we passed, attempting to hit us or the bike. One little girl tried stoning us. It was impossible to tell whether this was their idea of fun or malice, but I should hope at their age it was just a game.

Once, as I stopped to take a photograph, three women coming down the road ran towards the bike and stood in front of it, holding the handlebars and brakes. One of them then proceeded to rummage in my bag; every time I politely removed her hand, it shot back in to retrieve another item. As it landed on my moneybelt I became more assertive with my tone and my grip on her arm, so with her other hand she grabbed at my sunglasses instead. When I regained possession of those, she moved around the bike to start the same business with Karien, whilst her friends still held the brakes so we couldn't move, and fired questions at us in Hindi. We eventually got them out of the bike's way, but as I tried to pull off they grabbed the back of it - we had to slap their hands away quite viciously to make our escape.

A young boy in one of the villages also took a fancy to our sunglasses, but was more polite about asking to try them on. He tried Karien's first and, by their response, his friends obviously thought he looked very cool. Then he wanted to try mine: because of the language barrier, I couldn't tell him they were prescription lenses. I wish I could have understood what he said when he'd picked his jaw up from the ground, but despite not getting a word of it, we were highly amused by his shocked expression and exclamations.

Back in town, sunburned and saddle-sore, we collected Omri for an early dinner before I headed home and flopped, once more, into the pool.
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