Desert Fort in the Golden City, Jaiselmer

Trip Start Jun 07, 2008
Trip End Jun 28, 2009

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Flag of India  , Rajasthan,
Thursday, November 13, 2008

We are in our third desert of the trip - the Thar Desert in India! We flew here yesterday on a turbo prop plane. And guess what! The pilot invited me to sit in the cockpit while we were about to land and see the different controls. The pilots had the plane on auto-pilot, so they could talk to me. It was very cool!

We landed in Jaiselmer, which is about 60kilometers from Pakistan. The airport is a military airport, so there are lots of fighter planes and underground hangers for planes. Soldiers met us at the plane and you could here soldiers testing bombs or guns or something. It is not a very big airport.

We are staying in tents again, but this time we have a pool which is good because it is quite hot. When we arrived, they put a red dot on our foreheads, but also some rice and a little sugar, to make our stay nice. Last night we took a walk on the road at sunset and met some of the kids who live in the village next to the camp. They were nice and asked us for pens and pencils - we are going to take pencils to their school later. It is right next to our camp and about 150 kids go there. The village has small stone houses with thatch roofs. There are also furry goats everywhere, called desert goats.

Today, we went to see the town of Jaiselmer. Jaiselmer is called the Golden City, because of the yellow stone that they used to build it. Even from the airport, you can see the huge yellow fort on top of a small hill. A king started building the fort in 1156 - it is very old and has survived for a long time. Sadly, it is now crumbling down some because of all the people living inside it and all the tourists - we saw people washing clothes and you could see water running down everywhere. But you can still see the stone balls they had on the ramparts - they used to throw them down at enemies. And they also made the roads up to the fort curved so elephants could not charge them. The Muslim army used to get their elephants drunk with alcohol, then chase them into the doors and gates of the fort to knock them down.

We rode a Tuk-Tuk, which is like a small motorcycle in front with two wheels in back and a covered seat, to get to the top of the town. In the town, we saw some Jain temples (Jain's don't believe in hurting anything, even bugs!). There were priests dressed all in orange, a holy color, working there. There were carvings in stone from the 15th century, of Shiva and Parvati, and lots of other gods. One had Shiva hugging Parvati while he held a devil's head in his hand and his dog ate it.

We also ate some great chocolate croissants at Indrajit's favorite bakery in town. He had a cinnamon roll. There were cows everywhere. And lots of dogs - we saw some very cute puppies! We also visited a music store, where I got a mouth harp and Lu got some clackers. Lots of people here can play the mouth harp - it sounds very funny and cool - and I am going to try to learn how to play it. We saw some havelis, which were the houses of very rich people, five brothers, who used to live in the town. Jaiselmer was on the Spice Route, which went from Istanbul to India, so some people used to be very rich here because they were traders, richer than the maharaja. Now I have been from the start of the Spice Route, Istanbul, to the end of it, India. Jaiselmer was one of the major stops on the route, and everyone rode camels the whole way. When Mumbai and other places became ports for ships, then the Spice Route stopped being used.

Before lunch, we went to a lake that used to be very clean. Our guide from Jaiselmer, Mr. Muhendra, said he used to swim in it when he was a kid. Now it is very dirty due to pollution (while we were there, we saw some guys dumping paper and things in the lake, which were from a wedding. They were doing it because it is a holy lake, but it makes the lake dirty, I think), but there are still some beautiful ghats (stairs) and buildings around it. There are also huge catfish - as big as Tallulah! - that we fed some rice. They swarmed around in the water all around us.
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