Monday, November 14, 2011

Jaisalmer

It is so quite here that you can even hear the birds. There only two or three vehicles that I can hear beeping their horns. Even though we are so close to Pakistan, whether its because of the tough, unbreakable fort, or the calm atmosphere, Jaisalmer feels like the safest city we have visited so far. It is a refreshing place and is such a contrast to the hustling and bustling of the busy Pushkar fair. 
Jaisalmer is famous for its towering fort that looks like someone has built a sandcastle on top of a hill. At sunset the town glows gold beneath it. The town below reminds you of a medieval era with old sandstone buildings and some cobble street roads. In the distance the wall of rotating wind turbines reminds you that the medieval times are through and the town is taking great leaps in its modernization.

In Jaislamer there is an amazing lake where you can rent a paddle boat and enjoy the view as the sun sets over the fort- beautiful!



For just 10 rupees (20 cents) you could buy a stale loaf of bread that you could feed to the catfish.





We also found some very clever advertisements for a shop selling clothes and bed sheets.




Jaisalmer is also famous for its camel treks. Most hotels will offer their own versions of the treks. We didn’t shop around and decided to just go with our hotel (Sagar Guest House), and we weren’t disappointed. There were two options we were given; the touristy trail that was 650rp ($13AUD) per day, or the non-touristy trail for 1200rp ($26AUD) per day. The touristy trail is the most common one where you are lead to villages that now make a living from hassling tourists for money, selling them cold drinks for an inflated price and you only ride the camel for about two hours, so we were told. The non-touristy trail sounded much more suited to us, especially after being in touristy, pushy Pushkar. It promised great food, great service, camping under the stars, unlimited bottled mineral water and more importantly isolation- and it delivered!
 
We decided to go on a one-night, two-day trek as after talking to many tourists we were told that is enough time. It gets you out of the city, allows lots of meditation time as you are travelling on the camel and the night out in the desert is a great refresher from the bustling city life.
 


Our camel trek has been the highlight of our time in India so far. Our company was so professional and we had the best camel driver on offer. The 18 year old camel driver, Perm was so eager to please and treated us as if we were his Indian family.
He cooked amazing food and we were always fed until we physically could eat no more. We were treated to pakoras, potato dhal, rice, chapattis, noodles, amazing traditional sesame seed porridge, toast, fruit and fried pasta! All meals were cleverly cooked on a little open fire and all were delicious!





The deep fried pasta was delicious. We had never tried it before and it tasted a lot like prawn crackers.
We walked (or rather rode) through all different terrains. Sand dunes, grassy hills and even local villages. Always travelling closer to Pakistan with every step, which was exciting!



These children chased us asking for rupees, shampoo and pens (all of which we didn't have ). I then gave the older child my bottle of water. I then turned around later to see her emptying the water onto the ground and smiling a little cheeky smile at me. Rascal!
In the villages they salavage everything-even poo. They dry the cow poo out and use it for fuel.
We saw loads of Indian wildlife ; deers, antelope, cows, goats, sheep, chipmunks, eagles and lots of dung beetles!


The sheep here have black heads, so to shade themselves they all huddle together with their heads down.

That night after being treated to a beautiful sunset, we slept under the stars up in the sand dunes, 80kms away from Pakistan border and amongst the dung beetles (who don’t bother you).
In the morning we were woken up to a beautiful sunrise, the sounds of shirping birds and a hot cup of yummy chai!


The desert is so tidy, which is such a contrast to the cities where you cant escape the pollution. Everything in the desert has a system. When you are finished with your water bottle you leave it in a neat pile in the desert and a sheep or goat herder will come along and collect them to sell for some money. Even washing the dishes is environmentally friendly. They use the sand to clean the dirty pots, cutlery and plates. It is such as smart alternative to chemicals, works even better and is faster!
We had a bit of fun trying it out for ourselves
Even though you are told no to bring any money with you as all your expenses are paid for and there is nothing to spend your money on in the desert (which is true) it is a good idea to bring some money for a tip for the Camel driver. Especially Perm, his father had retired and as he is the oldest it is now his job to provide for his entire family, that is 3 sisters and brother and his mother and father. He has to live in a different village to his family as he needs to be jaisalmer for work. When we asked him the next time he would see his family he said in a months time. Almost every day and night he sleeps in the desert cooking and cleaning and talking with tourists, he is the king of the desert with a heart of gold.
That is what the entire family relies on. He only gets paid 500rp ($10AUD) per month (and considering that is what we make in half an hour we were more than happy to tip), while the camel owner gets 3000rp ($60AUD) for two days! One day we would love to buy Perm a camel so he could run his own camel treks. As you travel though the remote villages it is a great idea to bring along shampoo and school supplies as they have no shops and hardly ever visit the city.
 
As beautiful and exciting as it was, your bottom does get very bruised and although I would love to keep riding out into the Pakistani sunset, my bottom was telling me otherwise.

Whilst on the Safari we met some lovely local villagers who were goat herders and camel herders. They liked our glasses so much that we gave it to them- it nice to think that there are some pretty cool goat herders travelling the desert wearing aviators and ray-bans! 





Some guys we met on the way home

Sagar Guest house
This has been the best accommodation we have had in India by far! It’s a great guest house inside the fort with amazing views of the city. Great value for money. There are rooms for every budget with a single room being 150rp and a double for 200rp. The rooms are so clean, have windows, a spacious bathroom and a fan. For a bit extra you can get a nice room with an incredible view and if your stay is for a special occasion there’s a honeymoon suite with windows for sunrise, sunset and of the beautiful town below. Kamal, the manager, is the most hospitable guy and makes sure that you are as comfortable as if you were in your own home. He shouts you rounds of chai all the time and always makes sure you are happy, his motto being, “if you’re happy I’m double happy.” Rooms are 200rp for a beautiful double room with two windows a nice bathroom and a fan. The place has great food, great service and such a nice view from the rooftop, overlooking the town below.

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