Sunday, March 6, 2011


So I guess I should explain more about traveling before I leave again for another week. I had a hindi mid-term (mid-terms in India? WHAT?) and silly UVa application things due last week, so I neglected any updating. So of all the places we went last week, Jaisalmerr was definitely the most eventful. Luckily our 12 hour train there went smoothly and we spent the next day in Jaisalmerr just getting lost through the streets and exploring parts of the central fort. Unlike most forts in Rajasthan, this one is free admissions and people live in it. They set up their porches like store fronts and have their workshop areas as their first floor. There are occasional  rooftop restaurants and we decide we’ll eat at one for dinner. Beforehand, we buy some whiskey and wine and sit on one of the ledges to watch the sunset behind the “Golden City.” Feeling slap-happy, we go to eat and everything seems fine as they bring our dessert. All of the sudden, the one boy in our group turns and vomits over the wall of the fort into someone’s front yard. The rest of look at each other completely shocked, for we are all sober after eating and had no idea he was on that level. He turns around and claims he’s fine as we give him our water. Then he turns to vomit multiple times over the side of this centuries old fort. We are mortified and pay our bill as fast as possible. Luckily, the waiter was unbothered, probably because all the mess was on someone else’s property. We somehow fit the six of us in a rickshaw (I laid in the back while my friend sat up front and drove part of the way) and escape to our hotel. 
    The next morning is camel riding time and our friend is still feeling the previous night. We get to the place to mount our camels, and my camera dies, so no pictures of this whole day. The first half of the day was phenomenal as we rode through different Jain temples and cemeteries. Of course all of us did the guilty tourist bit about exploiting the camels for our Orientalist pleasure, but we couldn’t miss the chance to for a stereotypical camel ride through the desert.  We had a great lunch in the sand dunes and take a jeep to our next camel place, stopping in ghost villages and temples and such. The jeep drops us off at this remote village where we meet our next group of camels. From here, things slowly get more and more uncomfortable. We meet our new guide, who offers us chai and to come meet his wife. We go into his house and his wife has her face covered and is crouched in a tiny, dark, smoky room. She won’t speak to us and very subserviently gives us chai. Then our guide introduces us to his kids. His sons are over the top engaging and lively and are playing with the other boys in the village. One of his daughters is sitting by herself, playing in the dirt and is very zombie-faced. She doesn’t even register that we’re talking to her and is almost creepy in her stand-offish demeanor. She is tiny for her age and has light streaks in her hair, a sign of malnourishment.  His other daughter is an infant in the room with his wife and he made an offhand joke about selling her to us for 20 rupees. This of course makes me a little sick since I’m studying sex-selective abortions and Rajasthan has one of the highest rates of missing women in the world.
We finally get on the camels and  make our way to the sand dunes when one of the camels starts freaking out, trying to pull away from the group and letting out this roar of sorts. We are all attached, so our camels start to get a little antsy as well. The one camel won’t stop freaking out and the guide stops us to come over and soothe him. He can see that we are all really unnerved and says “Don’t worry. He is nice camel, but sometimes he is joking.” We laugh uneasily. They switch up the order of the camels, which makes it better, but we are all really close together and the camel occasionally stops to roar and kick. We make our way farther across the dunes, which are amazingly enormous and throw off your depth perception until one guide scares us again by jumping onto my friend’s camel and keeping them much farther behind the group. Now she is blonde and Indian men have an affinity for blonde white women, so we all get a little uncomfortable and tell the other guide to wait. A few minutes later, they come cantering by and run off into another crevice as she gives us a slightly terrified look. We finally all get off in the same place and are free to run around the dunes as the sun goes down. From there, we eat a camp fire dinner under some amazing stars and take a jeep back into town. We have to rush to the train station since the chai and camel temper tantrums made us late. When we arrive, we realize that our train has been moved up an hour and is leaving in 10 minutes. We scramble to find the platform and ask a man if it is the train to Bikaner. He says he is on the same train and will let us know when it‘s here. When the train in front of us starts leaving, he yells “this is our train!” and starts running after it. We pick our bags and sprint after him. Jumping onto a moving train is not so glamorous when you’re desperate to make it, especially with hiking backpacks. When we do get on, the whole army unit fiasco begins and we spend a freezing night on a scary train. We get to Bikaner at 4 am and are delighted to cram three into a tiny bed with a thin mattress.

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