Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Travel Times

So I've been gone for a while doing some traveling around Rajasthan. This week is also packed with work, class and more traveling. But just to give you an idea, two Fridays ago, February 22nd, a couple friends and I took our first overnight train to Jaisalmerr. We took a day long camel ride out on some the desert sand dunes to about 40 km from Pakistan. Then we took another overnight train to Bikaner to meet up with our group. That train ride was, well interesting. We got cheaper tickets since it was a shorter ride, which turned out to be an awful idea. We jump on the train as it's moving out of the station and turn into our car to find it occupied by an army unit. Now we have had constant orientations warning us about train safety and locking up your belongings, but we've also had countless warnings about being a woman on a train and never making eye contact with people. They also told us to try to get an upper berth seat so that we can sit above people, hide under our blankets, and not draw attention to ourselves. Unfortunately, with 5 white girls and a car full of army men, that's a tad impossible. So we walk through the car and it slowly grows quieter as everyone stares and starts whispering. The army never has actual reserved seats, so they take any available seat. Of course, they are occupying our seats so we have to show them our tickets and get them to move, which was its own fiasco in itself since we had to verify our ticket with about 10 officers before they moved. We finally get settled and just die laughing as cat calls and the smell of hashish fill the car. None of us slept soundly that night as we hugged our bags and woke every time someone bumped our beds. Getting off in a strange city at 4 am was such a relief. We spent two days in Bikaner going to different rural education based NGOs and then went to Jodhpur for three days. There, we went to different sustainable communities and Pakistani refugees  organizations and visited palaces and such. From there, we took a bus to Pushkar (just north of Ajmer) and spent the weekend there. It is home to the only Brahma temple in the world and was unbelievably touristy. Not the kind of touristy atmosphere where people have fanny packs, visors, and multiple cameras. The main street reminded me a music festival crowd, for there were really earthy plain clothing shops everywhere that were infested by pierced and dreaded white hippies. Admittedly, it was really nice to have some organic muesli fresh fruit for breakfast, but the area was definitely geared toward drugged out hippies looking for more "true lives." We did go on an AMAZING 5 am hike to a temple on the top of a mountain to watch the sun rise, so the trip was well worth it. We returned home on Sunday night and I slept for 13 hours.

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