A Travellerspoint blog

Bikaner

Camel safari

sunny

We arrived in Bikaner after our first overnight sleeper bus which was incredibly uncomfortable as we bounced into the air each time we hit a bump (so every minute or so) and thudded back on to the rock hard "bed." Bikaner is in the middle of the Thar desert - miles and miles of sand and scrubby trees.

We went for a guided walk with Gouri, our guesthouse owner which was really good - and a change from forts and palaces. He showed us the women panning the filthy drain water for tiny pieces of precious metals from the local jewellery shops, we would have had no idea what they were doing and big tables where literate people used to read the papers to illiterate people in the mornings and play cards in the evenings:

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We also saw this mural of gypsy women who were driven out from Bikaner after independence because they used to drink, kiss and marry each other and play with yo-yos - hard to know which is worse!

Gypsy mural

Gypsy mural

Next stop the main merchants street full of guys buying and selling spices etc and drinking chai - all done by mobile phone these days.

Street deals

Street deals

Rajasthani men are famous for their moustaches and this guy insisted on having his photo taken and seemed delighted with the result:

Rajasthani moustache

Rajasthani moustache

We also vsited the spice market and took another photo of chillies:

Chillies

Chillies

Next stop was the camel research centre where we had our "life threatening" experience. The top of the building was being painted and as we were buying our tickets a huge lump of masonry came crashing to the ground just behind us showering us with little bits of plaster. Consternation all round as people rushed over but no damage to us. The painter wasn't so lucky as it seemed it hit his leg on the way down. If you look carefully you will be able see the gap at the top:

Missing masonry above the ticket window

Missing masonry above the ticket window

Lots and lots of camels at the centre - feeding, drinking, being milked:

Camel feeding time

Camel feeding time

Camel feeding time

Camel feeding time

Camel milking

Camel milking

We ate at our small guesthouse cum homestay - sitting on the floor of the tiny kitchen which was a strange experience.

The main reason to go to Bikaner was for a camel safari - we opted for a two day/one night tour. We were with a guide and Nathalie from Holland who was carrying on for five more days on her own with just the camel driver and cook who spoke very little English and no Dutch - quite mad!

On the way to the start we stopped at Karni Mata Temple or Rat Temple - home to thousands of rats. They are considered holy and are fed. The rats weren't too bad but the floor in barefeet was unpleasant to say the least - we definitely needed our antibacterial wet wipes.

Rats in Karni Mata temple

Rats in Karni Mata temple

We had three camels in total - one a male which pulled the supply cart, one for Nathalie and one for us to share (the other person riding the cart or walking). Apparently baby camels have names but once they start working their names are not used although as the guide, Harpul, said tourists always name them. We christened our small camel who kept stealing food from the cart, "Muncha" and Nathalie's bigger beast was "Big Beauty" because of her attactive eyelashes and face. Muncha was 18 years old (and quite stiff first thing in the morning), Harpul told us that she will work for another couple of years and then be released into the desert where due to lack of good food and water, she will "slowly, slowly die." But apart from this, the camels seemed to be well cared for and more friendly than we expected - there was no spiitting at all (if only that could be said about Indian people).

The caravan

The caravan

Sue and Big Beauty

Sue and Big Beauty

Muncha resting

Muncha resting

Harpul, who has six daughters, hennaed Sue's hands at lunchtime:

Harpul hennaing Sue

Harpul hennaing Sue

Henna in progress

Henna in progress

Henna hand

Henna hand

Antelope

Antelope

Sunset in the desert

Sunset in the desert

We decided against using tents and slept beneath the stars, which wss lovely although at midnight we were hunting for scarves in our bags (also used as pillows) to wrap round our heads as it was really cold despite two fleeces. We were brought chai in bed as we watched the sunrise.

Chai in bed

Chai in bed

Breaking camp

Breaking camp

Camel riders - Colin on Muncha, Sue on Big Beauty

Camel riders - Colin on Muncha, Sue on Big Beauty

You can take a camel to water ......

You can take a camel to water ......

We stopped at a village house where nothing seemed to have changed for centuries although the kids were all clean and well dressed.

Village house

Village house

After lunch on the second day we left Nathalie and the cart and headed back to town - two days was just right as camels are not the most comfortable things to ride - although easy to get on and off. Colin claimed to be getting more used to it - Sue more stiff.

Colin riding Muncha

Colin riding Muncha

Sue riding Muncha

Sue riding Muncha

We stopped at the camel driver's house for chai - his two sons were playing the most complicated marble games:

Playing marbles at the camel driver's house

Playing marbles at the camel driver's house

Back to Bikaner to showers and civilisation.

Posted by armrig 22:01 Archived in India Comments (5)

Pushkar

sunny

After all this sightseeing and dawn starts, we decided to spend a few days chilling in Pushkar. It's famous for its holy lake - the legend is that a lotus fell from the hands of Lord Brahma into the valley of Pushkar. Immediately after, Sarovar Lake appeared miraculously at that place but regrettably it has no water in it at the moment which spoils the effect and the views somewhat.

The lake

The lake

It has the only Brahma temple in India which we did manage to visit, followed by a visit to the water tank where we were seized upon by priests (or charlatans) who performed a ceremony with us and then tried to extort loads of money from us. We made the donation we wanted amid lots of mutterings about bad karma if we didn't donate the "minimum" amount. Must have been enough though as we survived a potentially life threatening experience two days later (more to follow). We also managed a steep walk to the top of a hill to see a temple.

Pushkar from the temple on the hill

Pushkar from the temple on the hill

Pushkar is a great place to spend time chatting to fellow travellers, reading, catching up on the blog or kite flying. Not to mention trying to plan Christmas and New Year - Christmas is sorted (Udaipur - a lake town with water!) but afterwards is still up in the air due to difficulties in booking trains to and accommodation in Mumbai. It also has great food. Because of the holiness of the place, it's strictly veg including no eggs and definitely no booze but it was like being back in Nepal with lots of non - Indian options so we scoffed pasta, pizza, guacamole, hummus (with really good pitta bread) and even salads.

The kite flying was hugely popular with all the local small boys and the bigger boys staying at our guesthouse. The locals are all practising for their festival in January and one of the aims is to cut down other kites with special cutting string. Unfortunately we were staying near an expert. Colin invested in four kites (all of 10 rupees) and borrowed a reel and string from another guest. After some instruction from one of the hotel boys, he got the hang of it but the first kite to go up was promptly chopped down. Then the string broke on the next two and the last was destroyed in a crash - but hours of fun.

Kite shop

Kite shop

Kite teacher preparing the kite

Kite teacher preparing the kite

Kite flying beginner

Kite flying beginner

Kite flying experts

Kite flying experts


Rooftop lessons

Rooftop lessons

Posted by armrig 19:31 Archived in India Comments (0)

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