Hi everyone! So we are currently in the middle of the Himalayas. As I mentioned before, I was working on a few India posts in advance to schedule for when we are disconnected from the world. I’ve asked Hoch to help me write today’s scheduled post. Per usual, warning; profane language ahead. 😉
The first thing in Jodhpur you see upon approach is the famous Mehrangarh Fort, which dominates the landscape and sits atop a hill around which the city has sprawled since its founding in 1458. Its founder and namesake, Rao Jodha, evidently knew what he was doing since the fort/castle/palace has never been physically overtaken until bowing to the British commercial interests in the 1800’s.
I had read about the above facts about the city a few days earlier, but on our actual approach to Jodhpur all I could think about was how much I wanted to get out of that fucking taxi. Due to the combination of my illness (still not sure what it was/is) and general crankiness at overpaying for a taxi only to share with the driver’s brother (no proof of blood relations was offered), I hadn’t eaten all day and it was already dusk by the time we drove through the narrow, dusty and cowshit-ridden streets and arrived near the clock tower at the city center. I silently paid the driver, who accepted in a likewise manner and Kimberly and I walked through the streets to our guesthouse.
The guesthouse was fine for what we paid and so was the dinner but we didn’t eat there again. The owner was a hospitable young fella who seemed to be supporting his rather large family with the business and generally agreeable. He gave us advices on how to get to the fort without a rickshaw and even told us to not trust the drivers when, not if, they tell us it is impossible to walk there. In a rather subdued mood, we went to bed shortly after dinner.
Next morning, we got an early start (for us) and started our walk to the fort and successfully found the shortcut up the stairs leading very close to the entrance. There were busloads of indigenous tourists which was the first time since the Taj Mahal we had seen so many, and especially odd since it was a Thursday. Of course we bypassed the local ticket counters (very crowded) directly to the foreigners’ (no line) where we duly paid the exorbitant fees for being dumb enough to visit India. I stand by my belief that’s what they actually think. At least it included one of the best audio guide I’ve ever had, produced by an Australian company.
The fort itself was intriguing in its history, astounding in its scale and architecture, and magnificent in its preservation. For the first time in India I felt like my money actually goes to the rehabilitation and preservation of history, some of which were visibly ongoing. I loved the conspicuous lack of pidgeon shit everywhere. There was also an in-house restaurant that served baller food. It was cool. Look at the photos:
KR inserts: We almost immediately received a more pleasant and friendly vibe here. More Indians asked to shake our hands, said hello, and asked for photos than usual. Usually they just ask me, but Hoch was also asked a couple of times. Here are a few that we took as well:
After the fort we went to Jaswand Thada which is the location of royal cremations and the consequent cenotaphs. It had a great view of the city and delicate marble carvings, which are my favorites. Here are some more photos:
Jodhpur is often called the Blue City because it has a neighborhood called “Brahmapur” which is painted blue. It looks really nice and blue from the distance, unlike Jaipur’s Pink City, and Kimberly wanted to visit the actual neighborhood to take some photos. I didn’t think that was worthwhile because:
- Cities never look nice close up, and
- It’s too far to walk.
It was still early in the day so we asked the first rickshaw driver in sight what he wants to take us there, wait while we take some photos, and drive back to near our lodging. He said 500 rupees ($1 is 67 Rs) to start our dealings, which is probably at least 3 times what it should cost and I immediately decided he’s not getting our money. I know this is petty on my part but it’s not about the amount, it’s the principles. Fuck him and he can starve. He kept following us as we walked away, yelling “200!” but we got on the next rickshaw driving by and paid 200 Rs. (KR: Hoch can be so pleasant to travel with sometimes.)
I don’t think Brahmapur was that nice, but Kimberly liked it and as she rightfully said, it’s not always about what I want. Here are some photos of blue walls:
The real highlight of the day was walking by the city’s ancient stepwell and having a few beers with it in view. We had meant to visit it eventually but just happened to walk by it while looking for an ATM. I love the beautiful symmetry of it all, as only can be seen in Islamic art and architecture:
KR: We enjoyed our beers with a show of young boys jumping and swimming in the well. They kept jumping from higher and higher levels! Crazy kids.
I think, in retrospect, Jodhpur is my favorite city in Rajasthan. It is indeed a large city but didn’t seem to be as chaotic as some of the smaller ones and I found the people much more likely to leave you alone. The population becomes noticeably more Muslim as you near the Pakistan border, naturally, and I find them generally more respectful and chilled out than the wheeling-and-dealing Hindus. I understand stereotypes can be dangerous and may offend some but they serve a purpose and if I offended you, calm the fuck down; at least Nigerians are worse.
We had a 5:20am train the next morning to Jaisalmer, which is the main tourist city for the Great Thar Desert. I had to kick a couple of sleeping freeloaders who were occupying our beds and the girl kept giving me the dirty look. I thought that an interesting response. We arrived in Jaisalmer on time at 11:30am and got on the pre-arranged pickup from the guesthouse. Or so we thought. The lodging I booked was called “Shahi Garh,” which is located inside the Jaisalmer Fort and NOT the same as “Shahi Palace.” I swear I asked the guy if he’s from the former and he nodded yes. In any case we were led to the wrong place and immediately realized what had happened. The driver was nice enough to get us as close as he can to the fort (no cars allowed inside the “living fort”) and we walked the rest of our way up the hill and through the fort gates to our correct place. Turns out our pickup was running a little late and we must had just missed each other but no harm done, just another funny backpacking mishap HAHAHAHA. We had also booked a 2 night 3 day desert camel trek with the same guy starting the next day. We took it kinda easy that day, made a mental note of the “government authorized” bhang shop, and walked around before going to bed.
Next morning we rode on the owner’s motorbike (threesome) through winding streets to a waiting Mahindra jeep which took us on an hour ride further into the desert. We met our guide whose name I can’t remember, let’s call him Ralph. He loaded up the three camels with 2 large jugs of water and all the food we will need for the 3 days, and we were on our way. Mine, Romeo was the smallest and a bit feisty while Kimberly’s the largest. The first 3 hours of riding was a bit rough and definitely took a toll on our butts, but it got much better as the journey went on. The itinerary for the trek was pretty much identical each day; we would eat breakfast, ride for a few hours, eat lunch, ride some more and camp out for the night and eat dinner. We also met another group of a Belgian and a Frenchman who were nice and had some desert beers with. The meals were the same, toast with jam for breakfast and vegetables with dal (lentils), rice, and chapati for lunch and dinner. Everything was cooked from scratch with open wood fire and a bit sandy but Ralph was a good cook, thankfully. We also visited a small desert village during the last day and had some chai there. The children were asking for pens or pencils but Kimberly had read that they just exchange them for sweets at a shop so their pleas were ignored (KR: I later wished I would’ve brought some sweets to give them). The best part, for me, was the unpolluted view of the stars and the Milky Way at night which always boggle my mind. (KR: And it’s times like this when I wish I had an actual camera. iPhone photos can’t even begin to capture the beauty). All in all it was a great way to experience the unfamiliar terrain and I could see why for two thousand years various invaders including Alexander said “fuck that shit” upon seeing the desert. Look at some photos:
On our third day we rode back to the highway and got back to our lodging exactly the same way we had left it. It was still lunchtime so we had plenty of time to unwind, do some laundry, and venture outside the fort and walk around. We met up again with Martin who was with a couple of French and had dinner. Then we went back to the bhang shop from earlier. Bhang or special lassi is seemingly offered everywhere and we hadn’t ventured to try it yet. It has mind-altering properties and apparently very strong, even for those who partake on the regular. OK, it’s pot yogurt. You drink it and get fucked up like an hour later. Kimberly watched a lot of Youtube videos of Disney songs while I just kind of drifted off into sleep next to her that night. We both slept very well.
KR: Something about being in the desert reminded me of Aladdin and seeing the stars that first night reminded me of a scene from Lion King so I guess they were still on the brain. And something about those lassis made me feel like a kid again.
Our final day in Jaisalmer was spent with wi-fi, pretty much. Catching up on news back home; the Mets’ chase for Wild Card, Giants winning the season opener, that sort of thing. Our train to Delhi was later in the afternoon, so we got ourselves relaxed and ready for the 18 hour train ride.
Well that’s all for this post.
Until the next one!
P.S. ABC Trek Training Journal:
Jodphur: We walked close to 6 miles while sightseeing.
Jaisalmer: We did not walk much at all here. However, we did count the camel trek as a mental training so to speak. We were uncomfortable (seriously wasn’t sure how I was going to make it on those saddles after the first morning), dirty with sand, and ate monotonous meals. I had to try my best to ignore the pain and sand, and eat enough to sustain me. I feel like our trek in Nepal will have similar struggles.