Published: November 7th 2011November 7th 2011
Last you heard I was on my way to Pushkar, to the camel fair. I took a night sleeper bus, which was a new experience for me and it was a little dodgy. The bus terminal area was pretty chaotic, with lot's of little urchins running around begging. That was the first real begging I saw. The bus was well worn and the sleeper compartment reminded me of a coffin. Instead of a curtain, there was a sliding aluminum door, I guess to keep you from falling out as they careened down the road. I took a Valium and slept so well, that they had to wake me up on arrival. I arrived in Ajmer, the next town down the road from Pushkar at 5am in the pitch dark. I was the last one off the bus so there was only one bicycle rickshaw left to take me to the bus to Pushkar, witch of course left from a different place. When I got there, everybody was sitting and laying on the floor waiting. Eventually the bus doors opened and everybody started pushing to get in. I managed to get on and two young students invited me to share their seat
for the 30 minute ride. When I got to Pushkar it was still dark and one of the hotel touts brought me to a guest house named Pink Floyd. It's is very nice and super well kept by an Indian who lived in London for many years. My room is expensive at $10/night, but considering it has hot water and a spotless bathroom, I'm happy to pay it. Once checked in it was light and I went down to the main road, where everyone was heading for the ghat, the place where Hindus wash and do their religious ablutions. But the camel fair is also a holy religious pilgrimage site for Hindus, so the crowds heading for the ghat was staggering. One of the brahmin priests took me down to the ghat and we recited mantras together for the blessing of my family and myself. For this I made a small donation and received my red dot on the forehead and a string tied to my wrist. After that I watched the procession of people walking the rounds from one temple to another. Pushkar has many different Hindu temples and part of the pilgrimage ritual is to hit them all.
There were all kinds of people, local nomads in their best costumes and brightly colored turbans, sadhus, holy men who wander all over India begging and blessing people, children dressed up as Shiva, who has blue skin, besides all the pilgrims from all over India. It was a technicolor extravaganza. From there I headed for the fair grounds, where I was promptly hooked by a camel cart driver. He offered me a trip around the fairgrounds for $4, but we negotiated a three hour tour of Pushkar and it's environs for $20. This was my favorite means of transport so far. Lounging on the back of that cart under the canopy trudging though the countryside was heavenly. Kids waved at me from every abode we passed (and I use the term 'abode' loosely). It felt like I had gone back in time several hundred years.
After the tour, the camel guy took me back to my guest house by motorcycle, once again careening through the throngs of people.
By then it was 2pm and I was pooped. I took a little nap and headed back out last night. The shopping is really awesome. I bought a bunch of beautifully embroidered things and have to literally stop myself from getting more. But my time in India is winding down, so I'm looking at two more nights in Pushkar, two more nights in Udaipur and one or so night on the train to Mumbai and a night in Mumbai, from which I'm leaving Sunday night.
I ran out of space on my camera and I have done a pretty bad job documenting what I've seen. For one thing, I'm embarrassed to take pictures of people, lest they find it rude or want money. Also, I keep running out of space on my memory chips. Without my laptop, sorting through my pics is a bit more difficult, which is why I haven't posted any pics for a while, but I will try. This web site is a pain when it comes to uploading pics, so only a few have posted even though I have tried to include more.
I will be posting again from here before I head back to Udaipur