On the trail of Hippy wannabees

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February 1st 2012
Published: May 31st 2012
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Jaipur to Jaisalmer

We were packed up and on our way by 9am we planned a visit the Hawa Mahal the five story pink sandstone fairytale palace built by Maharajah Sawai Pratap Singh in 1799 to enable the royal ladies to see processions in the city without being seen. Hawa Mahal means Wind Palace and to fully appreciate it we got ourselves a guide who told us a number of fascinating stories about eunuchs and secret passage ways. The palace has some stunning rooms with stain glass windows and beautiful decoration and surprisingly we had only langur monkeys for company.

Towards the end of the tour our guide told us of a craft emporium where I might get a tradition shield or knife so we decided to go have a look, the shop was down a back street near the lake palace and was a massive multi building complex containing a huge range of furniture, antiques and curios. We identified a wooden hand painted cabinet that we thought would look great in our house and I also found a beautifully painted shield, unfortunately I have little trust in Indians and thought it unlikely that it would ever arrive in Australia. The salesman assured me that it would arrive in about forty five days and that the $300 shipping fee would cover all costs except the small fee to deliver it to our door. Well that was a bald faced lie, oh it arrived in Australia alright and in the timeframe that was promised, however when the cargo did arrive it turned into a stressful and costly nightmare to get it out of the hands of the port authority and then the various government agencies.

From here we went to our driver Jitu’s place to pick up his bag, he lives in an awful soviet style communal government apartment with his mother, wife, brother and sister in law and six children, he has four daughters that he can’t afford to send to school but he keeps trying for a son none the less. They were very hospitable serving us some pretty horrible chai and some equally awful semolina which they insisted we eat, so we forced it all down with a smile of gratitude that we hoped they would believe.

The scenery between Jaipur and the religious town of Pushkar was much more pleasant with arid deserts, mountains and thankfully less rubbish and traffic as well. We arrived at 3pm and our first choice hotel was full so we moved on to another only to find that the power was out, which seems to be the case everywhere we go so no cricket today. Ruth and I decided to explore the town instead; Pushkar is a spiritual place and is the resting place of Gandhi’s ashes. The town surrounds a lake that has thirty nine bathing ghats, and is surrounded by a maze of shop filled laneways; if not for the constant roar of passing motorbikes it could have been any age.

We visited a small Tibetan Restaurant that served wonderful mushroom, cheese and spinach momo there is no meat or alcohol available here but the fat old hippies that litter the town are here for the Ganga and not the beer. The feral would be spiritualists litter the streets of the town with their dreadlocks and their outdated attire, sitting in the dirt dribbling shit to each other. I visited one of the world’s only Brahma Temples here but it was not very special with just a few plaques scattered around like tombstones. We then strolled around the lake enjoying the view of the town passing by the Sunset Cafe as the sun set and the Hippies mumbled their drug induced garbage, taking a few photos of the lake which was bathed in a warm evening glow.

We arrived back at our hotel in the gathering darkness it is a lovely and friendly place Pushkar, although the flower sellers are extremely annoying. The next morning dawned cold and our attempt to get breakfast just took too long so I went to a small shop and bought a bag full of chocolates, chips and juice just before set off into the Thar Desert on our way to Jaisalmer.

It was a long trip but I enjoyed the arid desert landscape and the occasional wildlife such as the Nilgai, we stopped briefly for an expensive lunch but we needed it as our breakfast had not been very satisfying before continuing on our way. Late in the afternoon we came across a herd of camels with a large number of very young calves, one of the herders was a dead ringer for Ricky Ponting, when I told him this he puffed up in pride. We finally arrived in Jaisalmer around 5pm and checked into our hotel which was a lovely haveli built of the local yellow sandstone and was located only a few hundred metres from the massive fort that dominates this remote desert city, we spent the remainder of the evening getting drunk on the roof which was particularly enjoyable after a long day of travel.

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