Desert mis-adventure

I had expected to write at least a post about Diwali by now, but part of travel is plans changing and most of my plans for the past days got entirely sidelined by getting ‘traveler’s illness’ – the standard fever and less-than-elegant stomach issues that I had happily and amazingly had managed to avoid till now but that I kind of figured would catch up with me at some point. 🙂 Now we’re already in Jodhpur, and Diwali is feeling ages away. So, I’ll catch up on Diwali later on.

The timing of falling ill was actually quite good. If you have to be sick, it’s better that it start right after you arrive at the hotel rather than just before or during travel and it was a decent place to be sick – clean, good room, helpful staff. And I am lucky to have such a sweet and patient travel companion too. Roman took great care of me!

We’d left Delhi on Sunday. A short and easy flight brought us to Jodhpur where we decided to go cushy and get a taxi to take us for the long drive to Jaisalmer. We’d been up late and got up early so Roman slept for a lot of the journey but after a short nap, I was up and I loved the ride and was just glued to the window the whole time.

Rajasthan is in the northwest of India, and has a whole different climate and landscape from anything else I’ve seen so far here.

Heading westward toward Jaisalmer, we were driving into a flat landscape of desert scrub. The towns we passed were small but colorful, with women in vibrant clothing and men topped with bright, loosely tied turbans. Between towns we came up behind a cart being drawn on the road. I was confused by the back view of the creature pulling it – the height didn’t seem at all right – until I realized it wasn’t a cow or horse but a camel!

The villages became scrappier and less frequent as we went along. Driving after sunset, there would be periodic dots of light off of the side of the road and less often another small village comprising a handful of buildings, but mostly there was just darkness.

After about six hours, we arrived, found our hotel down a narrow, quiet stone-paved street, had a meal and got ready for bed, which is when the chills started, and after that I was out for the count. We were meant to go on a camel desert safari while we were there, but I was only feeling well again on our last day, so there is so much that we didn’t get to see.

Even for the little time that I did end up spending outside the hotel, I was totally charmed by Jaisalmer. It’s an incredible little city – like something out of another century.

All the buildings and streets are made out of thick blocks of yellow sandstone. Even from my sickroom, it was impossible not to be impressed by the view from my window when the sun lit the place up – you can easily understand why it’s called the golden city. The place looks ancient, like time decided to stand still a thousand years ago. This feeling is reinforced by things like the lack of street lights (it is pretty dark at night, at least where we were staying), the sound of bleating goats being kept outside of people’s homes, and minimal vehicle traffic (due to narrow roads).

The place also has some of the worst smells I’ve experienced in India. Maybe this is due in part to heightened sensitivity to smell from being sick. That being said, I think getting a full on waft from the open sewers might make anyone feel queasy. They also burned a really unattractive incense around the hotel – smelled like a cross between something a really cheap psychic would use and a stuffy old woman’s house. Delightful. 😉

So, I may have been sick and missed out on the desert safari, but I still loved Jaisalmer (despite the smells! 😉 ). I only had time and strength to spend a morning wandering around inside the hilltop fort and seeing the Jain temple within its walls, but I’m really glad I saw at least that. Being inside the fort felt a bit like being in a medieval walled city in Italy, where everything you see is beautiful and every photo you take looks like a post card.

Pictures in the next post… 🙂

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