OK, I give up! Regardless of what time I go to sleep, I’m awake too damn early. My eyes were focusing quite right this morning, so I thought it was 6:32. Nope, it was 5:32. Oh well.
Kamal was at the hotel to pick us up at 8:00 AM, as agreed. We were off to Pushkar. We’ve really been looking forward to seeing what happens at the annual Camel Fair. We can only imagine that it’ll be packed with people and more camels than we’d want to see in a lifetime. The sights, sounds, colours and, oh yes, the smells will likely be overwhelming.
We’ve already figured out that you can’t possibly digitally capture everything we see around us. We agreed that we can take a lot of satisfaction in having seen these things that we didn’t, or couldn’t, get the photos of and we have a few shots in our minds that will, as Dass put it, “haunt” us. I have 2: the woman in the bright saree walking down the country road balancing a large load on her head, leading 2 goats with a small child following along behind; a man walking across a field with 2 buffalos on ropes, one in front of him and one behind. Dass’ is from this morning of a woman bent over sweeping the space around her with a typical short broom, the dust flying around her backlit by the sun.
Todays drive took us down a main highway, through small towns and villages and through a couple of large cities. We stopped for a rest and a tea at the Rajasthani Midway Restaurant. It was also a store, with lots of t-shirts, trinkets, etc. for sale.
There are many motorcycles on the highway carrying anywhere from 1 to 4 people. I tried getting shots of some through the car window, as we drove past them. I had some luck with a few….not necessarily sharp focus, but you get the idea.
Occasionally we see donkeys along the way. There seems to be a hierarchy with the animals here: cows, of course, are holy (holy cow!!), so they’re untouchable and at the top (I don’t get it, they can go everywhere and do anything!); buffalo wander around the same as cows, but they’re not holy and they are put to work, for instance, pulling ploughs; camels and horses are very important, but they’re mostly workers – I’ll say they’re likely in the middle; dogs are everywhere too, but they’re mostly a nuisance; donkeys have to be at the bottom – they’re used to carry heavy loads like gravel, rocks and bricks. They must be embarrassed being painted up like that! I’ll tell ya, the SPCA would have a heyday here!!
We saw many overloads of all descriptions, including the donkeys above, but this busload was one of the best. Seat belts? What seat belts?
We arrived in Pushkar at 12:20 and arrived at the Pushkar Palace Hotel about a 1/2 hour later. Pushkar’s population is about 1.5 million, but that increases by a few hundred thousand during the Camel Fair, so there were lots of people and activity on the streets. As has often been the case, we drove through some dodgy areas in the immediate vicinity of our hotel, the Hotel Pushkar Palace.
Kamal made sure we were checked in OK and then said his goodbye until Tuesday morning at 9:00 AM, when we leave for Jaipur, our last stop on this tour.
We had to wait about 15 minutes for our room to be cleaned, including separating the beds (had to do that yesterday too), converting them from a king size to 2 singles.
The hotel overlooks a large lake with ghats leading down to the water from the buildings all around the lake. We got a few shots of the view while we waited.
One of the first things we did while waiting was try the internet. We were really hoping that we’d have wi-fi in the room this time, but no such luck. Although there is a connection to the network, we couldn’t access anything. Rather than wasting our time figuring that out now, we headed out to find the fair grounds.
Wow!!! We had to walk a mile or so, but that took us through an extremely busy street market area that was absolutely teaming with people of all sizes, shapes and colours. Of course, the majority are Indian, but many caucasian people have traveled here from all over the world, just to be here for the camel fair. I am so glad that this is one of our stops on this somewhat whirlwind tour, but we have 1.5 days and 2 nights, so we’ll take in everything we can.
Our slow walk through the streets gave us lots of photos. Once again, many people spoke to us, some asked to have their photos taken with us or wanted us to take photos of them and, of course, some wanted money for that privilege. We mostly ignore them. We asked several people if we could take photos of them – “Photo, theek hai?” (“Photo, OK?”), with a smile usually gets a nod. There are many holy men on the streets and they’re easy to spot: orange robes, long hair, beards. You can take photos of them, but you have to give them some rupees. That’s how the community supports them. There are others who look like the holy men, but they ask you to take their photos and ask for money. I’m going to look for the perfect one before I pay for it.
We finally found the entrance to the fair. The first thing we saw was lots of horses, but no camels. We walked the length of the grounds, through sand to the main paved road. We started to see a few camels, but before long we saw lots of them arriving. Some went by pulling carts, some were elaborately decorated, others were ridden, a few were lead through on ropes. We saw a few small herds going in both directions. Those animals are big, so you have to get out of the way or be trampled!
In fact, one herd was quickly coming toward us on the opposite side of the road. They were running and then started to cross to our side, so went over to the other side. They were moving! When they had gone by, we saw a small horse lying dead on the side of the road. Don’t know for sure, but it may have been trampled by the camels.
The photo ops here are spectacular! People, camels, horse, colours, everything! No, you can’t possibly get it all! I already know that I’ll leave here thinking that I’d love to come back and do it again.
After about 1.5 hours at the fair, we started to make our way back. I think the streets were busier now than when we started out. I stopped to buy some saffron from a spice dealer. He started at Rs 150 for 2 grams, but he agreed to Rs 100 when I walked away. I bought 2 package for Rs 200, about $4. I haven’t checked them out yet, but I hope they’re more than just red thread or sticks! I bought some in Dubai a few years ago and, although I can’t remember what I paid, I know it was a helluva lot more than that.
We got back to the hotel about 4:45, took it easy for a while and then went to the Shiva Garden, close to the hotel, for dinner. I had a very good pizza, tea and water, while Dass had a chai tea and a vegetable and a stir fry of some sort.
When we got back to the hotel, we were hot, tired and sore. We tried the internet again. Dass was able to connect while sitting on the balcony outside the room. I went down to the main floor and managed to get a good connection, or at least to have a short FaceTime with Bonnie and catch up on email and Facebook.
I went back to the room to write this blog, which won’t get posted until tomorrow, because I can’t get a damn internet connection again.
Although there were many sights on the road trip today, we didn’t see much that we hadn’t seen before. Just 2 guys on a motorcycle carrying 3 rolls of fencing about 5’ long.
Our plan tomorrow is to get an early start to the camel fair, sometime between 7:00 and 8:00, stay out for a couple of hours and then return to the hotel for breakfast and take it easy for a while. Then we’ll go out again for a couple of hours until 5:00 or so. It’ll all depend on the heat. Actually, it hasn’t been all bad, or at least the heat hasn’t stopped us from doing anything. Hey, it’s a dry heat!!