This part of the journey all starts fifteen minutes out of the bus station in jodhpur as some other backpackers and myself were pushed onto the public bus in hopes of finding a seat for the long journey ahead, we had to laugh as the driver insisted on one of us squish up to the window that was coated in vomit from the end of the seat, up and over the side out to paint, after a short stern discussion about how nobodies going to sit in this chair, the operators eventually agreed that it wasn’t that pleasant and gave it a quick wipe over with a couple of napkins and we were good to go.
In the midst of buying my ticket for the nine-hour journey to Jaisalmer, the bus suddenly hits the back of a fire truck smashing in the entire front windscreen, at this point I look at the ticket guy with confusion as he is so calm and collected, proceeding to print and hand me my ticket,
“are we still going to drive” I ask, he nods his head in reply and continues to work his way up the isle of the bus slapping his wad of money into his palms. Besides the unreserved train seating we where previously moving about in, this was a very authentic experience, nine whole hours of scorching heat and potholes in a symphony of Baba’s snorting and coughing as the horn gets louder and louder as time goes by along with the leering eyes fixated on our sweaty presence.
We pull over on the side of the road a few hours into the journey as the wind from driving 80km/h pushes the already smashed widescreen further into the cabin, spreading glass fragments throughout the front end of the bus, the driver ever so casually stands up from his seat, steps to the passenger side and what he made seem so normal, kicked out the rest of the windscreen, he then took his seat and continued the drive, and after a hot, dusty journey we made it to our destination.
We arrived quite late at night, I was tired, we walked to the first hotel we had found and I was sold on the 150 rupee a night for a dorm, the boys I where traveling with were not satisfied and insisted to search for something cheaper, eventually rubbing it in my face that they haggled a private room for 100ruppee (2$), I ended up staying where I was and met some good people, later to break off from my brothers and take a new direction.
Jaisalmer, the golden city, home to the Sonar Quila, the golden fort, its a special place, and it Rajasthan at its finest, a unique, beautifully crafted city full of secrets, back allies filled with cheap food and knickknacks, Jaisalmer is what you make it, if you like to live cheap and authentic then this is the place, the people are friendly enough and open to the traveler, though like everywhere you need to keep aware. I’m not writing anything to advertise anywhere, if you desire anything I speak about it is you mission to go out and find it, like the 50 rupee thali with unlimited chapati and tops ups, the 10 rupee alloo parantha, 20 rupee dosa, the secret cat flap for those late night beers, the 2-3 rupee Bola (weed edibles), the restaurant where you literally write your order on the docket along with any price your willing to pay, its all there, you just need to look deeper inside the beauty.
Walls and buildings with highly detailed carvings, busy streets with an abundance of cows chowing down on scraps in every corner of the main square, all sorts of food, the government authorized Bhang/weed lassie shop write next to the entrance of Jaisalmer fort, the shining golden center of the city, originally being the only structure to eventually spread outwards due to the increase of the population, it is the largest, most preserved and believed to be the only lived in fort in India, aligned with market stalls and hustlers, there is also a problem of the hotels and guesthouses inside the fort which is slowly undermining the foundations and destroying the fort so you should really try to avoid staying inside the fort if you can. Inside are some beautiful temples, wall to wall of the intricate detail, stories and depictions of the gods, and other tributes to faith and life.
Inside and out it really is an incredible place.
Now I don’t condone to the mistreatment of animals, though I rode a camel, its an incredibly over hyped tourist experience that I somehow included myself into, a journey for a couple of hours through the desert, a visit to a couple of gypsy villages and sleeping over night in the sand dunes, and that’s exactly what it was, I jumped out of the jeep and approached beautiful beast, my eyes swelling up at the sight of the piece of bone priced though the bridge of its nose, the seeping puss attracting an uncomfortable amount of flies which he must violently shake his face every 5 minutes in order to find a miniscule moment of peace.
I lean closer to this massive animal, making sure I avoid the ring worm as I wrap my arms around her neck for a hug, making sure she knows we are on the same level, that we are equal, as long as we are together nothing will happen to her, I was then interrupted as the rest of the camels had started the move whilst I was vibing with my new friend, “cello, cello”, Lets go, And we where off.
I haven’t got to much else to say about the camel ride other than its one more thing I wont ever be doing again, for one, the animals aren’t happy, the people are stupidly underpaid, the food was hands down the worst food I have eaten during this trip, it was the people I went with that made it, a unique collection of worldly souls, soon to become great friends in the process. The desert is beautiful but truly far from the experience they’re all advertising, the gypsy villages are an in and out experience due to the masses of children asking in a very confronting way for anything, money, food, sunglasses, a pen, you really feel for these children though it’s the idea your just expected to give, there content within there communities until we arrive taking photos and videos with our iPhones, cameras and go pros, then the outside world has once again caused corruption and chaos within the community.
The rest of the nights were spent on a consistent route to the cat flap for beers, drinking bhang lassies and smoking some terrible weed, and a classic game of cricket with the local kids ending in a smashed window and everybody bailing the scene, I felt like I was 10 years old playing in the street back home.
a couple of days later after connecting with some other travelers I decided to split off from Ryan and Danny, my two brother from home and head out with the new crew further east, towards the border of Pakistan to Bikaner, to visit Karni Mata, The Temple of Rats.
Forcing our way on the train once again we hit the rails, a train ride is a train ride, no explanation needed, no need to dwell on un-comforts of the past, and so we move into Bikaner, on arrival the atmosphere was once again very present.
We pull into the station around 4am, we are tired and certainly not in the mood for the hoard of tuk tuks that flock to the scene shouting in your face unreasonable prices to go just up the road.
We bartered down to a good deal and drove to one of two guest houses in the entire city, entering through the curtain and down the hall to the communal lounge, where there is a young boy sleeping who was awoken by one of the girls, with a shake of his foot he was awake, the poor boy, five minutes later after he officially became conscious of the situation he wandered around confused with his palms rubbing his eyes, knocking on doors receiving no reply, we were all way to tired to deal with the situation so we sprawled ourselves out over the concrete floor and awkwardly occupied the small comfortable spaces of the couch and let the clear minded future us deal with the situation.
Opening the eyes not long enough after closing them I awoke once again being beaten with the fan, my dry nasal passages gasping for a fresh breath, I stumble out side to be greeted with the kisses of a million mosquitos, it was a rough morning, though after chai and a shower in the sink it was time go and visit the rat temple.
An hour out from Bikaner to the town of Deshnoke we arrived to the pale paint peeling temple, Kana Mata, surrounded in bamboo foundations in what looks like its been a long process to extend in size, paying even more tribute to the rodents in all their glory, around 25,000 of them.
We took off our shoes and entered though the temple gates, beautiful marble carvings of gods, elephants, flowers and of course, rats. Treading though puddles of piss and feeling the shit of the animal underneath your feet as you walk though crowds of Indians touching and lining up to place their offerings at the base of the shine, a small room absolutely infested and littered with rice, ghee and flowers, rats lay flattened through the halls as we scurried through the sounds of woman chanting mantras and painting the walls with there fingers.
After starring to long at rats feasting on large bowls of ghee and milk, climbing over everything and everyone, nestled into ever crevasse and crack of the temple it was really about time to leave, I was lucky enough in fact to see one of the highly praised white albino rats though it wasn’t powerful enough to keep me in within those walls any longer. On the way back our tuk tuk driver took it upon himself to show us what makes Bikaner beautiful, we stopped at temples and old architecture, one temple in particular being the only entirely hand painted temples representing all stories from the Hindu culture, speaking to the Brahman about the 21 sins of the devil, and the stories of Shiva, Lakshmi, kali and the endless philosophies in Hinduism.
It was a short stay in Bikaner, that night we caught a sleeper train onwards the Amritsar, home to the Golden temple a holly mecca for Sikhism, some good food, some shitty beer, an incredibly powerful experience over all.
Until the next time I can find a moment to delve back into past experience, relaying over two months now gone though will forever remain influential to my life.
I am trying.
No, I am Doing.
Love and the brightest light.