not all Haveli's are equal!
19.03.2016 - 19.03.2016
Day 7- March 19- Saturday - leave Jodhpur and drive to Jaisalmer
I am again awake with the call to prayer at 5.30am. I head to the rooftop of the haveli to listen. I love seeing the towns wake up. The people here generally sleep late. Well, later than I do! Unless of course you're Muslim, as call to the first daily prayers are at 5.30am! I make myself a hot black coffee and enjoy uploading pics to the blog! It still took at hour to upload 20 pics....I'm a few days behind.
Finally I am joined by the girls for breakfast. We all pack ( which is becoming slightly more difficult!) and load ourselves into the bus again for our 300km drive ( 7 hour trip) to Jaisalmer for the next 2 nights.
The pollution caused by the tuk tuks is quite noticeable here- let me just say what comes out of your nose isn't clean, and I'm assuming it's doing much the same to my lungs!
The drive is long, as far as our drives go. This was the longest. It is easy to assume, as Australians, that 300km will take around 3 hours. Here, the roads are narrow, rough and of course full of the craziness that we've now become used to.
Driving through remote villages, beautiful bright saris, farms, all working, people just sitting on the side of the road, chatting, or waiting for a bus to pass and pick them up. A beautiful sight is seeing the women, or girls, with water jugs on their heads, walking in groups to the water pump. A hand pump, where they fill their jugs, and again, place them upon their heads, and do the slow, graceful walk back to their homes. We definitely take water for granted. Fresh, drinkable water. We have only drank bottled water.
Anna, our trusty leader, has long talked about her favourite biscuits she's eaten in India. They are called 'Dark Fantasy' and that has of course led to other conversations. So much so, that we still haven't managed to find the elusive dark fantasy. We've scoured every dhaba and shop we've seen. Then, at out chai stop, we spot them. Seductively sitting in the glass cabinet. 4 boxes. We look at each other. 4 boxes won't be enough. We see more, many more boxes. Poor Saheed has listened to many conversations about dark fantasy, but ( as we discovered) had no clue what we meant, he thought we must really, really love these biscuits!
We load up with dark fantasy and climb back into the bus. They don't disappoint. We are so excited that we take photos with the box!
A few things I haven't mentioned thus far.......the cows, they are everywhere, along with donkeys, dogs, not too many cats, chickens, monkeys, squirrels, pigeons, camels and water buffalo. Cows, being sacred, are plentiful. We see women shooing them out of doorways to houses as the cows try to walk in. They also leave ever so lovely mines along the roads, paths and alleyways. We've become quite adept at spotting them, assessing their texture and 'freshness' which of course allows us to negotiate the best way forward. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, a couple of us girls ( thankfully not me!) have decided that the assessment was best performed with their feet, or with their shoes on, however, thongs and freshness do not go very well together. It was a shitty situation for them, and generally a hilarious one for us!
Poverty is definitely seen in India. But if you compare it to Bali, then I don't think you'd be too shocked. That is unless you've never left the Main Street of Kuta! It is something that exists in a third world country. We had a big conversation yesterday, and we don't know if they envy us or not. Or whether they pity us for the commercialism we've adopted, the disconnected state we enjoy, or the inability to truly appreciate our ways of life in Australia. We wonder if they think we are the unlucky, poor ones, and they're the lucky ones, with their richness measured by their contentment and happiness,many familial ties.
During the day, and at night, the locals chat to each other, sit in the streets, or at the front of houses in groups, generally the men together, the women together and all the kids, some dressed, some half dressed, playing games in the streets. They light up with laughter. Their beautiful brown eyes are so sparkly and mesmerising that we of course catch that playfulness, and laugh along too. Sometimes we take photos, they ask you to, assuming they know English words for photo, rupee ( money) and hello! We take pictures and then show them on the screen and they dissolve into laughter and a side wobble of the head. We imagine the others are teasing them the same as we would tease friends!
The scourge of plastic is very noticeable here. In some smaller villages, there are paddocks and roadsides buried under colourful plastic litter. Having said that, India is one of the biggest recycling countries in the world. If only they could get excited about building toilets.....that would be wonderful!
We have taken to scoring toilets. As toilets go, we've used nice ones in haveli's and encountered not too nice ones at other places. The outside is generally not an indication of what lies behind the door. Toilet paper is guaranteed not to be present, and we are the weird ones who take tissues in our pockets at each stop. Generally there is a bucket and a tap, and you pour water down to flush it. We've had some, where another of us would stand guard, and the toxic fumes from a non flushing system would render you unable, and unwilling to enclose it further by closing the door.....but with a giggle, and a score, we again head off into the dusty roads, awaiting the next chance to score.
We mostly encounter squat toilets, which actually make sense. I swear they're cleaner than using a toilet seat that every bum has touched! However, the jury is still out on which way you face, the end closest to the door or the end with the water in it.......we have decided that for women, facing the water is best, less splash back, and safer for the feet, however, there are circumstances where facing the other way is preferred. I won't go into any more details as I'm sure you've figured it out!
The worst by far are the public areas where men go to the toilet. Basically, it is usually a wall, nothing more, where they stand and pee, and the smell is horrendous. These areas are not marked by signs, but let me tell you, they are easily found. Jo ( we were called Jo squared in Jaisalmer!) and I decided at one point to find a nice shady spot to sit whilst waiting for the others. We went, sat, and immediately stood up as on the other side of the 4 foot wall was obviously an unmarked latrine! Of course, we giggle, make jokes, and found another lovely spot without such aroma!
The other aroma you fall in love with here, is the smell of women cooking. Amazing smells, wafting through streets, enticing you to visit the very door which harbours the smells. But alas, we are not invited ( although I could almost guarantee if you asked, they'd welcome you in like an important guest, and sit you down and feed you!), and we keep wandering, and wondering what exotic curry they've cooked for dinner for their loved ones.
One last thing that takes some getting used to, is the spitting. Men here chew tobacco, staining their teeth red. The ground is covered with red splats. But, they spit all the time. Sometimes they spend a while making it worth their while, if you get my drift. To be honest, it isn't a noise I've become accustomed to, but it is their way, and with the pollution is some places, or the stench of cow dung, or the drainage systems, or the dust up your nose and in your throat, I get their need to do so. This is definitely a habit we have not taken up!
Back to our day at hand, we eventually arrive at our hotel. It is called the Lal Garh Fort & Palace Hotel. Now I've also said here the word palace and luxury are used very differently to us! But, we quickly assess the rooms and head to the rooftop, where we are greeted by beautiful cushioned seating areas with low tables in the centre. Now, this could have been the scene of a lovely romantic evening under the stars, with a cooling breeze, and the imposing Jaisalmer fort in the background.
Instead, it becomes the scene of many gin and tonics, many whiskies and nearly a bottle of vodka! It became a late night.....who knows what time we stopped laughing and headed to bed, but it was a night full of women's chats, laughter and stories of our lives, far away from India. 7 strangers met two weeks ago, but today, we all regard ourselves as friends. Bonded by a sense of adventure, and common love for India, it's people and the culture.