Day 07 - Thursday, November 3, 2016 - Transfer to Pushkar; Mela Ground Fair; Rajasthani Folk Dancing and Singing
We had another foggy morning so the balloon ride was canceled. The temperature was 67 degrees and the humidity was 65%. At 8:30 we left Jaipur for the five-hour drive to Pushkar. Sujay provided an overview of his plan for our day.
The first stop was on the street to take advantage of an ATM as the tent camp will have electricity but no Internet and no access for money. While we waited for the last to get money, Sujay told us about the women cleaning the streets with straw brooms.
Many residents do not have a civic sense to clean their own environment. The new President Mobi has developed a campaign to "Clean Up India". The federal government is providing much needed financial aid for infrastructure so there was new construction everywhere.
Our drive was on Highway #8, a 1,600-mile stretch beginning in Kashmir to Mumbai. This three-lane road was very well maintained and provided access to all the major industrial cities.
As we drove, we shared a few stories from our Home Hosted dinner last night. All of us had good experiences but some were better than others. The common experience was the fact that all of the families were arranged marriages.
The philosophy of OAT is to be open about controversial topics. Sujay began the discussion of Honor Killings and the practice of retribution for dishonoring family traditions and expectations. He also shared his own experiences with his love marriage to his wife Ratna.
As we drove through the countryside we saw dry pastures with a few skinny cows, herds of goats, truck stops, and camels used as beasts of burden. The dwellings were concrete block, and very primitive.
At 10:30 we stopped at a small roadside oasis for our morning break. The restrooms were clean and even though the prices for snacks were a bit high, we bought a drink, some chips, and chocolate for Gennie. By 11:15 we were back on the roadway, next stop - Pushkar!
We left the main highway at noon and got a true look at rural India. There were small camps of Gypsies, more Holy Cows, and beautiful women dressed in colorful saris were gathering firewood along the roadside.
There were a few brief photo stops along the way to capture the local color. The terrain was becoming more mountainous, and the sandy soil was less suited for crops.
We arrived at the small village of Pushkar, which is very quiet and peaceful for most of the year. The only holy shrine in India to the god Brahma is in this small town. The town is noted for Hindu pilgrimages and the beautiful Pushkar Lake.
For 10 days of the year during the Pushkar Camel Fair, the whole area is transformed into a vibrant rainbow of colors. Noted for an auction site for many animals like camels, cattle, goats, and other domesticated critters, the population expands with Indians from rural areas far and wide and just as many tourists for the short-term of the fair.
Our tent camp is set up only for 10 days during the Festival. We were the first group to arrive, followed by the other OAT group about 30 minutes later. There are some trees on the grounds, but we are technically in the desert with sand everywhere. Grass mats laid out over the sand acted as sidewalks and lanterns lit the paths at night.
The lunch was in the dining tent and then Sinjey, the camp manager gave us a warm welcome and explained the large facility. There were over 90 tents that are equipped with running water, electricity, individual showers, a toilet, and enough room for us to maneuver in comfort.
We had time to settle in and arrange our tent so that we could both have a space for writing. At 4:00 we all met back at the Reception Center and the leader of the other OAT group, Narendra, who is from Pushkar gave us a briefing about his city.
In the cool of the afternoon, the bus took us to Pushkar where Sujay had arranged for us to ride camels around the Mela Fairgrounds. As this was the first days of the festival, vendors were just setting up their tents and traders were unloading their animals.
Gypsy families followed us begging for money. When we reached the end of our ride, we thanked our camel drivers and then had a chance to experience nightfall in the desert. The air was heavy with smoke from the cooking fires, and as we walked back to our bus, we could imagine how crowded the grounds would be tomorrow night when we returned.
When we arrived at the campground we went back to our tents. At 7:00 the camp manager provided Rajasthani folk music, dancing and singing. We listened from our tent while we sorted photos and completed the journal.
At 7:30 a man from the camp brought us two hot water bottle. We were not sure what to do with them but as the temperatures dropped in the desert, it was the source of heat for the night.
Dinner was served in the dining hall after the entertainment. We passed on another late meal and went to sleep listening to the sounds of the camp settling in for the night.
Accommodations: Aagman India Travel & Living - - - Meal: B, L, D
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I must have taken too much of those good sleeping pills - I went to sleep on day 5 and now, it's day 7. WOW - I missed a lot, I know, but so glad you are still carrying me with you in your pocket. India is a country that certainly believes in bright colors. They are beautiful people in the pics. Glad I have caught up with y'all again.
The camp at Pushkar is much larger than when we went in 2008. Electricity was only available for some hours in the tents. Steve got very sick one day and we were in the tent with our guide arranged for large towels and ice water to totally cover him to get his fever down. She especially wrapped his head, hands, and feet. It made such a difference. After several hours and some 7-Up with sugar and salt, Steve was able to eat a bit of soup. The rejuvenating salts were so bad, he couldn't keep anything down, but the 7-Up worked. I was so glad our guide knew just what to do. I was a wreck! Fortunately the worst was over in a day.
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What a fascinating trip. The history is so complicated. I'm amazed at the variety of colors they bring out & adorn everything with. That Palace with 900 windows was incredible.
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