Jaiselmer: The golden city and the desert

After a long, bumpy, but mostly frigid bus ride from Pushkar, we arrived to low town Jaiselmer’s dusty streets. Inside the fort we wandered in and out of havelis, drinking chai, enjoying the hot days and shivering through the cold nights. After two days we went to the desert, guided by Arka and Maga, two young boys with five camels. Both boys were visibly ill after a long season of camel safaris.   We were mostly concerned about Arka, who was suffering with a high fever. We gave them medicine and they gave us desert songs and warm food. We rolled around the sand with ‘Mr India’, a baby camel that followed his mother during our two days in the sand. We finally convinced the boys to call the trip short and go to the doctor.  Although we ended some hours early, we learned later that the boys endured another outing the following day.  We never found out if they received proper medical attention.  For us though, the experience was still amazing.  In the desert we found total silence for the first time since we arrived in India.

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packed in our sleeper bus from Pushkar, the window uncomfortably ajar all night through. we arrived with sore throats and runny noses.

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approaching the golden city from the east, the massive fort sits on top of its glacis…

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despite its mass, there is something fragile about the fort, as if little by little it slowly crumbles back into the sand.

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inside the fort life goes on as usual

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improvised cricket matches fill the streets

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we know, we should save this for next year’s christmas card but we can’t help ourselves, it’s too good.

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during the day when the men are on the street, the women take over the roof tops.

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among the many tasks, collecting cow pies for the hearths fills the early hours

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at night the fort empties out and Jaiselmer becomes two cities: inside and out

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to enter the fort you pass through three gates, never in a direct line.

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at the jain temples, monks grind sandalwood and saffron into a holy pulp.

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every corner of the temple is carved with ornate figures and geometric patterns, hiding the structure. mortar lines are blurred, blocks are imperceptible. its a continuous cavity of ornaments.

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6666 jain statues in one place.

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in the desert we saw two dawns…

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…wrapped in blankets, the cold mornings were silent.

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Arka (19), the older of our two guides tows the camels towards us, ‘Mr India’, the young male always a few steps behind.

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during our two days in the desert, when far enough away from the villages, we encountered vultures, eagles, antelope, kingfishers, wild donkeys, goats, beetles, flies, and lone wanderers, but for the most part we saw a lot of sand and silver-hued brush.

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village life

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Arka and his nephew

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our campsite in the dunes

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ridge-walking

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‘Mr India’ and his mother, ‘Moli’ watching the sun set

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Arka and Maga prepare dinner

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Maga and ‘Mr India’ wrestle in the morning before we set off for the second day.

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…………………..

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…………………..

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goodbye from the desert…next stop Udaipur

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