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Long route home Our trip all the way home, trying to catch no planes and stay on the ground like civilised people. It's taking us via India all the way to Europe from Japan, the furthest of the Far East...


INDIA | Wednesday, 22 September 2010 | Views [1018]

Finally no coconut trees, no rice paddies, but a new landscape entirely.  Waking up on the Jaisalmer mail and seeing desert was pretty special.  Jaisalmer is the last stop of any note before Pakistan, soldiers outnumbering people 3 to 1 in the town.  It's by far the smallest place we've been in quite a while and a welcome respite from the beeping, buzzing chaos of large Indian urban areas.  It's astonishingly dry, as well and for the first time since Beijing all thse months ago it's dry and hot rather than swelteringly humid.  The colour of this city is gold, not for its riches but for the sandstone used to build it.  It almost feels as though the whle city has been brought forth from the sand itself at times.  It's yet another India to see, quite unlike the lush paddies of the south or the dramatic hills of the Deccan plateau.  Like all hotels in Rajasthan seems to be, our place this time is sumptuously decked out and very romantically arranged.  They also arrange tours for camel-trekking into the great Thar desert that lies between India and Pakistan.

So it came to pass that a day later we were acutely aware of the fact that we were kilometres from civilisation, our lives entrusted to a pair of boys and our behinds entrusted to a pair of mercifully untruculent camels.  Had we been taking too much bhang?  Had we signed up in a fit of heatstroke-induced folly?  No, incredibly we had decided that this was a good idea and had gone willingly.  As we lounged after lunch while the camels walked around with their wild friends looking for their lunch, it felt like a great idea.  No sounds of the city, nice cool shade and genuine wilderness.  Bouncing around on the back of the camel wasn't as relaxing.  They are not the best shaped animals for riding on and certainly not the best tempered.  Most of their time was spent hitting themselves or each other to bump off flies.  We then had another fit of fun on the sand dunes which was an incredibly romantic place to fall asleep together.  Not so romantic at 3AM when the wind had picked up and we were covered in sand and acutely aware of just how cold it was.  Still, the trip as a whole was an excellent experience and we're glad we went.  We're 50/50 on the company though as they left us in the care of two very young boys with limited English skills.  They had a bad habit of leaving us alone with the beasts while they went off to go to the toilet/collect water/wash plates and we never knew what would happen next.  Luckily nothing serious happened and we were fine.

The sights of the city, other than those accursed camels, were fairly predictable.  Fort, temples and old houses.  We skipped the old houses, pottered around the small palace within the fort and sampled a selection of Jain temples.  The fort was amazing - still inhabited and very much a part of the city rather than merely a tourist attraction and relic.  The palace was peaceful, no throngs of people and a really nice chance to meander about at our own pace and indulge daydreams of Arabian Nights.  The temples were treats, too, with distinctive fine-carving redolent of years gone past.  The priests were very pushy though, alms being demanded every five minutes, despite large signs asking for donations to be given centrally and not to individuals.  It was our first real sight of Jainism in Rajasthan and it remains a pity not to have seen more of this compelling ancient religion.  What we did see was fascinating though and gives us a reason to head back, probably to Gujarat.  But for now it was on to Jodhpur, home of India's first ever audio tour...

- If you go on a camel ride, make sure to ask about the guides (how much English they speak is a good start) - remember you will be entrusting your backside, insides (they do the cooking), and xx to them
- Shahi Palace was another excellent Rajasthani hotel
- The bhang shop is really friendly and well-run, not a bunch of bandits
- Make sure you have time for a shower after camelling


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