November 10, deepest, darkest India
Day 72 of the trip Memsahib Sherouse is feeling quite a bit exotic. Having been made gun-shy of traveling independently in India by other blogs, we are finding the personal guided trip quite interesting. We were met at the airport in Varanasi by our guide and the driver who took us first to the hotel and then again later for a boat ride on the Ganges to watch the evening ritual and see the cremations, We saw this all again before dawn the next morning. Apparently this is the only thing there is to do in Varanasi. I would advise those contemplating a trip to India to omit Varanasi, with its floating donkey corpses, crematoria, laughing yoga practitioners, bathing, washing clothes and dishes, P/A system chants, and tourist boats propelled by 10 year old boys. We were driven back to the airport where we flew to Khajahuro on Kingfisher airlines, to a quite nice hotel, the Greenwood. That evening we went to a regional dance performance, quite well done. Next morning our local guide, George, took us to a tour of the 22 extant temples in Khajahuro, of which only 2 percent, contrary to popular belief, present miniature three-dimensional depictions of the Kama Sutra or some such. But very well done.
In the afternoon the driver took us to Agra, a 4 hour drive, then a train ride of 2 hours, where we were left at possibly the filthiest, most disgusting hotel we have ever seen. Armed with our own sheets and towels, we managed for 2 nights by not bodily touching anything in the room. Agra is known for its scamming of tourists, lousy hotels, frequent power outages (20 times in 2 days), and general filth and pollution... and the Taj Mahal.
The Taj Mahal was wonderful. Photos don/'t do it justice. Unmfortunately there was considerable haze, and some of our photos won't do it justice either. The haze partially cleared and it was a magnificent sight.
We also visit the Agra Fort. Another highlight of the day was a visit to Pizza Hut, and a pepperoni pizza, which was wonderful, our first American food in 6 weeks. (I have lost at least 10 lbs).
Today we had a 7 hour drive across north central drive across north central India, and in route saw Fatiphur Sikri, a 16th century gohst-fort in very good condition, and on into Rajasthan and its capital city of Jaipur. Where we are staying in a very nice, clean hotel in the city. Only one power outage so far.
Mark is typing this for me as, except when I can't. I am staying flat on my back to rest my shoulder, which is getting better, but very slowly.
Pushkar, November 13
It is 8:30 in the morning and I am lying in bed in the tent at the Royal Safari Camp. The Pushkar camel fair, or melee, brings over 150,000 visitors to a small town in Rajasthan. This of course is way too many to house and so there are at least 15 tent cities, each with 75-100 tents. Our tent is quite large, divided into two parts with full bathroom and flush toilet. No camp-cots here, full wooden beds, table, chairs and kerosene lanterns with electric lights inside. The only thing missing is AC, which is only needed in the afternoon. Last night we took our first sojourn to the fair, which is about 2 miles away across desert dunes, by camel cart. The fair is 95% Indian and the rest foreigners. Most of the camel and cattle-trading is over as these are the last days. There is a midway, 3 ferris wheels, and some very strange kiddie rides. But mostly of it is stalls set up flea-market fashion selling camel saddles, pots and pans, dishes, etc. Unfortunately the fair is not that interesting, and the second you show any interest, the shopkeeper, cousins, friends, assorted hangers-on, are all over you, touting the wonders of their wares in broken English. We intend one more foray to the fair this morning.
The camp include all meals, all vegetarian, as Pushkar is the the holy city of Lord Brahma and allows no alcohol, tobacco, or meat within its environs. Lord Brahma is the least popular of the three main Hindu gods and basically only worshiped here. The reason for this is long, complicated, and as in all religions, completely ridiculous to non-believers. Look it up on the Web.
Tomorrow we have a guide to see the religious parts of the place.
PS. Two days ago we succombed and purchased a hand-knotted Indian carpet—what every homeless person needs. We are having it shipped to daughter Rebecca's house. It is a small one and is quite beautiful and inexpensive.