Ten Years Ago Today . . .

. . . I was in India.

When I first heard of the city of Jaisalmer I was entranced, it seemed to me to be at the end of the world. The golden city is  dominated by the fort, a living, vibrant place that has a life of its own, hanging on the edge of the far west of India.

It’s a very commercial town, everywhere you turn someone is trying to persuade you that you need spices you’ve never heard of, saris, wall hangings, ornaments of all types. I expect it’s even more touristy now. But that doesn’t spoil it’s charm, the twists and turns of each cow inhabited alley, gets under your skin and even deeper into your nostrils.

There are several Jain temples, with finely detailed interiors, and a plethora of Buddhas.

The stoneware is so beautiful it’s hard to know where to look.

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But there are quiet spots to reflect,
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And sculpture to wonder at,
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Haveli’s are mansion houses of the wealthy. While some in Rajasthan are dilapidated, many are well maintained and open to the public for a few hundred rupees. This one was a museum come antique shop, I think pretty much everything was for sale at a price, even though it was also a home.


In the afternoon of October 20th,we went wandering around the streets. As in cities all over the world, groups of men gather on street corners and squares to play cards and board games, while the women are hard at work trying to feed their families.
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The fort is one of the biggest in the world, built high on a hill with three layers of walls and ninety nine bastions. Here is a view from one.
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In time for sunset, we went just outside the town to see the fort change colour, by day it’s the colour of a lion, but at sunset it turns to a honey gold.
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Although the sunset was disappointing, traveling friend and I were happy to be all dressed up in our finery, in the most mesmerising city at the end of the world.

jais17Jaisalmer is around 800 kilometeres from Delhi, and it can be reached by train, an overnight journey. Better still, try a slow journey and stop along the way. Rajasthan is wonderful and the people are warm and friendly, who are justifiably proud of their heritage.

Writing from a prompt

This was written in response to a prompt from a member of my writing group, Word Central. We meet twice a month and I’ve been going for a year now. I love it, everyone is friendly, good fun and encouraging with their feedback. Anne-Marie said ‘Write about the worst holiday you’ve ever had’. I’ve never actually had a bad holiday, but I wrote anyway. So with apologies to Madhu and my other followers on the Indian sub-continent, and my tongue quite a way into my cheek,

Missing Jodhpur and Climbing Savitri

Have I ever had a bad holiday? No, only holidays during which I was sick, sick again and then sick some more. The most annoying of those holidays was the one where I completely missed the two days I had in the blue city of Jodhpur. Of course it was Jodhpur that make me sick with its spicy lime juice. Or perhaps it was the malady of enrapture, the one where I fell under India’s spell and briefly lost all common travel sense.

I’d survived the rigours of a night in the Thar Desert, where my friend was nearly paralysed by her camel, so I thought I was on the home run. It was enchanting to sit in an exotic courtyard, surrounded with moist greenery, after several days of scorching my nostrils every time I inhaled. Amazingly the mosquitos were kept at bay by the strategically placed candles, including the ones under the table, flickering dangerously close to the pants of my salwar kameez. The lilting sounds of unnamed instruments kept me entertained while the lime juice quenched my thirst, but if only I’d stuck with the lassi, I might have been saved. If only we hadn’t lingered so long on the road that afternoon we might have reached Jodhpur in time to see some of the promised blue.

I was woken from a blissful sleep a few hours later, my friend was ill and I rushed to help her. The emptying of her stomach seemed relentless. Half an hour later so did mine, and we were in danger of dehydration. We both slept and vomited, vomited and slept, through the whole of the next day, and every few hours our driver Muggan Singh would knock on our door, his face lined with concern that his two madams were so poorly. He arranged for us to move to a new, clean room, away from our infectious cave, supervising the hotel staff personally as they moved our every possession.

The next morning we were unable to travel on to Pushkar. On one of Muggan’s visits to bring us the bottled water that that was beginning to stay put, he brought some medication with him. The local cure was apparently Ayurvedic, small brown pills that had a vile smell and were very difficult to swallow. The western remedy we had ‘gone prepared’ with clearly didn’t work and I have faith in traditional medicine. Convinced that we had dysentery, we were desperate enough to get them down. Shortly after taking them we began to feel better.

We still didn’t manage to see any of Jodhpur. Teasing glimpses of Mehrangarh fort peered at us from its high perch, but spreading ourselves out in the four wheel drive vehicle, we had little energy to return its gaze. We had to let Jodhpur go, goodbye, maybe next time.

If we hadn’t had air conditioning that 120 miles would have seen us off. Neither of us wanted to have to use a squatter in some godforsaken roadside café, so we’d had as little water as we dared, and no breakfast. We couldn’t tell if poisoned belly or empty belly was making us feel so lousy.

After Jaisalmer, Pushkar was the place I most wanted to see, but we could only stumble around in a daze when we arrived. There were temples, there was without doubt a taking off of shoes and much to ooh and ah about, but I have little recall if so. We dutifully sat at a table in the Sunset cafe, admiring the sunset, pushing masala omelette around our plates, trying to digest Muggan’s announcement as well as our first solid food. We had to get up at 5am, he said. You need to climb Savitri Hill and be there for sunrise. To argue with Muggan was futile, besides we’d found that trusting his knowledge of Rajasthan made sense, he was a proud Rajput through and through.

He dropped us in the dark at the bottom of a hill, with handrails and a slope broken by a step every twelve feet. It didn’t seem too bad – to begin with. We took our time and there was no one to witness our walking like two very old ladies. At the top of Savitri is a very sacred temple and as the light began to come through, we saw a couple of very, very old ladies, with skin that looked like a mixture of leather and prunes that only elderly Indian women have. They namaste’d us as they sprinted by, we watched with loose jaws.

The path was no longer smooth and gentle, it was a rocky horror trail and any cool morning air had long since vanished. We sat on a low wall and stared back to our start point, then ahead to the temple. We were two thirds through the one mile climb and had no hope of making it to the top. We waited what we considered was a reasonable length of time to convince Muggan that we reached the top, actually that’s a lie, we sat there until we had the strength to move.

Muggan never did know our secret, we thanked him and said that the view from the top was incredible. Back in our hotel we slept for two hours, dysentery wasn’t far behind us after all.

So was Rajasthan the worst holiday I’ve ever had? Absolutely not, it was unforgettable. To have not been sick would have been better, but hey, shit happens. We did manage to extract from Muggan what the active ingredient was of the ayurvedic pills, it was cow dung.

 

I wish I was this warm

If you’re like me, living in the upper reaches of the Northern Hemisphere, this is the season where we seek out small pleasures to compensate for the short days and chilly weather: fireplaces, down comforters, hot chocolate (or glühwein, if we must…).

Says Ben Huberman for this weeks challenge at the Daily Post, Warmth. The Thar Desert is without doubt the warmest place I’ve ever been, in a midday temperature of 44 degrees, I was hot and happy, even though it felt like the inside of my nose was burning. Dry heat seems to agree with me, here are some photos of my favourite kind of warmth.

Visit https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_photo_challenge/warmth/ to join in.

Writing 101 Two, A Cafe With a View

Take me to Pushkar, drop me down in the sunset café. You already did? Ahh yes, here I am, the sky is still bright and very pink. Inside people, locals and travellers begin to gather, for the nightly spectacle that is sunset over the lake. Neat rows of Formica tables are placed so that as many diners as possible get a good view. The best seats are right on the patio, and I’ve got one, under the curved and ornately painted arches, slightly raised from the pavement. I sink into a rattan bucket seat with a cushion made from recycled saris, red, orange and pink to match the sky. Babu comes to take my order, a mint lassi while I’m waiting for a masala omelette, ‘but that is breakfast madam’ he says giving me that look he gives to crazy English women, a sort of half grin as if he feels sorry for me. I add an ice cold cobra beer, Pushkar is so dry and so is my throat.

The smell of spice is suddenly challenged when two young women arrive, laden with backpacks big enough for their tiny frames to climb into, and with grubby salwar kameez. I don’t like myself for saying it, but I’m glad there wasn’t space for them. In contrast the musicians rock up, clothes gleaming as white as the Persil ads, and making a racket like the dustbin men at 7am. Now I realise why these seats were empty. Two drummers, a sitar player and another with an instrument that looks like a sack, a hosepipe and some bits of rope, sit crossed legged beside me.

The drumming begins, starting slowly and with little tune. It’s only when I look around and see people swaying that I realise I’m doing the same thing. For too long the drums continue, my lassi and omelette are both consumed and I’m on my second bottle of Cobra. They’re twice the size of the bottles at home and a few nights ago Muggan, our driver was horrified and amazed that I could contain one, never mind two.

The drumming is hypnotic and I’ve lost some time, pulling myself together, I put the music to the back of my mind and focus instead on the sky. Taking a photo wasn’t working, heads kept bobbing up and down between me and the view. Stay in the now G, stay in the now and imprint it on your soul. It is every bit as magical as promised. Every warm, glowing colour, that nature can create, is up there in the heavens. There might be sound but all I can hear is the noise of the universe, not even a sound, but a vibration, a distant echo that began light years ago. I’m standing now, we all are. With fairy lights around our heads, we watch as the sun slowly falls on the horizon behind the temple.

I am changed by India.

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: On Top

Sara Rosso at the Daily Post says that ‘On top can be a feeling, a perspective, or a physical location’ and asks us to share photos that express On Top this week for the photo challenge.

My photos were taken On Top in Bikaner, Rajasthan,

from the roof of a temple.

This is a photo that I’ve posted before. O don’t what it is about it but it’s one of my all time favourite photos, so I’m sharing it again. It’s the same place as the gallery facing a different direction.

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Join in at http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_photo_challenge/on-top/

Weekly Photo Challenge: Street Life

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‘A place reveals itself on its streets, from pedestrians strolling during lunch time, to performers entertaining tourists on sidewalks, to the bustle of local markets, and more. Whether you’re shoveling snow from your own driveway or walking a familiar route to work or getting lost in a foreign city, a snapshot of a street (or road or path) can tell a tale.’ So says Cheri Lucas Rowlands over at the Daily Post.

I’ve chosen street life from four different countries, each with many tales to tell.

The first is my own city, Exeter, in England.

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Fiumefredo in Sicily.

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Okohia, my ancestral village in Nigeria

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The last one is in New Delhi.

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Click for a bigger view and join in with the challenge at http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/03/28/street-life/

Weekly Photo Challenge: Grand 2

It should have occured to me before that some of the grandest places I’ve seen, were in Delhi and Rajasthan, northern India. So here is a little gallery of some grand places I visited there.

Travel Theme: Big

I don’t seem to have many pictures to fit the theme this week, I guess I’m not drawn to big. Perhaps its because the UK just isn’t very big, or maybe big is difficult to capture. Anyway a few years ago I went to India and I’ve always remembered this big Hanuman along the road. I hope he’s big enough!

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Big is Ailsa’s theme, join in at http://wheresmybackpack.com/2013/08/16/travel-theme-big/

Weekly Photo Challenge: From Above

This weeks challenge is ‘From Above’.

Sara Rosso says ‘Change your perspective on something. Share a photo of a subject which you shot from directly above. This plate of cheese from the Langhe region in Italy was interesting when I tried to take a picture of it, but when I took it from above, it became even more clear how the honey laid in a neat pile in the center of this circle of cheese and how each wedge had its own identity. For those interested, you started going clockwise with the cheese at 12, and they were all delicious.
Find a subject and instead of taking a picture from in front of, at an angle, to the side, or from behind, take it directly from above!
In a new post specifically created for this challenge, share a picture which means FROM ABOVE to you!’

I have chosen some views from above from several countries, hope you like them and maybe join in?

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/05/03/weekly-photo-challenge-from-above/

CBBH Photo Challenge: Knobs and Knockers

Marianne has bright colourful door furniture to show you, whereas mine are a bit brown! She can be found at http://eastofmalaga.net/2013/05/01/cbbh-photo-challenge-knobs-and-knockers/ and you can also join the challenge there.
Add some photos, introduce two blogs you like and you’re done!

The first blog I’m bringing you this month is Melanie’s http://sugarandspiceandallthingslife.com/ where she writes about ‘recipes and life in general’. She posts easy recipes for no nonsense wholesome food (cake cake cake!) and she is another Devon girl. She also posts photos of England, mainly the beautiful south, check her out.
Next is Lily, http://lilymugford.com/ She likes to write, takes part in several challenges and if you like orange you’ll like her blog. Lily is a survivor with a great attitude to life, choosing to rise above circumstances. She is a relative newbie to the blogosphere.
I hope you visit, enjoy and that these two blgs are new to you!