The past week has been chock full of heavenly highs and frustrating lows. Steve met a really nice family on the train to Jaipur and we promised that we’d visit them and see their Uncle’s unique talent: building wooden, handcrafted fans (woodenfan.com). After 5 minutes of viewing the fans, the uncle showed us his real passion – saving the environment from garbage. Who knew that someone so talented in a worldclass trade could be capable of such horrible artwork made mostly of garbage. Of course there are artists out there who’ve created great things out of junk, but this was a class entirely on it’s own.
“All Natural” and “Suspense” were the words he used to described the ramshackle garbage art. He scours the streets for refuse, paper, plastics, twist ties, bottle caps, tin, etc., and paints horrendous figures of people and animals on them, all with natural dyes and paints. That’s the all-natural part. The suspense part we never quite figured out. Maybe it was the dogs attacking people, or the blobs of paint meant to resemble people that was supposed to be suspenseful, whatever it was, we wanted to leave so badly, and kept on dying inside after an hour of him picking random pieces of junk and passionately describing it as natural and suspense.
I’m running of out words to describe the scene, so trust the pictures. Just trust me on this one, the guy was part mad hatter, part brilliant artist…i wish he’d just stick to the fans.
….After Jaipur we headed out to Pushkar, one of the most holy of Rajasthani towns, with all the buildings framing a lake. Unfortunately Steve and I both got a case of the trots and spent most of the day out of commission lounging in various rooftop restaurants, downing soda water and sprite trying to feel better! We managed to keep everything for our night bus to Bikaner where we hoped to catch of glimpse of something utterly bizarre – Karni Matta – perhaps the only place in the world where you’ll find holy rats.
The most disgusting part of the temple is that you had to take off your shoes…thank goodness I was wearing socks and shoes…Steve wasn’t so lucky, so in he went with bare feet. We’re still not sure what kind of diseases were lurking around in the rat infested temple. It truly was a sight to behold…rats everywhere, bickering and tumbling over one another, jumping into rat holes, and drinking water and milk the temple priests has set out for them in big bowls on the ground. Oh, and people were laying around on the same floor the rats run on, praying to various gods, and lighting incense sticks. We took our pictures and then left.
Now we’re in Ahmedabad where it only too 10 minutes for me to be offered hashish by a local rickshaw owner. But we’re doing well. I found chocolate cookies and have devoured about 15 so far this morning…so thankful Gujuratis love their sweets! On to Mumbai tonight. This drama queen is craving some Bollywood!
We were deciding whether we were even going to go to Jaisalmer. We had wanted to originally but after being sick for a couple of days and tired of being in the desert, we wanted to head south to find some milder climate (below 40 degrees). It is a good thing we didn’t though because we had one of our best days yet. Jaisalmer, like most Ragistan cities is built around a magestic sandstone fort. This one in particular rose high above the city. The city had a more peaceful feel with rickshaws banned from the inner walls, camels pulling carts around, and a nice blend of Sikhs, Muslims, Rajputs, and Indians.
The day started out with the prospect of a new confluence point to discover (confluence.org). We rented a motorbike in Jaisalmer and set off into the desert. It was freaky being in Indian traffic and also riding a manual motor bike. I was told only girls ride automatics. Confluence hunting was cut quite short since most of Jaisalmer is surrounded my military facilities. It seems every area I want to go for an adventure is smack dab in the middle of some military complex!
We turned around and headed for the hills. This direction was chosen because I saw some wind turbines up there. This turned out to be an interesting experience as I compared some of the technology and practices to those for my work at home. I e-mailed some pictures to my workmates who will find the safety standards quite laughable.
Later in the day we forced ourselves onto the tourist trail and took a camel ride into the desert. Companies offered any length of camel ride – some up to 30 days and nights. We opted for a half day, mostly because it was too hot this time of year and who can really stay on a camel for more than a day? We had a great Muslim guide drive us in his jeep out into the desert scrub. Later this 13 year old boy rode with us on camels through sand dunes for a while before returning us to the desert jeep. I asked him how much he gets payed and he said 300 rupees per month ($6 US) – poor kid! I thought I would really rock his world and give him 50 as a tip when we were done. After we were back at the jeep, I quietly slipped him the money. The kid turned to me in anger and said “this is not tip! you give me 100 for 2 camels..” The little punk – we didn’t have to give him anything. I was so shocked I just stood there for a while looking at his open palm. I eventually mumbled that he should be happy with my “gift” and we were off to town. This has been typical of our dealings with anyone on the streets providing any service in India – infuriating!