Day 135: Jaisalmer, India. We woke to another scorching hot morning and a small unexpected flood. The air conditioning unit had started dripping overnight, and by this morning it looked like the monsoon had swept its way through our room.
The hotel maintenance team arrived – a bunch of young guys wielding towels and hammers and other random flood-fixing paraphernalia, and managed to stem the flow of water.
After breakfast on the rooftop (chapatis, pickle and curd for Jim, boiled eggs and toast for Lil – some things never change) we headed out into the blazing sun to walk to Gadisar Lake.
Gadisar Lake was built by Raja Rawal Jaisal, the first ruler of Jaisalmer, and later revamped by Maharaja Garisisar Singh. It was the only source of water for Jaisalmer in the olden days. The entrance to the lake is through a magnificent carved yellow sandstone archway, called Tilon-Ki-Pol, which is also the boat hire jetty. A guy at the gate hassled us mercilessly to get us to hire a rowing boat, but we declined. We had a good giggle at the ‘no wine allowed’ sign by the boat jetty – guessing some tourists must go out on the lake for a bit of a drunken sesh with their warm Indian wine.
We went for a long walk around the barren sandy land around the lake, to take a look at the many temples, shrines and ghats dotted around the shore – and to dodge some seriously grumpy cows and bullocks who weren’t happy at us disturbing their Sunday afternoon peace. We also popped our heads into a little shrine where we had to take our shoes off and continually flick two centimetre long ants off our feet.
We got back to the main entrance and boat jetty, which was busy with visitors, though no tourists in sight other than us. A large group of boys had just made their way down to the water to buy bags of fish food and feed the resident catfish. They had a couple of adults supervising them, who kept warning them not to push or go too close to the edge (warnings which went largely unheeded).
At the same time, a husband and wife were standing next to us on the next level up, with their son down below at the feeding frenzy. Their approach to danger management was a little different – the wife simply shouted down to the kid “Don’t go close to the water, there are crocodiles in the lake and they can smell humans. And you are stinkier than most humans, so better look out!”. Interesting parenting skills. (PS there are no crocodiles).
On the way back to town, Jim slipped on the edge of a pavement and he sunk knee deep into a roadside drain filled with putrid water, leaves, rubbish and no doubt centuries worth of cow poo. On a positive note, it happened right outside a local Indian sweet shop, so Lil suggested it was a good opportunity to acquire some more creamy coconut fudge.
We headed back to our hotel so Jim could get cleaned up, fearful that a flesh eating infection might set in otherwise. With the assaulted shoe cleaned up and drying on the balcony and the coconut fudge half scoffed, we headed back out again to continue our exploring.
We walked along some very hot and very dusty roads to take a look at some cenotaphs, a couple of kilometres outside the main town. Sadly the gate was closed, and despite a couple of locals encouraging us to ignore the padlocked gate and scale the wall, we didn’t feel inclined to do so, particularly as a policeman was hanging out nearby. So we took a couple of pics over the wall, and retraced our steps to town.
On the day we arrived in Jaisalmer, we explored the old city within the walls of the fort. Today we took a wander through the many tiny alleys of houses and shops that lie outside the fort. There are endless narrow streets with spectacular old buildings including some very impressive havelis that we need to go back and visit.
A sizeable cow was just making its way into a house as we passed by. A little girl standing in the open doorway looked like she was weighing up her options, though pushing the cow back down the steps can’t have been one of them, given her miniscule size.
A couple of streets away, we stopped and sat on a wall to get our water bottles out. Lil pointed to a cow that she thought looked ‘cute’. She changed her mind when the cow turned on her and started head butting her (its horns weren’t huge but they were still capable of some serious damage). She ran shrieking down the street, with little kids – and doubtless the cow – laughing their heads off.
And then just around the corner, Jim stepped back to take a pic of an old haveli – and stepped into a huge freshly prepared cow pat. With no water taps in sight, he scrubbed his shoe on sand and rubble at the side of the road to try and remove the offending matter, with limited success. We groaned, and continued on.
We were in desperate need of some afternoon caffeine, and stopped at one of the coffee stalls in a small town square. Our quiet coffee was disrupted two minutes later when three guys plonked themselves on the bench opposite us. They weren’t interested in a caffeine fix – they were solely interested in chatting Lil and Jim up to try and sell them a tour. It was excruciating. The usual endless questions about where we’re from, where we’ve been and where we’re going followed by a list of every place we should visit, ranging from the local lake to New Delhi.
Jim managed to break the conversation nicely by saying ‘Smile please for a photo!” and straight away they all sat bolt upright, sucked their tummies in and put their best smile on.
A guy wandering past spotted that Jim still had a lump of cow pat hanging off his shoe – he offered to clean it for him with his ‘magic cream’. An interesting line of business. Perhaps he also makes the ‘magic bed sheets’ we saw on the market yesterday.
We also took a pic of the ‘coffee man’ – a lovely smiley guy who makes the best masala coffee. We had two each – and we’ll be back for more.
We headed back to the hotel for a rest before another amazing dinner of Rajasthani food. We chatted about whether we could recreate some of the dishes back in Sydney, depending of course on whether the various spices and berries are available locally, either to grow or buy.
Dinner was huge and for once, we couldn’t finish everything. The waiter said not to worry, the hotels keep leftover food which gets fed to the local cows late at night. So perhaps Jim will see the remains of tonight’s curry when he steps into another cow pat tomorrow.