Day 133: Jodhpur & Jaisalmer, India. We woke to another warm overcast morning. Another good opportunity to chill for a bit on the terrace before packing our bags for today’s trip to Jaisalmer.
Our guesthouse room and terrace are on the second floor of the haveli – just high enough to see across the rooftops of the nearby buildings and watch the locals make a start on their days. The lovely family next door appear on their rooftop every morning one by one, to brush their teeth and wash their faces with beaten metal jugs and bowls, then the lady spends ages brushing the tiled floor and surrounds. A daily routine that’s simple but heartwarming to watch.
Late morning we packed our bags and wandered up to the rooftop for a last coffee before heading off to catch the bus. We said our goodbyes to the guys and the dogs, then jumped into a tuk tuk with a driver who clearly aspires to be an Indian Lewis Hamilton. We clung on tightly as we swerved non-stop in and out of traffic, animals and people, with so many narrow misses we ended up closing our eyes for part of the journey.
We arrived, thankfully unscathed, at the bus departure point – a small office on a very busy main road. We sat outside on metal seats for a while, watching the world go by and cows digging their way through rubbish. A lady came begging and tried to give Lil her ‘third eye’ bindi decoration in exchange for some money, but we declined the offer.
At last our bus pulled up and we clambered aboard. As buses go, it wasn’t too bad, though it’s worth bearing in mind we’re starting from a pretty low base point here. Most of the essential pieces seemed to be attached, our seats were reasonably comfy, and it looked like someone might have swept the bus in the last week or two.
Lil spotted a sign on the wall saying ‘M.9521312929’ and joked to Jim that maybe that was the bus capacity. If she’d known what lay ahead, she may have bitten her lip.
The bus was full by the time we left Jodphur, and a bunch of people were standing in the aisle and leaning against the front door, which we thought a little odd given we were heading off on a four and a half hour journey.
We stopped at several points as we headed out of the city and beyond, and by the time we were 30 minutes into the journey, there were 41 people seated on the bus – and another 31 standing in the aisle.
Every time we stopped, a gaggle of people was standing waiting hopefully on the pavement, with bags and kids and babies.
At one pick up point, a group of local ladies were fed up to find there were no seats available and tried to get back off the bus again. The driver blocked their way and insisted they stay on the bus. Voices got louder and louder and long story short – a mighty scrap broke out which was pretty amusing to watch, though we could only imagine what they were shouting at each other. At last the driver agreed to let a few of them off, and the screaming continued on the pavement outside.
One of the online reviews of the bus company said “too many people make journey not comfortable”. They weren’t joking. Jim spent half the journey with a large guy in a brown kurta leaning heavily against him, with his arm lying across both of the seat tops in front of us. The two guys behind us were forced to move over by the driver to let a lady and her baby sit on the edge of their seats. They weren’t impressed at having to share their seats, but the driver wasn’t taking no for an answer.
Packed bus aside, the journey was a pretty good one. We drove through a couple of towns and lots of little villages, with locals gathered outside open fronted shops and stalls, drinking coffee and selling freshly cooked food wrapped in sheets of newspaper.
As we got closer to Jaisalmer, we spotted the first sand dunes of the Thar desert, and enjoyed a glorious sunset behind some spectacular thunder clouds.
We arrived in Jaisalmer just before 8pm. Our guesthouse was a quick two minute walk (which still didn’t deter a bunch of tuk tuk drivers from offering to drive us there, who knew quite well how far we were going).
We’d booked a standard room and were very happy to hear we’d been upgraded to a suite free of charge – we feel like the maharaja and maharani in their little palace.
We got settled in then had dinner on the rooftop – some of the best food we’ve had so far – paneer mutta masala (cheese and peas) and ker sangri (ker berries and sangri beans both from the desert, very, very different from anything we’ve tried so far). Perhaps we’ll set up a Rajasthani restaurant when we get back to Sydney.
And while we had dinner, we enjoyed spectacular night time views across Jaisalmer Fort, the second largest fort in India. Chittorgarh, which we visited a few weeks ago, is the largest.
And then to bed, for a long night’s sleep. Tomorrow we’ll go and take a look around the fort and old town. And thankfully no more packed buses for a while.