Matthew's News and Gossip

Matthew's News and Gossip

A man with no talent, but armed with a digital camera, can waste lots of bandwidth

Sunday, September 29, 2002

This is a continuation of my second week in India....It covers Sept 20th to about the 25th
(no pics yet, but they will appear soon)

Jaisalmer is a magical city of only 10,000 on the hills of a big fort in the middle of the Thar desert. It's about 100 miles from Pakistan. It used to be on the main spice and opium routes and was once very rich. What's unusual about this fort is that you can live in it and there are several hotels and guest houses inside, as well as a palace and some magnificent Jain temples. (although apparently you shouldnt really stay in it...but the guest houses outside are very grotty) But for me the best part were the several Merchants "havelis" -- huge houses built of sandstone with incredibly intricate carving, and pieced together like lego (no concrete). Salim Singh's haveli is the best and has a great tour guide/owner. However, the whole balance of the town is in severe jepoardy. Not enough tourists when I was there, but too many tourists spells trouble, as Jaisalmer in Jepoardy points out

I also fell in with a very funny Rickshaw driver called Umeed. Umeed turned out to be the local rickshaw mafia leader. He had lots of "students" who were also engaged in his activites, which involved driving around town at high speeds, terrorising restaurants that dared to close while he was there, and stealing other peoples rickshaws when his own ran out of gas. (To be fair it was vice versa too). The random swedish girl Mia showed up, and the three of us went ot the stadium to look at the city under the full moon, and get drunk on "strong beer" all followed by great very cheap food in a non-tourist place. We all took turns driving the rickshaw. although Umeed didn't let us drive the truck he also owns. (I'll write about the economics of Rickshaws later, but it's generally not a pretty story) I did get to drive one of his students "jeeps" the next night...

The full Jaisalmer photo set is here

Also in Jaiselmer I went on a camel safari. My lower abdominal region is still reminding me of this. The night was spent under the stars on a sand dune. All was fine and beautiful till the wind picked up, then the rest of the night was spent sleeplessly trying to keep the sand from blowing in my face! The next day I dreaded getting back on my camel (Mahindra) but with some stirrups made from my stretching strap, it began to feel a little better. A camel has three joints in its back legs, so it gets up and down in three motions. If you are sitting on it getting up you go forward, back and forward. Skill is required to stay on. We went away from the small dunes we spent the night on, back into the desert scrub of the Thar. There is some military activity out there and quite a lot of small villages, where we arrived and caused havoc by giving away pens and taking photos with my digital camera (thanks Carter!). Explaining to the kids why we couldnt give them the photos immediately was challenging!

The full set of camel safari photos is here.

After another drunken night with Umeed in which I bought a nice carpet and two beautiful wall hangings (which meant my budget for the first 3 months is toast) I got back on the train with Mia --travelling second class (no AC) this time, and went to Jodphur. More on Jodphur, Tiger hunting, Agra jewellry scams and Varanasi--coming soon!

posted by matthew  # 11:12 PM
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