Roaminallover-Here, There and Everywhere
With train times somewhat inconvenient for the journey to Pushkar we opted for another deluxe bus trip. Clutching our ticket stubs we boarded the bus and found we were in seats 5&6 near the front of the bus. We immediately noticed the lack of storage for our backpacks as there were no lower level sleeping areas to stow under, only seats. Groaning at the prospect of having to sit cuddled up to our bags for the seven hour journey we threw our day packs onto the seat and tried to squeeze into the seat. Not altogether an easy task as the seat in front was stuck in the reclined position and the ladder to the sleeping berths above was obstructing access to our seats. With a bit of hitching up and standing on tippy toes I managed to manoeuvre the frontal appendages over the top of the seat and slipped into position. John, for some reason, couldn't squeeze his bits through (no smutty comments at this point please!) and had to settle for sitting in the seat in front. The journey proved to be the usual combination of honking, potholes, and stops to allow various dabbah wallahs to ply their trade by selling fried goods, water and ice creams through the bus windows. Eventually the bus pulled up at the side of a busy road and one of the coach crew shouted over to us that this was Ajmer. We knew we had to leave the coach in Ajmer to catch a local bus on to Pushkar, but were surprised to see there were no other buses to be seen. Instead there was a single rickshaw wallah suggesting that he could "take you where you want to go ". We were surprised as we had been assured when we booked the coach that it would stop at the bus stop marked on our map. In reality the coach, which was already on its way to Jaipur, had dropped us on the outskirts of town, and we were less than impressed when the rickshaw driver suggested it would cost us 300 rupees to get to the bus station. This seeming somewhat excessive as we had each only paid 250 rupees for the 7 hour journey from Jodphur. After haggling him down to 250 we decided we had little choice but to get him to take us, and headed off into the congested traffic towards the bus depot. The last part of the trip was to be on the local bus. No pre booking- just jump on with the locals. This proved to be quite a competition but fortunately Ajmer to Pushkar is a popular route, there were a few buses, and we eventually made it - complete with backpacks and day packs, onto the bus. Handed over the 14 rupees each for the journey and settled In for the drive into the mountains. Pushkar is generally a sleepy town with a backpacker/ hippy feel. The town surrounds the lake which is viewed by Hindus as one of the most sacred places in the country. We had chosen to arrive at the start of the Pushkar camel fair. A two week annual event which attracts camel and horse traders to the area to trade their animals. There is a programme of events and a fair during the second week of the festival but we were more interested in seeing all the activity around the trading. It turned out to be a fantastic spectacle. As the week progressed more and more animals and traders arrived. Rajastani men sporting brightly coloured turbans and Camel carts leading additional camels were soon taking up pitches across the area. Although there were large numbers of camels, the fair was dominated by hoards of feisty Marwari horses. All in pristine condition. Having been in India for almost two months we are becoming old hands at fending off the unwanted attentions of traders and begging children. We have got used to the practice of people asking us to take photos and then asking for money, so for us wandering around the site was very pleasant. In addition to the camel fair the town is host to a religious festival so there are many people in the town who have come to bathe in the holy water. It makes for a colourful selection of people - women in colourful saris, camel traders with colourful turbans, saddus, usually with cattle who have extra limbs, and a plethora of international tourists. Tomorrow we move on- back to Ajmer, to catch our first night train, heading for Amritsar in the Punjab. Home to the Sikhs and the famous Golden Temple.