Monday, March 14, 2011

March 2011: Jaisalmer to Jaipur by train

After farewells to Chundun, we set off to see the last sights of Jaisalmer, meanwhile, our luggage will travel ahead of us to Jaipur. The city is compact, many shops crammed amidst old havelis looking down to narrow streets that used to be filled with horses, camels and carts centuries ago. Not very much has changed, except many more people and vehicles. Our guide had to show us his shop, interestingly beside a shop that sells textiles. While the rest of the group sat down for a presentation of fabrics I took some time to sit on the side of the street and watch people visit, buy vegetables, embroider sequins on beautiful sari material and have morning chai. The shop owner brought out a cup for me.

We wandered more streets and visited the fort, very much like the fort in Jodphur, just smaller. After lunch on a rooftop restaurant, Marcia posed with a distant view of the city behind her. Notice the pashmina - so light and warm, and fashionable of course :) You can see the tiny carved viewing vents in an old wealthy gem dealer's haveli behind these marigolds. The vents are common adornment, and served as privacy screens, so that occupants could view the comings and goings below, and not be seen. More wandering, and I see interesting patterns cast by overhead grates in an old entrance way. Later on, I skip lunch and walk over to some ancient ruins, just across the street from my fellow travelers, eating various delicious meals. There is so much to see in this deep mix of old and new. I find a shell, placed within a deserted shrine to Vishnu, it is one of a small grouping of celebration structures, long forgotten and left to slowly disintegrate, while new developments spring up only 500 meters away. We stop by a piece of local color, written about in Lonely Planet: a bhang shop, government authorized, to sample some of their cookies. Its a herbal flavor, slightly sweet, and just the thing for an overnight train trip. Its finally time to bid goodbye to Jaisalmer, we pay our guide and arrive at the train station.

The train system in India is very well run and very extensive. We find our car, AC1 sleeper class, and see our names and ages posted on the outside in a computer printout in Hindi and English, for everyone to find their coaches. We climb into our berths, with munchies purchased on the train platform. At our next stop, a long one so people can purchase chai from the vendors, Sharon decides to jump out on the platform to clean our windows.

Finally, after sunset, we make our beds with clean sheets, served in recyclable paper bags, and climb under khaki colored India Railways blankets. Its a bumpy, swaying ride through the night, with lights blinking by under a starry night. We do manage to catch some sleep, and the train pulls into Jaipur, and a tired and waiting Chundrun. He decided he would wait to introduce us to our new driver. We board a different van at 4:50am, and travel into the deserted streets, with the van lights illuminating sleeping people, under blankets, on street after street. The poverty appears extreme here, there is so much litter scattered amidst once majestic buildings that were once painted pink for visiting royalty from England. We drove by more palaces, and an astrological observatory, built to keep accurate time in the 1700's by use of a huge sundial.

Everything is still closed, so we head off to Agra, as ancient palaces of a much older place than Jaipur, Amber Fort, sit dark against mountains and a large lake looms up, dancing with an odd mixture of streetlights along it's distant edge. Its a man made lake, a king made this for his many wives so they could go swimming in private. It is huge, but we believe our driver; anything is possible in India.

Cam Grant

DWC Team Leader


The Madman said...
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The Madman said...


My name is Jerry. I am a 20-year-old Singaporean. I would like to know if there is any opportunities for hands-on volunteer work in the period between mid-April and mid-June of this year, as my university term starts in July.
I am especially interested in the cause of helping to provide basic sanitation and facilities (eg. building toilets or wells). The 5 May to 2 June stint in India seems appealing.
It will be very helpful if you can provide the information of the processes required for me to meet up with the group and the important dates.

I would also like to know why the $500 contribution is necessary for registration and what it will be used for.