Our eight hour sleeper train ride comes to an end in Jodhpur. Mark crammed in on the top bunk sharing the berth with five other local men (Christine is in the berth one over) gets a question from a smiley Indian while packing up. “Do you mind if I ask you a question? I am wondering if you are Zinedine Zidane” (retired French footballer and manager of Real Madrid)? He was convinced he was riding Indian rail in an eight person sleeping berth with a man who’s net worth could probably own the rail company. I laughed, said I wish, and assured him I was just a backpacking Canadian. As we departed the train and wished him well, he continued to smile and watched seemingly convinced that he had just met a famous football player.
Resemblance? We are both bald.
Our rickshaw ride to our homestay provided 20 minutes of horn honking (yes, everyone with a horn honks just like in Vietnam), cow avoiding, foul-smelling, people staring and National Geographic like photo opportunities. Jodhpur is an area that we are told does not see a lot of tourism in comparison to Mumbai or Delhi. Our white skin is as much as a tourist attraction for the locals as the cows, bulls, turbans, sari’s and rubbish is for us. Jodhpur is home to so many incredible experiences! Where do we begin?
The Mehrangarh Fort perched high above the city is massive! Built in the 15th and 16th centuries, it is much larger than the fort we stayed in at Jaisalmer. Huge stone walls precariously built upon rock cliffs cling to the surface providing defence for a fort that looks impossible to break through. While looking over the area and seeing the walls in the distance Mark asks Christine “are you sure you do not have an interest in seeing the great Wall of China”?
An interesting phenomenon took place while touring the fort. Indians appeared completely taken by our presence. Like Hollywood stars being pursued by the camera crazy paparazzi, we had strangers asking to take selfies with us and group shots. The funniest? The locals walking towards us taking hip shots to be subtle but forgetting to turn off the sound or flash. We smiled, we laughed and we laughed again.
From the fort, we walk through the “blue city” that stretches for kilometres past the fort and its’ walls. Traditionally the blue signified the home of the Brahman caste, but we understand that is no longer the case. Either way, goosebumps puffed, jaws dropped, noses tried to defy smells and eyes spun in all directions.
We thought this was an overload of our senses but then our walk ended in the Sadar Bazaar around the city centre’s famous clock tower… everything beforehand was calm by comparison.
Mark kept hearing a very good friends’ voice in his head, “just remember, India is full-on, I mean full-on”! Well, the Sadar Bazaar area of Jodhpur is FULL-ON. Sandals, saris, steel and copper items, sneakers, fruits, vegetables, spices, jewelry, t-shirts, jeans (no shorts), trinkets, tailors, food stalls, coconuts, dresses, handbags, etc. are all available. Further, it is all mixed in with thousands of people, cows, dogs, horses, vehicles, a hole shitload of rubbish and even more cow shit!
It is in this location that Mark takes a wrong turn and witnesses open defecation. He thinks, ah, my India experience is complete! A 30 cent samosa is consumed and we couldn’t leave the bazaar without having a lassi since Jodhpur arguably claims they have the best lassies in India. It was delicious!
The next day we jump into an Indian manufactured Mahindra safari-type vehicle to venture out of the city and to visit a Bishnoi village and surrounding area.
The Bishnoi are peaceful nature loving people. Their faith and beliefs prevent them from cutting down trees or killing animals and they provide protection for all life forms. It is said that even the twigs they collect off the ground for firewood must be free of insects. They are pure vegetarian and will not eat meat. The home we visited was run by a widower. As we arrived, she was pulling water out of her well with a bucket on a pulley system. She was preparing to make tea and bread from ground millet. The floor in her home was made from compacted cow dung. As is customary, we had to remove our footwear to enter her home. We were super thrilled to experience walking on cow shit. A lovely experience, Mark practiced grinding millet the old fashion way and the bread tasted amazing.
We were greeted by children in other villages, saw three-two week old goats, saw blackbucks and bluebulls. We visited the village of Salawas where they hand weave beautiful area rugs. A typical 3′ x 5′ rug takes two people approximately one month to make. Their pay? $1 CDN/day.
Back at the hotel, a fellow Westerner has been ill for a few days. Eager to use our overstuffed first aid kit, Mark whips out his thermometer, nursing assessment skills and provides some free antibiotics, charcoal and helpful advice.
Jodhpur was an amazing stop! We said we want to keep our India journal/blog short and sweet, but these two days were… FULL ON 😉.
…Mark and Christine