I last experienced a full body goosebump experience in Hoi An, Vietnam
but while walking through the tight corridors of the UNESCO listed Jaisalmer Fort (built 1156), it happened again. Our 20 hour sleeper train had arrived in the Thar desert and we were walking to our room within the Jaisalmer Fort, in Jaisalmer, India.
Jaisalmer Fort walls are made from intricately carved golden colored sand stones that mesmerize and had us looking upwards with jaws open.
A typical fort with bastions, ramparts, turrets and gates; this one also protected seven beautifully appointed Jain temples, dating from the 15th and 16th centuries.
We felt like a King and Queen checking into our centuries old room complete with a King size bed and a view looking down over the fort wall. Another floor up and the rooftop restaurant and sitting area was a place one could spend the day just looking out over the city of 90,000 people (not including the cows, bulls, pigs and dogs). This being a desert, the air appeared to be filled with sand particles which made for eery skies and a red glowing moon at night.
The animals were not restricted to the city. Within the fort, we were often sharing century old stone walkways with dogs lazing in the sun, cows and some of the biggest bulls we have seen. Although looking up at the architecture was the thing to do, one wrong step on the ground and shoes would be covered with cow dung.
We took a jeep-like vehicle (Mahindra) 45 minutes into the Thar Desert (approximately 50km from Pakistan) where camels were waiting to bring us to our outdoor sleeping cots for a night under the stars. As I write this (on an 8 hour sleeper train ride) our butts are still tender from the camel’s rowing gait which ground our butt bones on the saddle. Mark’s camel was a bit temperamental and provided comedic relief while trying to walk into bushes and continually lifting a leg and twisting its neck 150 degrees to shoe the flies off its fur. We turned to each other and said “we told ourselves we would never do anything like this involving animals”. Our company for this tour, Intrepid Travel, supports responsible tourism and our camels had individual handlers and appeared well taken care. The feeling of guilt remained. They are beautifully ugly, fascinating animals.
The locals in the Thar Desert are reporting more rain this year than they have seen in a very long time. Precipitation is normally in the 180mm/year range. They are already at 240mm halfway through the Indian monsoon season and green grass is growing through the sand in the desert! (Is it a fellow by the name of Mr. Trump who says global warming is a hoax? – pardon me, I digress).
Our night under the stars on a cot is foiled by another rain storm rolling in and we truck out of camp before the blackness sets in. The upside, we spend a night in our King size bed back in “our private castle”, aka Jaisalmer Fort.
An amazing beginning to our Indian adventure, our next stop, Jodhpur, known for the best Lassi’s in India.
August 6 is Friendship Day in India (as well as our 24th wedding anniversary). We wish all our friends a Happy Friendship Day, we are so thrilled to have you in our lives.
Chiyars (Hindi for Cheers)
…Mark and Christine