Note: This post was originally rated R for language. Editing cleaned it up… Please use your imagination!
We are up at 4:15 am for another early six-hour train ride. Where the other trains have been sleeper trains with a board covered in a bit of padding and vinyl for laying horizontal, this train sits us up. Although completely luxurious compared to “second class” carts, Mark is reminded quickly that this is a country with over 1.3 billion people. Next to him, a mother and child with a bag as large as the child. It was bound to happen… her bag in his foot area, her elbows all over his armrest and personal space (a foreign concept in this place – we get it) and a child kicking in her lap (and Mark’s) and we were off for our next adventure.
Our hotel is described as having a pool, and although we are a bit leery from past travel
the thought of being able to escape the heat sounded appealing. So much for that idea!
Described in tourist books as a very holy place in India (it is one of five sacred pilgrimage sites for devout Hindus), at least one of these roamingtwo has a different description. #%@$ (Insert colorful word such as one beginning in ‘F’) Disgusting!
Harsh? Perhaps. But we have no need for sugar coating; these blog posts are our way of remembering how we felt and what we experienced.
Pushkar is built around a holy lake thought to have developed from a lotus flower dropped by Brahma (creator of the universe). Where a Westerner may have images of a beautiful lake surrounded by grass and trees, this green-brown colored lake is surrounded by concrete with mismatched steps (ghats) in various stages of disrepair. Cows, stray-looking dogs, large monkeys and hundreds of thousands of pigeons hang around the lake and defecate and urinate as they please. #*$@ (insert curse of choice) Disgusting! Absolutely!
There is a reason the number of flies in this city easily outnumber the human population.
The area around the lake is deemed a ‘no footwear zone’ and Hindus make a pilgrimage from all over to strip down and take a dip in the holy water. We cringed when we saw a snake in one of the bathing pools right beside people in the water. Further, looking out at the animals, urine and feces around the lake; Mark had visions of hookworm, fleas, mites, creeping eruption and tetanus. While brave (or foolish), Christine ventured a bit with socks on, Mark kept his sturdy footwear on and just watched from a distance. I’m good thank you very much!
Numerous scams also exist in this holy city. Locals offer a flower petal to welcome you as you walk towards Pushkar Lake. If you take it, you will be hounded for money until you give in. Kids and old ladies grab at your arm while saying “chapati”, i.e. give me money for food. Touts offering free advice appear so nice but are so hungry for rupees that they will do and say anything to get some of your money. The entire environment does not feel holy at all!
It does not end there. Built in the 12th century, the buildings should offer some architectural interest. Instead, they are decrepit, crumbling and abandoned looking. The main street through the old city is the width of a car and must accommodate
people, a ridiculous number of shops selling the same junk by pushy stoic owners, crazy local motorcycle drivers with their finger stuck on their horns and a silly number of cows rightfully peeing and shitting where they stand. The cows are oblivious to the fact that people are standing right beside them. We never walked too close.
Along the wall, local men urinate at will like dogs marking their territory. The stench of urine and feces had us dry heaving more than once while repeating “@$#% Disgusting!” in our heads.
The tourist websites show you this…
On our particular visit we saw this…
We were yelled at twice (in the holiest city? – oh the irony) for wearing shoes in an unapproved, but poorly marked area. Alternatively, the cows, monkeys and dogs taking a dump (told you this post was rated R for language) next to us in the same area was a non-issue.
The beauty of travel is that we do not have to love everything. Pushkar is just that place.
…Christine and Mark