India: shooting stars

After the struggle of Delhi and Bikaner, we found our first actual nice spot in Jaisalmer, close to the Pakistani border. The old town is built in a fort, and we were lucky enough to sleep there (for the equivalent of $2.30). We arrived very early in the morning with the overnight train (around 5am) and were supposed to be able to get our hotel room by then. When we got there, of course no one was there, but there was a rooftop. As the homeless hippie couple we became, we simply decided to check the rooftop and lay down on whatever we’d find waiting for someone to talk to to show up. We found a comfy couch under a beautiful sky still full of stars, and shamelessly fell asleep in a second. It was actually quite nice (minus those bloody mosquitoes). We were woken up by a girl having coffee in front of the sunrise a few steps ahead of us, and the receptionist offered us a proper room to rest a few more hours. Apart from the constant hassle of street vendors, the town is lovely. We visited our first haveli there, rich merchant houses a hundred years ago that are now either transformed into museum, hotels, or still inhabited by locals. There are so many rooftops too, it’s great to get different point of views and it reminds me of NY somehow!

The big thing to do in Jaisalmer is a camel ride in the nearby desert. We asked about going on a 2 days and 1 night tour in a jeep rather than on a camel, but they made it sound like it was impossible to access the dune other than on a camel. I’m usually soooo against that type of thing, I don’t know what happened, I think my brain simply was overwhelmed by that stressful area of the world and I agreed on going with camels after making sure they were treated well. I regretted the minute I saw them, they were obviously not well. They all have the kind of piercing I have in my nose, except that it’s India and they’re not cared for. They use the piece of wood they put in their skin to control them with a harness. One of the camel seemed to have this piercing infected and another one seemed to have an issue with one of its eye… All together I think we spent 15 minutes on their back, and walked on the way back next to them. It was just too sad and I regret it so much… The whole point of this trip was to sleep under the stars in the desert. Even 50 km away from the city, the desert is full of garbage… We passed a village of outcast where people kept requesting money, which made it very awkward for us to just stand there not willing to go into their houses. Once again, it looks like there is no communication possible other than commercial. We are just walking dollars, we are there, locals expect us to give for no other reason than they request it. And that sums up our experience of India with locals, sadly. But anyway, our guide was nice and eager to talk about his culture, not afraid to badmouth it. He told us how strict it was relationship wise. How if a boy dates a girl his village would not agree on, it could turn into a war where people get killed, and how it happened many times around him… I guess that could be a hint on how men stare at women, since they can’t really talk to them, and how they take on any opportunity to talk to western (outcast) women. At night, the sky was amazing, and when I woke up at 3am and opened my eyes for a second I simply could not close them again before a good hour. The sky was unbelievable, I saw so many shooting stars that I ran out of wishes and made new ones for my family and friends (which I will now do much more often!).

The next day we past the same outcast village where a wedding was occurring. We saw the groom who didn’t seem so happy (maybe because he was marrying someone his parents picked for him a few weeks earlier) and were used as guest stars on his wedding photos. Then we were offered opium. And asked to give money, again. I think it’s at that point that Silvere got so annoyed of the attention I was given that he started telling people we were married before they’d even talk to us (very funny to watch, and it never gets old to see him get somehow “angry”). There’s something with some Indian guys, the most random guys who can barely speak English will sometimes show off pictures of them with western girls and claim it’s their girlfriend. At first I was impressed that they could make it work with so many cultural differences, but after being assaulted for selfies 20 times per hour I started to request to have Silvere on the photos too, which did not stop a lot of guys to crop him out anyway!

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The view on the Jain temple from our hotel rooftop in Jaisalmer.

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One haveli outside the fort.

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The view on the fort from one of the many havelis that can be visited.

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Cheeky carving in a Jain temple.

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The beautiful carved archs are typical of Jain temples.

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Sunset in the desert with a new friend. Kids very often ask for chocolate, school pen and then rupees. 

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Our bed for the night in the desert. Twenty minutes before going to sleep, we saw a huge scolopendre crawling near us. The guide brunt it and said “What is that thing? I’ve never seen that in 7 years!”, hu hu.

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Desert chai. Yum, sand!

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Two kids living in a village nearby our desert camp. Our guide was teaching them how to drive tourists so one day they can work with him. 

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The boys were fighting to be in the photo, I think if the guide didn’t put a stop to it I would still be there with my camera as they seem to never get tired of it, they love the attention!

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The men of the village on the wedding day.

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Silvere and his mustache. Oh and a baby goat too!

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At the end of the trek, our guide took us to his home where his mom made chai tea for us (and asked us for money…).

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One skilled street vendor! If I was richer and had more room in my bag I would have bought all her jewelry.

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We found the highest rooftop and went there for sunset. It turned out to be a small spot on top of a bar, that the waiter agreed on letting us use for our happy hour fruit juice.

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Jaisalmer’s lake.

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