Friday, December 28, 2007

sailing on an ocean of sand

September 19th 2003

At this time of year I think it appropriate to tell you about the time I rode into Bethlehem on a donkey. The missus was preggers and I had to find a hostel ... oh wait a minute, that wasn't me.

It wasn’t Bethlehem, it was Jaisalmer, and there was no donkey but a camel. But the story is similar. Oh ... and no wife up the duff. ('A bun in the oven' for all you Seppos. Seppos...septic-tank ...Yank. Do I have to explain EVERYTHING?)

Anyway, I WAS riding a camel, and it was bloody uncomfortable let me say. It is one thing to sit on one for a quick 50 metres up the beach and back for the novelty, yet another to have to sit on the damned thing for hours while meandering along in the desert dunes looking for the campsite.

I was in India. Jaisalmer to be precise, in the North-Western part of the state of Rajasthan. Jaisalmer was pretty much one of the first places I visited after arriving in the country.

And it was spectacular.

terry under a jaisalmer arch

Often referred to as India’s Golden City because of the colour the sun turns the abundant sandstone in the late afternoon. The fort and many of the city’s temples and ornate buildings are constructed of the stuff.

local architecture

more of the same

and more

and a bit more

the local kwik-e-mart

The heart of Jaisalmer is dominated by the fort built in 1156. A magnificent edifice which gives the entire city a feeling not so much India, curry and Swamis and Sadhus - but of Arabian Nights.

the fort

I was in Northern India for a month travelling with Jane and Shane and we were generally travelling in a circle around Rajasthan with a side trip to Agra, Varanassi and Chandigarh.

Our hotel in Jaisalmer was built into the castle walls - the drop out of my room window was considerable. The hotel also had a sitting area on the top of one of the fort’s myriad bastions - which was perfect for sitting around at sunset and ruminating on the days sightseeing.

good coffee spot

view from the roof

The camel trip in question was a ride for several hours out into the Thar desert, which borders India and Pakistan.

them thar desert dunes

It was pleasantly hot and very dry, and the camels were not spitting too much. (Though for long periods of the journey out, the one on front of me was spitting considerably and continuously from the other end. Touch of Delhi-belly I suspect.)

on board s.s.camelus

at the helm

It was a jovial jaunt, mainly because those of European heritage without years of riding experience and the appropriate genetic make-up look bloody stupid on camels. Occasionally one of the creatures would take off on a lolloping lope and then things would really become amusing. Especially when one of our group came a cropper and a riderless mount was seen being chased across the desert by a group of wildly yelling Indians.

jane looking quite the part

Eventually we reached an area where we were to ‘set up camp’. This term, in certain desert regions, could suggest a huge white billowing marquis with pennants, and embroidered silk bolsters casually strewn on the ornate woven rugs. Trestles laden with exotic fruits and spicy Indian delicacies, and perhaps fanners, waving large feather creations creating soothing gentle breezes for us while we gossiped excitedly about the days adventures.

as good a spot as any

What we got was a subcontinent swag - a rug on the sand for our sleeping bags and a bowl of dhal Darl!

It actually was much better than it sounds. Sleeping under the stars in the desert is something to cherish. The sky was so cloudless and clear I doubt I have ever seen the night sky more full of stars than that night in the desert.

I woke the next morning after a really good nights sleep with a large exotic looking frog sleeping in the palm of my hand. I received such a shock that it immediately became an airborne amphibian and disappeared over the crest of the nearest sand dune. Where the hell it had come from is anyone’s guess - I always though frogs liked to be near water. The hills were alive with the sound of dung beetles - but a frog?

It could’ve been worse; I could have woken with a frog in my throat.

some eg's of my Indian 'one a day' artworks.

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