India Part 2: Jaisalmer to Pushkar (aka Elderly Narcotic Problems and Unlicensed Drinking)

The next leg of our India trip has taken us from Jaisalmer to the blue city of Jodhpur, then onwards to Udaipur and Pushkar.

We had actually been to Jodhpur 4 years ago, and have a few reminders of the scams we fell for back then, such as the “we supply to Liberty of London”, reduced from ยฃ500 to ยฃ100, now falling apart at home quilt covers. Lots of people roam the main areas trying everything to get you into their store to sell (ie. scam) you for something.

Despite a couple of close encounters, including the man who actually made us believe he was the cook at our homestay and the other one who tried to sell us the “same one they have in Ballymaloe House in Cork” (too specific to be false, surely?) we have gained no extra weight in our backpacks I am pleased to say.

Although the scams can get annoying, Jodhpur is a buzzing city with a huge fort sitting on a hill overlooking the place with great views. As part of the fort, they have a museum which shows you how the Maharaja’s lived centuries ago. This includes people dressed up in the costumes and even one old bloke who sits there smoking opium (the real deal supposedly) looking completely out of it. This trend continued the next day when we visited some rural villages outside of the city, and an old lady (clearly in her 80s) had great pleasure showing us how she did (or does?) prepare opium at home. Needless to say we politely smiled back and quickly moved on in fear she was trying to cut a deal for narcotics.

It’s fair to say that using the trains in India has been a necessity rather than a joy. However, after the 22 hour (and then straight on top of a camel) journey from Delhi to Jaisalmer, the 5-6 hour journeys have been a breeze and an opportunity to catch up with Netflix downloads. That said, we were both looking forward to a “luxury” bus journey to Udaipur.

The bus was indeed very nice, but any hopes for a comfortable and pleasant journey quickly disappeared with the driver. It is customary that drivers let the many cows pass the road if they are crossing, but our driver seemed to think that a constant horn will simply allow him a clear passage. It didn’t – and with the confidence that a big vehicle provides he simply swerved for each and every cow, relying on the survival instinct of oncoming drivers to stop. Back to the trains I think.

Udaipur is a lovely city, built around a number of large lakes and surrounded in the monsoon season by lush green mountains. It has been our favourite stop so far.

The beautiful scenery means there are many rooftop restaurants and cafes, and given we wanted a little bit of down-time, we went in search of a beer. Like our destinations so far, this can be easier said than done given the almost negative attitude towards drinking in India. Most places did not seem to list beer on the menu as they are not officially licensed, so when you do ask for beer, you may be told “No sir, we do not serve any alcohol” with a gratuitous unsaid judgement on your assumed alcoholism or, most often, they will quietly return with unassuming glasses or bottles wrapped in napkins just in case someone is watching. Of course, we just stuck to the soft drinks… in case anyone thinks we are promoting unlicensed drinking … how did that end up in my glass? …

As seems quite regular on our trips, we also climbed a big hill and went to cooking class (although Giles’ output this time wasn’t quite up to his normal standard versus my vegetable marvel – can’t remember the name).

The final destination in this leg is Pushkar. This is a holy place is Hinduism which draws many pilgrims and where meat and alcohol are banned. Being honest, this is probably the only place we have not enjoyed in India so far as it is a very small place with a vast number of people trying to move around and is quite stressful. Imagine being in a packed out street with people going in every direction, and then add dozens of motorbikes driving in every direction, and then add lots of cows which you need to avoid in case they charge at you. Not fun. So, we have decided to have a rest day in the hotel by the pool and enjoy the scenery. Unfortunately without the cocktails.

To see more of this part of our trip, have a look at the short video below.

Next leg of the trip – Jaipur, Agra and Varanasi

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