Weary and sand-covered we enter the desert-oasis city of Jaisalmer. After being bombarded by heat and sandstorms during our 10 hour train ride, we arrive at the end of the train tracks. Hungry, tired, dirty, and utterly content with our situation we climb into a land rover and head to our palace hotel. The city was like a dream out of Arabian Nights if this had, in fact, been Arabia. The Pakistani border taunts me from a few hours east, luring me into a new adventure, but I am bound by the promise of the adventure I’m already on. It is for another time.

A building in the Rajastan desert.

The entire city is made of golden sandstone and it shifts and shimmers in the heat of the desert. Camels chill on the roadsides waiting for tourists to hire them for an adventurous desert camping trip. And the people remember you. It is such a small place that after two hours you run into people that you have already met around the city and they greet you by name.

In the fort there are the expected textile shops, only here when you buy something and are later accosted by another seller with the same wares and they ask you how much you spent because they would have given you a better price… you tell them and their response is, “Really? But that is the local price! You must be a good bargainer!” Then they leave you be. There are also jewelry stores with wonderful silver necklaces and colorful bangles, herbal medicine and massage centers, and leather shops where everything from luggage to sandals to photo albums are made of camel leather. You can find dolls, quilts, books, and henna. And in the midst of all this are cows and dogs and monkeys all lounging in the small streets together in the shades of Jain temples that dominate the fort.

A Jain Temple
The nearby lake is scattered with small water temples and colorful boats. The sun shines off the blue-blue water and the golden buildings. It is the perfect picture. We lay under trees and watch birds waddle along the steps of the shore. Soon, a group of colorful-sari clad women walk up and proceed to drop bread crumbs into the water. The result is a bubbling mass of huge catfish. The perfectly serene lake has a dark side in the form of slimy, whiskery kitty-fish. Ewe!!!
A temple on the lake.

All too soon we are back on the train, dreaming of camels and amazing spicy Rajastan food. After meeting so many interesting people during our train excursions, I feel guilty picking favorites. But the father-daughter pair we met on the train back to Delhi were amazing people. We taught the daughter (a university student) how to play Go-Fish. She had never played cards in her life! And during the 14-or-so hour train ride, we upgraded her to Gin.

A 1/2 day stay in Delhi before catching yet another train. I wandered around a Sikh museum and learned the stories of the Gurus. We ate at McDonalds…twice (shh…don’t tell). And we rented a room in a guest house that we hadn’t planned on and slept for a few hours to prepare for our very short 5-hour train ride to the “foothills” of the Himalayas.

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