The beauty of the Rajasthani desert is difficult to put into words. It’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen, and the simplicity of it makes it that much more exquisite.
But with our one month visa nagging at us, it was time to go.
Two girls at the local lassi shop said we should go to Pushkar on the way to Jaipur, and the camel safari owner (who used to be an Enfield traveller himself) said we could stop at Khichan on the way to Pushkar. Route set.
Jaisalmer is a highly militarized area due to its proximity to Pakistan (not that there’s ever been a problem). During our local highway lunch break, a convoy came filled with military men. Like all locals we’ve met, they immediately took a liking to us and thought we were living the dream. Their English was perfect, their uniforms pristine (as pristine as you can get in the desert), and such gentlemen.
We bid them adieu and wave until the dust forms a blinding wall.
After the crane sanctuary of Khichan where thousands of cranes flock miles and miles for the mineral and calcium rich water, we are on a mission to find someplace to stay for the night. Driving at night isn’t our first choice.
Between Jaisalmer and Nagaur there are many villages, but not a lot of tourist activity and therefore not a lot of hotels. Even if they did, lots of villages had power cuts. As the sun sets we realize we’ll probably have to ride an hour in the dark to get to Nagaur (the next big city). Fortunately, it was a large quiet road with a full moon, so driving isn’t the worst. Plus there’s the night animals you don’t usually get to see.
Meerkats, desert cats, hares, antelope, peacock, goats, sheep, desert mice, camel, cows, monkeys. Don’t forget the carcasses of all these animals.
Pfft pfft pffffffttttttttt.
2004 Royal Enfields don’t have gas gauges. When you get on a road high it’s easy to forget to refill. Not only did we forget to refill, but we were (probably) given bad petrol last time, AND the rear break pad seized up. So there was no moving. We couldn’t even push to the nearest garage.
Was it a problem? Of course not.
Within a minute of us stopping, we had a group of two elderly gentlemen and another group of three boys stop their bikes to help us out. The younger guy takes the adjustable spanner out of Chris’ hand and goes to work. While the younger boys are getting all greased up, the elderly gentlemen come up and want me to take a picture of them and their mustaches. The bike was up and running within five minutes. None of them wanted anything except for me to take a picture of all of them.
After we fixed the break pad, she still periodically stops because we have no fuel. We are told the fuel station is anywhere between one and six kilometers, so we start pushing. In a cloud of dust emerges a smartly dressed man in a Renault Duster. He’s just trying to help, but sees our expressions of mindfulness and immediately shows us his police ID badge and tells us not to worry. He asks if we want a tow or a ride to get gas and back, but when we decline he tries to help us start it and guess what, she just needed an Indian touch.
Here’s the thing: if you don’t read the news, you’re uninformed. But if you do, you’re misinformed.
Admittedly, I came to India with the same view as most people. I thought it was going to be unbearably dirty and smelly, I was going to feel oppressed because I wasn’t allowed in certain restaurants or hotels, and the vast majority of the population was going to be uncomfortably impoverished. I was looking forward to Nepal and Myanmar, and India was just a trip on the way.
Over two weeks now I’ve been here, and time and time again I’ve been proven wrong.
Is it dirty and smelly? Only as much as other Southeast Asian countries. Did I feel oppressed the one time I wasn’t allowed to stay in a mens-only hotel and the other three times I had to go to the women’s room to eat? Nope. Have I had to be distrustful? Only in the tourist areas where they’re trying to sell you something.
We went into a restaurant in Udaipur, and were summoned up to the A/C rooms. I thought they were trying to rip us off because the A/C’d room costs more, but in reality it was the women and family room. Women got the nicer A/C room compared to the mens-only humid room downstairs, which goes to show it may have once been segregation by status within religion, but it is now by religious tradition.
I feel that India is misrepresented by the media and unfairly dismissed by the world. Realistically, is no more unsafe than any other first world country as long as you are a smart traveller. I’m sure the sex trade is booming, but you cannot categorize an entire population and country by one area’s misfortune. That’s like saying all of America is racist because the president-elect is racist. Or all of Japan is perverse or unsafe because of the presence of skeevy areas.
Fact of the matter is, when your time’s up your time’s up. You can’t live your life in a bubble to try to push back fate. Just be smart and live your life.
I urge everyone to keep an open mind, be smart travelers, and be mindful of the media.