We took a morning bus from Jaisalmer to Jodhpur. I suppose the ensuing mayhem should have been anticipated when the public bus was arranged to arrive at our hotel prior to heading to the bus rank in town to ensure we got the seats we had in fact reserved. Cool, carpeted and curtained – the bus comprised half chairs and half flatbeds with all the makings of a luxury coach. The first 5 minutes were pure bliss as we each had first option at the chairs.
It was as the mob at the station shuffled across to the door at the rank when I first detected trouble. The bus could only seat so many people and this mob was fairly larger than the seats available. As it turned out, seating was no trouble. These people were quite happy to stand and crawl into the tiniest of spaces on board the bus. There were overhead “beds” which, built for one person, easily housed an extended family when cross-legged. People from the aisles leisurely extended the top half of their bodies into the chair to their side to fit snuggly half-aisled, and half-chaired – they were both seated and non-seated at the same time. At one stage, a man decided to sit on the reserved seat of the girl in front of mine’s without asking. I had a good laugh until I realised I had a “leaner” with his body half in my seat encroaching. To distract myself I started watching a docu-series on my phone; naturally, the “leaner” started watching too. The series became sinister, and a cow was about to be slaughtered for dinner. I decided this was probably not suitable viewing for a Hindu person, and given his position in my chair, decided I turn it off. When I looked back up, the man who had shared the seat in front of mine’s had gone. In this place, an elderly man sporting a turban was seated. The girl in front was not happy. Whilst this was occurring, a fellow tour member was trapped by a family in a flat bed which she couldn’t escape.
Given the amount of bodies in the bus, the aircons had been rendered useless, and the windows only opened slightly, thus the air was thick and spicy. The 6 hour journey was a sweaty, character-building session; I don’t recommend taking such a bus, and in such instances, I highly suggest paying the extra rupees for a bus which keeps the riff-raff outt.
After lunch at the hotel (a delicious Rajasthani thali!), we regrouped and continued to the Mehrangarh Fort – a magnificent fort on the roof of the city.
We passed through the undulating roads within, before finding ourselves at the zipline station. What ensued were 6 ziplines across the ruins and flood grounds of the fort. Spectacular from every aspect, we had views of the old blue city from one direction, the fort in it’s magnificence from another, and the walls and ghats aligning the dams circumnavigating the fort. Perhaps an expensive outing, but the views were priceless.
After building up a sweat, we headed down to the evening market by the town clock tower. Everybody who’s anybody comes out for the evening market – and everything which can be sold is for sale. People brush past in every direction, buying fresh produce, clothing, spices and odds & ends for the house. I even saw an elephant make an appearance at the market – though I imagine his owner brought him, rather than him arriving on his own volition. A certain excitement hangs around the market that had me forget the chaos of the ordeal; I wanted to keep exploring all the corners of the market despite being hustled by every salesman who noted I was foreign.
On account of all the locals who keep asking for selfies with me, I now take selfies with all everyone who asks me. This has caused some confusion amongst the people who snap my picture, but none have declined me thus far. I now have a collection of photos of people who asked me for a photo, so should I ever find myself in a Getty or stock images online, I have photographic evidence of the individuals responsible.
All the running and photographing around got me a tad thirsty, and willing to try a traditional lassi in the market. I found two stores right next to each other, from which I struggled to choose between – either the “Famous Lassi Shop” or, right next door, the “Popular Lassi Shop”. After my criteria of crowd, vibe and lighting were assessed, I settled for the former. A saffron lassi later, I was satisfied with my choice. I did feel bad for the “Popular Lassi Shop” man – he claims to have the people’s vote, but he needs lacks the evidencing crowd to prove it. His neighbour has a crowd and a brolli – even at night. Now that’s a party.
En route home, we stopped at the local sweet shop! All those crazy coloured and textured treats aligned the windows, and were super cheap. I’m not typically a sweet-toothed person, but I am a child in a man’s body so my selection was extensive and excessive. Green, orange, yellow, silver-coated (?) and some deep fried; a cornucopia of these treats filled my leaf-made, eco-friendly bowl. After a bite of each I had had enough; there is certainly no limit to the amount of sugar that can be placed into one of these treats. After sampling each, a disheartening realisation was that the colour is no indication of the taste, and most of the different colours tasted the same – like sugar. I crashed hard after 2 minutes, and sat alongside the freezer on the side of the store, looking out into the alleyway downing my water. I was exhausted – I had experienced a lot of India in one day, and my body could not handle much more.
People, places and things – Jodhpur was a short, busy stop on our Rajasthan cavalcade, and the next day promised another bus ride. Dreading more people sitting on and staring at me, I fell into a deep sleep. India truly is an experience, and not a holiday.