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Saturday 4th December - Jaisalmer
By Claire
Tuesday, 7th December 2004 10:38

Compared to Jodhpur, Jaisalmer was tiny and unimpressive. The fort, being a living thing in daily use, was interesting, but the power lines and sewers and cows and constant stream of people begging us to look at their shops put me off a bit. I'd go to Jodhpur any day. The streets were narrow and winding, as they should be, the cobbles uneven and in many cases missing, and there were hundreds of people selling things and trying to talk to us. We went for breakfast in the same place as last night and as we climbed the steep steps, a familiar voice called Hello to us. It was Volker the German guy from Jodhpur, and it was nice to see him. We sat and had breakfast with him. After that we caught up on our email for a second and then had a few hours to see Jaisalmer. We wandered out of the fort and tried to find a bank, and ended up in a Western Union place getting a cash advance and being given bottles of water. It was very friendly. The bank had inspirational slogans photocopied and plastered on the walls.

The biggest problem with Jaisalmer was the number of people trying to sell things. If we hesitated anywhere a dozen auto-drivers would call to us, or twenty shopkeepers would urge us to have a look at their wares. There were some lovely things available but everyone was too pushy to let us get close. In the end, I bought Mikey a special pan for making chapatis - another ridiculous thing to carry around but it's authentic - so authentic that I had to put it in my bag to stop men calling "You make chapatis?" either as a request or an observation. Then we wandered round the base of the fort, which is quite impressive. It was hard to get a photograph showing the size of the place because it's all a wobbly shape, and there are electricity and phone wires everywhere. But it was a lovely sandstone edifice rising out of crumbling, dusty foundations a bit like it had just pushed its way though the ground.

One thing I wasn't able to fathom was the meaning of all the dangling chillis on strings that hung from all shops and windows and doorways. Often the chillis were separated by half a lemon. No idea, but it was interesting, and it gave the cows a diet that varied from their usual cardboard boxes and plastic bags. We went back into the fort again and I had a look at the view from the roof of the hotel. It was quite impressive, with nothing but the Thar desert to see as soon as the tiny settlement below ended. I managed to walk over theoofs of eight adjoining houses, all linked by foot-high walls or steps before I remembered Mikey and went back.

We'd seen a lot of forts and a lot of ancient Rajasthani towns so we weren't too sad to make our way to the bus station after we'd had a quick lunch. Our seats had been double-booked and I felt a little bad when the Japanese guy who also had one of them had to move, but he got a seat in the end. The bus was very, very crowded and full of men in bright orange and patterned red turbans. These aren't the Sikh ones, just head coverings made of nine yards of twisted material, and the uniform of Rajasthan. I ended up with a lot of men sitting on the armrest of my seat and a lot of bottoms in my face. There were plenty of soldiers with machine guns too.

The bus took five hours to get to Jodhpur and a man on the bus took us in his auto straight to the hotel we'd stayed in before. The roads were all narrow and twisty again and it felt good to be back! Bantu met us and we got round to paying - we'd been whisked away from him before we'd had a chance last time. He made us sandwiches and then we chatted until almost midnight about Indian weddings (his cousin is getting married on Monday and they're having a party for two thousand people. I don't even know that many people!) and yoga. He showed me a yoga exercise for sleeping well and one to get rid of headaches, and unfortunately they both involve humming the word Om so it's not something I can do in public! Then we went to bed.

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