06.03.2010 -32 °C
Leaving Mumbai with the prospect of a 17 hour train journey, starting at 11pm, didn't fill me with any expectations of happiness, fun and all round good times but I figured I'd make sure I had plenty of supplies to keep hunger and thirst at bay and I'm currently reading Charlie Brookers 'Dawn of the Dumb' so the hours should fly by lost in bitter witticisms of social commentary on a full belly. However. Our last night was spent in a bar with an Indian friend who accidentally made us late for the train and dropped us at the wrong side of the train station and so a half marathon with my back pack wearing inappropriate shoes ensued. There was no time for supplies and so my dinner and only source of liquid was an orange. Still, a good way to end Mumbai was to spend it with our friend who had really looked after us whilst we were here and we got our train so, who cares?
Luckily that was the worst bit of the journey. I managed to get a good night's sleep because the key to long train journeys here is an inflatable head cushion, a blindfold, some ear plugs/iPod and then basically Roberts your mother's brother. Being 2 inches shy of midget status helps too, as you kind of have to make room for your bags on the same ledge. I woke to a pretty empty train and lots of people coming through selling water, nuts, er... pieces of metal and shoe insoles, and "chai chai chai chai chai chai chai". Tea is very popular. Not sure how I managed to get eaten alive by mosquito's on a moving train under a fan either but there we go, they always find me somehow.
Mark and I next arrived in Rajasthan, first port of call Jodhpur. This place is amazing. People wear the most colourful clothes; I saw old men sporting neon orange turbans, the women wore bright pinks, blues, yellows... well you get the picture. Even the cows looked better. The town itself is surrounded by a castle wall and there's a fort on the hill with spectacular views of the town and of a distant palace. All the buildings are painted blue (apparently to keep away mozzies as they don't like blue - if only I'd known last night eh) and there are lots of tiny streets and small roads to wander through which we did; there was also random dancing in the street which Mark needed little coercion participating in and became a Bollywood shaped local hero as people jostled to shake his hand once the music stopped. In addition to the energetic street life, our guest house had a roof top cafe so the sunset was really amazing. You wouldn't need more than 2 days here really but it made for a really good pit stop.
We journeyed further north to Jaisalmer looking to join a Camel trekking excursion in the sand dunes somewhere near the Pakistan boarder. We found a place to stay called Hotel Swastika which is appropriately named after the Muslim peace sign and not a celebration of a genocidal antisemitic nut job. Needless to say we didn't stumble across any Israeli's in there. Sods Law also dictated that anyone we spoke to in this town was German and I felt an overwhelming urge to avoid any chat relating to which hotel we were staying at. This was luckily a success.
We wandered around Jaisalmer town getting lost in the abundance of silver, leather and nick-nack shops minding our own business when upon reaching a market square a dog catcher violently ensnared a stray dog and this in turn upset all the animals in the area. I think they all stick up for each other or something. A big black bull with big horns (possibly a normal sized black cow with female sized horns, but for the purposes of drama lets go with the bull) decided to go a bit mad and charged about for a bit. Everyone jumped onto higher ground until the animal calmed down. So that was fun.
The following morning after a quick trip to Dr Bhang (who runs a legal 'Bhang' shop in these parts as recommended by The Lonely Planet guide book) to pick up some herbal additions to our desert trip we set off by jeep to meet the camels. Getting on a camel is easy, steering a camel is easy, trotting on a camel is easy, sitting on a camel for 3 days is not. Aside from this slight discomfort it was a great little trip spent with the Desert People who set themselves apart from Indians and it actually felt as though we were somewhere in the Middle East. The trip was not without hiccups, the most notable occurred when our guide lost one of the camels when letting them roam free at lunch and then went to find them without telling us: Mark and I were left in the middle of the desert for four hours not really knowing what was going on. At least we had a few games of 'guess what number I'm thinking of' to keep us busy.
We are now south east of Jaisalmer in Udiapur, after a very rocky 15 hour bus ride, and this place is renowned for it's historical architecture (stay with me) and, more interestingly, some of the palaces here provided the film setting for James Bond 'Octopussy'. They love this fact so much at our more aptly named guest house that they show it at 7:30pm every night. There seems to be a few temples and palaces to wander around which we will do more of tomorrow before we head to Jaipur in time for Marks birthday on 16th.