Jaisalmer - Day 14
What a fantastic fort Jaisalmer is. It's a town, complete in itself, and still functions as such today so that all the usual business of life was carrying on as we made our way through the narrow, medieval type streets. We dodged cows, motorbikes, markets and the usual crush of people as we wandered through the ancient thoroughfares. The beauty of the town lies in it's golden sandstone which wonderfully clever craftsmen have carved into intricate designs and decorations on the palace, temples and Havelis, or homes of the wealthy merchant princes who made their fortunes trading on the ancient silk road. I can't even begin to imagine the skill and dedication it would take to carve blocks of stone into delicate lace and fine screens, shutters and balconies. Imagine the disaster of dropping a hammer or chisel on a half-formed panel and cracking it! Hours of extraordinary labour must have gone into these buildings. I was doing well, resisting spending any money, until we came to a shop selling handcrafts made by women from the desert villages. I should point out that Jaisalmer is only 150 kms from the Pakistani border. Given the recent tensions between India and Pakistan, surveillance has increased, we were told to keep our passports with us at all times. Jaisalmer is a military town, and there was a large army presence in the town. Clearly tourists aren't permitted to travel much further west into the danger area. To solve this, village women work at home, and sell their produce through a shop in the fort. What marvellous needlework - patchwork rugs, wall hangings, cushion covers, runners, - you name it. All made from old, finely embroidered and decorated women's cast off clothing. Oh well, someone has to support the local economy, although I'm not sure how we're going to get our bags on the next airline given they now weigh considerably more than when we left home. Fast forward to the evening's entertainment. After a short siesta we boarded the bus and travelled some way outside Jaisalmer to the real desert. There we had camels to ride for half an hour or so until we reached the dunes in time to see the sunset. I had a camel with inadequate hardware - well my driver hadn't really sorted out the gear on board. I had a VERY short stirrup on the left (I think this was a pre-loved fan belt). Unfortunately the right hand stirrup was nowhere to be found, and his attempts to effect running repairs were unsuccessful. As a consequence, with my left knee up to my chin, and my right foot groping for a loop somewhere in the vicinity of the camel's knee, I had a very wobbly ride. Frankly, I was so unbalanced, I gave up. It was easier to ride without any stirrups at all as all we were doing was walking. It was a lovely ride out into the desert. When we stopped, about half an hour before sunset, our guide was waiting with a bottle of rum. Other hawkers had also sold us beer or other drinks. By the time the sun had set, we were well liquoured up, and were a happy bunch riding our camels the last half kilometre or so to the bus. I've got some cool shots of the sunset. My phone takes much better sunset pictures than my fancier camera. Also, and really cool, I managed to buy another card reader in the fort this morning. It's taking hours for the computer to work, but 630 photos are currently uploading from my camera. I can't wait to sort them out! There was a bus drive of about an hour from the camel site into town. Our guide had procured a bottle of Indian Rum, which he shared with the coach. As a result it was a happy, not to mention inebriated, load of passengers who rolled up at the silver market to inspect their wares. I pity the guys in the shop! We finally made it back to the coach and were transferred to our hotel where several sore heads got put to bed. Tomorrow - Jodphur!