Outside of Junagarh Fort
Our overnight train from Jaipur
wasn't bad. Sleeping quarters were divided up into cabins each having four bunk beds. Four of us from our group shared a cabin and the good thing was you could lock the door from the inside. They were airconditioned which worked very well when the train was moving, probably too well so the blankets they provided you were well and truly put to use ! After a reasonably comfortable nights sleep not counting the number of times I had to climb down off my bunk to go use the starter blocks we arrive in Bikaner. We were transferred to our hotel which was a family run guest house and very nice.
he outside walls of Junagarh Fort
Slight change of plan the guide said, instead of starting the camel safari in the morning and going to the fort the next day we were going to the fort that morning then starting the safari in the afternoon, reason for this Diwali was on and the fort would be closed the next day. So after a refreshing shower and breakfast we all headed in private cars to Junagarh Fort passing a very stinky lake on the way which nearly made me chuck ! From what I could see of Bikaner it wasn't a very inspiring town it was very dusty and non descript. At the fort we had ourselves another guide who took us around and gave us a very imformative tour. The outside wall was impressive enough I wonder what wonders inside brought us. We passed through a lovely sandstone gate and into a ensemble of picturesque mosaic coutyards, red and white sandstone palaces, latice windows and lovely carvings.
Inside the palace musems you had the usual gold leaf painted walls and ceilings, impressive throne room and paintings depicting history. One particular chamber had carvings all over its walls of animals and people. The Fort is well worth a visit and needs half a day at least. After the Fort we head back to the hotel pack a small overnight bag and headed to the camels for our overnight camel safari into the Thar Desert. It was hot at this stage so I wasn't paticulary looking fowared to this 4 hour ride in the heat of the day. I was picked a camel and up I got, not the prettiest camel out the bunch, it had a big sore on the side of its head which seem to attract a million flies, probably a blessing as it kept the flies occupied from bothering me !! We were on the camels for about an hour half before our first stop at a village for a drink and rest, the kids were first to greet us and we got plenty of waves from the villagers.
I got off the camel and boy I felt it, I thought if my bum is this sore after and 1.5hrs what is it going to be like after 4 hrs ! we were all walking like cowboys when we got off !! After a nice cool drink and an invitation into one of the villagers house we set off on our way passing more waving villagers and then the funniest site Ive seen in a few days, sheep that were shorn all except for a large fluffy bundle on the tops of their bums they look like poodles ! and to top it off those fluffy bits were painted different colours like pink and orange, I guess their way of being branded. So to another hour or so before our stop for lunch. By this time the scenery was becoming more desert as we left the villages behind, the odd villager/farmer was strolling through the desert and now and then we would see some gazelle's skipping across the sand dunes so the desert wasn't barren by no means.
We finally stopped for lunch and cameliers busyied themselves preparing a long tressle table and a very tasty lunch of variuos vegetarian dishes. Amazing how they just cook something up on little stoves out in the middle of nowhere, for me to do something like that I need a full scale kitchen ! although my camp roasts arn't bad ! After lunch we all stretched out on some blankets and some of the group fell asleep. Our last ride was about an hour but I was too sore to get back on the camel so I opted for a lift in the camel cart, another couple of the group joined me and it was great fun and a heck of alot more comfortable. We reached our campsite shortly before sunset and the cameliers put up our tents for us while we headed up the hill to catch the sunset.
One of the many lovely mosaic courtyards at Junagarh Fort
Along the way we came across a dung beetle rolling a large piece of dung along with his back legs, facinating to watch. The sunset was lovely but we knew we wern't all that far from civilisation as we could hear the fireworks off in the distant, being Diwali their were going to be many fireworks over the next few days, we even brought our own to help celebrate so it wasn't going to be a quiet night for us either ! So the evening was merry with a lovely dinner cooked for us and plenty of beer and spirits on tap. We all got a Diwali blessing and red dot put on our heads, we had musicians playing for us, a bonfire going and then the fireworks were let off. We even had sparkers some real fancy ones Ive never seen back home. The night was good but I wasn't 100% so I headed to my tent earlier than everyone else, put in the earplugs and never heard a thing after that !