Modes of transport
Jaisalmer Travel Blog› entry 5 of 7 › view all entries
You may think it's getting a little old to read themed blog entries, but I know that I cannot read one long account of someone's travels. Rather, it's nice to peruse a snapshot blog that gives me some sense of the country without being long-winded, so this entry is centered around different modes of transport that I have used while in India and it is perhaps my last entry in this country as I leave in 2 days.
Bus: I decided, despite the urgings of some of my traveling friends and the disapproval of the French friend with whom I was travelling, to travel by bus from Pushkar to Udaipur. The ride was only 10 hours and we could take an overnight bus, so I was not particularly precoccupied about our choice. However, not only did my friend and I show up at the station way too early (1 hour), but also the "station" consisted of a dusty lot surrounded by darkened shops and littered with stray dogs. Our bus was also an hour late, but, when it finally came, we looked foward to settling comfortably into the sleeper seat. The sleeper seat is not really a seat so much as a bed above the normal seats in which one can only sit hunched or lay down. However, we didn't realize that, in addition to our own bodies comfortably fitting into the bed, we also had to put our huge backpacks in the sleeper seat with us. (I must admit that mine is larger than my friend's and really must lose some weight. What can I say? It has an appetite for Indian souvenirs). By the time we crammed our heavy companions and ourselves into the seats we were barely able to move. I shut my eyes, thinking that sleep would be the perfect distraction. "Bang, bang" over every tiny bump in the road our bodies were tossed and pitched. Our heads thumped against the ceiling of the sleeper. To supplement the rough ride, around every curve, to warn of our approach to oncoming traffic, the driver blew an especially loud and long horn. Never have I been so thankful to get to a hotel bed.
Train: On our way from Jodphur to Jailsalmer, my French friend and I decided not to repeat our big bus mistake and opted for the 2nd lowest class on the train: sleeper. After an hour delay we made it to our seats only to find that they were already occupied. Both of us had experienced this before. Many people give the train officials a little baksheesh (money) to upgrade their seats rather than pay in full for the upgrade and many simply crouch in sleeper class and try to avoid, as long as possible, the transfer to the lowest class which is even more crowded and congested. Unfortunately, for those who do pay their ticket, it creates a bit of a problem. So, feeling that we could handle the situation, we began to show the family inhabiting our beds for the night that we were, in fact, the owners of the proper tickets. Unfortunately, we did not speak Hindi or Marwali or any of the numerous Indian languages that would have allowed us to communicate with the family, and the family, possibly knowing what we were trying to say, used the language barrier in its favor. Pretty soon a crowd of Indian people had surrounded us, all interested to see what the foreigners would do next. Each person had their own opinion on the matter, none of which we could understand. At one point it looked as if a man would leave the seat to us, but it was a false alarm because he merely left to get a friend, or brother, or cousin so that he, too, could contribute an opinion. At last, I spotted a station official and gave him the ticket and tried to explain to him the situation. He had a list of passengers in Hindi which he studied for quite some time. Just as I was about to lose it, he wrote something on our tickets and told us that we had been upgraded to A.C. (I didn't even slip him 50 R). A.C. is restricted so our little beds were secure and complete with sheets. There was an employee who we named the Pillow official and whose solitary occupation seemed to be to put pillows into their cases, fluff them, and hand them to each individual in the class. If that person was asleep he would simply slip the pillow under the passenger's head. It was truly sweet dreaming.
Camel: The last and most interesting mode of transport was the camel. We decided to take a 3 day and 2 night camel safari in the desert in Jailsalmer and after a 40 km ride into the desert by Jeep we were met by Sadia and his 14 year old helper. Sadia has lived in the desert all of his life and wears a turban. His skin darkened by the sun, deep lines crease his face, and his teeth are stained with betl-something not unlike chewing tobacco. Sadia and his helper brought with them 3 camels, saddled and crouching in an odd stance ready for us to mount them. Once in the I was in my saddle Sadia said "Gi, gi" and pulled on the reins which were attached to a spike in the camel's nose and the camel grunted and struggled to its feet. I expected the camel to have a fast gate, but it was slow enough that Sadia and his helper most often did not ride but merely walked along with our camels through the desert, skirting bushes and small plants to find a seemingly non-existant trail. After two hours of riding my legs began to ache, and the sun hurt my face and my throat. I tried some deep breathing exercises to ease the pain. However, as soon as I spotted the dunes I forgot my worries. With their curves they looked like beautiful golden women lying in the desert sun. The wind had made intricate patterns in their surfaces and erased the footsteps of previous tourists, so we felt as if we were the first to discover them. From them, we watched the sunset and the moonrise silmultanously and could see the stars in the clear sky. The desert cooled in the night and provided us with relief from the heat of the day, cool water, and a deep sleep.