Jaipur, Jaisalmer, and camel safari
Thursday, November 03, 2016
Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India
The team arrived in Jaipur a week ago, coming on a bus from Agra
Right away we met Rishi-ji and Rekha-ji, our local hosts and guides, who welcomed us with open arms. They had planned a week full of exciting cultural excursions for us, as well as Hindi language lessons and morning yoga classes.
They were both very knowledgeable. One of our team members mentioned it was "really great to have an Indian woman's perspective" from Rekha-ji.
We all met our host families, many of whom lived in the same apartment complex, while Charlie, Jack, Oriana, and Kippy stayed with host families in larger houses nearby.
We went to a famous historical fort on the mountainside, followed by a trip to an ancient stepwell, where the team explored and took photos. We also visited various local craft workshops to see how they were made.The team was especially excited seeing the process of recycled cardboard being turned into fancy and colorful boutique paper products to be sold and used abroad
Jaipur is famous for its old but very accurate astronomical constructions, built in a place called Jantar Mantar. We saw the largest sun dial in the world and learned about many complicated measurements, along with Indian astrology.
The team went to the famed Raj Mandir theatre to see a typical Bollywood film. The theatre itself was stunning and the movie caused us to respond with laughter, amusement, surprise, and the occasional cringing moment.
We also went on a walking tour of the walled pink city, where the team moved through crowds and saw traditional architecture and shops, including one where famous bangles were being made.
Later in the week, we visited an artist colony, which so many people really enjoyed. Rishi-ji taught us how these struggling communities were working to adapt their talents in performing and visual arts from traditional models of livelihood to successful lives in contemporary India
One evening, we visited a smaller fort to watch the sun set and look out over the city, covered in lights for the upcoming Diwali holiday.
Anticipating a 12 hour train ride, many of the team spent the final afternoon in Jaipur wandering through the bazaars and buying snacks for the trip ahead, further into the deserts of Rajasthan. Jaipur seemed to be thoroughly enjoyed by our team.
The team traveled from Jaipur to Jaisalmer by overnight train. We said goodbye to our lovely host families at 10 pm and were on the train by 12:15 am
Jaisalmer, the "Golden City", is in the middle of the Thar desert. It gets its name for its glimmering sandstone that shines when the sun hits it.
Our first day in Jaisalmer we explored its famous fort. We visited many of the Jain temples inside the fort and learned the history of the city through an audio tour of the City Palace.
We also happened to be in Jaisalmer for Diwali, the Festival of Lights. Firecrackers, smoke bombs, and fireworks went off all day long. Our second night there was the biggest night of the festival and the second the sun went down the fireworks started and did not stop until the sun came up. When we woke up for our camel safari at 6 am you could still here them.
The team traveled into the desert for our camel safari early in the morning, the third day of being in the desert
We rode for 2 hours on our camels stopping for lunch when the sun got hot. In the middle of the day we sat under one of the only trees you could see for miles and ate snacks and lunch, and hung out until it was cool enough to ride the camels under the scorching sun again. After a couple more hours on the camels we rode into the sand dunes and set up camp for the night. We played in the sand which got everywhere, ate dinner, told scary stories (because it was Halloween) and went to sleep under the Milky Way and thousands of stars.
The second day we woke up, ate breakfast, and were off again. After a couple hours of riding the sun got too hot so we stopped and waited out the sun over lunch. After lunch we started riding again, this time to bigger sand dunes.
That evening we reached the big sand dunes and immediately started playing in them
That night we had a special dance performance by some local people, so we all got to sing and dance, and afterwards we got to sleep under the stars again.
Then third and final morning we woke up and started riding again. This time when we stopped for lunch we said goodbye to our camels, and thank you to our guides, and after lunch headed back to Jaisalmer.
Tomorrow the team heads to Jodhpur, then the next day to Udaipur.