Pushkar Workers
Pushkar Workers

Pushkar, as a city is regarded as the holiest city – no meat, no alcohol, no eggs, and no PDX and so based on the first three constraints we had a feeling we would not be hanging around Pushkar long but we had so many good things about the city too that makes people hang around for a long time too.

Leaving Jaisalmer, an Argentinean chick named Maria joined us and when we finally arrived in Pushkar we were taken to a pretty decent guesthouse that our driver knew off. The owner came out in the usual friendly manor and insisted if there was anything to do to make our stay comfortable he would, Neil asked for beer and chicken as a joke but to his and everyone else’s surprise his prayers were to be answered the following day.

The following morning after brunch, Neil and I ended up playing Cricket with the guys from the restaurant. Would have been good fun, had it not been for the heat and the fact there was only 5 of us playing! Rest of that afternoon just wandered around Pushkar, avoiding the many rip off priests trying to take you down to the lake to do a little religious ceremony in return for a little string they tie on your wrist (referred in LP as The Pushkar Passport), we wise to the scam and so I used some bracelets that kids in Cambodia had made for me as my passport. We still got the odd priest trying to con us, but wasn’t going to work on us.

That evening, as promised by Mukesh we all dined and drank by the pool in our guesthouse, and he even put on a campfire for us. Pushkar was going to be the end of the road trip with the Aussies, Neil and I were off to Ranthonbore, which has a National Park, which is famous for Tiger Safari.

Arriving in Ranthonbore, I was on a pretty tight schedule as I had committed to meet my sister in Kerala only a few days after and I still had to visit Agra, Delhi and Amritsar. My schedule was put into disarray, as soon as we arrived in Ranthonbore. Our plan was to do a safari the following morning and move on to Agra, but all the jeeps the morning we wanted to go were booked up by Margaret Beckett (a British MP) and we would have to go the following morning. To kill the time we had, we were told about another Fort in Rajasthan, which isn’t that touristy or well maintained. So armed with two cold Kingfisher beers, we head off to the fort.

On arrival the fort amazed us, more monkeys than tourists and is set in the middle of the dense Ranthonbore jungle, and surrounded by some majestic mountains. We spent an hour or so heading up to top of the fort, and found a fantastic ruined part of the fort which was over looking the lake – perfect spot for a cold beer and the peace and quite was bliss. We decided to do some exploring within the fort and soon found ourselves off the beaten track and walking along the edge of the fort, which had lots of monkeys scrambling around. To keep them moving out of our path, Neil would throw the odd stone in their direction. In most cases this worked, but we soon stopped in our tracks one stubborn monkey stood his ground and growled back at us, waving his limbs in an aggressive manor – I didn’t hang around long enough to make friends or take a picture, I was gone before Neil turned around to say “don’t run!”

The following morning, we were scheduled to do our Safari at 6am. We set off on a jeep with two American wildlife geeks, which was actually quite helpful as there knowledge was better than our guides. 4 hours later, and driving around in the cold we returned back to our hotel disappointed, as we didn’t see any tigers and we had wasted an extra day in the hope we would.

Next on our whirlwind trip in the North was Agra, home to the world famous Taj Mahal. Our intention was to wake up at 5am again and catch Sun Rise, but having woke up that ridiculous hour, and traveled all day we didn’t surface till lunch! Another day wasted in Agra dealing with the pushiest rickshaw and taxi drivers in India, we even ended up paying one guy 5 rupees to stop following us and if we saw him again we would do some damage to his bike – we realized that he made an easy 5 rupees as they all look the same and we would never know if it was him or not. Anyway, following day up at sunrise to see the Taj, we tried to get in on local rate and not the extortionate tourist rate but we were not as lucky this time (worked once in Mumbai tho’). With all the history, and the story of the Taj I was really looking forward to seeing another one of the world’s wonders, and walking through the gate and you see the picture postcard shot of the Taj and its awesome.. BUT after a few minutes the mesmerizing image diminishes and you left wondering what else is there to the Taj.. and for me that was it.

When we were in Angkor Wat, my traveling buddy at the time commented that Angkor Wat is so much more impressive than the Taj, I found that hard to believe at the time but now I have seen them both I have to agree with him (Gonzo – I’ll give you that one). That afternoon we hit the road, and headed for Delhi, having wasted two days we realized that our plans to get to Amritsar were gone. We headed for Paraganj, which like the Khoa San of Delhi, and its just madness and a real test of patience. You could be walking down the street, with a smile on your face, and within in seconds your pulling your hair out and ready to get out of there.

Didn’t do much sight seeing, and opted for the shopping option. We took a Rickshaw to a market a friend had recommended, and just our luck we picked the only Rickshaw that didn’t have a horn and trust me when driving in Delhi you need to make yourself known. At the market we ended up bumping in to the two American guys that were on our safari a few days earlier, and so that evening we decided to try and find some of the hot spots of Delhi – without the local knowledge we had in Mumbai we struggled to make any in roads and ended up relying on suggestions form the LP. The following day, another 5am start and a 2 legged flight down south to Kerala to meet my sister and family.

That was 10 days ago, and got up to quite a bit and I will update on Kerala and the backwaters next time.