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Jaisalmer and Agra

by sarah

sunny 105 °F

Holy smokes the desert is hot! Every new city we went to got progressively hotter, and getting to Jaisalmer was no exception. It was around 100-108 the whole time we were there. At first this made us pretty nervous for our upcoming camel safari, but once we had all of our long sleeved tops, long trousers and head scarves we were ready (and it turns out that being fully clothed does make you cooler, who knew?). We met up with Melanie once again in Jaisalmer along with our friend Mike and a new friend Ross. Our first day there we decided skip the sights and head to the pool, which was a nice relief from the heat. We also knew we would be in the sun for the next day and a half so it was nice to relax there before heading into the desert.
The next day was our camel safari. We took a one hour car ride packed in like sardines and listening to bollywood tunes, out of the city to meet the camels that we would ride for the day. Mine was named Bonnie, G's was Philco and Mel's was Charlie. They were all realted somehow, but don't really remeber, but they were awesome!
Camels are pretty much the coolest animals ever. They are super obedient and relaxed. Riding a camel is another story though. Everyone we spoke to said that they are pretty uncomfortable to ride, so I was prepared for the worst. At first I didn't understand what everyone was talking about, but after about half and hour, with a little camel running in between, I began to realize. I thought it might be a bit like a horse, but there were no stirrups and you couldn't move with the animal at all. Our friend Mike was pretty afraid of his cheap new trousers ripping during the trip, and all it took was the first attempt getting on the camel for the whole crouch to rip out...pretty hilarious.
Luckily our ride wasn't too long before our 'lunch and siesta session' that turned out to be a 4 hour stop, sadly with no where to sleep. But no worries, I managed to take my nap laying the in dirt anyway! After our extended stop we rode the camels through the desert, which we thought would be the rolling sand dunes you see on TV, but turned out it was just dry land with cacti here and there. It was still a cool experience. And shortly after our ride started we spotted some sand dunes in the distance that were a welcome sight. We set up camp there and got a chance to play in the sand, and of course take some more awesome powerkick shots. (including the awesome one of my silhouette that I'm sure you've all seen :) ). We lounged around for some more before heading over to the 'sunset spot', which was just the next dune over, but still a very pretty sight.
As it got darker we continued to chill out around the camp while our camel drivers prepared our dinner of boiled potatoes, rice and bread...mmm carbs. We were told that this is what you eat on a camel safari. So after loading our plates with salt, we dug in listening to the sounds of one of the drivers, Daniel, sing tradition songs. (He also treated us with his rendition of 'Barbie Girl' on the way in that was "I'm the camel man, in the bloody sand...imagination, life is your creation...") Very entertaining to say the least.
Once it was completely dark the stars came out and it was amazing! However, so did the HUGE dung beetles that were rolling around carrying camel poop, niiice. It was so cool though to be outside of a city and see sooo many stars. After a while our camel men set up the beds, which consisted of the saddle padding we used to ride there with, nothing like sleeping on camel sweat! It was pretty nice to sleep under the stars though, and even better not to wake up every ten minutes dripping with sweat.

The next day we rode (well, sprinted back on our camels) back to the starting point. That was pretty painful, and one of our friends even said that he is pretty sure he pulled his groin, and is now infertile.
We got back to Jaisalmer pretty early that day and Melanie, Mike and Ross decided to go to Jodhpur to do the ziplining Gabrielle and I had done. So we separated (for the last time, we promise). And Gabrielle and I spent the day in Jaisalmer avoiding going outside because of the heat. Eleven pm that night we started our 22 hour journey to Agra.
After two trains and a four hour layover we arrived in Agra only an hour later than schedule. We had read and were told that a rickshaw to our hotel from the station should be between 30 - 50 Rupees (just under $1). We had also read and heard that Agra is one of the worst places for touts and scams. As soon as we stepped outside the station we were of course swarmed by drivers. When we asked the price we received varying offers from 100 - 300 Rupees. Of course we were annoyed and knew that they were trying to cheat us. We kept asking around and getting the same answer, and had this small little man following us everywhere, shouting things at the other drivers in Hindi. We continuously asked him to leave us alone but he was relentless. He kept saying that he was president of the rickshaw association, and that every ride had to be cleared through he. Again, we asked him to let us be and find our own ride but he followed us everywhere. We finally found a driver who would give us a 'fair price' of 50 Rupees. The little man though was not happy about this, and continued to barricade our rickshaw. We could tell that he was angry that our driver was willing to give a lower price, and continued to say that we couldn't leave until he gave us the okay. Our driver attempted to leave, but of course his rickshaw wasn't working. We got out and decided to walk down the road a ways to get out of Mr. Crazy's jurisdiction. One of the drivers who originally offered us 200 pulled up and said he'd take us for 50. Wanting to get out of there we went with him. He proceeded to tell us how that man was part of the 'Indian Rickshaw Mafia" and that all the drivers were scared of him. I'm not entirely sure what the Indian rickshaw mafia is capable of, but I'm pretty sure it is no where the same as any other mafia.
We finally made it to our hotel, which was a stone's throw from the Taj Mahal. We decided to wake up early the next day and head to the Taj for sunrise. We got there right as the doors opened and were some of the first people in that day. It was amazing to see it without hoards of tourists around. Everything we read said that you'll be in awe and it will be so much better in person, and that couldn't be more true. It is such a beautiful building and looks sooo much bigger in real life. I still can't quite believe I've seen in. It makes dealing with the 'mafia' totally worth it. We met up with Melanie later in the day and wandered around the city some more, took a look at the fort and headed to the restaurant that is known for having the best view of the Taj. We also got lucky and are going to be the new stars of the menu cover at the restaurant, Shanti Lodge, so if any of you ever go there, look out for me and Gabrielle! A man with a camera (that belonged to a different group of tourists) came over and showed us the old menu, and said he wanted us on the knew one. With the borrowed camera in hand he took lots candid shots and told us he was finished. Yet another celebrity-esque day for us.
Our plan from here was to go to Varanasi and then straight to Nepal, but it turned out to be too much hassle to get across the border, and we are ready for some chill time, so have decided to go to Darjeeling instead. Hello Himalayas :)

We've added lots of new photos to our gallery! Again, they are slightly out of order but mostly on the first few pages. The link feature isn't working so just copy and paste to view!

Posted by 3ifBySEA 22:22 Archived in India

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