Friday morning bright and early, and I do mean bright and early with a Tuk-Tuk booked for 07.30 for a visit to Jaisalmer Fort, the Golden Fort.
With Puri our guide we walked up to the towering entrance to the fort were the ramp slopes upwards through a towering gateway of golden sandstone then executes a hairpin turn back on itself to the main gate. Imagine the scene of an assault on the fort with armoured elephants trying to push upwards while defenders pour down oil to make them slip and rain down rocks and arrows onto them.
Through the gateway we reached the main square of Dashera Chowk in front of the royal palace next to which is the Maharaja’s white marble thrown, now protected by iron railings to prevent it becoming overrun by people being photographed on it. No place for riff-raff!
From the square we moved on to look at two of the seven Jain temples within the fort. These are exquisitely carved and decorated, there will be photographs at a later date. Then we wandered around in the rest of the fort which is very much a living place with around 3500 permanent residents within the walls, although many buildings have now been converted into hotels, restaurants and the like.
We were well advised to make an early start as we very much had the place to ourselves and as we were leaving the first of the day’s tour groups were arriving. From the fort we made a short walk through the “shopping” area but there was nothing to tempt us so we said goodbye to Puri and headed back to the Hotel Gulaal for a coffee.
The rest of our time at Jaisalmer we mostly spent relaxing, eating and sleeping. We resisted the temptation to visit sand dunes or take camel rides. To be brutally honest, once you’ve seen the fort, the havelis and the lake that’s pretty much it; the town itself has a feeling of being on the edge of civilisation,which is exactly where it is. Above all it’s absolutely filthy which is to be expected but about three days of that is about as much as I want.
Luckily we had the Hotel Gulaal for our base. It’s described as a “boutique” hotel which I suppose it is and it hit our brief to perfection; we were comfortable and very well looked after by charming staff and we were sorry to say goodbye.
Yesterday afternoon we took the train from Jaisalmer to Jodhpur, our first experience of Indian Railways. Everything was faded, jam packed and filthy but it did appear a pretty ancient set of rolling stock. On the other hand everything worked in a quirky sort of way and we were lucky enough to get upgraded into a two berth compartment. There were clean sheets and towels provided and a blanket and we both agree that we would have been happy to snore our way through the night all the way to Delhi. And I did get to stand in the open door of our carriage at sunset as we rumbled across the stony Thar Desert and, yes, that seemed very romantic to me.
Arriving at Jodhpur at about 23h00 we went to the Ratan Vilas hotel which is our base until Wednesday, in the dark it all looks lovely.
This morning, Sunday, we headed out on our own after breakfast. We took a Tuk-Tuk to the clock tower, a major land mark in Jodhpur. Around the clock tower is the Sardar Market marked by triple arched gateways at the northern and southern ends. This is everything your imagination conjours up of an eastern market; colourful textiles, fruit and vegetables, spices, junk, junk, and more junk as well as people, motor bikes, Tuk-Tuks and more people. I only got the lens cap of my camera knocked off the one time.
After a good wander round we headed out along the main road pursued by assorted beggars and walked by shops selling every imaginable type of cooking pot until we found an hotel (!?) where we sat outside on the street and had a coffee.
The place offered very little promise but provided us the best cups of coffee since we got here. And there we were, sitting drinking coffee and watching the world go by amid a cacophony of noise and chaos and we realised that this was exactly why we had wanted to come back to India.
Tomorrow: another fort.
26 February 2017