After return to our stay, we hopped on to the car ride we’d booked shared with a tourist from China, one from Australia, a senior couple from Calcutta. An hour later we dropped off only to ride camels to finally get to the Sand dunes.
Once there, we alternately walked around and sat awhile in the sand, well-aware of how scary the beautiful landscape could get in the summer or even for someone by themselves unfamiliar with the vagaries of the desert. One of the most memorable parts of our experience while waiting for the sunset- was sharing segments of oranges between the couple, the driver and us, sitting on the sand, chatting about life, weather, food just watching the endless expanse of the desert.
After the sunset, we were taken to a resort and treated to a cultural music and dance performance and a meal. This seems like a popular option in any of the sand dune tourist “packages” offered in Jaisalmer. The highlight of the evening, however, was just making our way back to the jeep and looking up for a second, only to see the more dramatic celestial performance of the millions of stars clearly piercing the pitch darkness of the sky.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t spend more time there since we had to catch the midnight train to Jaipur. However, a good night’s rest was not to be. We were rudely jostled awake before 5 in the morning by well-behaved toddlers and the most inconsiderate adults who plonked a group of 7 in seats booked for 4. Luckily every journey has to end and after sharing our breakfast of trusty theplas with the kids we reached Jaipur just after noon.
Exhausted from the lack of sleep on the train we decided to spend the afternoon at our comfortable hostel with a nap to catch up on rest. It was early evening when we decided to ride to Jal Mahal after picking up our bike passing by the unmistakable Hawa Mahal beautifully lit up.
By the time we got to Jal Mahal, it was dusk and parking was disallowed at that time so we decided to return the next day instead. On the way back, stopped at a very crowded “MM Khan hotel” which is a restaurant that seemed a local favourite from people of all social and economic classes. Despite having their hands full both literally and figuratively, the staff were attentive and kind and the food was cheap and undeniably delectable for both vegetarian and non-vegetarian options.
The next morning, now well-rested, we made our way to the Amer Fort. We first stopped at the majestic Shree Narsingh Devji Mandir just because we saw it on our way. A quick exploration of the temple and we made our way to the Fort.
As we got there, we realized it’d be yet another place packed with crowds even as we snaked our way to the parking space. We were also grateful we were on a bike since the cars were struggling a whole lot more.
Despite the hefty entry fees for the Amer Fort, and its vastness, we were perhaps saturated with architecture that alternately reminded us of our relatively recent trips to Gujarat and Turkey plus the crowds got on our nerves after a while and we decided to make our way out.
We picked a few snacks on our way back for ourselves and made our way a second time around to Jal Mahal.
We stumbled upon a nook around the lake that seemed to be a favourite of the birds and settled into watching them and the little kittens around.There happened to be 2 tribal ladies selling something while seated on the parapet. One of them angrily chided a young man who tried to litter plastic into the lakeshore.
Seeing the kittens hungry, since we had nothing but the snacks we had bought, we fed it to them and their very wild and suspicious mother. The tribal woman exclaimed at how kind it was, chiding the previous couple seated there who refused to share their food despite the pitiful wails of the kittens. She very wisely said “Children are children whether they are human/animals…how can one ever not help them when they whimper”. While she smoked a bidi and most likely had no formal education, she was the most discerning and enlightened person we’d met in a while.
I asked her consent and embraced her only to have her elderly friend also insisting on a hug. They profusely blessed both of us and insisted we come again and see them though I don’t think they could get an idea of how far we lived when we tried to explain we were from Bangalore. True human connection is a rare find and we really hope to get an opportunity to meet them again. Meanwhile, if you see the 2 tribal ladies by the side of Jal Mahal do give them our love.