We arrived at The Royal Tents in time for lunch and were assigned to our tents. They were large, made of canvas with a bed and a bathroom with flush toilet and sink and shower arrangement. They were dreary and made to resemble a real camp, but used electric lights in the lanterns. We then went to lunch across the sand. This is an all vegetarian cafeteria. I must say that there were certainly inventive ways to prepare vegetables that were quite good.
The tents are erected once a year for the fair and are owned by the Maharajah of Jodhpur. He also owned a hotel nearby. I think that I would have preferred staying there. He actually came to the camp one evening to greet special guests, but not us.
The camp was a unique experience and by the time we left our group looked like a bedraggled group of refugees. We camped out for 2 nights. I did not like it. Other tour members looked sick and worn out. The nights were cold and hot water bottles were provided. But, even though I wore layers upon layers of clothes and my heavy shawl, I was still cold. I had morning coffee delivered and ate breakfast bars in my tent instead of hiking across the sand to breakfast.
One night would have been more than enough and I couldn’t wait for a hot shower and clean clothes. I’ve had a rash on my legs due to the heat. I started taking antibiotics (I brought with me) and it gradually faded. Others came away with severe colds or just felt miserable.
The Pushkar Fair itself was an enjoyable experience.
The bus let us off at the fairgrounds and we walked from there to the town. There were crowds and crowds of people and touts tried to sell us all sorts of junk. The vendors were in our faces and pestered us to buy stuff – most uncomfortable. We found it impossible to shop for anything because of this, so we just walked from street to street looking at colorful booths with a huge variety of items and jewelry. We had to keep up with the guide so there was very little stopping, but I did lots of looking. I actually would have bought some things, given the opportunity, since items looked interesting and I had yet to buy anything. In the late afternoon we ended up at the lake where people cleanse away their sins by immersing themselves in pools fed from the lake. Then the priest blesses all. Of course, there was a ceremony for all of this and we had a great view.
I did want to purchase a lovely peacock feather fan but had to settle for a picture of the vendor. If only I could have brought it home – it was gorgeous!
It was back to the camp to get ready for dinner. We walked back and forth through the sand every time we ate or went to and from the bus. I am still finding sand in my shoes and suitcases, 2 months later.
The next morning we visited the camel and horse-trading section of the fair. Instead of walking we took camel taxis. These were decorated wagons hitched to a camel and led by a driver. It was a nice way of seeing the camels and gorgeous horses. The riders were showing off their horses by prancing as they rode. What a sight!
We walked around for a while, passed several booths selling things that you could use to make your camel look fashionable. We took another short camel cart ride and then returned to camp for lunch. Our camel cart stopped for about ½ hour. The camel was undressed and his blanket sold to a tourist. It looked dreadful as she tucked it into her bag. I was told that it was a rare antique. Maybe?!!!!
We went back to the camp for lunch and were supposed to go back to town for some shopping but 5 out of the 8 in our group (me included) spent the afternoon sleeping. I had enough people from the morning. Every time I closed my eyes, I saw faces and more faces.
The fair looked like what it was with animals, booths, and lots of people moving around in the hot weather. It was not for foreign tourists but for people who lived in the surrounding area. The women were wearing gorgeous clothes and lots of gold and silver jewelry. They were friendly and posed (with a smile) for my picture taking.
The Pushkar Fair was definitely worth seeing. There was color, glitz and a genuine local experience.
We drove most of the next day but stopped at the Nagaur Fort. This is a huge fortification that looked like a pile of ruins and dates from the 4th century to the 17th and beyond. We were guided through the earliest parts of the fort to the later dated palace where restoration work was taking place. Early wall paintings were visible enough to help in the process. We walked all around and up and down stairs. There were actually some handrails installed. Most steps on our travels did not have them. Climbing steep 1 – 2 foot steps even with the handrail was a real challenge. The palace inside the fort was in various states of restoration and was unique as were most places we visited.
Our next stop was the Khimsar Fort Hotel. This is a palace within a huge fort complex that was beautifully restored and is now a luxury hotel. It was wonderful, especially after our last accommodations. The parking lot had garages filled with gorgeous vintage cars. The fort area was beautiful. Unfortunately, we arrived late in the day and I wasn’t able to explore the other parts of the fort.
Next report – Jaisimer.