While waiting for a bus to leave Nepal for India, it was easy to see which way all the backpackers at the terminal were headed. The happy ones were venturing back up into Nepal, ready to strike out for Everest base camp or a spot of roof garden chilling in Kathmandu, the fearful pinched faces were headed into India to run the endless gauntlet of touts and beggars. We had had our Nepali R&R, hunting for tigers and rhinos in Chitwan, climbing near Pokhara and rooftop chilling in the Kat, now it was time to return to India. At the station we chatted to some girls- happy back into Nepal ones, who extolled the virtues of the desert oasis Pushkar in Rajasthan and Hotel Everest :”The only place to stay- best chai in India- great rooftop- easy to find, just turn left at the pigs.”
It would be several days later (we got stuck in Uttar Pradesh) before the bus from Ajmer pulled up into the fabled oasis. Occupied by the highest caste in India ( Brahmin’s), the Pushkar mentality was different, that coupled with the fact the camel fair had just ended and everyone was too exhausted to chase us. Ghandi came here to meditate (we stayed in a hotel in Jaipur where Ghandi had been as well, so either we were inadvertently following in his footsteps or he had been to many places.
We found Hotel Everest without any trouble- up the food alley and left at the group of pigs wallowing in a mud puddle- which I was disturbed about- as it was a desert- no rain- where DID that mud come from??? Pigs aside, life in Pushkar was laid back. Everyone hung out on roof tops drinking chai (and yes, it WAS the best chai in India!) watching the monkeys harass the local women trying to hang out their washing. Like the Rhinos of Chitwan, Monkeys have become a big problem in Pushkar, they’ve taken over temples, abandoned buildings, and have territorial wars on the roofs. During our stay here we heard of someone getting bit by a monkey. One even jumped on our roof and my sister tried to chase it away but it turned around and chased her back- we laugh about it now, but it was scary at the time.
The youth of Pushkar have kite wars in the evenings, flying their custom made creations from the flat topped, white washed buildings. Some fit their kite tails with razor blades to cut down their competitors from the sky. Who needs Nintendo when you have real live sky battles? Ever evening the locals and travellers gather around the lake to watch the sunset- I noted this was not the only sunset celebration place in this country. And much like Mallory Square in Key West, acrobats,jugglers, musicians, henna painters and others touted their wares and talents through the mixed crowd of German, Dutch, Brits, Irish- a melting pot of the world. Afterwards the crowd would disperse to the restaurants and chai houses.
My sister and I found a Nepali Restaurant, The Moon Room- where we were escourted through a basic but traditional restaurant out the back door into a garden adorned with fairy lights. Pink Floyd played all around us and we joined a table of backpackers we had met at the sunset celebrations. Another evening found us sharing a table elsewhere with two tv producers who had us in stitches with tales of pig toilets and rat temples. We met many travelers: a solo girl headed for Jalsameer, an Irish brother and sister team ready to ditche India for the beaches of Thailand, two Aussies back from Everest base camp, an American girl recently married to a local and living in Pushkar. Pushkar was a place for rejuvination.
Sandy was ready to stay in Pushkar until our time in India was over, but I felt recharged and ready to take tackle the rest of the country, now armed with a final destination in mind, thanks to Lenny and Paul,- a white sandy beach with palm trees, beach huts and beer. Did I mention Pushkar was a dry zone? No alcohol allowed, but I suspected that the special tea was what kept everyone happy. With a farewell to our new friends- and promises to meet on the beach in Palolem- first one there buys the pancakes-we boarded the five am bus to Ajmer.