The end of the line… Dust and desert

7 Oct

The long and dusty train ride to Jaisalmer was kept at arm’s length by the fortuitous purchase of very expensive A/C tickets (the only ones we could get). But scenic trips out to the open doors of the train carriage were met by the most physical heat I’ve experienced so far on the trip. It was bloody hot, and dry as hell – no real rain here for the last 3 years. But we hit the town just at the beginning of the tourist season, and just as the weather broke a little. Despite the textile and trinket shops lining every street, the town was my favourite in Rajasthan – still clinging to a little desert mystery. Craggy-eyed camel drivers and goat herdsmen wandered the main square in their vibrant turbans, retreating from the heat to sip chai in dark corner shops. The old fort is the only in Rajasthan still bustling with life, and both the fort and the ancient town surrounding is jewelled by exquisite sandstone carved Jain temples and Havalis.
Here we were offered opium by a withered but twinkling old desert pirate, chatted with the stunningly handsome vice captain of the local cricket team, and were served food by a gorgeous grandma in a tiny upstairs room. Meal requests were written on a little pad, but without her granddaughter on hand, we recited our menu, and explained our payment to the short sighted old duck as she peeled potatoes to make delicious dry masala curry.

One dark and moody evening we took refuge at our guesthouse as a dust storm moved across the skyline at speed and enveloped the old fort in sandy, swirling darkness, and a few drops of precious water – though not out on the dunes, where hundreds of camels with their pushy drivers await a passing tourist bus to plod out towards the sunset…

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