From the Blue City to the Golden City (Part II)
by Zosthleen Taruni
Welcome to the 1st Gate Home Fusion Hotel in Jodhpur, Jaisalmer. This will be my house and school in the following months; we’ll see about later.
“Seize the day” the common translation of Carpe Diem…
I’m on my way to Jaisalmer by car, because it was impossible to find a seat on the train. In Venezuela, I wouldn’t dream of it, because traveling by car costs ten times as much, but not here.
The view is very similar to Carora, or the old road to Barcelona. There is not even wild grass, but there are mesquite trees, and lots of them. Nothing changes for the next four hours.
I feel at home. I don’t take pictures; what’s the point?
The only difference is the sandstone quarries, red first then yellow, from which is used to build beautiful and cooler houses.
The road is narrow and bumpy, a disaster. The driver is not wearing a seatbelt, of course, and I’m in the back seat.
Is it dangerous to pass a car on a curve? Who said that? Indians are not good drivers and honk the whole time. They measure the distance between cars to the millimeter. I look the other way to keep calm or close my eyes when it’s “too much”. There is trash everywhere.
The famous cows roam freely. Could someone write about an Indian cow’s journey log?
Goats, furry sheep, camels and stray dogs.
All of them in the cities, in a miserable condition.
We get around the cows with the same kind of driving my kid practiced while playing bumper cars. Whew! We’re lucky they aren’t bulls.
As we move away from Jodhpur, the road gets better. There are groups of up to ten speed humps, one after the other, trying to stop cars.
Giant propeller forests on the horizon, wind turbines, many of them are not moving. I feel my Venezuelan blood flaring up because of the missing wind or the missing maintenance.
There are fences, not made of wood, but sandstone, when there are so many trees!
Indian huts, not so cute.
I’m in Jaisalmer.
Where is the desert? I can’t see it. Four hours by road, and the view is the same.
Thar desert is curious, with abundant trees, similar to mesquites, although bigger and weird.
More than a desert, it looks like an endless savannah.
Our plains have less vegetation. This is a living desert.
Cenotaphs in Jaisalmer
In this place, the Brahmans (priests and teachers) cremate their dead. They are the highest caste in India. Then their ashes are taken to the Ganges river, where they are dispersed in a ceremony. In the distance, you can see Jaisalmer Fort, one of the biggest fortifications in the world. It was built in 1156 with thick yellow sandstone walls; same used to build local houses. That’s the origin of the name of the Golden City.
I already need to get back to work; my energy is back. My friends, owners of the 1st Gate Home Fusion, will allow me to help at the terrace restaurant, so from now, I start marketing it.
The restaurant is a wide room with a few spaced tables. Its location is excellent, at the base of the walls, near the Fort’s entrance. It is open to both guests and the general public.
With an excellent cuisine, they serve Italian lunches and suppers, wood-fired pizzas and moderately spicy Indian food. This is the best and most beautiful restaurant in Jaisalmer. It has an unmatched view and a welcoming decor, consistent with the minimalist and ethnic style of the hotel. Curiously, it ranks fourth in the City restaurant reviews. I visited the three first places, and I have to say, they did not live up to their reputations. There’s no way of understanding the criteria for those reviews.
Today’s plan is Damodra Desert Camp, 40 minutes away from Jaisalmer.It offers camel rides, dinner, bonfire, traditional dances and sleeping under the stars on the roof. The last one is a privilege just for me, for being the friend of a friend. Bruno, a white labrador retriever, has a private pool, the peacocks’ watering place. I’m lucky enough to get the chance to see a baby deer, they say that it was born 15 days ago. It came to the Camp, and now it is being raised with fresh milk. The best thing is how clean the desert is, in comparison with cities, but, it still reminds me of our savannah.
Yesterday, I rode a camel for the first time in my life. I, so romantically, tried to flirt with my camel, but the farthest I got was learning its name: Johnny (my phonetic transcription for its Hindi name) It was wilful, discreet and photogenic. I was impressed by its feet because they are not hooves. They were soft and sexy. I wanted to touch them, but I forgot it later before the imminence sunset and the allure of the sands. Finally, I was in the desert. The day ended on the dunes; a Jeep took us back to the Camp.
The dunes are beautiful, just like ours in Falcón, but there is not the amount of sand that you expect to see in a desert. The Thar Desert is certainly a living and atypical desert.
I must thank Papu, owner of Damodra Desert Camp for this unique and wonderful experience: camel ride, splendid tent, music and typical dance show, puppets, delicious food and even better appetizers. Papu designed and decorated his camp with exquisite taste. Everything runs smoothly and with careful attention. It is -quite rightly- the best campsite in the zone.
I should also tell you about the hard times. All of us, on the terrace, securing cushions and furniture because rain and wind gusts were heading to Jaisalmer. Suddenly, there is an unexpected wind while I’m trying to secure a tent, it turns over on me. Instead of evading it, I cling to it to prevent it from falling two floors. I feel a blow to the clavicle, and I think about my broken bones, but not this time, my ancestral Gods, those I invoke at the Auyantepui and the desert, my highest fans that laugh my mischief, they protected me.
I’ll take it as a sign that I have to come back down to earth, where you are with me.
to be continued…