We are on our way again, this time to Jaisalmer. The road is pretty good. Again Shailendra puts on a Bollywood DVD. This time it is a more modern romance. The ladies watch it in a half interested manner while most of the men take in the landscape and have a morning nap. About 11:15 we stop for morning tea at a very modern looking restaurant/hotel complex named Red Rock in the town of Bap. Out the back there were a number of large tent suites set up for guests. They were even more luxurious than what we had on our camel safari. The shop is also given a quick once over and then it is back on the road. The landscape is totally flat with scrubby plants and the occasional taller tree. A couple of hours along we stop for a snacky lunch at a roadside restaurant in Pokharan for lunch. Apparently this is not far from where India has done underground atomic tests. Around 2:30 we get moving again. The road is really good and we make good time. There are quite a few military camps just off the road and we pass a number of tanks being transported on the back of trucks. Just before four we get our first sighting of Jaisalmer fort on the hill. Just incredible. The stone in this area is a golden yellow which really glows in the sun. We skirt around the town to our hotel. The decorated detail in the stonework is just beautiful. The property is visually sensational with long corridors and lovely gardens. The pool is an open air undercover pool with beautiful columns. We check in and after a while we are taken to our rooms. We are one level up in room 104. The room is quite basic yet comfortable. We rest until 5:00. In the lobby we are introduced to our local guide, Puri, a very smooth guy, who we soon discover has a great sense of humour and knows just about everyone else in this city. Then we are driven to an area where there are family mausoleums. Amazingly there was a film crew from the Punjab state filming a soapie. Next we drove to a cafe with an outdoor area with an excellent view of the fort one way and sunset the other. We have a cool drink and take it all in. From there we drive back to the hotel and walk down the street to a restaurant named Saffron, owned by Shailendra’s cousin, a young guy who is standing in the upcoming federal election here. It is an old haveli (mansion) turned into a hotel/restaurant. We take the stairs to the rooftop level for a very enjoyable dinner. On the way back we walk to our hotel. Some of the group stop to do some shopping. Back at the lobby we use the wifi for a while to check email and update our blogs then head to bed. The air- con is needed but it’s a bit too good so we sleep at the other end of the bed where the air is not blowing directly on us.
Wednesday October 23rd
Up in time to take breakfast about 7:40. There is cereal and fruit, juice and tea, toast and spreads plus choice of eggs. We meet at 9:00 to be driven to an artificial lake at the edge of the town. It is used for water leisure activities now but formerly was a meeting point for the maharaja and his lover. Next we head to the main gate leading into the fort and palace of Jaisamer. Sadly the camera battery dies. Our local guide Puri leads us through the narrow streets, past houses, shops, Jain temples and outer courtyards right to the central courtyard of the old palace. It is quite busy. There is even a major garbage/recycling collection happening. We continue our walking tour to a small cafe for morning tea. It is near a good viewpoint. We continue our tour to a street where there are five huge havelis (merchants houses) still in excellent condition. Across the road the houses have been demolished. Yes, you guessed it, so tourists can have room to step back to take photos. It also provided local souvenir hawkers a chance to sell their goods. We visit one of the houses where we can see the local textile makers products, which include table cloths, doona covers, tapestries, cushion covers etc. We end up buying a doona cover set and a table cloth with hundreds of small mirrors stitched into it. Next we tour the old house upstairs, which is now a bit of a museum with old furniture and furnishings. These people were certainly rich. From there we walk along the narrow streets again until we reach a restaurant for a snacky lunch. Again we go to the very top level. This time it is glassed in and air conditioned. We have a great view of the old fort. So it isn’t very surprising to find we are with in 200 metres of where we had our sunset drinks last night. After lunch we visit another old haveli. Then Marj, Karen and I accompany Puri in a tuk tuk through the narrow streets to a silversmiths. Sadly we don’t get to see them actually working but they are keen to sell some jewellery to us. Karen buys a silver bracelet and similarly thick necklace, as well as some ear rings. Marj also buys some bracelets. Then we take the same tuk tuk back to our hotel. It is a bumpy trip but the driver certainly shows off his driving skills as we go. Back at the hotel we decide to take swim. The water doesn’t seem that fabulous so we quickly dry off and head to our room for shower to cool down. The temperature is again high 30s. We take a rest for a while then hit the lobby to use the wifi. At 7:30 we meet in the central courtyard where tables are set for a number of groups for dinner. There is also an entertainment area in which a band performs for us. We order drinks and our meals while the band play. After a while a dancer starts up too. She is very good but older than most we have seen. Apparently she danced at the maharajah’s wedding many years ago and is still very well respected. After a few dances she comes down and grabs some of to join in, which Karen and I do. Needless to say we don’t rival her skill! Dinner arrives. Karen has a veggie dish and I have a mutton (goat) dish. We chat and drink for awhile then head to bed, again avoiding the air-con by sleeping at the other end of the bed!