(some cows trying to cross the road in bumper to bumper kumbh mela traffic)
I wasn’t sure where I would go or how I would get there as I headed through hours of traffic from Kumbh Mela. An overly friendly man hopped into the taxi adding to my anxiety. He continually put his hand on my knee and every time I pushed it away. In the madness of the train station, I ran into friends from the rainbow camp. They told me there is no chance of buying a train ticket but they planned to hop on one anyways. They had heard the conductors were very forgiving to tourists and would find us somewhere to sit even without a ticket. Everyone else was going to Varanasi to finalize their pilgrimage but I decided to try hopping a train leaving in 5 minutes to Agra (Taj Mahal) the opposite direction. Two American girls let me share their bunk and showed me their tourist pre-planned itinerary book which dictated when they woke up, ate, visited sites and stopped to use the bathroom for two weeks around the major sites of India. They told me the train is going to keep going to Jaipur the Pink city, so I said hey might as well stay on the train, I don’t have a ticket anyways. An Indian man on the bunk next to us told me the conductor never asked me for my ticket (I was ready and willing to pay) was because I was so nice and confident he was afraid of what I was capable of. Another group of travelers hopped on at Agra and said they were going to Pushkar. I had heard of Pushkar. The backpacker I felt most connected with at Kumbh Mela told me something about how great that town was. Jaipur came and went.
The first four hostels in Pushkar were sneaky and wanted to charge us 800 rupees ($16) for sterile boring rooms, until we were walking out, when they would change it to 200 rupees ($4). Eventually we found a comfortable and affordable 300 rupee hostel owned by two nice brothers. The first day I decided to take a walk to orient myself. I stopped to drink a Chai with some local boys and asked them about renting a motorcycle. One said he had one and would take me for a ride if I paid for gas. Next thing I knew we were on a motorcycle out in the country side.
A friendly Baba had lived at this temple in the desert without leaving for 10 years. He showed me his yoga cave, which he literally crawls in and out of each morning and night, and smoked chillum with us.
Wild Peacocks and a giant Banyan Tree.
There is Kalu, the motorcyclist.
The second day I decided to visit the Brahma Temple (one of few in the world) and then after I paid respect to his wife at Saraswati’s temple on the top of the hill over looking the city. After visiting the Brahma temple you are given a package of flowers which you are told you must take to the lake, if you do not you will be cursing the city. If you try to walk away they will chase you down and again try to turn you around. If you continue to refuse many men will surround you and make you feel guilty until finally one guy will take it and say OK fine I will go down again and take care of prayer that tourists can not do. Really this is a scheme to get people down to the lake to force them into a trap where they bless your family and try to force money out of you. Don’t let this take away from the beautiful city, if you know this you can easily avoid it. Doing the whole ordeal isn’t bad, actually quite interesting, and you can get away with giving them a few $ in the end.
Here is Pushkar a Holy City with a Holy Lake in the middle where locals bath and everyone walks clockwise around the lake as a ritualistic praise.
A view of the landscape on the other side and a little boy I was playing catch with in the temple.
I ended up staying on top of the hill until sunset. A guy I had met on the way up named Rikesh invited me to celebrate with his friends and family. His father 25 years before had prayed to Brahma’s wife at 40 to finally be gifted a son, him, and that if he did he would climb to her temple bowing to his stomach at every step and then after giving puja (gift to god, usually food) he would feed everyone at the temple Prasad (gift to the people, usually food). It was a glorious occasion and amazing that a 65 year old man could even climb the mountain as he did. Each step prostrating himself flat, which must of taken hours.
After getting very close to buying a Motorcycle from a friend at my hostel, and also going to Jaisalmer for a big festival I ended up in the complete opposite direct as usually and headed to Jaipur to met with a friend DB I had met a few days before at a music event.
Sunset the first night in Jaipur. ^ After getting a hostel we went to a restaurant DB hangs out at with a private room. Many other friends came to visit and play music with us. The next day I visited DB’s neighborhood where I didn’t get any good pictures. It was basically a sprawling network of alleyways. This is a picture of the neighborhood’s front yard, the houses and alleyways were clean, but littering in the front yard was a normal practice.
DB invited me to a free school he volunteers at where they teach the children of the slums music and also normal subjects if they can not go to school themselves. They have already raised thousands of dollars and plan to build a school for the slum hopefully by next year.
Our personal took took driver and friend Rafis taught me how to drive the Rickshaw (took took).
A Chabbiwada is a person (usually a rickshaw driver) who gets paid to take tourists to shops (usually 50 rupees and 10% of what they buy). Well since Rafis is a friend and I am a tourist we decided to do a route of Chabbiwading and made him some money even though I bought nothing.
In this textile factory they hand print and stitch everything with natural silk and dye.
The moon was full leaving Jaipur for a 10pm night bus to Rishikesh. Before we left we visited what they call the second Taj Mahal because it was made from the same stone.
PS. I traded my jacket, sweatshirt, one tee shirt and backpack for almost 15 different pieces of clothes and 3 bags. Pictures to come.