Friday, April 08, 2005

The little lake that was.

Pushkar. In Indian terms, a tiny town. A settlement of just over fifteen thousand inhabitants nestled in the hills not far from the bustling city of Ajmer. Pushkar is a holy town - no alcohol, no meat, no eggs. But dope is legal and sanctioned by the government. Funny place, the subcontinent.

The town is centred around a lake, encircled by numerous ghats, the wide concrete steps that take the pilgrim down to the holy waters. Temples are numerous but similar in style, and behind these are the guesthouses and hostels where many travellers come to while away the time.

To be honest, there's not much for the non-Hindu to do in this place. It's a place to chill out, relax, read books and get spiritual, if that's your thing. It's certainly not mine. Missing the daily activity of my Australian lifestyle, I often feel the need to take exercise of some sort - any sort - but India is one of the hardest places to stay fit. Luckily for me, there was a temple at the top of the hill visible from my guesthouse roof top. To be fair, there's always a temple atop any hill in India, but I decided this was exactly the exercise my legs were crying out for.

Armed with water and my new reading material 'India: A wounded civilisation', by V. S. Naipaul, I headed off into the heat and dust and out of town, stopping along the way to chat with the locals and play a spot of cricket with the kids. Everyone here knows Ricky Ponting. I think he must be one of our famous sportmen.

The monsoon is still at least two months away, and the parched countryside is nearing a critical stage of dehydration. Flora and fauna are limp and languid, distressed dogs lay beneath withered trees devoid of foilage. Nothing much is green, except a small patch of irrigated crops to the west of town. But the climb to the top is the exercise I needed; the temple itself is a bit of a disappointment, but after Chittorgarh it's going to take another massive impregnable fort to really impress me.

Aside from that, Pushkar was an ideal place to be on vacation. The locals are very friendly, the town has a laid-back quality, and if it takes your fancy, there is plenty of shopping to be be done. But I got over that in a few days, and was eager to be on my way again to see the sights of this country. Rajasthan is crammed with magnificent forts and citadels, and I'm still yet to visit half of them.

So we're heading north, to Jodhpur.

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