Still reeling from the horrible experience leaving Jaipur we arrived in Ajmer, a town with the closest train station to Pushkar, a spiritual place sacred to the Hindu community surrounding a lake and our next destination. Ajmer was hot, dusty and busy. We left the station, crossed the road and waited for a local bus, we seemed to be waiting for ages in the intense heat and polluted air. I noticed men staring which became uncomfortable, I hid my face from the attention and dust with my scarf. Eventually we tagged on to a local man who was in need of the same bus, when the right one came along we ran towards it with him and jumped on. The bus trundled the thirty minute journey towards Pushkar before stopping on a dusty road where we alighted and moved to a shared tuk tuk which stopped a few minutes walk from our pre-booked guesthouse. The guesthouse was sweet, our room was lovely and big, with decoratively painted walls and a huge four poster bed. It certainly felt a lot nicer than the last place that we had been. We had a chat with the owner, a young and friendly man who showed us to the amazing roof terrace. There were rows and rows of potted plants, quaint tables with wicker chairs and outstanding views across the rooftops and surrounding hills of Pushkar.
We took a walk down the narrow alleyways to the main bazaar to find somewhere to eat. Cows lined the streets, some were stood in the entrance to homes and shops. The main bazaar was a bright assortment of treats, colourful jewellery, sparkling sequinned bags, handmade paper notebooks, gold trinkets and rails and rails of elephant print clothes. It was a souvenir buyers dream. We found a restaurant and sat upstairs to eat but it was stiflingly hot, the food wasn't up to much either. All in all it had been a pretty disastrous day, we hoped that a couple of relaxed days in Pushkar would lighten our mood.
We had breakfast down at the bazaar at a café on a crossroads which made a perfect position for people and cow watching. There seemed to be more cows wandering around here than anywhere that we had been so far, they liked to wander as slowly as possible, getting in everybody's way. As the streets of Pushkar are so narrow there were very few cars, mostly motorbikes weaved about. After breakfast we walked down to see the holy lake, we removed our shoes and ended up being separated to take part in a prayer ceremony. Not wanting to be rude we went along with it. We were each seated with a priest at the lake edge and given a handful of dried petals to throw into the lake and asked to repeat prayers, blessing and asking for protection for our family members. It all seemed like a lovely and fun experience until it got down to the 'donation'. After wrapping red and yellow string around my wrist I was told that I needed to donate an amount for each member of my family, and not in rupees but in pounds. Apparently you state the donation amount based on your home currency, when I stated £1 per family member equalling a £4 donation the priest urged for more, 500 rupees was his minimum. £4 was around 350 rupees and in my mind more than generous, to give context 500 rupees was more than what Craig and I would usually spend on dinner for the both of us. From the corner of my eye I could see that Craig had stood up and started walking away from his priest mid-ceremony, refusing to give the donation his priest suggested. My priest tried making me promise to give 500 rupees in a clear manipulation, suggesting that the prayers made for my family wouldn't work without giving this inflated amount. We left 200 rupees from both of us, an amount that neither priest was happy with. I wished we'd just put the money in the lake donation box rather than give to the two men, of course the whole thing felt like a scam. Rather than feel annoyed I was actually ok with it, the experience of prayer had been interesting at least and we weren't tricked into giving more than we were happy with in the end. Craig wasn't so happy, but again, another lesson learned.
We took a walk through the markets where I bought two more pairs of elephant print trousers and Craig bought a sugar cane juice which was squeezed in a press right in front of us. We had dinner at a pizza restaurant to have a break from local cuisine and it was amazing, we sat on cushions on the floor and shared a pesto pizza, with a crispy base and mouthwatering tomato sauce.
The next day we had breakfast on the roof terrace and the guesthouse owner explained how we could visit the top of one of the locals hills that we could see. We walked through the town to the outskirts, past camels towards a cable car. For just a few rupees we whizzed to the top in our own little cable car surveying the brown and yellow desert-like environment. At the top of the hill was a temple, home to lots of monkeys. We were asked to be in a 'family photo' with some children, something we still find baffling. The panoramic views from the temple were amazing and the cool breeze cut through the hot Rajasthan air. The temple itself was tiny and so it didn't take long to see everything there was to see. We returned to ground level and caught a tuk tuk to a café on the lake where we enjoyed a peaceful hour with refreshing drinks looking out over the water, where the elderly bathed and children splashed.
We couldn't resist another trip to the pizza restaurant as it had been so good and it didn't disappoint the second time. As we were leaving a thunderstorm rolled in and we were caught in a downpour, we started running through the narrow streets in the heavy rain, trying hard not to slip on the numerous cow pats that dotted the path, locals cheered us on as they sheltered in doorways. We made it back to our cosy guesthouse safe but soggy for our last night, it had been a relatively chilled out couple of days, the pizza and delightful markets had made Pushkar a welcome stop in the end.
Onwards to Udaipur, the furthest south we would be going on our 60 days in India.
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Have you been to Pushkar? If so, what did you think? Maybe you're planning a trip? I've got tonnes of advice and tips I can share. Let me know in the comments below.
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