Tuesday, October 19, 2010
A Hassle and a Hustle
I wake up in the middle of the Thar Desert. Big military presence in the area, as we are relatively close to Pakistan. Finally, Jaisalmer, the Golden City. A huge fortification towers above the desert sands. The fort has been protecting India from Muslim invaders since the 12th century. It looks awesome. I feel much better. My energy is up, but I’m not ready for what awaits. We step out of the bus and a pack of skinny Rajasthani kids swarm us, offering the “cheapest” accommodations in town. Between the screaming, the sweltering heat, the bright desert sun and the 7 flyers I have 3 cm. from my face I turn into the polite tourist for a millisecond and quickly switch into the pissed-off traveler. “Look” I scream, “I just got off a f*^#in’ 12 hour bus ride and you mo#%^*f^%#ers don’t let me breath. Get the f*#k away from me”. We take a few steps and I say “OK, Clari, let’s just walk”. Two seconds is all the peace we had ‘cause in a heartbeat they’re right back in my face. A local, notices the scene and gets into the mess to clear the air, he calmly tells me “Go with this guy, he’s a good man”. His firmness was reassuring, so I ask that man what he had to offer and he said some magic words “200 rupees, free rickshaw and pool”. Did he just say POOL? Mind you its 9000 degrees by now, so without a doubt I say “Let’s GO!” . As promised, we get to the hotel, and the pool is, well, a pool. Kind of dirty but I’m not gonna’ get picky in batwing weather. He shows us a nice poolside room and says “400 rupees”. And this, my friends, is what you have to deal with as a tourist in India. It’s always a hassle and a hustle. We go back and forth “No 200 rupee rooms, this room is 400”. “You said 200 at the bus station”. “I can’t do that…”. I pick up my backpack, yet again, and the guy says “OK, but that price is only for tonight, and you can’t tell the other guests”. I reluctantly say OK, but in my mind there is only one thing, POOLSIDE, BABY!
As an added bonus, there is a Tandoori oven in the hotel’s rooftop restaurant. We befriend the tandoori man who lets me take a peak at his technique for slapping naan against the hot oven walls. The food is heavenly, and under the moonlit desert sky, with my lovely wife, it makes up for waking up to a swarm of vultures in the middle of the Thar Desert.
Here are some pics of the nice people of Jaisalmer, who also put a smile on my face.