“There's a race of men that don't fit in, A race that can't sit still; So they break the hearts of kith and kin, And they roam the world at will. They range the field and rove the flood, And they climb the mountain's crest; Their's is the curse of the gypsy blood, And they don't know how to rest.”
- Robert Service

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Bikaner (by Michael)

From January 16th.

We're in our fourth day of the tour now. Checked into our hotel in Bikaner, after an overnight camel trek last night. That was an experience. Riding the camel was a combination of equal parts fun and pain. Little known fact: camel riding is one of the earliest forms of birth control. We spent a very cold night in tents in the desert. Semi-desert actually, just a little more arid than Osoyoos. It was nice to get out of the bustle after 3 days in Delhi.
My new buddy, Daloo
In one day in Delhi we visited a Hindu temple, Islamic mosque and Sikh gurudwara. I talked to a guy in gurudwara and when he found I was from Canada, he mentioned he has a sister in Surrey. That’s neat. We’ve actually met a few people in India with ties to Surrey. I've found so far that India hasn't been any more hectic than Vietnam, and in that way feels familiar. We've run into only a few scammers so far. Or maybe we're a little more seasoned than the last trip. We had a taxi driver quote us 180 rupees (roughly $3) for a trip, then at the end claim it was 180 each. I said no, then he tried for 180 dollars. Nice try. We also discovered a scam where people will talk to you on the street for a while, not asking for any money, but ultimately they direct you to a (fake) tourist office, which will tell you all the sites are closed, but will offer to hire you a car somewhere else for the day. The fake tourist shops look very similar to the government run ones. It took us a few days to catch on because it was so subtle. It didn't cost us any money, but we missed seeing a few things thinking they were closed. It's kind of fun after you catch on to the local racquet. As far as scams go, that's pretty mild compared to Vietnam and Bali.

We're in a group of 15 plus a guide for this tour, which so far has been a great group. We were taking bets on who would be first to succumb to 'Delhi belly'. We had our first winner last night -- a guy who'd been brushing his teeth with tap water. So far Sarah and I are doing great. We're loving the food. I wish I could remember the names of some of the stuff we're eating.

Today we went to see the Camel Festival at the stadium in Bikaner. As soon as we got in the gates, someone approached us to sign up for the events. They were having some foreigner events and needed more participants. All 7 in our group participated in the turban tying contest, up on a stage in front of maybe a thousand spectators. We had one demonstration then had 5 minutes to tie our own. I’m pretty sure I built a masterpiece. I think. I couldn't see it myself. After this we were interviewed by all the local TV stations. We’re minor celebrities again. Next we participated in the foreigners vs. Indians tug-of-war, which the locals won handily.

Then all seven of us piled into a rickshaw and headed back to meet up with the group to go see the rat temple. As you might have guessed, the rat temple is a temple dedicated to, and full of, rats. Being a temple, you must remove your shoes before entering. Apparently it's considered quite luckily if a rat crosses your feet. No such luck for me. It wasn't nearly as frightening as I thought. They’re well fed and used to people, so there’s no real worry of getting bitten. It was interesting to watch them scurrying around, a lot like watching chipmunks. My biggest concern was being sure not to step on one. That would have not gone over well in the rat temple.

Rat paradise at the rat temple
More photos are up on our Google+ album.

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