February 12, 2013 § Leave a comment

January 24th:

Pushkar has a magnetism all its own. It hums with prayers, chants, drums and gongs. Once you make it up and over the Snake Mountain, you break away from the crowded streets and clouded senses, and are overcome with calm.

As you make your way down the other side, you descend on milky blue temples and a tiny town, hugging a small lake that is said to have appeared when Brahma dropped a lotus flower. This is India at its finest. Children run across rooftops flying kites, shop-keepers are happy to help, but don’t apply pressure, and locals run to their windows to say hello and wish you well. A little slice of heaven.

The bus ride from Jaipur was four hours of rocky, winding roads, and blaring horns. Passengers and luggage were tossed about carelessly. Sharp turns, slamming breaks and darting animals, made it feel as though we were narrowly cheating death with each passing breath. Luckily, I was in good company, and it helped to pass the time and act as a distraction. I met three lovely ladies from Zimbabwe who were such a joy.

I crossed into Zimbabwe while visiting Victoria Falls, but thirty minutes standing on a bridge was as far as I made it. I would have loved to venture further into the country, but it wasn’t in the cards that time around. Chances are, if you’ve heard anything about Zim, it hasn’t been good. Civil war, a tanked economy, and home to one of the worst presidents you can possibly imagine: Robert Mugabe. There have been some really interesting documentaries and well written articles about what it’s like to grow up as a “White African” there, especially if you settle in the country and own a farm.

For these three ladies (Jess, Jess, and Jen) they grew up in the city and didn’t face the same dangers as those in the farming community, but it certainly wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Racism is a street with many, many lanes, going every which way. And while most would deem their home unsafe, they felt more unsettled here in India, than at home or any other place they’d visited previously.

While listening to their stories about being scammed and mislead in Delhi, a man working on the bus approached me. He claimed that my guesthouse phoned to say that I short paid my bill, and that I still owed 750 rupees! You should have seen the look on my face. The four of us starting laughing hysterically due to his timing. It was perfect – absolutely perfect. Our amusement only exacerbated the situation, though. He threatened to keep me on the bus, hold my bag, and a few other things that I didn’t understand. I think he even mentioned my arrest, but I can’t be certain. Seeing as how I wasn’t going to budge – I would have sat there all day out of principal – he eventually backed down and retreated to his seat up front. Never a dull moment. Someone is always trying to heckle the rupees right out of your pocket. Luckily, I am not one to be pressured easily and threats often have the opposite affect, even in foreign territory, so I’m pleased to report that I haven’t been taken to the cleaners… yet.

My stay in Pushkar was short, but sweet. I spent most of my time with the three J’s. We wandered the streets, drank a boat load of tea, and found the most divine rooftop terrace to close out our nights. If it wasn’t for a flight to catch, I would have stayed a few extra days, but after only two nights, it was back on the bus.

Bus rides are such a mixed bag. You never really know what you’re getting until you hop on. I thought I was going on the slightly nicer “tourist” bus, but apparently that wasn’t the case; I was going local, whether I wanted to or not. By the time my stop rolled around, all of the seats had been taken and it was down to the aisle. I have no problem with standing, in fact, sometimes I prefer it, but when it’s in a pile of puke, with nowhere for my bags, it makes things a little rough. Just a little…

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