We arrived in Jaisalmer around midnight. The surroundings of the station surprised us with dusty light and emptiness. You get a feeling of desert from the very first moments in the town.
Our great plan in Jaisalmer was to do volunteering via Workaway.info. More than a month ago we were contacted by Abu, inviting us to come to Jaisalmer to help in his Guest House. Then we did not know, if we will visit Jaisalmer, because it seemed a bit more distant from the rest of the cities in Rajasthan. But encounters with other people traveling in Rajasthan convinced us to visit Jaisalmer. There was still the offer of Abu, so we decided to give it a shot. More about that in part two.
We did not do much of the site-seeing, since we spent most of the time in the hostel. We went few times to the fort of Jaisalmer. It is one of there rare inhabited forts – there are people still living inside the area inclosed by fort. Narrow golden sand colour streets with finely decorated houses sticking next to each other. We visited the fort just after the sun rise and around the sunset, so we have no idea how crowded the area is in the tourist peek hours, but we saw the place quite calm and very lovely. An older man invited us to have a look at his haveli which used to belong to his great grand father the first secretary of the Raj. Unfortunately, the building suffered from an earthquake some years ago and is not anymore in a condition to live in. But Raju and his family are making the effort to restore the building and make it partly public for visitors.
In Jaisalmer you can feel the closeness of the desert a lot. The whole feeling of the city is different. The people seem more distant and calm from the appearance. Houses outside the fort are more separate from each other than in other cities of Rajasthan. There is a sense of privacy and contemplation in the way houses stand. I like it a lot.
We went to see the nearby lake which surprised us with free standing trees in the water. Again there was more space and less people around the lake than any other city we’ve visited so far. There are some small pavilions and stairs leading to water. One can pick his favourite spot and watch the sunset undisturbed.
We witnessed a march of cows passing by the lake. First there were few walking after one another, so we thought that they are just couple of very well organised cows. But as the march grew longer and longer we realised that there must be someone in charge of them. And there was a herdsman walking at the very end of the parade. So there is someone organising those cows. Actually in Jaisalmer we saw more pigs than cows. Every morning we met some 6 pigs raiding the piles of trash in the corners of the street next to the hostel. Some of them were having a morning bath in one of the drins running along the street. Very lively and hairy pigs. They are kinda cute (from distance of course).
Food was a little bit of a challenge. We were starting to miss European food. For me it was painful to see all those food posts from different cafes and restaurants in Mechelen and Riga.
For some days Stijn was dreaming about having “kofiekoeken” (pastries traditionally eaten in Belgium on Sunday morning). Of course we did not find the pastry with chocolate and cream that is Stijn’s favourite, but we found “Germany bakery” where we got some filtered coffee (also a rarity), distant relatives of croissants and quite good cinnamon buns. The level of carbs in our bodies was renewed.
I missed simple veggies. And believe it or not, it is not so easy to find some in Jaisalmer. We are eating 99% vegetarian (Stijn slipped once so far.:)), but those Indian sauces can be sooo heavy. You will not find a simple baked or steamed carrot or green bean as a side dish. It will be sunk in heavy – creamy sauce along with 5 other veggies and looooots of onion.
Suprisingly enough there are many Italian(-ish) restaurants in Jaisalmer. We tried two. One not so much of a success – the pasta and pizza tasted like a 1st year student had cooked it in his dorm from pre-made ingredients. The second almost made me cry. The food in 1st Gate restaurant was great. Prices are above average, kinda pricy for India, but still way under the prices in Belgium. Stijn had a very good pizza with fresh tomatoes (no heavy thick sauce from 4 days ago), I had roasted veggie salads with smoked gouda. It was exactly what I longed for. No gravy, no sauce, not even oil. Just grilled carrots, cauliflower, green beans, eggplant etc. Pure, simple joy. Yes, we like to eat! My new discovery (kinda late, I know..) is salted lassi. If you have not grown up with fermented diary products in your diet, you might not like it. But as some one who likes kefirs, I am in love with salted lassi. I might like it even more than mango lassi…