The main attraction in Jodphur is Mehrangarh Fort, which is one of the largest forts in India. It was built in 1460 and stands tall 410 feet above the city. We tried to leave our hotel room as early as possible to avoid the strong afternoon heat and this also meant we beat most of the crowds for attractions. The fort itself was really cool. We could walk through a lot of the rooms and they had a lot of paintings and old tools/weapons on display. You could get a feel of what it life was like in the fort back then. The best parts were the rooms that still had the elaborate paintings all over the floors and ceilings.
After our time in Jodhpur we are starting to get the hang of India. After going into countless shops, we pieced together some of the tricks (that are obvious now looking back at it) that everyone from shopkeepers to rickshaw drivers use to get as much money as possible off you. Almost all Indians we met asked us some standard questions: Where are you from? How long in India? Where are you coming from/where are you going to after? Where are you staying? What is your job? These seemed like innocent questions and about half the time they were. The other half was people gauging how much money we had. At the beginning we would say we were from the USA and travelling India for a few weeks, then heading home to our jobs as a marketing specialist in insurance and factory supervisor. We didn’t always care to get into the fact that we were travelling long term. Some comments tipped us off that maybe we shouldn’t say these things though. “Oh, marketing insurance? Oh, big paying job, yes?” Whoops. From there we decided to say we were both working in restaurants, as a waitress and waiter. The reactions we got were much better, with shopkeepers going lower on price from the get-go without us even negotiating. We told them we aren’t staying in fancy hotels either (which is true), so that followed along that we were on a budget.
We saw a sign in our guesthouse offering camel safaris, and we knew we had to go for it. We were picked up at 2pm and off we went into the Thar desert. Our driver didn’t seem to speak any English, but he received a few phone calls during the drive from his boss, the guy running the safaris. He handed the phone to us and we spoke with the owner, who would then get back on the phone with the driver and translate whatever we said. He asked us if we’d like to stop at Mandora Gardens, which was along the way anyways. We said sure and were dropped off to walk around. The gardens were filled with Indian families and looked like a nice spot to have a picnic. The ruins were cool, but since we didn’t have anyone speaking English with us we really didn’t know too much about what we were looking at. The gardens were also filled with pretty big monkeys, leaping around and looking for anyone who had food. We walked by a couple pulling cucumbers out of a bag and handing them out to the monkeys. It was pretty funny seeing them walk up and grabbing one, then proceeding to chomp away at it. It was all fun and games until one monkey came out of nowhere running up to us and jumped onto Cory’s chest and leaped away. Thankfully that was all it did, but it was still a little scary.
We continued on to Osian, a desert town where we would begin our journey. We passed right through the town and kept going however, and soon enough we came across a camel on the side of the road in what seemed like the middle of nowhere. We pulled over and our driver motioned that this was where we get out. We saw another man leading a second camel down to us as well, so we hopped out of the car and onto some camels. The camels were way taller than we expected, and when they stood up with us on their backs it was a little frightening! Once atop them, we took off across the desert and were led by our guide Omar to his family’s home. The ride itself was fun – the camels walked slowly, and we didn’t ride long enough to become uncomfortable. When we got there we were introduced to his brother, Raj, who owned and operated the camel safaris. We chilled for a bit in their house, had some Chai tea, then went off for another ride on the camels. After that we hopped into Raj’s jeep and took off toward a different set of sand dunes to watch the sunset. The sand was so soft to walk on and it was the best sunset we saw in all of India. Once we were back at the house we were served a traditional dinner. We weren’t exactly sure what it was, but it was actually really good. It was definitely a different lifestyle out here; we ate on the floor and everything was made from scratch right then. It seemed like more and more people from the house kept coming in the room to talk to us while we were eating. Eventually we headed back to our hotel but overall it was a really fun experience.