A Taste Of The Golden City

I’d not intended to catch a sleeper bus in India on account of it being quite expensive, but I’d decided to skip Bikaner and head to Jaisalmer with Jill and Chris who I’d met at Milkman Guest House in Pushkar and they were booked onto the overnight bad boy so I got myself a sleeper cabin thing and settled into my little glass coffin.
Sleeper buses are fucking cool, though. You can pretty much seal yourself into your own little compartment with sliding windows and curtains all around though there’s inevitably going to be some manner of hole or gap in the outside window which lets freezing cold air in so you’ll need to rug up or bring a blanket, and if you fart you’ll pretty much just Dutch oven yourself so maybe steer clear of the more potent curries before your trip.

My little single sleeper coffin.

Other things to steer clear of before a ten hour bus ride would be things you know will make you piss like a racehorse such as tea, beer, or the several litres of water which you’ve developed a habit of compulsively sipping to try and keep hydrated so every cell in your body doesn’t shrivel in the searing heat. Seriously. Back away from the H2O, dude. There are no toilets on buses and if you sleep through the only fucking bathroom stop you’re doomed…
At some god awful hour in the morning I woke up with my bladder tapping on my abdomen. Oh come on! There was only a couple of hours to go assuming the bus was running on time. Surely it could hold out. I tried to ignore it but every bastard bump in the road reminded me how fucking desperate I was for a piss. If my bladder could have glared at me I’m pretty sure it would have.

Jaisalmer, Rajasthan

Outside Jaisalmer Fort.

And that’s when I started contemplating the logistics of pissing into an empty coke bottle, because Whiz Freedom, guys. This purple little life saver is the best £6.99 I ever spent and any chick who travels, camps or treks should own one. I got a little bit evangelical about it when I first got it and promised to carry it everywhere and drunkenly piss up walls in alleyways just because I fucking could. I wanted to paint targets onto the back of every toilet bowl I was likely to use and learn to write my name in the snow. It’s so liberating to not have to find a bush to squat behind whilst out on a walk, no more risking spiking your arse on an errant thistle you failed to notice, or losing your balance during a midnight camping pee and stacking it into a patch of nettles, or sheepishly waving to other hikers that happen upon you as you hover with your trousers round your ankles.
And goodbye to squirming in a sleeper cabin wondering how much longer you have until your bladder finally gives up. It’s not fucking easy, pissing into a bottle on a bus, but it’s doable. You have to jam your head against the ceiling to stop yourself from bouncing around whilst constantly making sure there are no gaps in the curtains and that the stick is still in the bottle. It’s no mean feat to convince even a bladder that would be loudly complaining if it had the vocal chords to do so that it’s ok to open up in such a bizarre situation. I think my bladder is a bit of a fucking princess. But needs must, and I shall now always carry an empty bottle with me on every sleeper bus I ever catch.

From the fermented tears of childen.

Anyway. Jaisalmer is famous for its massive, sandstone fort and camel trekking. The fort is actually pretty cool, it’s not a ruin of a fort you have to pay to get into, it’s more of a small city with tiny, narrow streets and shops and traders promising to “help you spend your money” and these incredibly carved havelis that no photo will ever do justice. The whole place is made from sandstone, it’s the colour of the desert and everything just feels drier here. It makes you really fucking thirsty just looking at it.
Other shit to do in Jaisalmer aside from booking yourself onto a camel safari and gawping at the actually pretty awesome fort includes heading down to Gadisar Lake. The bloke at the guest house had said it was good for sunset but it’s actually not, but hey, it’s still a pretty awesome place to go and chill for a bit and watch people feeding the catfish. It’s like a proper frenzy, I think they’re just feeding them bread but it might as well be fishy crack, they’re mad for it, climbing over each other (if fish can, indeed, climb) for a morsel of that tasty, wheat based complex carbohydrate. I feel the same way about cheesecake though I kinda wish I felt that way about bread. It’s cheaper than cheesecake. Mmm. Cheesecake.

Gadisar Lake at sunset.

Catfish frenzy.

But y’know, I never thought I was the kind of person that would get cranky if I didn’t get to periodically eat something dead but after the hyper-vegetarianism of Pushkar I just wanted the carcass of a recently deceased chicken in my facehole. Back home in restaurants, we have the menu with a small section for vegetarian choices. In India, there’s the menu with a small section for “non-veg.” In some places this section will include omelettes. Not meat omelettes laced with ham or salami, just a good ol’ plain egg omelette. A lot of restaurants in Jaisalmer are vegetarian or “pure-veg” which means no eggs and if a restaurant sells meat it’ll advertise as “veg or non-veg,” as opposed to vegetarian places advertising their status because that’s just taken as read, but finding a non-veg place was harder than we thought. Jill and Chris were happy with veggie so bless them for indulging the rampant carnivore of the group and here’s the thing; When I ask if a restaurant sells non-veg I feel like I’m asking for illegal substances. I have to fight the urge to move in close, glance furtively around and whisper in a conspiratorial tone, “‘Scuse me, mate. Got any non-veg?” Ironically, at the place we did end up, the manager cheerfully informed us that we’d come on the wrong night because if his grandfather was here he’d offer us a rum and coke and some opium. Ha, yeah nah, just the chicken biryani thanks, dude.

One of the epic havelis inside the fort.

Check out those carvings though, I just couldn’t take a good photo, they’re so intricate.

Well we got ourselves booked onto a camel safari starting tomorrow morning. Two full days of wandering through the Thar Desert on the back of a dromedary with a penchant for spitting, with one night sleeping under the stars. Bring it on.

Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India
Stayed at: Mystic Jaisalmer

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