Our adventures in New Delhi have come to an end and we are now travelling around Northern India in a tour group with G-Adventures. We were a bit dubious about going with a tour group as sometimes they work out more expensive, you end up going places that you didn’t really want to go to and you can feel rushed. However, we wanted to go with a group tour early on in our trip so that we could get used to moving around a lot and get to know about local transport, with the security of having a guide to point you in the right direction- backpacking 101 for dummies essentially!! We did a lot of research and G-Adventures was coming out on top, so we decided to go with them.
First stop on our tour was the small holy city of ‘Pushkar’. We took a second class train from Delhi to Ajmer, and then a taxi from Ajmer to Pushkar. The poverty in India was never more apparent to us as it was on that train ride. There were shanty towns on either side of the tracks for miles; people living and kids playing in what we would describe as landfills. It was a really eye opening experience.
The taxi journey was another crazy Indian road experience. Pushkar is in a valley in the Aravalli mountain range, so the road down to it is narrow and winding, but this does not stop people from driving on the wrong side of the road and overtaking/undertaking on corners, they are just mental! But to be fair, we haven’t seen any accidents yet, so maybe they are all just really good drivers and it is us that are doing it wrong?!
As I’ve mentioned, Pushkar is a very small holy city, so a big change from New Delhi. We wandered through the markets and visited the holy lake in the centre of the town, greeting the friendly local cows along the way. Although the streets are a whole lot quieter than Delhi, it still has typical Indian traits that we have grown accustomed to, i.e. cows roaming up and down every street, monkeys sitting on the roof tops, camels pulling carts and street dogs everywhere. Pushkar is a totally vegetarian and alcohol free city, for religious reasons, so there was a particularly large number of cows everywhere, with some pigs and goats wandering around too. The markets were very busy and you couldn’t stop for a second without shopkeepers offering you everything in their shop for ‘very good price’.
In the evening there was a camel ride to the desert for dinner. We opt’d not to do the camel ride for ethical reasons. We have both done them before when we were younger, but after learning more about animal tourism we decided to get a taxi out instead. Of course our jeep got stuck in the sand and we ended up walking half of the way, but we got to see more of the desert and we were still happy that we didn’t ride the camels. There was a clearing in the desert with little tables and seats laid out for us where we had entertainment from a local magician, gypsy family, and dinner made for us by another local family. We have very little pictures from this as it got dark so quickly, but it is definitely a night we won’t forget.
The following morning we were up at 4am for a hike up to Savitri temple to watch the sunrise over Pushkar. The early start and 608 steps were definitely worth it! The pictures don’t do it justice-it was an incredible experience. There was a family of Grey Langur monkeys that sat in their tree and watched the sunrise with us, and then got a little braver and came over to say hello. There was loads of little baby ones- so so cute!!
Once we were back in our hotel, it was time to pack up again and get a local train to our next city, Jaipur.