Bikaner is a weird city, i'll give you that.
A dusty industrial city, with beautiful Jain temples, fantastic forts and a really out of place water fountain.
Where we were staying was really cosy - in a guesthouse that was run by a guy called Jitu, and his wife, dad and mum.
We ate breakfast and lunch in his living room (it looked like your grandmother's living room). The hot water for the shower came in bucket form. That is, when you wanted a shower you asked for a hot bucket. Then you scoop out the water using a jug and wash that way. The Boi said it's pretty standard for India but its the first time on our travels we've come across it.
The fort looks looming and a bit boring, not giving you an idea of the beautiful interiors. Many of the rooms were painted so intricately, and one vaulted hall was carved entirely of sandstone. No photos we could take can ever do it justice.
The tour guide for the group in front of us (about 40 indians) told everyone to sit on the floor, then took our camera and made us sit in amongst them. He took our photos to show the tourists what they looked like (digital display). Many of these people had never seen a digital camera so it was pretty special for them (and bizarre for us!). ;D
The next day we did a camel safari! We got to go to the Karni Mata temple (Rat Temple) in Deshnok (the sign out the front says "the 8th Wonder of the World?"). We've seen photos of rats swarming everywhere (dont forget, you have to take shoes and socks off when you go in, its a temple) but maybe most of them were asleep. We only saw 50-60 or so... It was still pretty cool though. The temple is beautiful, with real silver doors and marble carvings everywhere.
Then on to the Camel Man's house. We hung out with his family while he rustled up some camels, and they invited us to take photos of their mud buildings.
Fin and I got onto the camels, and I imagine we looked ridiculous. Big hats, big asses, swaying away on a camels back. Fun though (for the first 45 mins) and then you start to get sore in places you didnt think was possible...
The desert in Rajasthan isnt the Sahara type desert, its more like Australian desert, scrubby, sand and gravel, the odd tree. Alot of people live out there, everytime you think that there's no one for miles around, a turbaned head pops over the next rise.
We didnt ride on the camels all day (sore bums) but to visit the villages we had a jeep (complete with loud Bollywood music and fast driving). A lot of driving. The best bit of the day was being invited into someone's home (just a random family) and eating desert grown water melons. The son cracked them in half with his hands, and we sat on the ground in a group eating them with our hands. Bliss!
Later on we went to a Bishnoi village of 'untouchables' (low caste). The people there are so friendly, so proud of themselves and their houses, it was amazing. We kept getting invited into peoples lovely mud hut houses, asked to take photos, offered chai and biscuits - wow. Fin and I felt really embarrassed - I mean you dont do this in OZ! You dont walk into someones lounge room or bedroom and take photos of them doing stuff.
(Jitu said that because of their caste they love the fuss tourists make over them, it makes them feel special. Caste Schmaste.)
I happened to spy a spinning wheel (of course) in the corner and one of the girls got it out and showed us how she spins wool into yarn. I had a go and failed miserably. The guide (who had been giving me advice) had a go and did worse hehe.
One woman was hilarious. She showed me how to grind millet in a stone grinder - then poured out a container and told me I couldnt leave til I had finished it all. Man it's hard work! Fin had a go and finished it up - so she said she was going to lock us in there until we finished the whole 10 kg bag! No english, but the gist was enough hehe...
Then she was going to teach me to make chapatis (and then make ALL the chapatis) but I said that I have already ruined one meal for her hehe. (And our body jewellery caused quite a stir. Fin has just been accepted as a guy in most parts of India, and guys dont have their noses pierced! And labret (lip) piercings? Women kept coming up and touching mine, thinking it was a jewel stuck on my lip... Very funny).
Really a great day.
We're in Pushkar now, the hippie town of the desert. There is a small lake, surrounded by ghats (steps into the water) and all the buildings around the lake are painted white or pale blue. Western (mainly Israeli) food abounds. We've been feasting on good pizzas, pesto pasta (yum) and great granola for breakfast. Waking up to the sounds of bells and chanting in the morning, its all been very relaxed and Shanti Shanti. I call it a hippie town, cos the bhang (hash) flows freely around here, and you can tell thats the only reason some people are here.
So basically just resting from all the travel! Off to Delhi in a couple of days, and I'll be home on 4th December.