Feeling better, and wanting to stay on “schedule”, it was time to say goodbye to Pushkar and our awesome room and make way to our next destination, the blue city of Jodhpur.
We donned our bags and headed straight to the local bus stop, hoping to get a cheap ride into Ajmer – the main transport hub. To our surprise, again there were no touts, but this time, without them, we couldn’t really figure out which bus was which or to get tickets from. With all of the buses being empty and a long day on the road ahead of us, we decided to splurge on a taxi. It was a great idea, and 20 minutes later we were in Ajmer, conveniently 15 minutes before the next bus to Jodhpur was set to go.
Travis climbed on top of the bus to secure our bags to the roof while I made sure our assigned seats remained our own – and watched over our valuables. Breakfast was an Indian version of “poppers”, a great Tex-Mex snack of jalapenos peppers, cheese and bacon, often deep fried. The Indian version paled in comparison (there being no bacon and all): they hot peppers stuffed with chickpeas and whatever else usually goes in vegetarian samosas, deep fried in a thick batter. Not a winner in my book. Jeff: these really, really made me miss your super awesomely tasty poppers, which to this day have gone unrivaled.
Our bus left pretty much on time, and relatively empty (read: all of the seats full, but no one in the isle). It felt weird to have so much room, and to drive by hopeful passengers attempting to waive down the bus on the roadside. This was unusual!
We were back on the highway, and back were the “certain deaths” moments punctuating our ride. Clearly our bus driver was keen on going fast and passing at all cost, even if it meant passing another guy passing another guy (yes, that’s 2 “lanes” from where we should be). Soon enough though, our nerves become immune to the insanity (or we just create a healthy mental block to shield us from insanity) and we focus on the scenery instead.
Rajasthan had already proved itself to have some great landscapes, and this bus ride did not disappoint. Women, dressed in bright colorful saris harvesting golden wheat, fields of blooming fennel (yellow) and alfalfa (bright green), barren landscapes, rocky hills with imposing cacti. The landscape is so unlike anything else on this trip, and mud houses make us feel even more like we are in Mexico. We pass mountains of eroded granite boulders, smooth and curvaceous in the oddest of ways. Wood become so rare that we start to see fences and sheds made of large, 6 foot-high stone slabs. We definitively are getting into the desert.
We’re lucky, we have a window seat and our window is wide open, even as we go blaring down the highway. At first the air is cool and refreshing, but the further we go, I start to get weird gusts of warm air. It’s as though, for split seconds, I get to feel the overwhelming heat of the landscape. It’s bizarre, but I’m glad that it doesn’t happen too often. Regardless, I’m thankful that I’m not one of the many working the fields at the heat of the day.
By now, our bus has made a few stops and things now seem to have reverted to normal. While we do not stop along the roads to pick up more passengers, the isle is totally full. I’m glad to have the window seat, as Travis makes it clear that some men’s body parts are getting intimate with his shoulder. Yuk!
At one of our stops, a few ladies walk around, selling hair pins. One comes to my window, and starts motioning something about my hair. Clearly, she doesn’t like my buzz cut. Maybe it’s because she can’t sell me anything, but she talks loudly and gesticulates my haircut choice as being an abomination. She’s really funny, and we both laugh as she removes the part of her sari that covers her head to show me her long locks. I can’t explain to her that I used to have long hair, just a week ago – regardless, she seems so distraught about my hair that even had I explained the why, I don’t think that she wouldn’t have understood. She looks at my head, then Travis’ head, then my head. I motion to her to touch my hair, lowering my head so that she can do it, and she half looks scared and half looks as though she wants to spit on the ground out of disgust. As she walks away, I can’t help but laugh. I’ve just been scolded by a random lady.
To our surprise, we manage to arrive in Jodhpur in good time – just under 5 hours, which is way less than stated in the guidebook. People stare as we get our bags off the roof of the bus, but compared to Bangladesh this is nothing. A tuk tuk driver finds us, but other than that, there seems to be no touts. When we ask for the price, he quotes us a ridiculously low price – surely there has to be a catch. To our surprise, there isn’t, and he brings us to our intended destination with no hassle.
One thing is for sure, this place makes for a good first impression!