During the drive to Pushkar we came upon a convention of holy men who were gathered under an awning having a free lunch. Their lined faces and unkempt hair would have made amazing photos, but when we stopped for a visit, they were happy to have us stay and would have shared their lunch, but on the photo question, the answer stayed an emphatic “no,” even when Krishan tried his charming best. They passed a pipe around and the smell of marijuana gave us a contact high. We moved on.
Pushkar is a small town by Indian standards, except during the camel festival when 500,000 people descend on the place. Therefore, we are staying in a tent in a camp. It’s all very civilized. We have beds off the ground in the sleeping area and a flush toilet and shower in the attached bathroom. We have sit down dining in a big tent, veg only. Mats are laid in the sand to make paths to our tents and there are lights along the way. However, it is a desert climate and the comfortable day time temperature went down to 55º at night. The hot water bottle that comes with each bed was much appreciated. The fact that the tent came with two sets of earplugs was a strong hint about how the night would go. Even though we are a few miles from the fair, the sound of drums, chanting and atonal singing went on and on and on throughout the night. Perhaps this was the way some of the locals kept themselves warm.
When we arrived at the tent camp we were greeted with necklaces of marigolds and a cold drink. This is the Indian way and we will miss it the next time we check in to a Holiday Inn at home and are greeted with nothing more than the room key and the bill.
Being tourists, we did the tourist thing. We climbed onto carts and decorated camels pulled us to the festival. On the grounds we switch to our own personal camels and took them for a ride with a saddle. The riding is not too bad, but the getting up and down is a challenge. The camel is mounted from a sitting position and then it raises its back legs. If you don’t hang on hard, you can pitch right over its head. Then the front legs come up and the reverse can happen. Ditto on the dismount. As we rode through the festival area it was clear that on this ninth day of the ten day festival, most of the camels had already been sold and taken away. Those that remained were tourist craft like the ones we rode, too young or over priced.
We rode past piles of sugar cane, the main sweet treat around here. People walk around gnawing on the woody reeds and seemed to buy large stacks to take home. There were also vendors selling colorful children’s toys. This is a real family affair.