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Pushkar - India

Set by a lake and ringed by forest covered mountains, Pushkar is temple town of the highest order. Holy men, priests and cows meander through hot, dusty streets filled with touts and hippy trail tourists. Holy petals are offered up for the soul and marijuana for the mind. Alcohol is officially forbidden, as are kissing and eggs, but it's possible to get your hands on a beer in some places and, as we all know, where there is alcohol there's kissing...

Eggs however, are most definitely off the menu as the local council plug the chickens and employ various other anti-egg measures. The last sentence may not be entirely true but wouldn't it be a better world if it was? What the town elders actually do, is charge unsuspecting tourists a cheeky entry fee. For 5 princely rupees, a limp roadside barrier is hauled up by an underfed pensioner and you are granted access to Hinduism's holiest, and possibly dustiest, city.

Ten rupees lighter, we rolled under the midday sun into town, wound or way down a long dusty, egg-free track peppered with camels and cow shit, and were deposited in the tranquil gardens of the Prem Villas hotel. After a bit of banter with Pawan the manager and a promise to give his pranayam yoga a bash, we dumped our bags and headed to the markets for a wander.

Central Pushkar is a walking heaven compared to other Indian towns. For Indian town planners, the concept of a pavement is as abstract as the smell of unicorn shit. Pushkar however has a small centre where pedestrians have equal rights with the cows, motorbikes and scooters. We spent an hour in amongst the colourful stalls and stores selling everything from books to banana lhassis, before we found a little rooftop restaurant with a view over the lake. It was just what the travel doctor ordered and when we hit the streets again it was with full stomachs and a springy pedestrian step.

But Pushkar is also a place where you shouldn't get too ahead of yourself. Just because your feeling spritely, it doesn't mean everyone else is. A holy four-legged beef steak decided to teach me this when I failed to move out of his way with enough haste. Instead of politely mooing me out of the way, Billy Beef thought it best to headbutt me into a doorway before continuing with his holy plodding. No damage done but a valuable lesson learnt, never disturb the path of holy beef.

We spent what was left of the day, relaxing in the cow-free hotel garden and quaffing banana lhassis in the late afternoon heat. The next day continued in pretty much the same fashion but with occasional blasts of air-conditioning as the electricity connection was reestablished for brief 20 minute periods. It was lazyness personified but by sunset we were getting restless.

Thus, we hopped into the car just as the sky was turning a pinky orange and headed to an "English Wine Shop" (note: wine not sold) on the outskirts of town to buy some forbidden beers. Once laden with sweaty bottles of Kingfisher, we made tracks for the Pushkar Palace rooftop restaurant. There, we feasted on chapati, poppadoms, curry and beer and 5 hours later my backside was firmly planted upon the porcelain throne, with a bucket in front of me, as I experienced my first, violently sudden, case of Delhi belly. I won't go into detail but lets just say I didn't even have time to look for the lightswitch.

Eight o'clock the following morning, Lana, myself and a grumbling stomach were given a crash course in "pranayam," i.e. an "oooing" and "aaahhhhing" breathing thing. It's something between meditation and yoga and can apparantley cure thousands of diseases and prevent malaria or dengue fever. Under normal circumstances I would have been a keen listener but a nervousness brought about by the slightest abdominal pressure meant that angry stomach took all my attention.

We checked out of the Pushkar hotel that morning, but not before Lana had painted some flowers on the wall at reception and I'd packed the bags, ensuring the toilet paper was sitting ready in my pocket... It was a long road to Udaipur...


Posted by scotsman 22:35 Archived in India

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