At this very moment I am sitting on a rooftop terrace in Jaisalmer across from the fort, The sun is in the final stages of setting and the fort is lit in such a way that it almost seems as if it is floating. This is the fourth day of a two week trip and I feel like I have been traveling for ages. And in the very best way possible. Delhi seems like foggy dream. I feel like I could give up my job and just spend the rest of my life on this terrace, living in that space between sleep and wake, when everything seems a bit hazy and just feels so very good.
We arrived here under dark of night after along drive through the desert. There were times when there was not a single car or building for as far as I could see. It was amazing. After the chaos and crowds that seem to define Delhi, I was suddenly nowhere. It was just the five of us. We stopped the car to get out and there was nothing to hear. There were no people. No car horns. No music. Just silence and space. Lots and lots of seemingly endless space. I imagined being like Marco Polo, making my way across a land having no idea of what I would find, but when finding my self in such a place wondering if I really wanted to find anything more. I have missed the desert. In California the beach and the desert were my anchors. They were where I went to both to think, to celebrate, to make my plans, to be with friends, to just get away from it all. I always loved the severity of the desert. I really had not expected to find myself in such an isolated place on this trip. I have a lot on my mind. A lot to think about and decisions that I need to make. Suddenly the desert was here for me again.
I snuck up to the roof terrace about thirty minutes before sunrise. It was a bit chilly and the fort was a dark silhouette against a dark sky. It was that time of the day when the sunrise can be more felt than seen. The promise of something that is to come. I love that time of morning, when the streets are quiet and world partly asleep. Early morning calls to prayer blanket the city like a warm pashmina.
After a breakfast of what I now call “sunrise porridge”, we were off on a small walking tour to see the havelis of Jaisalmer. Like a lot of tours in India, it was more a tour from store to store with some sights tossed in between shopping destinations all offering “very cheaper price, sir. Just look. No buy”. We visited the exquisite former house of the Prime Minister which is now half residence and, surprise, half store. School children crowded around, each wanting “one school pen” and finally there was one who was just so cute and so shy, I caved in and handed over my one and only pen.
After the store to store tour of the havelis, it was time for the fort itself. The main attraction seems to be the Jain Temple and foreigners are only allowed in after 11, which created a mad rush through the main entry of the temple, which is a small door. Ulco, Manuel and I climbed a small set of steps and watched the crowd below push and shove their way in, all the while trying to take pictures and holding up the people behind them. I noticed a small door to my left and of course, I went to investigate. I was in a completely empty Jain temple and better yet, it as connected to the main temple through a somewhat hidden passage. It was all very Indiana Jones. The carvings were absolutely amazing, but the monks kept trying to get into the picture and then wanting money in spite of all the signs that say not to give tips to temple workers. There are metal boxes that are meant for donations, but it seems that several of the temple workers don’t care for those boxes as much as getting the cash themselves.
Before long it was time to head back to the hotel for a lunch and a battery recharge before we headed out into the desert on the back of a camel for an overnight safari in the dunes.