I love it in Pushkar. I feel like I’ve settled into the swing of things in India now and am suddenly more relaxed and at ease than before. I think that the town itself helps, as it seems to have the well-deserved reputation amongst travellers for the place to hang out, escape from the more tiring aspects of India and do as little as possible. It has an ‘authentic Indian town’ feel – not so picture-postcard as Udaipur, but there are still pretty bleached blue rooftops, market vendors stringing temple blossom garlands, the obligatory wandering cows, and incense smells in the air as well as dung and dust!
It’s hard to stop shopping as there’s plenty of opportunities to fill my suitcase full of cheap travelling clothes (those baggy-bottomed trousers may be a tourist cliche but are just soooo practical and comfy in this climate!) My bag is already getting excessively full so I paid a visit to the post office today to get them to parcel up my excess luggage to send home. I was fascinated as the sweet old tailor sewed up my package in linen and sealed it with wax ready for delivery.
I’m staying in the ‘Seventh Heaven’ guesthouse… and the name really fits. The moment I stepped through the little wooden door-within-a-door that led to the central courtyard I fell in love with this peaceful haven. Everything here seems to be geared up to relaxation. There’s a fountain strewn with rose petals, suspended swinging chairs, a fantastic roof-top restaurant with comfort-food menu and the most sweet and smiley staff you could ever have the good fortune to meet.
The aspects of India that seemed so outdated and uncivilised when I first arrived are starting to take on poetic appeal. I like the faded charm of the buildings, the make-do-and-mend mentality (the owner at my favourite cafe hang-out proudly showed me his music collection today… all on slightly stretched cassette tapes). I am starting to love the menu typos, the locals’ sideways wiggly-head movements, the street food and the fact that India can’t be rushed no matter how much you try. I’m slowing down and soaking in the sun, developing a serious chai addiction and feeling a delicious laziness creep in. Pushkar is weaving its spell.
Travel friendships are springing up much easier now and I’ve found someone (Michael, a South African in the first few weeks of a 6 month round-the-world tour) to source yoga classes and contraband beer with. He’s off to Jodphur tomorrow, but we’ve agreed to meet later this month to head off to Rishikesh for a seven day Ashram experience. Neither of us are sure how we’re going to cope without internet, cellphone signal, meat and alcohol for a whole week, but we’ll soon find out (or end up climbing out of the window in the middle of the night and doing a runner….).
I made a second attempt at getting a mobile phone sim and this time it seems to have worked. It was another lengthy process, involving more paperwork, a ride on the back of a motorbike to the nearest photocopier and some chai drinking (of course) but I’m connected again.
We’ve been trying out some local yoga classes in the mornings. The first class was led by an old man in baggy white pyjamas with a seriously round belly and belching problem (but then again every male Indian seems to have a serious belching problem). He was really sweet and gentle and even though the yoga was a little under-challenging it was great to lie meditating on a towel spread over the stone floor, listening to the birds tweeting and the temple gongs sounding on this cool incense-scented morning.
Today we followed another sign to the local gym, where ‘Ricky’ showed us some yoga asanas (stopping every now to provide a commentary about English football and Michael Jackson).When we looked around and saw the 1970’s Nautilus equipment and posters of Arnold Schwarznegger we wondered if we’d come to the right place. We were ready to make a rapid retreat, but actually Ricky seemed to know his stuff, with the added bonus of being very handsome….. and no belching!
Michael’s hotel has a great pool so yesterday I blagged my way in using his name to score a lovely afternoon dip before we headed up the stone steps to a hilltop temple to watch the sun set over the town. Pushkar is a alcohol and meat-free zone, but it was surprisingly easy to find a couple of cans of Kingfisher in one of the local bars this evening. Maybe it was the beer buzz, but walking back alone through the market streets tonight I finally felt at home in India, dropped my defences and started to thoroughly enjoy the adventure.