camel safari


eldest son tosses clay pot


I'm lucky to find a few hotels with wonderful courtyards or balconies, which are an oasis away from the hectic pace in India.  The most I spent was 1100 Rs ($24) and the least 30 Rs ($.66) for the roof of a hotel in Jaisalmer in the Thar Desert.  It was so warm that I didn't use a sheet or a blanket until the wee hours when the wind picked up.  I normally pay 200 Rs.  On one occasion, this was a top notch super clean new hotel, another was a pit.

In India I traveled to: Delhi, Varanasi (burning ghats), Agra (Taj Mahal), Jaipur, Pushkar,  Jodhpur, and Jaisalmer (camel safari).

The camel safari was my favorite activity.  As the camel stands up, you feel like you'll go straight over his head.  It's a combination of his height and the motion.  We rode out to a sand dune and watched the sunset.  Our camel driver and his cook prepared our dinner on a campfire.  The cook and his friend sang us songs in Hindi, as we fell asleep under a blanket of stars.  I loved seeing the silhouette of the camels after sunset and during sunrise. 

I found
Varanasi, on the Ganges River (holy water) to be the most interesting place.  Without seeing it, I think it would be difficult to understand.  I'll give it a go...  many people come to Varanasi to die.  They have a strong belief in the holy water purify their soul.  They also believe in reincarnation.  There are two types of cremation electric (500 Rs) and wood (3000 Rs).  Five are not burned, since they have achieved nirvana will go straight to heaven:  priest, mother carrying a child (child purifies mother), death by cobra bite, leprosy (afraid others will breath the ash and get sick) and children under 10 (innocent no lies or cheating).  These are tied on a stretcher with rocks and dumped into the Ganges.

With the cremation process, the eldest son shaves his head, all but a tuft.  They first dunk the body in the
Ganges River (water), put body on river bank (earth), put body on small pile of wood, and put a few pieces on top.  Next they light straw and walk around the body counter clockwise five times to reverse the five elements "come from ash, return to ash."  They light the fire near the head with some you see the face (wind, fire), they watch the body burn for 3-hours chanting, singing or talking.  There is no sadness and no tears or the spirit (5th element) cannot leave.  Most local women are not allowed to watch used to jump in with the husband. 

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