The train from Jaisalmer to Jodhpur proved to be very entertaining and enjoyable. It was filled with nice chats with local people, chai drinking and even banjo playing.
Eight hours later, we were in “The Blue City”.
A rickshaw dropped us off at a 500-year old haveli now turned into a hotel called Singhvi’s.
Matt and I went up to the restaurant to have some Malai Kofta, Rajasthani rice and raita. Then, I headed downstairs to take a shower.
It had hot water so I took my sweet time under it, cleaning off the long ride and the sticky weather (even in winter).
“This is the rhythm of the night… the night… oh yeah!” Out of all of the songs in the world, this is the one that strangely was playing in my head. It felt like the world was frozen around me and there I was, in an old haveli far from home, having a moment with myself. Until..
Is there something moving behind the trash can? Out of nowhere a scary little mouse appeared and my immediate reaction was to scream like a mad woman.
“Matt!!! Help!!! Help!!! A mouse! Oh my god, oh my god!”
I didn’t know what to do or where to hide. I was so vulnerable, naked, in the shower – and with a small uninvited companion.
I managed to get out and get dressed. Five minutes later we were already moved into another room, away from the street door to make sure nothing snuck in.
The night continued with a walk through the old city to try to find a universal adaptor, since we forgot ours in the last hotel. See – that’s what happens when you move places too much. Sometimes you end up spreading gifts like Santa Claus.
“I feel funky” Matt said while walking through crowded narrow streets. Once the adaptor was found and purchased, we headed back to the hotel to rest.
The next morning, Matt was still feeling a bit sick. He looked normal but his stomach was bugging him. We decided that he would take a nap and hydrate. In the meantime, he insisted for me to go and see some of the city.
While he was resting, I grabbed my daypack and off I went – my first time navigating India by myself and feeling proud (because I was killing it!). I walked through the old city, admiring its famous blue houses.
Then, I went up a hill walking along a highway until I reached the place I was looking for: Rao Jodha Desert Rock Park.
I was looking forward to learn about desert plants and creatures.
The site was empty when I arrived but it looked interesting so I decided to go in regardless.
I approached the ticket counter.
“Do you have any naturalists available to give me a tour?” I said to the man that was sitting behind the desk.
“But of course! It’ll be my pleasure.” And like that, the same man grabbed his camera and professional set of binoculars and off we went.
“Where are you from?” Harsh – the naturalist – asked.
“Mexico” I responded while his eyes widened.
“Ha! Well… Interestingly enough, this park exists because we are replanting it after a maharaja in the 1930s brought a plant from your country that didn’t sit well and basically killed the vegetation”.
Yes, true story. It was a Mexican mesquite known as “the mad one” the one responsible for such natural misfortune.
But because of the tremendous effort of the people working at Rao Jodha of cutting the plant from its roots, now the site is green, healthy and even attracting different kinds of birds and animals they didn’t have before.
Birdwatchers, biologists and botanists come from all over to see this place and its varied desert eco-systems.
We started the walk and stopped right in front a wall that surrounds part of the park. Harsh pointed out a good number of holes where birds were invited to live.
“That was the alarm system at the time. The birds would come and live inside the wall. If someone climbed it to attack the palace, the birds would get out of the wall, making some noise and flying around it. That’s how people knew something was happening.” Harsh said.
As he was sharing interesting facts like this, I knew I had made the right decision to hire someone who actually knew what he was talking about.
“Don’t step on that!” He quickly let me know as we were approaching something like this:
Then he continued: “There are geckos living there, exactly the same color so they camouflage. If you mistakenly think this is burnt or dry grass and step on it, you can be sure to kill some of these little fellas.” Sure enough, he pointed at a few. I could distinguish them as I could see them moving.
Our walk resumed.
“Do you see that rock over there? Can you tell me if what’s on the top is alive or dead?”:
I, doubtful responded: “Alive?”. That was correct. Harsh explained the plant on the rock has a natural state of hibernation, but then, it turns into green – dressing the rocks in bright colors.
“Now, press that plant. What do you think that white liquid is?”
The answer was glue.
And like that, this guy opened up a world I knew very little about. It was a good lesson to pay attention to what’s around us, love it and admire it for what it is – because everything has a purpose in this life.
During my visit, I had two favorites:
#1 – A plant that turns to catch all the sunlight it can get (see the leaves following the circled pattern?):
#2 was this one:
It’s not a cactus (that’s what I first thought). The name is “Succulent.” The spikes are toxic and humans or animals cannot eat or drink from it. However, its function in the desert is to provide shelter for many species of reptiles, birds and insects when it’s very hot. Then, the food chain happens inside these little animal huts, making sure the eco-system stays alive. Fascinating. Something that from the surface seems toxic and malign actually protects animals and makes sure they prosper.
The Mehrangarh fort was right there and we had a pretty good view of it, while we walked around the desert park.
Unfortunately, this is what I can share with you about our visit to Jodhpur.
After I was done with the tour, I got back to the hotel and Matt had a fever so the rest of our stay was spent dealing with some food poisoning he got (we believed from the hotel) and a few hours later I got one from eating soup at the clinic.
Fun times! But hey! We decided to come to India, and sometimes that’s the price to pay (everyone gets sick at least once over here).
I’m happy to report both of us are now healthy and still having a great time.
More lessons learned:
– One can zip line around the Mehrangarh Fort. The company in charge of it is called Flying Fox, in case anyone is interested.
– Some of the scenes from Batman “Dark Knight Rises” with Christian Bale were shot at the Mehrangarh Fort.
– Be VERY careful with what you eat in India – you cannot even trust a hospital! So watch out for raw veggies, dairy products and water.