We were up at 4.30 am in Udaipur and took the train for six hours to Ajmer. From Ajmer a private vehicle drove us to Pushkar on a scenic ride by beautiful lakes and over a rocky mountain range (or hills if you ask Theresa and Adri).
The hotel New Park was SO nice, we had a big room and best of all, we had a pool!
We ate lunch at the hotel (cheap but mediocre) before spending the day by the pool and in the water, everyone lazing around. Harsh had postponed our orientation walk to 5 pm, afraid that the hot weather would result in heatstroke for all of us.
Sidenote: Pushkar is one of the holiest cities in India, Brahma’s (the creator) city. As a result most things are prohibited: alcohol, drugs, meat (yay!), revealing clothing etc.
At 5 pm we took tuk-tuks to the other end of the center of Pushkar and proceeded through markets and past temples.
We went into the only Brahma temple in the world as well.
And we quickly learned that Pushkar is a city of contradictions. While it prohibits basically everything, it seems to be one of the most popular cities for people to come to to do drugs, the city center completely infested with aimless and blank-eyed hippies.
Just around sunset, we met up with a Pundit (Hindu priest) at the beautiful Pushkar lake. Here he took us through a prayer ceremony, which was actually a really beautiful experience. We prayed for good luck, success and happiness for ourselves, our friends and family and he blessed us - you can thank me when I get home.
After the ceremony we went to a falafel shop, which Harsh had gone to since he was a kid, and I got the best vegan banana milkshake and falafel roll.
With full stomachs we walked home to the hotel and fell asleep quickly.
Early the next morning most of the group left for a two-hour long sunset hike to a temple on the top of a hill. I couldn't go because of my knee though, so Theresa, Adri and I walked into the city around 8 am to meet up with the others after for breakfast at Energy Cafe. The service was horribly slow and the food mediocre, but it was a nice morning none the less.
By the time we were done it was already scorching hot, so most of the group headed back to the hotel, not much to see in Pushkar in terms of sightseeing. Adri, Nina, Theresa and I decided to walk through the market area for a while, haggling with salesmen and windowshopping. When we were on our way back though, we were stopped by homeless children who asked us to buy them food. I know that we should never give them money, but misunderstood the situation and went with them, thinking I could buy them a cheap lunch. They ended up wanting some expensive flour that I didn't have enough money for, and so Theresa and I ended up in a bad situation of trying to find money to buy it directly ourselves. The kids ended up snatching the money from us though, running away without the flour. I felt really bad, but we hadn't given them too much, so it quickly slipped my mind again.
The rest of the day we spent lazing around by the pool, reading and swimming, the temperature around 42 degrees in the shade.
At 7 pm the group met up to walk to dinner. And I think for the first time the ugliness of India really hit me. I’ve had glimpses of it throughout the trip: beggers, sick dogs, cows eating plastic etc., but on the walk to the restaurant it all seemed to hit me at once.
Theresa and I told Harsh the story about the two boys who tricked us, and he told us that they usually give the money to drug dealers, who ”owns” the kids. That made me feel horribly guilty - I had researched it and knew that you should never give the begging kids money, and I had accidentally ended up doing it anyway.
A while later we passed a big area filled with trash, where a gathering of cows stood eating the plastic. A few moments later we passed a cow lying on the sidewalk looking really sick and in pain. We passed homeless people sleeping in the streets. And finally we passed a camel that had its nose ripped out, most likely from tucking too much at the rope - this happening because of an industry we had willingly supported only days prior on our safari trip.
And these things don't just happen in Pushkar. The despair and pain and hopelessness is everywhere in India (probably everywhere in the world really), and the frustration of not being able to do anything, just seeing it and having to keep walking - and furthermore of actually accidentally supporting it - really got to me on the walk. India's beauty had dulled a bit.
But that is India I guess; it is the dazzling beauty, an abundance of wealth, bright colors, intense flavours, diversity and genuine people. And it is the horrible suffering, unfairness, pollution, and poverty. It is good and bad both, a series of contradictions. And although I don't want to judge India only on its ugly sides, I think it is important to remember them. It is ignorant to only see the beauty, but to dwell on the unfairness helps no one at the moment. I guess the only thing we can do is learn from our mistakes.
Luckily my group is good at cheering up, I was relieved to find that Nina felt the same way, and with Theresa’s jokes and Richard’s craziness, it is hard to stay sad for long. The evening turned out alright after all, although my mushroom pasta came with olives instead and no flavor, but I guess you can't expect Indians to be experts at Italian food.
And when we drove back to the hotel in tuk-tuks I was secretly glad that I didn't have to face the ugliness again right away by walking.
This morning we actually had time to eat breakfast at the hotel before packing into private jeeps that took us to the bus stop in Ajmer. From here it was luckily only a three-hour bus ride to Jaipur, the Pink City. And Harsh’s absolutely stunning wife came to greet us at the bus stop. She seemed really sweet.