Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Monday 25th - The Desert Song

It's a fresh sunny morning when we go for breakfast just along the balcony from our Arabian Nights room. Today's plan is to wander the city a little, find an ATM and also a cyber cafe as the Desert Boys wifi only seems to have any bandwidth in the middle of the night. We can see an ATM from our room and a walk around the foot of the city walls does not take too long.

Jaisalmer is very tourist driven and everybody tries to sell something but a good natured "Not today" or "No thanks. We've already eaten" seems to keep the touts at bay. There is one guy that we keep seeing who says "Hello. When you see me in Jodhpur you buy me a beer". In Jodhpur there was a similar looking chap who tried to claim that we had promised him a beer when we were in Jaisalmer. Full marks for trying.

D has been having a minor attack of tummy trouble and is feeling below par, so after the chores are done and we have had a cup of tea we return to the room for him to lie down. At least we try to but get thoroughly lost yet again and find the Desert Boys by accident. D is awarded the "Weedy Wet of the Week" award for this.

Today is the third and final day of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival and we have signed up for a trip out into the desert to see the spectacle. There is some confusion about departure time but eventually we are under way in a full jeep. It looks like we are subsidising the Desert Boys staff outing. When we get to Sam there is a milling mass of people, cars, jeeps and camels. Forget the solitude of the desert  - everywhere you look there are compounds of canvas cabins and even roadside off licences. There are some fine examples of opportunity marketing.

First up is a camel racing event, with commentary by an Indian man who sounds as if he has been taught English by Michael O'Hare. It is chaos. The result is announced and then the judges are asked to make clear where the finishing line is. The crowd seem very happy though. We notice that people are drifting away to the west so we follow to see what is happening..

In a hollow there is some kind of jam session going on with an ever expanding group of musicians giving it their all on some energetic percussion numbers. A bit like Santana without the bass. Most entertaining and over all too soon. Some soldiers are laying out green mats on a patch of desert and eventually it becomes clear that this is the seating area in front of the main stage - a flat piece of desert. There are markers for different categories of audience including an area for foreign tourists. We decide to look for somewhere more comfortable to sit and find a sandy slope with a view of sorts.

Behind us all the fun of the fair is going on with various vendors selling ice cream, chai,noisy toys, balloons, water at 3 times par and roasted peanuts. D's tummy has settled a little so we have 30 rupees worth of the latter, a huge bag. We shall probably be bringing some home. The sun is setting and the moon rising over this desert melee.

The event is due to commence at 6.30 p.m.  At 7.15 the lights go on and they do a perfunctory sound check. Then nothing.  Eventually the first act is introduced (at great length in two languages). By now we have to stand to see the stage which is frequently obscured by photographers. The lady entertainers have colourful and sparkling costumes. One of the acts is a Sufi band. Sufis are the original whirling dervishes and the climax to their performance is some dextrous twirling by a spectacularly clad lady dancer.

We are just starting to tire a little when our hosts phone to ask when we might want to leave. Now seems like a good idea so we make our way back to the road, warding off the chaps who want to sell us a camel ride. There is chaos on the road but amazingly R spots our hosts and their jeep in the darkness and we are soon on board for the ride home. We stop to pick up two German girls who have got stuck without a lift somehow and it is a very cosy trip back to Jaisalmer. We need no rocking to sleep tonight.

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