Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Sunday 24th - Cranes, trains and lunch

D wakes early from a nightmare about trying to get luggage onto a coach full of elephants. We dress warmly and make our way down to reception. The hotel staff are sleeping on the floor and although we try to be quiet they rouse themselves. At exactly 6.30 our auto arrives , driven by a very smart young man who takes a different route to Khichan - one with a much better road surface. He also takes us to a different spot in the village. A man ushers us throough a gate and up stairs onto the flat roof of a house that overlooks an enclosed area where a man is tipping grain out of sacks onto the ground. There are also a couple of injured cranes in the enclosure.

There is a Dutch couple already on the roof who stayed here in a homestay last night. They had looked at Phalodi and decided to move on. We are joined by our host and then suddenly we see cranes flying out of the early morning mist. They overfly us and disappear to the south. Soon there are hundreds if not thousands above us flying in groups. It really is a spectacular sight.

 We are given chai by the owner of the house who is a passionate campaigner for the cranes, having even won a court case against the Rajasthan Electricity Board. He has meticulous daily records of what time the birds appear, what time they start to feed in the enclosure and when they leave. For the past couple of weeks there have been no evening sightings so we were lucky. Feeding usually starts between 8 and 9 so we will have to miss that if we are to breakfast and catch our 10 a.m. train. We make a contribution to the bird seed fund and return to the auto.

 Our driver has been talking to a young local man who is offering to take us to another place where the birds can be seen. We say that we have to be quick and he leads us to a couple of enclosures on the south of the village where the cranes are thick on the ground and less than 50 metres away. Brilliant. The man who recommended coming here is totally forgiven (you know who you are VA).

As always when you are in a bit of a hurry everything slows down. Mr and Mrs Grumpy at the hotel have upset the breakfast waiter who is on go slow. We order just tea and toast in the hope that this won't take too long. Fat chance. When we go to check out Mr G is there again to argue about each line of his bill. We get sorted and they summon an auto for us. The same smart young man appears. At the station the floor of the booking hall/waiting room is mostly covered in cow poo. There is only one booking window open and a longish queue, most of whom seem to be clutching several ticket request forms. A local asks where we are going and advises that the unreserved window will open in a few minutes. He is right and we don't have to adopt R's suggestion of ticketless travel.

 The train is a Bikaner-Jaisalmer local that has fairly recently been downgraded from having reserved accommodation. By a fluke we get into a coach where there is an empty luggage rack so we can dump our bags there. People shuffle up a bit and make room for R to sit on a fourperson bench that has at least six on it. D is engaged in conversation by a man with very good English who wants to know why we aren't visiting Bikaner. He also tells us that most people on the train will be getting off in about 40 km at Ramdevra - apparently famous for its temples. D has to stand for an hour or so but gets a turn at the door so it is no real hardship.

The man is right and we get a pair of facing window seats which include the emergency exit window which can be fully opened so there are no bars. The country is getting progressively drier and sandier and we get covered in a fine dust. Behind us are two Austrian ladies who were so totally wrapped up in scarves and blankets that we didn't notice them. Our train was late leaving Phalodi and loses more time waiting to cross eastbound trains at some of the passing loops. Normally this wouldn't matter but today we have a lunch date. One of the trains we cross actually has a few people sitting on the train roof, apparently quite rare these days. R declines to follow their example.

  Once the road is clear our loco pilot makes a valiant effort to regain some time but is thwarted just outside Jaisalmer station where we wait for several minutes before crawling in at a snail's pace. The "Palace on Wheels" is in the station but there is no time to linger. We drop lucky and get a car for a reasonable price to the restaurant where some of D's India Mike forum pals are waiting for us. After handshakes, introductions and a very welcome cold beer a jolly lunch party ensues.

A couple of hours flies by and it is time for us all to go our separate ways. Our hotel has said that if we phone them they will send an auto for us. Good job too as we would never have found the Desert Boys amongst the winding lanes and alleys of the Jaisalmer Fort. our room is small but interesting with stone steps up to a bed recess. We dump our bags and realise that we are exhausted. After a short stroll around we call it a night and by 9 p.m. we are sound asleep.

No comments:

Post a Comment