Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Nuptials and Camels

The advertising slogan for India these days is Incredible India. And it certainly has been incredible. The noise, the dirt, the colors, the energy - it is all here in excess.

The first few days that I was here, I was in Udaipur, for the wedding of a friend from graduate school. This was the single most beautiful, opulent, over-the-top experience I have ever attended, bar none. The wedding was three days long, with the first and third days being at the City Palace and the second being at a white marble temple in the middle of the lake. These are places where Bollywood stars get married. Even the fireworks over the lake after the marriage was official would have been sufficient for the July 4th celebration at a mid-sized American city.
After the festivities ended, I packed up the ballgown and glitzy jewelry, picked up the ol' backpack and went to join a small group of wedding guests headed for the Pushkar Camel Festival. A yearly event in which the tourists are outnumbered only by the camels, Pushkar is a bit legend on the India backpacking scene. Thousands of camels and horses and all matter of things hoofed are brought to the town to be sold and traded. It coincides with a religious celebration at the town's sacred lake, so there are a couple thousand pilgrims in the mix too. All this, coupled with the magicians, stilt-walkers, snake charmers, acrobats, thieves and hustlers give the place the air (and likely approximate level of sanitation) of a medieval carnival. It was mayhem. One of the bridesmaid's and I walked around fair grounds to try to get some good shots, but it was difficult to capture the scope from eye level. Hmm... what around here is higher than eye level... Buildings (not tall enough)... cell phone towers (likely guarded)... hills (way too far)... half finished water tower on the edge of the camp (bingo). What are the chances that the workers speak enough English to tell us we can't climb up? Admittedly, they seemed a little surprised, but as long as we didn't step in the wet cement, they seemed pleasant enough about it. A couple stories up were some great views. (Again, I will post pictures as soon as I can.) And, as there have been complaints in the comments section lately that I haven't been engaging in an adequate level of death defying behavior, I made sure to lean out over the edge of the platform, holding on to the rebar, to get a shot of me with the fair in the background. (Editor's note: I had no idea actually how dangerous it was climbing up this thing until we started down. The steps were narrow and covered in loose gravel. They hadn't gotten to installing any handrails yet, and we had to climb over the horizontal waist-level bamboo support poles at each landing. I was happy to get to the bottom...)

Other than that, not too much going on. I am currently in Jaisalmer, up north near the Pakistan border, because I apparently haven't gotten enough camel yet in my life. I will be camel trekking in the desert tomorrow night with the Bestman. And now, if you will excuse me, Pushkar is a pilgrimage site, meaning no meat and no booze. I have some catching up to do...


Anonymous said...

OK, now you're talking altho' I haven't heard from your Mom that you had to be med-evac'd yet. Loose gravel and slippery footholds that'll do it. Kristen -take care of yourself. I want to see you at Christmas. gb

Tom said...

Hi Kristen,

Looks like your most recent adventure is rather tame compared to most of your others. Congratulations on graduating and good luck with the World Bank and your new boss since Wolfie bit the dust.

I'm forwarding your blog to my buddy who has a place in Bogata and a "ranch" just outside the city. I'm sure he will be interested on your take of the country. He has been inviting us down for some time and I hesitate because of all the horror stories I hear. Say it isn't so!

I look forward to the further adventures of KH. Be well.