Dadu Aur MadakJaisalmer
|A few words
about the Enfield and road conditions. Our whole purpose in buying new
bikes was to avoid as much as possible the need to do repairs on them.
I can change a flat, or get a broken clutch or accelerator cable
working again. I can usually formulate a general idea of what is
causing a problem even if I can't fix it myself. Fortunately, as
densely populated as India is you are never very far from a town, and
even the smallest have a motorbike walla. For the majority of our trip
our top speed has been about 80KPH--the equivalent of 50MPH. Any thing
faster seems foolhardy given the insane habits of both drivers and
pedestrians here coupled with the deplorable road conditions. Much of
Rajasthan has been a real treat though. Being sparsely populated
desert, Rajasthans roads are in pretty good condition and traffic
outside of the towns is fairly light. The stretch from Bikaner was so
good, and in the early morning cool with few other vehicles on the road
we felt comfortable taking the bikes up to 100KPH or a tad over. This
is the equivalent of 62 to 65 MPH. After about an hour stretch of this
we came to a railroad crossing with the gate down. As we drew to a
halt, we immediately saw the bikes smoking heavily. It turned out that
it was oil being blown out the breather on the return pump into the air
filter. When we opened the filter compartment we found that each of the
bikes had about a tea cup full of oil in the compartment. There were a
couple from Seattle in a hired car waiting at the crossing and without
saying anything to us and without our asking they had gone in to the
next town and found a repairman and were about to bring him back to us.
We in the meantime had decided to limp in, and met them just as they
were about to head back to us. When we told the repair guy that we had
been going about 100 he laughed and said that that was our problem. We
told him that the manual said max operating speed is 120 KPH, but
although he spoke no english he conveyed to us that we should never go
over 70 or 80. We had frequently pushed it up to 85 or 90 with no
problems. He removed the canister on each bike that I believe was the
oil return pump and cleaned them and re-installed them. We were able to
continue on our way without any further problems. When we got to
Jaisalmer and recounted this to the dealer he agreed that the bikes
shouldn't be driven over 80 KPH or so. It seems inconceivable to me
that a brand new bike cannot be driven over fifty miles per hour
without blowing oil into the air filter. I will say for the Bullet
though that as long as the engine will start it will get you safely to
a repair place where some of the newer high-tech bikes would have you
hopelessly stranded by the roadside. We have heard of bikes that had
dropped valves or burned a hole in the piston that still made it into
the next town. We offer this information strictly as a word of caution
for would be travelers that expect to make better time on the clear
stretches. If we had stuck to 80 KPH we would have reached our
destination 2 hours sooner.
|Jaisalmer is known as the golden city, and considering the price tag for many of the accommodations this may well be one of the explanations. The truth though is this is one of the more magical places in all of Rajasthan. The majority of the town is situated inside a miles long crenelated wall, and the moniker of golden city derives from the fact hat the town is almost entirely built from yellow sandstone. Unlike the pink sandstone that is found most everywhere else in India, this stone seems to glow in the morning light and at sunset. The city has a large number of stunning old havelis that are built of sandstone, many of which are now guest houses. Unfortunately, when we arrived we found most of these places booked. Another unique thing about Jaisalmer is its fort. I know, your thinking "not another fort story." But the difference here is that unlike other forts this fort is inhabited by nearly a quarter of the towns population. There are plenty of guesthouse within the fort, but we had read some accounts of how the population there was straining the ancient infrastructure to the point of causing damage to the forts bastions. Jaisalmer has become one of the premier destinations for large tour groups that arrive by the bus loads, and just outside of the towns walls there are a string of upscale hotels with a half dozen more being built. To their credit, they are built using the same sandstone as in the town, but that is where the similarity ends. The interiors and rooms are like any upscale hotel in St. Louis or Omaha, and their prices are outrageous. The waiters of course where traditional garb, but the food is so watered down that it is hardly recognizable as Indian. The other option are "luxury" tents a bit farther out in the desert for about $150 a night. The strategy of all of these packaged tours is to keep everybody so busy that they don't have time to find out how bad they are really being ripped-off.|
hotel was very cute, and after a long conversation with the young folks
at the desk, I think they realized that we were not their typical
client and offered us a substantial discount.
from the beauty of the town itself, the biggest draw here are the camel
safaris. The majority of Rajasthan's desert is scrub similar to the
desert surrounding Phoenix minus the cactus. About forty miles west of
Jaisalmer however there is the village of Sam, which has rolling dunes.
Many people go for three or four day camel safaris where they visit
small villages and camp at night in the desert. The package tour people
usually do one night, staying in one of the luxury tent camps. We just
arranged with the young guy at the counter to meet us real early and
take us out to watch the sunrise.
The desert in the morning really is quite beautiful, although much of the area where the camel drivers meet their fares the sands are strewn with plastic water bottles. This is more the doing of Indian tourists and most foreigners seem to act responsibly, at least in this regard.
As we returned from our short ride, we saw clusters of drivers huddling with their camels to ward off the desert's morning chill.
Inside the fort was a maze of tiny alleyways with people displaying every manner of wares. Occasionally you could find a little corner where the locals have gone to escape the crush.
literally resounds with music. Inside the fort (left) a man plays an
instrument that is a cross between an accordion and an organ. Another
(top right) plays a simple string instrument. You will note the same
"accordion" man playing at a rooftop restaurant at one of the havelis.
His accomplished accompanists were mostly under nine years old.
|As beautiful as
this town is its real beauty is in the people.
everywhere you looked there was beauty.
|As the sun
begins to set, this shot of the hilltop fort taken from outside the
town's walls hints at why it is called the "Golden City."