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Thursday, 23 October 2014

India: Cycling in a Land of Extremes - Page 3

Written by Dale Fehringer
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Jaipur, the Pink City


The city of Jaipur was one of our favorites.  Known as the Pink City of India, Jaipur Has a population of around three million. Founded in the 1700’s, Jaipur takes its nickname from the pink dirt that was used to construct many of its buildings.  Recently, Jaipur was the site of the movie, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. 


The Palace quarter of Jaipur includes a massive fort, the Nahargarh Fort, which was formerly the residence of the King.  Today it’s a prime tourist attraction.  We rode an elephant up the hill to the fort, toured the royal palace, and explored the grounds, which include an observatory, a sundial and instruments to measure and track celestial spheres. 


That night, we were treated to a Bollywood movie in Jaipur’s Raj Mandir theatre.  The gaudy exterior is just a warm-up for the interior, which is over-the-top kitschy.  The movie was in Hindi (with occasional English phrases), but we were able to follow the plot and enjoy the Bollywood music and dancing.  We were entertained by the very vocal audience of young Indians who whistled at the heroine, cheered the superhero, and booed the bad guys.  It was a wildly-unique Indian experience!


The Pushkar Camel Festival

Our longest cycling day (around 60 miles) started in Jaipur and wound through the countryside to Pushkar.  This is a quiet and peaceful part of India, with flat roads, semi-arid landscape, and fields of lentils, chickpeas, and peanuts.  As we rolled through the small villages we were greeted by throngs of curious children who lined the dirt streets to stare, giggle, gawk at our bicycles, and say “hello” or “where are you going?” 


We ended our day at the Camel Festival, outside the city of Pushkar.  Thousands of camels were assembled for the auction, and the grounds were filling with tents, campfires, and people milling around.  Vendors sold camel gear and souvenirs, men squatted over open fires cooking and watching their camels, and women carried out buckets of camel dung on their heads.  We saw a group of men milk a camel and then heat the milk over an open fire to make chai tea. 


Many of the camels were decorated with harnesses, flowers, and colorful designs and we saw a camel doing "tricks"to the amusement of a sizeable crowd – shaking hands, lying, and sitting on command. 


In Pushkar, we watched a ceremony in an ancient temple dedicated to the Hindu creator-god Brahma, and we walked to the sacred Pushkar Lake for a blessing from a Hindu priest, which included chanting, sprinkling of holy water from the lake, and smearing our foreheads with a mixture of spices, rice, and sugar.  During the blessing we witnessed another of India’s extremes when the priest interrupted the centuries-old ritual to answer an incoming call on his cell phone.



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Last modified on Friday, 24 October 2014

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