Monday, 22 February 2010


Adam Katz – a travel writer who’s been travelling for three years – wrote an article about loneliness when solo travelling and stated that:

"Oddly, the times that I feel the most lonely are in the most touristy cities. There are tons of people. Plenty of people speak English, but no one is excited to meet a tourist. The locals ignore you, or want to sell you something. The tourists are involved in their own activities and chat among their friends."

I can only agree with this statement as it was exactly how I felt in Pushkar. Pushkar is the Rajasthani beachless version of Palolem with tourists aplenty and the likes of mashed potato and pizza gracing the menus. I’d been warned in advance that the town, famous for its bathing ghats was missing a key ingredient: the lake. The monsoon rains last year had been very light and consequently, the lake had shriveled up into a small muddy puddle – a mere dribble of its former self.

Nonetheless, I was told that Pushkar was worth a visit, and in many ways it was. The pizzas were good and there were plenty of temples to take a look at. But equally, it was extremely lonely. To sit around at the street-side stalls brimming with tourists and for them to pay little attention to you in spite of your attempts to initiate conversation can be pretty hard going. I was also missing Mike terribly so all-in-all my time in Pushkar was not the happiest.

Added to this was a sleepless first night brought about by a bunch of Indian tourists in my hotel who insisted on having massive shouting conversations right outside my door for much of the night. Twice I got up to tell them to shut up to which their response was to knock on my door every time they walked passed. The following morning I told the manager that I was going to find somewhere else to stay and that I wouldn’t be paying for the sleepless night: I give him that, he said he understood completely and that that would be fine.

I left my bags behind whilst I headed down to the Honey Dew coffee shop to tuck into muesli and curd, banana lassi and Italian coffee. From there, it was a slightly depressing tour of dark and damp rooms before I found Comfort Holiday Home. This great little place was right in the centre of town and had a fantastic roof garden where one could escape the hustle and bustle and catch a few rays.

Having visited a couple of token temples and decided that the walk up a steep hill for panoramic views of the lake would be more trouble than it would be worth, I spent much of my time attempting to socialize with other tourists and then, when unsuccessful, migrating to one of the many internet cafes. Two days would have been the perfect amount of time in Pushkar but I had three days and the third dragged.

It was finally 8pm and time to get the bus to Ajmer where I’d then catch the train to Jaipur. The bus was packed with men, women, children and luggage – there were 8 men in the driver’s compartment alone and one man had to lean to one side every time the driver wanted to change gear. We set off in the dark up the steep hill that separates Pushkar and Ajmer, swerving to avoid those cars and motorbikes heading straight for us without lights.

After a half hour drive we finally arrived at Ajmer. I was ladened down with my backpacks and there were lots of women with babies and young children getting off the bus so I stood back and let them off first. In true Indian style, which lacks any attempt at chivalry, the man behind me started nudging me and then actually started telling me off for not pushing into the exit fray. Putting on my best English accent I responded with: “ Excuse me! There are ladies with children so it’s only polite that we let them off first isn’t it?” He grumbled away to himself but he wasn’t going to get past my rucksack so he had no choice but to endure enforced chivalry.

Opposite Ajmer station I tucked into spicy dahl and chapatti at a small street stall for all of 16 rupees (about 20p) before heading for my first class compartment on the train. First class is very different from the 2A or 3A tier classes: it consists of an enclosed compartment with four beds. Whilst it is definitely a comfortable way to travel, I preferred the 2A tier compartments which were open and had more people about. I was in luck as the gentleman I was sharing the carriage with was very pleasant and worked in the plastics and PVC industry; nonetheless, there was something a tad odd about sharing a compartment with just one other man. Fortunately, I only had a short train ride so I didn't actually sleep in the carriage.

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