Wednesday, 10 February 2016

The Great Gujarat Road Odyssey - Whiff of Colourful Pushkar

Day 2

You are late by a few days to catch the Annual Pushkar Camel Fair. But it is okay. On a nice sunny January morning, you are happy that you have the town almost to yourself. It is such a bummer when they do not allow cameras inside. Anyway, the Brahm Temple is few yards away from the hotel. You come back, have darshan at one of the most well known and very few temples dedicated to Lord Brahm, the Creator.
Pushkar - a religious touristy town you can actually fall in love with

Picking up the camera and bag you stroll towards the Pushkar Lake for some street photography. The lake thankfully is full of water and the area is generally clean considering. With your traveller look and cameras the priests around the ghats do not bug you and largely leave you alone. Notices say photography is not allowed on the ghats around the lake but you intend to take your chances. There are few people at this hour but all kinds of animals and birds are out in full force enjoying the fresh chilly morning.

Obeisance to The Creator

You realise how small you are and bow your head to the Creator in reverance

Pushkar - Meditation

Pushkar Sarovar: There is something serene and tranquil about the waters that all you can do is bow your head to the Creator in reverence

A walk around the serene waters of Pushkar Lake is a rewarding morning experience
Pigeons do their thing in the air and on the water. A dog lets you play with her puppies but then goes ballistic after a dude almost biting him. On your way back you stay clear of her. There are cows everywhere. This is only the beginning. All across Gujarat all you will see are cows – on the roads, in Gir forest, in the Rann of Kutch. And then there are the monkeys. These are the more gentle langur types. The rhesus monkeys are the ones that terrify you – thankfully the langurs are the turf leaders here. They seem to be everywhere but don’t bother the pilgrims keeping their feuds among themselves. Some monkeys gaze reflectively over the waters while others feast on grain offered by devotees trying to cleanse their lives.

Wondering and Pondering at Pushkar Sarovar
Okay kids you can play with this goofy guy while I go bite the other dude
Drink Up - Everybody gets thirsty
As you circle the lake, the names of ghats keep changing. With passing minutes more devotees are making their way to the lake from the bazaar lanes. A few intrepid ones take dips in the cold water. Some groups of people have already started the rituals in memory of their ancestors as the priests chant away. You are always surprised to see the faith in people. It could be frozen waters, temples high up on hills, or peak of summers; people of all ages surrender themselves to their beliefs as they get busy appeasing the Almighty.

Can't believe she dressed me in pink and a pink bow too - somebody rescue me - in the bazaar of Pushkar
The walk in the alleys of Pushkar bazaar as it arcs around the ghats of the lake is a psychedelic trip 

It is time to explore the bazaar which you have read so much about. The bazaar largely runs east to west on the northern periphery of Pushkar Lake. It is early and shopkeepers are slowly raising their shutters. The bazaar grows colourful and eclectic every minute. The shops sell clothes and accessories with psychedelic and ethnic tones. There are healing centres and restaurants offering menus that caters to all international travellers.  

Pushkar - Hebrew Signs and taking pick of your international cuisine

Pushkar is a popular destination for foreigners, especially Israeli kids who come to India for their R&R after their mandatory two years in army. You met several tourists during the trek to Valley of Flowers in Uttarakhand. After Pushkar they usually disperse to Goa for some sun and sand or to Manali for some Himalayas. Here in the bazaar you find signs and menu in Hebrew.

Mr Ashok Tak - The Camel Man of Pushkar. Yes he gifted me the little camel you see in his hands!
Hilarious compilation of idioms on Camels
Another shutter opens. The owner hangs a transistor radio on the door. The station is playing Dev Anand's old mellifluous songs. You get reeled in. This is Mr Ashok Tak Pushkar who is famous as the Camel Decorator. His mission is to revive the dying art of camel decoration. Now he participates in different festivals in Rajasthan and Gujarat displaying his decked up Camel winning several awards including Lifetime Achievement Award in the process. He had participated in the just concluded Bikaner Festival and invites you to the Jaisalmer Festival in February. "Sure," you say!

Everyone needs healing
You can trace your family tree here
Pushkar is all about seeing and hearing and experiencing

The good old havelis lining the bazaar streets complete the marvellous vibe
The walk in the alleys of Pushkar bazaar as it arcs around the ghats of the lake is a psychedelic trip. Signboards in Hebrew, dreadlocked foreigners riding Bullets, cows chewing their cud nonchalantly. There is something laid-back, transcendental vibe about the town. And then there is this low hum that never becomes loud or dies out - it is as if this incessant chant is playing in your mind.  

Pushkar is the perfect combo of oriental exotica, colourful Rajasthan, and the small town charm. Next time you would like to come during the Camel Fair that is held on the sand dunes just outside the town. You will actually love to spend a couple of days here doing the touristy things. This bewitching laid-back and languid vibe will certainly bring you back here soon! Pushkar needs to be experienced and felt over and over again.

Bye Pushkar!

Snaking across Nag Pahari on the way to Ajmer
Operation Clean-up at Anasagar Lake in Ajmer - yes it is surprising to see most water bodies clean!
Getting new shoes in Ajmer
You leave Pushkar behind on your way to Ajmer through the ghati road. Expectedly the road runs through the Aravallis offering some thrill before the road levels out into the Ajmer city as you find yourself driving around the Anasagar Lake. You need some more directions before you emerge out on NH8 on your way to Beawar about 70 kms away.   

NH14 is a beauty - unspoilt and uncrowded

First sign of Palanpur
The road from Beawar to Sirohi and then to Mount Abu becomes even better. Driving on the smooth blacktop is pleasure. You make good progress stopping intermittently for the various toll booths. Oh yes, the toll bill is racking up. Around Sirohi you see the same rock formations that you saw yesterday in Viratnagar with smooth rounded bowl like depressions. You still cannot figure out what happened in these two places.

Now trucks are getting pimped up with some fancy alloys
Whatever that means

Following the Marwar Express
For the second day in row you are treated to another mesmerizing sunset. The red ball of fire is sinking into the road just beyond. The sunset starts from the right on the road and few kms down settles right on the horizon hovering over the road. You pull over like you did yesterday. You need to take time out to savour these moments.

Sunset on the highway - going towards Abu Road

There is something about sunsets on the road. It is both euphoric and melancholic. The sense of freedom, the open road, the possibilities are all elating. But when you see the cows and birds and people returning to the familiarity and warmth of their homes, the thought does appear somewhere if all this travelling has some meaning. The temptation to hear a familiar voice on the phone is overpowering. But again, thankfully, the thoughts are fleeting. You have to get somewhere. The sun will come up tomorrow bringing in the promise of another sunny day and wonderment of new sights. 

The Magical Twilight Moments
As the skies darken, the mood on the road and inside your head goes a little quite. It is like nature asking the world to reflect on the day. You seem to withdraw in a warm and glowing cocoon. The moment is about gratitude and taking stock. The mind and even the road seem to float on these twilight magical moments.  

You don’t even realise that you have entered Gujarat as you get pulled over at the check post. Seeing the Gujarat cops confirms the entry. They go through your stuff and then let you go. This will be the first of three police checks of your vehicle in Gujarat.

Palanpur is short distance away. The Gujarat Odyssey begins tomorrow – after two mesmerizing sunsets, tomorrow you hope to catch the sunrise!

Day’s Stats
  • Route Covered: Pushkar – Ajmer – Beawar – Sirohi – Abu Road – Palanpur (Gujarat)
  • Distance covered: 418 kms
  • Total Distance Covered so far: 892 kms
  • Route taken: Pushkar to Ajmer through the Ghati Road, driving through the centre of the Ajmer city, then NH 8 to Beawar. From Beawar take NH14 to Pali, Sirohi, Abu Road and Palanpur
  • Places seen – Pushkar Lake and Bazaar, Lake Anasagar in Ajmer

Travel Tips
  • You can only carry your mobile phone inside Brahma Temple – no cameras or bags allowed
  • Notices indicate that you can’t do photography at the ghats around the Pushkar Lake – take your chances
  • Pushkar is full of hotels. The bazaar area has lots of budget options
  • Everything is walkable in the town
  • If you feel like doing a climb, Gayatri Temple overlooking the town beckons

Mr Ashok Tak - The Camel Man of Pushkar
  • The store in Pushkar is called - Collector's Paradise
  • Contact Number - 9461276668

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  1. Excitment is building as if we are reading a book, waiting for Day 3

    1. Hi Simar, thanks for reading!

      I hope you will enjoy the remaining days of this incredible roadtrip.

      As of now Day 3 is published and am working on Day 4!