We just completed a long and sweaty train ride and arrived in Jaisalmer, a beautiful World Heritage town, crowned by an ancient fort, lying at the heart of the Thar desert (the Great Indian Desert) in Rajasthan, India.
Jaisalmer is also known as “The Golden City” since many houses and temples of the fort and the city below are built of finely sculptured yellowish sandstone.
We came here for a reason and that is to live for some time with a local tribe in the Thar desert, to really understand and feel the difficulties they are facing day in and day out by living deep in the desert.
It is night and so many people are approaching us, telling us to stay at their hotel. Tired and exhausted, we just choose one, get into the auto-rickshaw, enjoy the refreshing breeze and end up at a hotel outside the fort.
The next morning we actually change our hotel room and go to live in a guesthouse inside the fort, whose owner’s name is Mr. Pa. After exploring the fort for a while, we hire a motorbike and travel around the surrounding area to find a village where we can do our little project. Little did we know that it would be way more complicated than we thought it would be.
Just after leaving the city, around 20 minutes drive, there is a straight flat road ahead of us and to our right and left we see the endless desert. It must be around 40 C° and the sun is blazing hot. Desperate for a drink, we stop at a small stall and buy a refreshing cold water bottle as well as some cookies for the stray dogs which look at us with big lovely eyes. We want to ask the shopkeeper if he can suggest a village, but regardless of the fact that Hindi is the national language in India not everyone speaks it, so it is a little difficult to communicate.
After a 5 minute drive, we see that there is a small path on our right leading to a village. We take a chance and drive along it. The people see us coming and immediately run towards us. There are about 5-6 children from different age groups and one woman. The kids are very excited, surrounding our bike and jumping up and down. Initially, the situation is very happy but it changes fast – they ask for my silver rings and try to snatch them off my fingers. We begin to feel a little uncomfortable and, since anyway we can’t communicate with them, we decide to leave. As soon as we drive off though, their dog starts to get very angry and, although one child is holding him back tightly, he manages to break free and starts to chase us like crazy. Even though I love dogs, I start to get scared because he really seems out of control. So we just accelerate the bike as much as we can and somehow manage to escape. Back on the main road, the first thing I do is take off my jewellery and then our search continues.
We drive straight as far as the road takes us and after some time we see another village. In front of it, we see some goats and camels eating. I take off my camera and take some pictures as it looks very beautiful. Then with high hopes, we enter that village but it seems very deserted; nobody is around.
This time we drive for quite some time and are now really deep inside the desert. To our right again, we see a village and, when we enter, the people approach us immediately. A man tells us that this is a sensitive area as the road leads to the border of Pakistan and he asks us where we are heading. Suddenly more people come and begin to talk very loudly in a different language. Their tone is somewhat harsh and their body language suggests that they are certainly not very happy with our presence. Because the whole situation simply doesn’t feel good, and before being totally surrounded by people and stuck there, we leave. As we drive off, this time really feeling a little disappointed and hopeless, we return to Jaisalmer, to our guesthouse, while witnessing the most scenic and red setting sun behind us.
To be continued …