I was pretty cold during the night, but slept pretty well.
Until 6am when the sun was shining brightly right into my eyes. I’ve never slept outside before! We had breakfast before setting off across the desert again. Most of the camels had already gone home last night.
So this time, we’re going on a camel cart! There were 5 of us on the back of each cart, rolling along slowly. Pretty cool!
After about half an hour, we arrived at a road and transferred into jeeps for the almost-hour ride back.
It was 10.30am by the time we arrived back at our luxurious hotel!
For lunch I tried some gatta. It’s a local dish from Bikaner. I had no idea what I was ordering. But it was so good! It was like falafel in a red curry sauce. Really tasty.
I was also rather excited when I saw paratha on the menu. Paratha is what they call roti in Singapore (my favourite Malay pancake type thing). So I was terribly disappointed when it turns out that paratha here is basically a folded chipati. So it turns out they don’t do Malay style roti here then 😦
And time to explore the city! Bikaner city was founded in 1488 by Rao Bika, a son of Rao Jodha, Jodhpur’s founder. The main highlight of the city – the fort!
This walled complex is unusual in that its not built on a hill. It’s just on flat land. From the outside its really pretty, lots of mini domes and turrets. Inside its even better. We wandered courtyard to courtyard, each one was a totally different style and colour!
The same for the room decorations – a blue cloud room, red royal room and golden yellow walls. There were various fancy chairs and beds behind glass. There are so many rooms and floors and courtyards its all like a maze. Everywhere there were arches, decorated staircases and doors, all so pretty.
The view from the roof across the city was really nice. Right at the end was rooms full of swords, guns and a real airplane! We had a guide and he didn’t half go on. For 2.5 hours. I was so bored. So was everyone else. I was so glad to leave.
A quick 10 minute rest at the hotel and off in taxis to the Karni Mata Temple. It’s 35km away, an hours drive.
This temple is a pilgrimage site for many. And from the outside its rather like a theme park. Lit up with coloured tube lights and surrounded by stalls selling icecream, candy floss and a myriad of souvenirs – including coloured string that its apparently good luck to rub on temples!
And why is the temple famous?
For its rats.
That’s probably not the right word for these worshiped creatures. But there are thousands.
The holy rats of Karni Mata are considered to be incarnactions of poets. I was a bit nervous going in, but actually they were a lot smaller that I was imagining.
And really it wasn’t all that bad! Given how much food and care is taken of the rats, I thought they would be in better condition, but they were quite scruffy. But actually quite cute. The rats were snacking, sleeping and running around. Many were balancing carefully around large bowls of milk.
Others sitting in bowls of rice.
Some sleeping in the curves of gates and some dead squashed on the floor. They were just everywhere.
To enter the temple you have to leave your shoes outside, so you are barefoot. Also no leather is allowed into the temple.
The floor felt really dirty – loads of grains everywhere that people are throwing as rat food. And probably loads of rat poo and wee too. It was crowded.
We were the only tourists there and as usual were quite a spectacle. People were queuing (read pushing) forwards to see the statue of a god in the centre of the small temple. Around the edge was a corridor running around the god statue. There were small little rooms leading off from around the centre point. And the rats were everywhere. Loads of people were sat in groups around the temple in various places. Not sure I would fancy sitting around!
It’s considered auspicious for a rat to run over your feet. Luckily I didn’t get to try that experience! But I did spot a white rat! Seeing a white rat is considered very lucky and you get to make a wish! Well it was an experience!
The hour drive back in the dark was a bit scary. The usual day time chaos in the dark. Black cows wandering along the roads are not particularly visible and we nearly crashed into one! Just before getting back to the hotel, we stopped off at the local market to buy some snacks for tomorrows train. Despite wandering all around, all there was for sale was just fruit and vegetables.
The only fruits that are sensible to eat (ie peelable!) were oranges (25p for 3) and bananas (12p for 3). By the time we got back it was already 9pm and very much time for dinner! The hotel had made us a buffet dinner – chapati, lentil curry, pumpkin curry and potatoes. So far meals have all been very similar. But all the same it was tasty.