Life in a Giant Sandcastle
Life in a giant sandcastle, wouldn’t that be amazing?
Well, I alluded to the Jaisalmer fort (the giant sandcastle) in both my advice about camel trekking and then my own personal story of camel trekking, and then talked in great length about this ancient fortress in the hazards of being a small town traveler… but this time I thought I’d give a little insight what it’s like to be in this giant sandcastle for a month.
You see, I thought I was coming into this town for a couple of days, but that was almost a traveler’s lifetime ago now. When my friends in town first asked me to stay for Christmas I scoffed at the idea, “that’s 20 days away… too long to stay in a small town”
However, it’s pretty clear now that I will be spending Christmas here, so the obvious question pops up, ‘what changed?’
In a way you could say that this town just sort of grew on me, but it’s not really that. I mean I really did like Jaisalmer from the get-go and if anything, I would say that the longer I stay here the more I itch for water, mountains, or jungle.
But then I look around…
One of the occupational hazards of the travel lifestyle is that very few things ever seem new and fresh anymore. Each country is new in a way, but you can normally relate it to something else, somewhere, sometime. In fact, it’s really one of the challenges for any long-term traveler, trying to keep a fresh perspective and childlike wonder.
And I look around…
This place is just chalked full of ways to make you feel like a child again. I mean first of all, I’m living in what amounts to a giant sandcastle, and really what kid doesn’t want to do that? Everywhere you go has an amazing sight, every restaurant is on a rooftop, every house a work of art. You can just wander around the fort, without ever getting lost, no worries in the world and go from rooftop to rooftop drinking lassis or even going in for a full Indian Thali here or there.
Wandering around the street you’re constantly walking around cows and dogs but even that has a small-town charm to it here. Due to the fact that the fort is basically enclosed, you keep passing the same dogs and cows… and really get to know them. I mean, you can even test your inner peace by slowly climbing onto one of the bulls and seeing if he stays calm. If you come into town I can show you where there’s a calf that thinks he’s a puppy because all of his friends are puppies… it’s priceless.
Then you have the locals. They all try to sell you something, like anywhere in India… but that’s got a different taste to it as well. I have met a few travelers now who have stuck around Jaisalmer for a couple of weeks at least, and each one has their own network of locals that they go and drink Chai with, eat with, and just sit around with…. there’s certainly no shortage of locals that just want to hang out… no strings attached.
There’s even an odd division inside the fort that dates back hundreds of years. On the eastern side of the fort, descended from the warrior cast, sunrises and what they call 100% non-vegetarian or ‘everything possible’ (just don’t ask about the cows). On the western side, descended from the bramins, 100% vegetarian with great sunsets.
My typical day here now involves a little reading whilst enjoying my morning coffee on the rooftop of my guesthouse, looking north out over the desert as the city gets going, then practicing some poi for exercise. When I do finally leave my guest house, I wander down the street to drop in and see what my friend Amie is up to, (though she’s normally out working with the locals outside the fort) stop for a little chat and grab a chai with Khan at the restaurant before wandering down to go write in the warrior side of town. There, I take a little lassi whilst sitting out over a suspended balcony and write away for a couple of hours. Finally wandering back to find Amie for sunset yoga and we go for a hindi class.
From time to time we’re invited out to dine with the Bhopa and it’s incredibly refreshing to see how people that live with so little can still have such large smiles on their faces.
Ultimately, I weave through the cows on the way home to come back and work a bit on my site.
As travelers we sometimes get so caught up on getting to the next location that we never really settle in and get to know anywhere. Looking out over the old sandstone walls of this ancient fortress, you can’t help but think that this quieter life, this life away from the hustle and the hassle (especially in India) holds many merits that we seem to overlook on our journey towards ‘advancement’ and technological development.
There are definitely some downsides, don’t get me wrong… and in many ways you wonder just how backwards people can be… and honestly, if it weren’t for the great friendship I’ve found out here, I’m not so sure that I could handle it for this long… but that’s a whole different story.
Yes… you could say that life in a giant sandcastle is everything that you would dream it to be… in fact, check out what it was like coming back to the giant sandcastle after leaving to go on a camel trek for a couple of days.
So maybe you don’t live in a giant sandcastle, but that certainly doesn’t mean that you don’t look at the world with childlike wonder, I’d love to hear about some of the things that have dropped your jaw and piqued your intrigue and curiosity in the comment box below.