The desert enraptures me. The low lying hills fading to the horizon, sand-tinted mud dwellings beside hand-thatched cylindrical grass huts, are almost camouflaged were it not for the handsome villagers in enormous fluoro turbans and gold pirate earrings and the ladies in neon twinkling saris. Some are sitting in neat little courtyards tending their fires as we steal by. At night we are spell bound by the Milky Way and strange un-earthly noises echoing through the darkness.
Rajasthan is laden with hidden palaces, forts and ruins. Some have been restored to their former glory like the Samode Palace, others are now museums and when traipsing the shiny halls of the Amber Fort or exploring the alcoves of the Wind Palace, I imagine the countless stories these walls must hold.
Paloma loves the tiny shuttered ‘eye of the camel’ doors, perfect size for a girl her age. And there are windows here small enough for spying on lovers and friends. Inspiration is found in every painted wall, each manicured geometrical garden, every old iron lock and handcrafted surface.
The rusty white Ambassador taxis of Rajasthan look a little like our 1954 Chrysler Plymouth back in Sydney that we log ago named ‘Coco’. It’s no surprise then Paloma calls out ‘Coco!’ at the top of her voice whenever she sees one pass. Much to her joy, we take our very own Indian ‘Coco’ bumping along the dusty roads towards Pushkar. Even in the deserts of this country, boredom is never an option. There’s always some theatre going on outside the window, and a game of eye-spy can last forever.
Sitting beside placid waters of Pushkar Lake sipping fresh lime soda, we watch pilgrims bathe and pray. Dreadlocked travelers stumble past, high on bhang lassis. Magicians and sadhus wander by too, and cows chew their cud as the sun sets on this wonderful little town that still evokes the vibe of the hippie trail. Patchwork quilts, embroideries and fur from Kashmir, jewellery from the Kutch and Raj antiques are all rather enticing, adding to the allure.
Pushkar certainly is a place one can get lost in for days and we soak it up. As for Paloma, India is a child’s dream, a riot of colour and noise, not to mention the menagerie of animals climbing the walls, traipsing through the alleys or sleeping smack bang in the middle of main roads. The camels of our caravan through the surrounding desert are resplendent in beaded fringe, carpets, bells and humps. And we see not a soul but for the turbaned musicians who sing for us alone in the dunes.