Monday, November 26, 2007

Pushkar or Bust!

Our first Indian vacation started out like any other, with my alarm getting me up 2 hours after I went to bed. I then ran around like a mad woman trying to do the 137 little things that I left for myself to do right before we left. Luckily, Mr. Smith is a champion PB&J maker and so we were only 20 minutes late leaving, which is a family best.

10 hours, 9PB&J's, 2 boxes of cookies, 1 pit stop and 1 episode of car sickness later we arrived at the Royal Desert Camp. At this point I am bound by marital contract to inform you that Mr. Smith was correct when he told our driver that the camp was to the right. The arrow on the sign, the Indians in town, our usually trusty driver and I were all very, very wrong when we all said that we should go left. We all owe Mr. Smith an apology for ever doubting him. He is great. Now let's move on.

I have to admit that the camp was an impressive sight. All of the desert shrubbery had been removed and tons of soft sand had been trucked in and spread around. I can't even imagine how much sand this would require. The common area consisted of 3 restaurants, 3 registration offices, 1 gift shop and a large open area for the nightly entertainment. All of this, set up in tents! Then came the guest tents. We estimated that there were just over 350 tents set up for guests. But these were not just regular tents my friend. Oh no. These had electricity and plumbing. My daughter, Book Lover, called them Hotents. No, there were no ho's in sight (shame on you!) but because they were tents that look like hotel rooms, get it? Hotents.

The first night we were entertained by a dancer/contortionist, a fire eater and a puppet show. It was a good way to end a day of travel. The next day was our day at the festival, and what a day it was. The festival was in town so we took a camel drawn cart in from the camp. That was as close as most of my family came to riding a camel. When it came down to it, only Mr. Smith, Number One Son and Star On Stage were brave enough to try. The rest of us enjoyed the cart.

The festival itself was intense. The crowd was overwhelming and aggressive, everything was for sale and every price was negotiable. As soon as we stepped off the cart we were rushed by a small crowd of vendors eager to be the first ones to dip into our vacation money. Two particularly tricky girls engaged two of my kids, Book Lover and Dennis The Menace, in a harmless conversation while shaking their hands. Before we had regrouped these two girls had flipped their grip and decorated my kid's palms with henna, then informed me that I now owed them Rs. 500 each. Uh...I don't think so. After arguing I agreed to give each of them Rs.50 just to get them to leave. Wrong choice. The sight of me pulling out my purse sent every vendor in a 50 ft. radius into a feeding frenzy. At this point I grabbed my kid's hands and started plowing through the crowd yelling, "No thank you, no thank you, no! One of the women followed us while yelling that I had not paid her, that I had given the money to the wrong person. Such a huge lie. I couldn't believe that this woman was looking right at me saying something that we both knew was a complete and total lie! Unfortunately taking a stand was in direct conflict with the "flight" instinct that had taken control, so I threw a second Rs. 50 at her and ran. Luckily the cavalry (in the form of Mr. Smith) arrived at that point and we were rescued. The rest of the morning was spent wondering through the crowds and just looking at everything. By the time 1 o'clock rolled around we were exhausted so we headed back to camp. Our final tally was: one strangers hand in Book Lover's pocket, 2 empty plastic bags stolen from a pocket in my backpack (ha ha!), Rs. 100 swiped from Number One Son's pocket and a crazy fun morning.

The rest of the day was spent playing in the sand and watching puppet shows put on by my kids. All in all a good vacation. Short and sweet. As usual Mr. Smith took some amazing pictures, I am just going to pick a few and post them without explanation. You might notice that there are none of the day spent in town. Sorry, but there was no way we were stopping to pull out a camera in that place!


suburbancorrespondent said...

Looks like an 8-passenger van - how do you all fit?

And I cannot tell you how much I would have hated that festival experience.

Toni said...

Hey, I saw Pringles in that sack! I thought you'd be eating dried figs or something like that.

I wonder if we could get some of those "hotents" for our camping experiences. I think I would go camping more than once every five years if I had one of those.

Loved the pictures of the girls running, each with their tongue poking out.

That looks like it will turn out to be a favorite family memory. What an experience!

Aunt Carol said...

Does the "hotent" allow you to ask for extra pillows??? I would need more than one. It does look like a great place for "camping".

Mrs. Smith said...

S.C. - It is an 8 passenger van. Luckily all 9 of us only have to squish in once a week. Since that is the one day of the week that our driver has the day off and Mr. Smith braves the road, it isn't so bad. For this trip we farmed out two kids to a group from our church that was going to the same place. I know that in the US lap sitting (even for one) is strictly taboo, but in India it is common. In fact we often see families of four or five on a motorcycle. I swear it is true.
Toni - There is one store near us that carries imported goods. Once in a while I can justify $7 for a jar of peanut butter. Road trips are one of those times. The tongue picture? My favorite of the whole trip.
Carol - Not just extra pillows, but nice ones. In fact they brought us two extra beds. Yeah, I think I would camp like this more often.

Mr. Smith said...
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Alisa said...

I love this story! It reminds me of when I went to Mexico at age 18 with a friend (what was my mother thinking?) and the vendors were all over us. I love the hotents, too. They look nice! Good name, too!

Hunnydu72 said...

Wow! Who are all those kids? Huh...they look like my itty-bitty, little Smiths, but---they're huge! I mean, enormous, and tall--very tall! Holy cow! Are those my Smith-lings? I let you all out of my sight and the kids get bigger?

Sheesh! Otherwise, everyone looks healthy, and happy, and--like giants! Huge! Tall!! I guess with all the sacred cows ya'll have plenty of milk to drink to grow strong bones.

Paul said...

Awwww! The girls are adorable!!!