Things picked up a bit on the second half of our India adventure. We first made our way to the town of Bikaner which sits in the middle of the Thar Desert and is only 70 miles away from the Pakistan border.
Our first stop just outside Bikaner was the Karni Mata Temple. Karni Mata was a female Hindu sage. According to legend, when her nephew drowned in a pond, she pleaded with Yama, the god of death, to spare his life. Yama refused but eventually relented and said that all of Karni Mata’s relations would be reincarnated as rats. So, some 20,000 rats live and are revered in this temple. The holy rats are called kabbas. It is apparently good fortune when a rat scampers over your feet or when you eat food that has been nibbled on by the rats. The scampering was all the good fortune I could handle.
Our next stop in Bikaner was the Junagarh Fort, which was, by far, the best fort that we saw in India. This fort was not built on the top of a hill, but right in the middle of town with no view whatsoever. What made this fort interesting was that all of the relics – weapons, vehicles, rooms – were still intact and you could wander through the fort in its entirety to see everything. There were also very few people, which made it even better!
To end our evening in Bikaner, we took a camel ride. We had thought about doing an overnight adventure, where you ride camels to a camp, sleep in Swiss tents, and ride back out the next morning, but it was a bit chilly this time of year, so we went with just the dinner option. We rode camels for approximately an hour along a sandy road out to the camp. We were welcomed with hot towels and a shot of Indian rum, which RJ and Ty downed quickly. We listened to traditional Rajasthan folk music next to a bonfire as the sun set and a million stars appeared. After a fabulous dinner, we toured the camp and did some star gazing before hopping in a jeep to take us back to the hotel. It was a really fun night.
We spent New Year’s Eve in the small town of Mandawa. The town is most notable for its many havelis, one of which we stayed in. We walked through town a bit and had lunch at the fort-turned-hotel in the middle of town. The hotel put on a New Year’s Eve celebration show with singing and dancing, followed by dinner. The show was interesting for a while, but all songs started to sound the same. We also got a little burned out when people kept snapping pictures of us, like we were part of the entertainment. We ended up having a quick bite and let India ring in the new year without us.
I think we are all glad that we changed up our plan mid-trip. Kinda strange to say that we enjoyed the town with 20,000 rats the most, but that pretty much sums up our time in India.
Not any cuter drinking milk.
Ray and RJ in front of the fort.