The 34 hr Train Ride from Hell, that Led to One of My Favorite Places in India–Pushkar, Rajasthan, India

‘Pushkar’, from Hindi to English, translates to ‘flower in hand’, which is just a beautiful, heart warming description in itself of this magical place. And to think, we happened to find it by accident! It blows my mind every time I think about it, because India is HUGE and there are endless towns and villages. We had originally planned to go to Jaipur but we met a young man from the UK named Kieran, at the train station in Gokarna. Who we were sitting with on the 34 hour train ride up north that ended up being one of the most prominent memories I have from India, in the best and worst of ways. Funny how life works, huh?

I should start by saying usually on overnight trains in India, there are the benches you sit on during the day, that give you plenty of leg room as well as room to stretch, and then you climb up to your little cots you sleep on during the night (as they are above the benches). Well…..that’s what was supposed to happen, anyway. We, 3 english speakers, were seated next to a family that consisted of two married couples, with combined about 3-4 kids (it’s hard to remember when there were kids everywhere!), and a grandmother with a fierce stare. And they took it upon themselves to use up every square inch of those benches, folks. The benches to fold out into cots as well, but this meant which meant we were basically confined to the tiny bunks attached to the ceiling of the train, with about a foot or so of room to sit up….I’ll be honest, these were probably some of the few unpleasant people I encountered, but looking back, I don’t care. Because what was important was that we met Kieran, and had we not met him we would’ve gotten off at Jaipur instead of continuing with him on the train for another 2 hours and stumbling across by far one of my top 2 places I loved the most in India…….Pushkar.

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We found ourselves in a small hotel with a pool and a tv (which we hadn’t watched in over a month….it’s shocking we survived, I know!) in the middle of all these beautiful buildings, lined with some of the most gorgeous terraces I’ve ever seen, with a huge, holy Lake in the middle by the Brahman Temple, which we went to visit to do Poojah rituals, a worship almost. Something that made me smile quite a bit was that the occasional Poojah we would do at a temple, they would tie string around our wrists with knots to really make the homage more concrete, I would always be asked “Are you married?” ‘No.’ And that’s what they basically made my prayer about, me finding a husband. (Cue eye roll) I would be told I’d be married the next time I returned to India…doubtful but I appreciated the thought, I suppose. I can’t help but chuckle .

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There was one day in particular I had there that was just truly beautiful in my opinion. That was the day we rode a camel at sunset in Pushkar Desert, that was SUCH an unforgettable experience. We met these kids who had a camel to do this type of thing, the camel was a racing champion, they said, by the name of Romeo Johnson, he was very sweet, rather enjoyed sunsets it seemed and was lots of fun. The boys that walked us through the desert thought we would enjoy riding him as he ran, so they gave him the cue and when I tell you I’ve never laughed so hard in my life, that was no exaggeration. I think camel’s are the just best but the way they run cracks me up beyond belief. Unfortunately that’s more footage that is on another GoPro instead of mine. But what I do have I will always cherish.

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Romeo Johnson, Camel Racing Champion
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After the camel ride into the sunset was over, we walked to the market and shops which i was obsessed with there in Pushkar. Everything they had was gorgeous, and you better believe I took one look around and said ‘Okay…this is where I have to do all my shopping.’ I stocked up on shoes, clothes, jewelry, I sent pictures of all that I got to my friend and she even went through the trouble of depositing cash into my bank account so that I could shop for her, too! Needless to say, she reaped just as many benefits as I did, even from halfway around the world. As we walked through the market still on a small buzz from the exciting ride, we saw a fancy store that came complete with AC and complimentary chai, and when we walked inside, we saw they were traditional garments, for both men and women, and lots of them. They even had wedding garments that were just absolutely stunning, but it seemed they specialized in Sarees, which I think are just mesmerizing. There was a charming young man who worked there, who like a lot of people there, thought I, myself, was Indian, and would always be surprised when I said I wasn’t. It always made me smile. He gave us a few cups of complimentary chai as I went through all these colorful choices, searching for ones I was dying to try on. And then i found it…

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From Poojahs, to camel rides into the desert sunset and saree fittings, Pushkar had me absolutely smitten. Small walks to the small pizza place down the street from our hotel still vividly replay in my memory, as occasionally we would find pizza we really liked (we weren’t always successful) and would milk it, because we’re pizza fiends. It was a short 5 days and would be more than happy to return, for even longer next time. But those couple days were just as pleasant as could be, Indian hospitality never ceases to amaze me….to this day. We packed our stuff and got ready to go to Agra, to see the Taj Mahal….

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