Monday, May 22, 2006

Jodhpur - the beginning of the desert

Flying into Jodhpur all one could see below was a see of dark brown sand, interspersed with sparse settlements and the occasional cluster of green trees. Jodhpur is not actually the desert, but sits on the edge of the beginnings of the famous Thar desert of India. Kind of a no man's land between the moderate climes of eastern Rajasthan (the province/state that Jodhpur resides in) and the harsh western desert that borders Pakistan. Flying in kind of reminded me of flying into Las Vegas, where vast reaches of flat scrub land extend for miles before you reach the city.

Jodhpur is not a small town. More than 800,000 people reside in Jodhpur. Like almost all Indian airports, this one too was shared by the military. Soviet style fighter planes and helicopter gunships lay baking in the hot sun on the tarmac. We came in for a smooth landing, much to the relief of the other American passengers, and we taxied to a small 2 story white building with a single entrance. The ramp was thrown down.

"Is this the gate?", I asked Sam.

"No, this is the international airport of Jodhpur." He replied.

"No, I know this is the airport, but is this the gate? I don't see where the airport is."

"You don't understand. That building IS the airport".

This simple airport building, which was quite nice and appeared rather new, was THE international airport of Jodhpur. It had 1 main entrance out front, 1 "gate" to the tarmac, and 1 luggage carousel. Picking up luggage was easy, it was out of the plane and waiting for me by the time I walked into the building. In less than 60 seconds, we were outside and into the car. Hey! This is great, if only all airports were like this!

Travelling in the hot sun in Jodhpur I realized that Delhi was nothing compared to this. While in Delhi the temperature was at least 100 degrees it was a minimum of 115-120 degrees in Jodhpur. While I was pleasantly surprised at the number of thin green leafed trees in and around the city, anywhere there wasn't a tree planted was barren dirt and sand. The buildings, the ground, and the hills were all the color of rust, a deep reddish brown that seemed to reflect the heat back to you in ever greater waves.

Once again, honking was the preferred method of driving. But in Jodhpur we had to share the roads with camels, carts, bicycles, and pedestrians wandering the OPPOSITE direction of traffic in the middle of the road with total disregard for their own safety. Everyone drove too fast and too close together.

As in Delhi, trash was everywhere, only here it was much worse. Jodhpur is fast becoming an "industrial" city, although not the kind of industry you are thinking of, which I will explain later. Due to this, there is a lot of new construction going on and lots of open fields next to new developments. The fields and roads are often plagued by piles of trash left there by God knows who, and once again the desperately poor are living side by side with the rich and middle class. It is a clash of socio-economic levels, but apparently the locals simply accept it.

I had my first taste of Rajasthan Indian food and I must say it was some of the BEST Indian food I had ever tasted. Absolutely amazing. Spicy, full of flavor, and nothing like what I had eaten before in the states. They also often accompany their meals with a cucumber, onion, green pepper salad that was just delicious.

We eventually made it to the hotel and checked in with just enough time to throw down my bags before heading out to work.

To be continued.....

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