A Grunge Backpackers Dream

After a great stay in Udaipur, we were up early to catch a 6 hour train to Ajmer and then hopped in cars for the 30 minute drive out to the small(ish) town of Pushkar. There are only about 5000 residents of downtown Pushkar, however it is a major pilgrimage location for people of the Hindu faith, as it is the location of the only temple in the world to Brahma, the Hindu god of creation. There is also a holy lake here that people come to bathe in before going to Brahma’s temple. It is the location of the largest animal gathering in the world, a camel fair. Luckily, we missed the main pilgrimage and fair times, however there were still a lot of people (by our definition) in town and walking the streets. I can’t imagine this place during the camel fair or when there are 5000+ people a day bathing and visiting the temple.

While most Indians are vegetarian, and a lot of the restaurants we have been to and seen only serve vegetarian food, Pushkar takes it a step further. There is no meat or eggs available anywhere in town, and there is no alcohol either.

Pushkar is a very cheap destination however, as the restaurants have been the cheapest we have been to (the food is still good though!) and apparently many of the hotels and guest houses are also very cheap. This brings in the budget backpacking crowd, and we saw quite the interesting cast of characters in town on our first night. Our tour group quickly coined the phrase “full Pushkar”, as in “you never go full Pushkar”, referring to the many travelers of all ages that we saw in quite grungy clothes, many with elaborate dreads, some with bare feet in the cow manure filled streets, and most in need of a shower. While we have developed a great appreciation for the grunge and extreme budget backpackers, these guys and gals are taking it to a whole new level. There is never a reason to go “full Pushkar.”

Let’s back up a little though: the train ride from Udaipur to Ajmer was very uneventful and since we had real seats (it wasn’t a sleeper car) it was actually fairly comfortable. On arriving in Ajmer most of the train disembarked though, and we entered the busiest train station we have been in yet. It took some boxing out to get a spot in line to get up the stairs and across to the exit, and we got a fun show of a guy yelling at a woman that was sitting on the stairs obstructing the flow of traffic. I wouldn’t have minded him telling them they picked a terrible spot to sit, except that he yelled for so long he held up progress way more than the people sitting there. We definitely felt like this was a more “normal” Indian train station experience, as it was quite hectic and there was zero personal space.

 Our passenger train before it filled up!

Our passenger train before it filled up!

After exiting the station, we piled into a few cars and took the ~30 minute drive to Pushkar and were dropped at the hotel. We had a delicious lunch and took a little nap, then our group went for a walk into town and checked out Brahma’s temple. After the temple, we wandered about the markets (Pushkar sells mostly cheap imitation goods and souvenir trinkets) and then had dinner at a restaurant overlooking the lake with a good view of the sunset.

 Sunset (and cows) over the holy lake in Pushkar

Sunset (and cows) over the holy lake in Pushkar

After a great dinner everyone was pretty tired and we called it a night early. This was a good plan though, as most of our group and our guide were up and out of the hotel at 0530 to go hike up a nearby mountain where there is a temple, and to watch the sunrise. It turned out to be a beautiful morning, and we had a great breakfast on the way back through town. And by great breakfast, I mean sugar, sugar, and more sugar. After years of eggs or some sort of protein for breakfast and little carbs in the morning, this is the time I struggle most with the vegetarian diet. Don’t get me wrong, the yogurt, fruit, and granola plus a Nutella and banana crepe were delicious and filling, but it doesn’t really start my day out right. I guess I could’ve just gotten a fruit bowl or some potatoes, but where is the fun in that?

 Sunrise over Pushkar 

Sunrise over Pushkar 

After breakfast, we grabbed an Indian flag patch from one of the little shops (the one souvenir we have tried to get in every country is a patch) and headed back to the hotel to relax. The following day was off to our next city!

Other than the temples and the tourist market, there isn’t much to Pushkar so we were glad we only spent a day and a half there. After Udaipur, which has been our favorite place so far in India, Pushkar was a little disappointing, although it was great to be in a smaller town for a bit.

-Jeff