Total Pageviews

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

My wonderful sleeper-bus from Jodhpur to Jaisalmer

Impressions of India: 14
I’m currently travelling for 3 months in India, through Goa, Kerala and Rajasthan, with a pretty hot and hectic schedule of boutique hotel reviews. The galleries below are my online photojournalist diary of scenes caught, people met and things found along the way. I hope you enjoy the journey as much as I did and am still.

Please do take a moment to log and/or e-mail me your reactions and comments - knowing that lots of you are reading and enjoying is adding great fuel to my fire!

We touched down in Jodhpur to warnings from the pilot that 'no photography of any kind is allowed in any Indian airports - and particularly not Jodhpur'. Something to do with the state of heightened tensions between India and Pakistan, and there were a fair amount of military personnel and carriers in evidence both inside and outside the airport too. So I was good and put my camera away. 

After a silly argument with the boss of the airport tuk tuk stand (who was claiming it wasn't allowed for 2 tourists, myself and a freshly-arrived French girl, to share the same one into town, as if!) I marched off to find my own freelance one from the road outside. A minute or 2 later, young Raas came to find me and, bless him, almost before I knew it, had deposited me safely on one of the hourly sleeper-buses to Jaisalmer which I didn't even know existed. At an 'Indian' rather than 'tourist' price too. This is his young-buck vehicle, tellingly decorated.

Looking down through the window of my miraculous sleeper berth, in the few minutes before we set off. It's the traditional norm for sari-clad women in Rajasthan to cover their faces, for both modesty and to protect their faces from the fierce northern sun.
Once safely ensconced in my mattressed cubby-hole, complete with aisle-facing sliding glass panels which made me and my luggage feel very secure, I managed to catch up on some much-needed sleep. When I emerged an hour or so later for one of the regular '10 minute' pit stops that felt more like a swift 3 or 4, I quickly became the focus of amused interest from the clutch of men, both young and old, hanging out with the driver at the front of the bus,
Particularly after I'd managed to inadvertently lock myself out of my bunk (by slamming the glass panel shut as I climbed down, which made the little hook latch fall into its slot). In the few seconds that I was wondering if this was going to create a serious problem, this young lad from the front of the bus had climbed up the outside, reached through the (luckily still open) window and released the catch. But all the passengers found it hilarious anyway.
There were at least 8 men perched by the windscreen and around the driver, debating topics and laughing together. 
The bus was pretty full and the driver cheerfully ensured it stayed that way by tootling his musical horn loud and long as we passed through every busy area, and stopping swiftly to drop off or pick up passengers as the need arose.

Another brother and sister, travelling alone together and sitting just below and opposite my bunk, 
and the 2 lads sharing the bunk above them. 
When I was invited to come and join the men at the front (as a Western, asexually-dressed smoker travelling alone I quite often get accorded the status of 'honorary male'), they all seemed to be having so much fun that I couldn't resist. So I closed my glass panel again, more carefully this time, and moved forward to sit with them. 
The Health and Safety police definitely haven't arrived in India yet - as witnessed by all the skipping over electrified train tracks, motorbike-riding without helmets, and hanging out of fast-moving train and bus doors.
Now I had a chance to take eye-level portraits of the sister and brother, 
and of lots of the other front end passengers too. 
I discovered very quickly, on this bus, that there's a beautiful, honeyed quality to the light in Rajasthan - maybe it's all those desert sands?
When I bent one knee and rested a foot on the windowscreen lintel I was quickly, though politely, asked to remove it as it was seen as disrespectful to this little bus-shrine also resting there. 
Don't be fooled by the grim expression on the bus driver's face, below. Known as 'Om', he was the biggest joker in the pack, though with a very dry sense of humour. At one point he asked me to talk to his wife and called her on his mobile so that I could, and when she heard my English she went off into peals of high-pitched laughter, which made him chuckle contentedly. 
And this last one is possibly my favourite of the bunch. What a lovely light, what a wonderful subject. 

Posts still to come before we're up-to-date: 

One musical, 1 contemporary, 1 suddenly-abandonned, and 2 Stone Age-style villages in the Thar Desert
Magical Jaisalmer Fort


  1. Great pics babe, a little tast of life on the bus from the comfort of my arm chair! xxx

  2. cathy hi! looks like you are having an amazing time. these really are fabulous photos. sorry i hadn't commented before. in one browser your blog seemed to freeze it but all good now. any of these will be great for the exhibition...

  3. Thanks Jonny, I am indeed & that's great to hear!

  4. Indeed bella, your best work yet. The portraits of these incredible characters that you are meeting, are just wonderful.

  5. What an interesting bunch. I wish it was so much fun travelling on the Central Line in the mornings! We certainly have something to learn.

  6. Anna said....

    There are some lovely photos here Cathy. I love colour, light and shade as you know and therefore the sunsets feel particularly striking to me. They suggest a very serenely peaceful, warm hearted spiritual India. There are some lovely photos in contrast demonstrating the hustle and bustle and you do feel very sympathetic towards many of these suffering trying to put on a brave face. Similarly, the truly fascinating facial expressions for me, were the ones that really showed their souls through their eyes. You tend to see these within more impoverish countries, whereas the richer people seemingly tend to mask their feelings. I thought this was a very interesting point which you captured very well! Good Luck with it all! xxxx

  7. Hiya, where do you get those sleeper buses from in Jodhpur to Jaisalmer? Do you know if they also go to Udaipur? I will be in Jodhpur in April. Thanks and nice portraits :-)