Having endured the madness of Delhi and Jaipur in the space of a few days, a well-deserved retreat into peaceful Pushkar, near the Thar desert in Rasjasthan, proved to be the perfect place for recuperation.
Jaipur to Pushkar
Rather than settle for a cramped bus to Pushkar, friends from the Zostel in Jaipur and I shared the fare for a large taxi to take us to Pushkar. At just over 600 rupees each, a cab took us door-to-door, escaping the need to get off at Ajmer and hail a taxi or tuktuk that would take us to Pushkar, a 20 km drive away.
The stress-free journey was the perfect start to my slow travels in Rajasthan.
Though the Zostel was located away from the centre, its location proved to be more desirable than first thought. Tucked away just less than a 1 km from the hustle and bustle of Pushkar, this low-key, friendly hostel boasted a large rooftop lounge area, its own colourful café, and an outdoor pool to waive off the desert heat. It was a reasonable living quarter to escape Pushkar’s mad crowds.
An alternative guide to Pushkar
Another plus of staying at the Zostel was the array of activities they organised for the guests. There were daily cooking classes and sunrise/sunset walking or cycling tours. For 300 rupees, a large group of us cramped ourselves in a tuktuk and headed for the hills.
Just after 4 pm, with plenty of time to catch the sunset, we made a quick trip to TOLFA, an animal sanctuary just 10 km from Pushkar. Started by an English woman, the animal hospital aims to look after the local animals (TOLFA stands for Tree of Life for Animals) – from dogs, goats and those cows you see dominating the roads. Though we treaded along the place carefully – for fear of contracting rabies (most people were not immunised pre-departure) – our group relaxed a little upon finding out that all animals within the vicinity have been vaccinated.
Stories of neglect and abuse were distressing, but the work TOLFA has done (and was doing when we were there: various surgeries!) is highly commendable.
Shortly after, we boarded our respective tuktuks and made our way to Aloo Baba’s temple. A man who left everything and devoted his life to eating potatoes (hence, “aloo”, the Hindi word for potatoes) and spirituality, Aloo Baba proved to be a very popular man amongst tourists and guests, alike. His sacred place was the perfect spot to chill-out, sip some chai (you need to bring milk), and smoke some if that’s your kind of thing.
A trek up to the hills to see the sunset, fuelled by fruits, was the perfect way to end a relaxed-yet-profound afternoon trip away from Pushkar. The party tuktuk, which blared back-to-back Bieber tracks and boasted bright LED lights, made the dark ride home a little more exciting.
A trip to Pushkar would not be complete without a visit to the world’s only Brahma temple, of course. However, a walk along the vast number of ghats gave me a better insight into the spiritual side of Pushkar. Along the way, I met a beautiful family who enthusiastically agreed to have their photo taken:
A few things to note: foreigners are not allowed to bathe in the ghats and some distance (shoeless, too) is needed from the holy Pushkar lake when exploring. You don’t need to bring a basket of offerings, either, though many vendors will tempt you into buying one.
And if you are looking to truly immerse yourself in Pushkar: look into pampering and doing some yoga. For 40 rupees, my eyebrows were threaded by a reputable Indian man. Tucked in the main bazaar area, the blue building housed years of experience and customer satisfaction. The photo below features the lovely Georgia from Glamorous Globetrotting – read her account of Pushkar here.
The quest for a decent (read: not overpriced or unreliable) yoga teacher/class proved to be exhausting. It took my friend Thea and I about 8 hours, until we stumbled upon a flyer for a class in Hotel Diamond. Becca, from Wales, recently completed her Yoga Teacher Training. For 200 rupees (and a class of 3), the sunset yoga on the hotel’s rooftop was one of the things my body highly coveted. A 90-minute class turned into an intense 3-hour session. Thea was not a fan of its rigour, but I missed sweaty gym sessions so this worked in my favour.
So, for yoga lovers in Pushkar:
* 500 rupees for a yoga session is probably not worth it.
* Look out for flyers from travelling yoga teachers (like Becca), who is temporarily teaching in the area – they’re likely to be more reliable.
* Phone up/turn up at the venue at least 12 hours beforehand to make sure the yoga class will be running.
* Ask fellow tourists for recommendations – cafés or restaurants are good spots.
All of the above should help you find a yoga class like a breeze.
Peaceful and soulful cuisine
Pushkar impressed me most with its food offerings. Due to the large Israeli groups that visit, the Middle Eastern influence on Pushkar’s food scene is apparent: here you’ll find authentic Israeli dishes, from the infamous falafel stalls near the main square to humusiya (hummus, tahini and a boiled egg randomly perched on the middle).
The presence of many healthy, wholesome and vegan food was refreshing from the often heavy and oil-laden local cuisine. Though service was almost non-existent, Honey & Spice and its sister, Café Nature’s Blessing, were good spots for breakfast, brunch or lunch. These were very popular, so expect to wait or share a table.
Pushkar’s original juice stand, Sonu Juice Shop, is also worthy of a mention. The fresh fruity concoctions are all-natural, and most of the time, vegan. Grab a seat and observe shoppers in Pushkar’s markets as you sip a shake for less than 100 rupees.
Thank you Zostel Pushkar for hosting me. Photos and views are my own.