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Everybody loves a happy ending

By on September 20, 2013 in India with No Comments

Phalodi to Jaisalmer

We spend half an hour trying to find our way out of town, because the app is set to ‘select most complicated, most obstructed, least intuitive route possible.’ We drive and drive.  Interesting things probably happen but all we can think about is finishing. Our bodies are like the rickshaw, shutting down. Rick has a cold and I have every ailment known to man. I have a pharmaceutical stash the size of a small planet, but for every drug I take there is some side effect, such that I’m going round in circles, curing one issue after another only to be left with the very thing that was amiss in the first place. We are running dangerously low on gas, but we feel miserly. We don’t want to give a single drop back to The Adventurists.  Precious, my precious we croak golem-like, hoarding droplets like gold.  It’s mine. Mine, mine, mine.

And then thirty kilometers from the end we come to our senses and think that it would be just plain idiotic to run out of gas right before we finish.  But we are out of luck. The first gas station has no gas. There’s one up the road, they say. Indeed, there is. But that too has no petrol. There’s one up the road they say. Yes, thank you, but we’d like the one up the road with some actual petrol. To no avail. 13 kilometers. The engine stumbles. I’m calculating how far we can reasonably push. Five kilometers maybe? Is Jaisalmer on a hill? Could a camel tow a rickshaw? 10 kilometers, another cough. 9 kilometers, there’s that sound like it’s powering down.  Come on little guy. You can do it.  We limp our way through Jaiselmer, and there, rising from the ground, glorious, beautiful,  is a cheap plastic archway with the words “Finish line.” I expect crowds cheering, confetti falling from the sky, balloons and fireworks exploding, perhaps the Queen to make an appearance, shake my hand. But no, there’s Matt from the Adventurists and a couple of his buddies. He’s seen it all before. Two broken pistons? You pussies, one team last time had seven, suck it up. He gives us free beer coupons and lead us inside the Maharaja’s Palace, where we rest on comfy floor cushions and order Pepsi.

We are in no mood to socialize.  We certainly don’t want to hear of anyone having a more adventurous time than us.  Surely our rickshaw was the crappiest, our troubles the most painful, our experiences the most chaotic? We hitch a ride  to the hotel. Weird, both sitting in the back.  We wander around Jaiselmar. Rick buys a singing bowl. Yes, you heard that correctly. People continue to take our photo, even sans rickshaw.  Do we really look that freakish? We meet a man who knows us by name. Knows our rickshaw, even has a photo of me no less.  We are beyond being surprised by such things. Obviously Hollywood has us in its sights.  He introduces himself as Dr Bhang. His English is blissfully fluent. He owns a restaurant and the Lassi Shop.  It used to be called the Bhang Shop but the government sold the naming rights to an unworthy competitor.  All this drama for a milkshake? But no, not just any lassi. Bhang lassi. Ah, I see. Bhang is marijuana, legal here. So Bhang lassi, Bhang chocolate, Bhang cookies.  Dr Bhang shows us a video of Anthony Bourdain taking advantage of his store’s delights. It was pretty cool.  We get Ajuverdic massages for $10 a piece.  I buy Rick a rusty padlock and an old knife. I negotiate fiercely – getting the price down from 4,800 rupees to 3,100 – and then pay in American dollars, rounding up and giving the guy more than he asked for in the first place. Genius.  The shopkeeper smiles, we smile, shake hands. Rick is happy with his old padlock and rusty knife. I’m $50 lighter.

Our hotel is nirvana.  Hotel Victoria. It’s in a giant fort, 600 years old. We’re in the top of a rampart.  One of 99 ramparts in total. The sun is setting, the fort is a blaze of gold. We sink into deep, dark pink silk cushions on a small balcony with intricate designs carved into the stone. The stones are warm. The temperature is hot, but there’s a light breeze.   Bats are beginning to flit, doves circle, a lizard stares at us curiously, or perhaps dispassionately. Rick reaches into his pocket. He has a ring from an Indian market. He says, nervous, “Justine Cutler, will you marry me?”  I make a sarcastic comment. JUST KIDDING – you don’t think I’m that much of a bitch do you? Of course I say yes. Rick has tears in his eyes.  I smile and lie there, breathing in the magic of our surroundings. This is the India we will remember.

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