Headed off after lunch for Osiyan along a much quieter road, however the usual goat herds and shepherds, meandering cows, over stuffed tuk tuks labouring under the weight of their human cargo. Pilgrims continue their exodus along the road in the direction of Jaisalmer, carrying flags, tossing aside damaged foot ware. They rest and are fed along their journey by local communities that donate food and shelter for this annual pilgrimage.
In the township of Osiyan we were guided through a Jain temple built between the 8th-12th centuries. Normally there are lines and lines of people, usually women asking for good health for their husbands, but during our visit we were lucky to avoid the growing crowds. The township walk was through narrow streets where building rubble of both construction and destruction are common. Bought Ayurvedic toothpaste here which turned out to be the colour of licorice and left a mild burning sensation on the lips and mouth!
Here we met Mr Gemar Singh, who would be our host for our stay in the desert. We met his cameleer Gowind who took us for an hour long camel ride across dunes to his home on the edge of the desert. Dinner was shared on a mat on a rammed earth floor inside his home compound, where it is protected from the day’s seering heat. The camels enjoyed rolling about in the sand as we sat and enjoyed a desert sunset and the cry of the ever present peacocks. We had the option to sleep on the roof, on cots in the open, however we opted for a ‘jhumpa’, a traditional dwelling of stone and mud with a roof of pressed grasses.
In the morning, we learnt the techniques of preparing and cooking naan and paratha , before again saddling up for a 3 hour stroll further into the desert. A short 4WD to Gemar’s homestay where we were to spend the night in a delightful jhumpa. We met Gemar’s lovely wife Maywah, his son and his brother. Maywah is a member of the Bishnoi people who worship the lord Vishnu and as such wear predominantly red saris. After milking the cow each morning Maywah spends an hour churning the milk into butter by using a traditional method of rotating an agitator not unlike using a bow to start a fire by friction. Noelene had a turn, but has decided that a trip to the supermarket is probably a better option! in the gathering dust we went for a stroll in the local desert where we saw deer, numerous peacocks, camels and Noelene’s sharp eyes spotted an owl. In all it was a truly memorable and special experience to stay with a family, sadly it was for just the one night.