I was riding along in my uncushioned bus from Agra to Jaipur, when I came across a side note in the “Jaipur” section of my Lonely Planet: Every year from November 28-30, there is an annual camel fair in Pushkar, a village 3 hours West of Jaipur. It is worth a visit if you happen to be in the area at this time.
Well, wouldn’t you know it. It was November 27th. Through AIESEC, I had met up with a fellow NU alum in India — Korean NU biology major Taehwhan Yoo. I had NO CLUE what was involved in a “camel fair” but I asked Taehwhan if we could pretty please go check it out. He was down. Off we went.
Entering this nefarious fair, I felt overwhelmed. Now, there were not only millions of Indians every square foot, but they had managed to squeeze camels into any spare spaces between. It was like looking at the set of Lawrence of Arabia with thousands of extras waiting to be called up for a battle scene.
There was a market with food and pashminas set up, but we were more interested in getting atop these humpy beasts. We found a man who would let us ride for an hour for 250 rupees, which was about $6.50 at the time. Our camels had a nice comfy saddle so we road like Arabian queens.
Yes, the camels were cool, as was the fair. But, the best part of the whole trip was seeing these incredibly skilled woman carry camel shit on their heads! They went around the fairgrounds and — in an act that nearly made me faint! — picked up shit with their hands, pounded it into flat paddies and put it into bowls that rested on their heads. Then, with model balance, they walked the shit over to the side of the fair and built it into piles that could be burnt or used as fertilizer at the fair’s end.
After our camel-back journey we stopped and had some food in one of the tents and then headed back to the bus. Racing down unpaved roads on metal seats was brutal to the bum after our leisurely ride in a saddle. I had found a comfortable new way to travel and now it was gone.