After a fortnight in the chaotic, muddled city of Jodhpur I (finally -because India can be tiring) had the opportunity to get away from it all by spending a weekend in the calm oasis known as Setrawa. Located in the Thar desert, the village of Setrawa only has a population of an estimated 3000 – 6000 people, so you know what that means, right?
UTTER PEACE. And silence. God, I have missed silence since being in India!
So on Saturday 14th, a group of volunteers and I packed a weekend bag and set off on a tour of this village organised by our guesthouse. Stopping halfway on our two hour journey, we bought some pakoras from a street vendor and ate these gorgeous, golden fried balls whilst the locals stared and our guide went to buy alcohol for the night. (Yes, I did request rum despite saying to everyone that I was giving alcohol up in India, but surely we all make the mistake of promising something which we know is highly improbable we’ll keep? – sorry Ms Simpson, I let you down! But the rum was good!)
Jeep now filled with very adequate provisions for the night (including some highly addictive cashew-nut biscuits which I might have to bulk buy to take back with me to the UK), we continued our journey and an hour later arrived via a bumpy dirt road to Setrawa. As soon as I stepped out of the cramped car I felt relief wash over me, for this beautiful, clean place filled with roaming goats and peacocks and pure quiet was going to be home for two days. They say being close to nature makes a person feel inner calm, and I was definitely feeling a lot of calm in Setrawa amongst the trees and skies. Even getting my period four days early without my Mooncup or any tampons didn’t bother me that much, although I was bloody (ha!) happy when one of the girls gave me her supply!
Early periods aside, we ate an outdoor lunch with a local family who served us chapatis, aloo (potato) and a strange yet somewhat delightful ‘vegetable’ dish, which was really some form of intense carbohydrate that starts out looking somewhat like a poppadom, but ends up being cooked and spiced in such a way that it has a completely different, more rubbery texture. A cup of chai and some pages of a book later whilst watching a calf running about alongside some young goats, we loaded up the Jeep with some chai-making facilities and drove out further into the desert to the sand dunes.
After a steep, steep
struggle walk up a dune that included my ankles being wrapped in sand, we settled down to watch the sunset over this glorious area. You couldn’t see houses. You couldn’t see electrical cables. In fact, you could barely see the person sitting next to you once the sun went down. But you could see camels. You could see forests. And you could see some stars once the clouds started to clear. As someone who hasn’t been to a beach in over 7 years, the fine sand felt wonderful under my fingers and I quite happily rolled about in it whilst our guide and his helper made us our second cup of chai for the day. You know, I always find it amazing that something as simple as sand can make me cheerful, and one of the best memories of India I’ve had so far has been sitting atop that dune watching the massive sun say goodbye for the night, chai in hand and good company by my side.
After gracelessly slipping down the dune, we took the Jeep back to the area we would be staying for the night, by now set up with the mattresses and copious amounts of blankets we would need to have a comfortable night outside in this oh-shit-I-packed-absolutely-no-jumpers-because-I-didn’t-anticipate-this cold. We made preparations for dinner (honestly I just spent the entirety of the weekend eating) by building a campfire and setting out the alcohol and soft drinks. Indeed, this was the first time I’ve ever helped build a campfire, and I have to say I did genuinely come across as a pure city girl when I nearly set fire to a leg! After yet more pakoras for starters (dear God I cannot even look at another pakora without my stomach feeling like it wants to rebel), we had our mains (which, for the life of me I cannot even tell you what it was, a result of too much drink and too many pakoras… ergh, pakoras), and then settled around the campfire to chat and drink some more!
Now, let me tell you what I had previously envisioned: a calm night, where I would slip into bed, hearing the insects chirp as I looked up at the stars and fell asleep gazing at Orion’s Belt, contemplating this vast universe and the secrets it must hold in my dreams. Ideal. Blissful. Peaceful. Calm.
But alas, reality is never so fine. Of course I watched the stars as I got into bed, but I spent most of the night tense because I was so afraid that if I moved about too much (and I move about a lot) in bed, I would leak all over the sheets due to Mother Nature’s impromptu arrival! Waking up to rain – the first of which the village had seen in months – wasn’t entirely pleasant either, although it was somewhat refreshing. What topped off the night however, were the intense stomach cramps I had (a result of too much oil because of the damn good pakoras!), resulting in ways I had never wanted to use a squat toilet in the morning, although I am thankful for the experience!
Yet overall I had a pretty fantastic time, and whilst I was happy to be going back in order to get my Mooncup and have a shower, I did wish the trip was a longer one.