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Forts, Pharmacies and Chai Invitations

We were warned not to get used to it.
Kherjarla Fort is an imposing castle of stone on a hill in a small desert town that has been converted to a hotel way off the beaten path.  It’s luxurious- with marble floors and beautiful flowers climbing the stone walls, fountains and pottery hidden in nooks in the walls. It’s owned by the same family that founded the fort 450 years ago. 

We stayed there last night and were treated to a buffet dinner complete with music and a local boy dancing, and a snake charmer (who apparently did not really have a snake) and a magic show.
Not the norm, and many places down the road are more basic. Which is fine with me…
Buffet dinners are the norm in these hotels, but they are generally tasty.  Food is usually veggie – and delicious.  But I like the heat of curry – but find that in some places used to serving tourists they automatically tone down the spice and – in my opinion – ruin the food – so I tell them when I order to keep it spicy. We often default eating at the hotel because we are hungry by 6 after riding all day while restaurants my not serve dinner till later.
Today we rode 80k to Jodhpur- the Blue City – and have a rest day tomorrow.
For me it’s been a “make the best of it” week.  A perfect storm of a cold + asthma + polluted air + lots of dust = a respiratory tract infection and asthma flair-ups that had me off the bike for 3 days and on antibiotics.
Not what I had in mind, but what can you do? Just treat it and take the long view for the trip and make the most of time on the lunch truck.  And take a lot of precautions against dust and pollution to try and head off future problems.
But I did have a good experience with the health system and found getting basic treatment easy and effective and fast. It basically just entailed finding a store with a green cross to designate it as a pharmacy, going up the counter which faces the street like a drive in window, telling the pharmacist your symptoms and answering his questions, and then he hands over medicines and instructions.  Cough syrup, lozenges and antibiotics – over the counter and a fraction of the price of buying the same thing in the US – not including the doctor’s visit and insurance hassles.  It makes perfect sense for treating run-of-the-mill illnesses – and makes you realize what a ridiculous health system we have in the US where the same care would have required a wait for an appointment, an expensive doctors visit, and then the same medications and 4 times the cost.
Within 3 hours of starting the antibiotic I felt better. Today I rode 60k with a mask on to keep out the dust and dirty air from vehicles –and that seemed to work well. I avoided riding in the city – which is much worse than the countryside – and may just make that a preventative habit. It’s all about managing the problem, because the dirty air won’t go away.

Yesterday some of us received an invitation to chai at a family’s home in a village up the road. We accepted, and 6 of us trooped in to a gentleman’s house, hosted by him, his mother and his wife. He was fairly well off in town and owned three shops selling clothes and jewelry.  His home was dark and cool, with a large first floor sitting room with a web bed/seat in the middle. Metal water pots were neatly stacked in a cut-out in the wall, and doors off to the side led to a kitchen and I assume sleeping rooms. Outback was a patio, and up a narrow flight of open stairs up the back of the house was a semi-closed roof area and balcony over the street. 
Pretty sure the entire town followed us inside the house and packed in the doorway behind us. Tons of kids – school was out. Our host introduced his children and relatives and they showed us the back and upstairs.  We came back for tea and the little house must have had 50 people stuffed in it. We sat down while adults tried periodically to chase out the kids with little luck. I asked some their names and age.  . Yasmin is one I remember of a pretty girl who was shy.  As they got over their shyness they wanted us take their photo.  They love that game.  They had a pet goat whose feet didn’t touch the ground once while I was there- it was held like a baby the entire time.

The mother of the house sat quietly in the corner and kept casting looks my way. Women seem interested in me – very curious and less shy with me than if a man is around.  As folks started to head out, the wife beckoned me over and indicated I should have my photo taken with the mother. Told her I’d be delighted and handed my camera to a son.  I felt like I’d passed some test and been approved.  
As we left the crowd followed. I was introduced to many people and their friends, brothers and mothers on the 100 yard walk back to the van.  It can be very overwhelming, but it’s also surreal to be the object of that much curiosity, warmth and attention.

One thought on “Forts, Pharmacies and Chai Invitations

  1. So glad to hear that you are well enough to be back on the bike, Leigh. Your observations about our health care system for basic stuff is apt, that's for sure. Take care. Love all your daily reports.

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