On our host’s advice, we grabbed a tuktuk from the Jodhpur airport (read: army base where commercial planes can land) to the local bus station and hopped on a local bus to Khimsar.
This was our first taste of India. Your tuktuk driver pulls over at the side of the road to introduce you to his brother, who will rent you his car for a very good price because the local bus is not for tourists. While you are in a shop setting up your sim card the same tuktuk driver, plus his brother, plus a few other people congregate outside to shake your hand and reiterate that you should just take a quick look at the car because you might like to rent it after all.
At the bus station we encounter some angst as our tickets are to Khivser (not Khimsar as our host has instructed us) but we realize this as the bus pulls away. Cue cold sweats. No, our seat-mate explains, it’s all the same.
Marc sat vigilant on his phone for the first hour or two to ensure we really were going in the right direction. I pretty much passed out from heat exhaustion since I was wayyyy overdressed.
The bus shambled down the highway, crossing into oncoming traffic and veering around cows, scooters, and other cars at whim, beeping it’s melodious horn all the while. I drifted into sleep/passed out again and again only to be jerked awake as we pulled off the road onto the dirt shoulder to avoid something. Most likely a scooter with a five-person family on it. Or a goat. Or a scooter with a five-person family and a goat on it.
A family joined the bus and settled themselves and their bags of grain on the aisle between the seats such that when the bus slowed and the driver signalled for us to exit, we climbed up over the back of the seats and dropped our bags out the open bus door into the dry dust. Our feet were barely off the step and the bus was off again into the sunset.
So, we assessed the situation. The sim cards we bought in Jodhpur didn’t seem to do anything so we couldn’t call our host. According to google maps offline view we were 13 km from the Ashram. You may think we were wondering how to get help. We were not.
Everywhere people were slowing to stare (and I mean stare: an open-mouthed multiple-minute stare session is not considered uncouth here) at the pasty-white sweaty Westerners. A steady stream of people approached us: “Need tuktuk?” “Where you go?” “Jodhpur fort?”
We were relieved to see a store advertising Vodafone (later we learned through observation that every third shop is a phone shop) and met some more super-friendly locals who, after a series of selfies, let us use their phone to call our host for a ride.
And so began our celebrity here in Panchla Siddha. Everywhere we draw a crowd, take a bunch of selfies and made 30 new friends. To say the locals are friendly would be an understatement.