the beautiful Pushkar sunsets

Aside from wandering around looking at the temples, shopping in the open air bazaars & sipping some chai tea while talking with other travellers, life at Pushkar seemed to center around the sunset and watching it from the eastern shore of the lake.  Even before the sun hung too low in the sky, the tourists would line up at the cafés near Moon Hotel and have some Indian food, some pizza or other fare and enjoy the singing of the local minstrels.

I came later to learn that the minstrels were Bedouins who lived outside of town in traditional tents or mud-brick houses.  They clung to many of their traditional ways of life including only marrying with other Bedouin families.  Later, I would meet some groups of Gypsies who maintained a distinct cultural tradition.  They too only married within their own group and lived in traditional ways.  But, unlike the Bedouin minstrels, the Gypsies primary source of income was in reading palms, painting henna on the palms and arms of tourists, and in selling bracelets and small jewelry.  I”ll post more about the Gypsies later.

… my German friends as they sample local jewelry for purchase as we await the sunset…

For the rest of the week, while I visited Pushkar, I made the daily dusk pilgrimage to the lake.  For the sake of brevity, I will combine the photos of the week’s sunsets into one post so as not to bore all of you.  Each day I saw the same local characters and came to know them.  My favorite family, the Bedouin minstrel with the yellow-eye daughter, came to play for me each day.  Eventually I met his son (below) and his wife.  I was surprised to learn that his daughter was only 10 years old.

I never grew tired of the whole “relaxing” atmosphere that the “sunset-watching” produced.  The warm chai tea and traditional music against a warm mountain breeze made the memory of Pushkar indelible in my mind.  Half of the fun was just watching the people from around the world as they congregated to this magic spot.

… “Photo!  Photo!  Ten Rupees, photo!”  I made sure to get a photo with the young man who made an appearance each day.  Every day he posed as a different manifestation of Shiva…”


Each evening I must have shot a hundred photos of the sun setting.  It was so beautiful and still; the photos just can’t capture the beauty of it.  One evening as I was snapping away, an Indian woman happened to walk through my shot.  Looking at the photo some years later I find that I really like this photo.  She is quite beautiful in her native clothing, a friendly smile on her face, and the contrast of her clothing and the fading sun in the sky…

The last set of photos is a just a collection that I chose showing the sun as it made its way behind the western horizon….


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Pushkar Lake

I walked around to the south side of the lake and from here you can see the steps where everyone watches the sunset (tan steps in middle right of photo between two white buildings and below the tree line).  There are 52 bathing Ghats surrounding the lake that the pious Hindus dip into.  They believe that the water will cure skin ailments and has restorative powers to health.

Also known as Pushkar Sarovar, the lake is mentioned as a tourist site as early as 2,400 years ago when it was inscribed on coins of the period.  The number of travellers to the lake was also mentioned by Chinese traveller Fa Xian in the 5th Century AD.  In the 9th Century AD, a Rajput King, Nahar Rao Parkikar drove a white boar he was hunting to the edge of the lake.  There he put his hand into the water and a skin ailment that he was suffering from vanished.  He had the lake restored and it has continued to draw pious pilgrims in the centuries following.

The photo below is shot from the same location as the top photo but towards the left (northwest).  It is on the north and western shores of the lake that have the greatest concentration of Ghats.  You can also see the town of Pushkar, most of the “downtown” area is in the background of this photo.


Here is another shot looking towards the northwest.  This photo was taken from the southeast short of the lake near the pedestrian causeway.

In addition to the bathing Ghats, there are dozens of temples.  I visited a few of them and will post their photos later.  I shot this tall white spired temple on the east shore of the lake against the hills in the afternoon sun.


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Lake Nicaragua

Our next stop was to be the Island of Ometepe in the middle of Lake Nicaragua.  Ometepe is the largest island in the world situated inside of a fresh water lake.  The lake is just inland from the Pacific Ocean and its west bank forms a narrow isthmus.  This isthmus has a western Pacific shore and an eastern lake shore; the result is that this narrow strip of land has cool weather in the summer and warm weather in the winter.  It has ideal weather year around and is home to many wonderful towns including San Juan del Sur.

Driving south along the western bank of Lake Nicaragua from Granada the landscape looked (to my eye at least) what I would expect to find in the African savannah; flat plains dotted with thick jungle patches.  While we were driving south I shot a photo (above) that shows how this landscape looked.  We drove south on the Pan American Highway as far as Rivas where a regular ferry service takes passengers from the mainland on the isthmus to Isle Ometepe.

I captured a screen shot from Google Earth to show Ometepe Island’s orientation inside of Lake Nicaragua to include the Pacific Ocean, the Costa Rica border, the capital at Managua and the beach town of San Juan del Sur.  You can see how Ometepe Island is formed by two volcanos that have formed a land bridge between them.  The white spots that appear at the peaks of the twin volcanoes are not formed by snow but by clouds that are constantly formed as the warm jungle air is pushed up the side of the mountain by the onshore breeze.  As the warm air rushes up the side of the volcano it condenses and forms a rain cloud that is almost constantly present at the peak; on the back side of the island the clouds create rain that falls on the wayward side of the mountains.  This in turn creates a lush jungle that is habitat to monkeys and all sorts of exotic birds.

At the San Jorge docks near Rivas, we inquired about securing the Blazer and found that we could actually park it on the dock.  We were told that the dock house was staffed 24/7 and that the truck would be safe.  The ticket fees for the ferry to Ometepe were nominal, perhaps $7 or $8 dollars and we were looking forward to getting away from the truck and having a new adventure.  In the photo below you can see Jeff at the dock, just outside of the “secure area” where we parked the truck; in the background the twin volcanos of Ometepe Island.

We had a quick chat:

Jeff: “What if the truck gets stolen?”

Me: “I only paid $1200 for it, we’ll just take the bus”

Jeff: “Sounds good.”

And at that, we boarded our ferry.

While on the boat I went and sat at the bow and had Jeff take my photo.  He suggested I take off my sunglasses for the photo and just as I did they fell right into the lake.  I watched sadly as my Ray Bans sunk to the bottom of Lake Nicaragua.  Also in the photo you can see the matching volcano peaks that formed this island in the middle of the lake.

As we neared Ometepe Island we could see that it had a thick jungle covering and the volcano had a semi-permanent cloud that formed at its peak.  As low as we were in the tropics I expected the temperature to be much hotter but the combination of the ocean and the lake kept the temperatures quite mild.

After about an hour boat rive we arrived at the dock at Moyogalpa, I was surprised that there were no hawkers pushing this or that hotel or hostel.  The town of Moyogalpa barely noticed our arrival and we made our way up the single street possessed by this sleepy lake village.  As we approached the “center’ of the town we could see that there were 4 hotels (2 on each side of the road) and 2 restaurants (one on either side).

At the hotel/restaurant on the right, a nice man greeted us and offered us menus.  He asked if we wanted to sit down and have a cold beer or a meal.  He was really quite friendly and we were tempted to take him up on his offer but, as the sun was setting, we decided to find lodging.  Based on his amicable attitude we inquired about rooms in his hotel; just our luck – he was booked out.  That his hotel was booked out and that he had a friendly attitude would teach me a lesson in customer service and in capitalism.

We made our way up and across the street and found that only one of the four hotels had rooms available.  Our hotel looked nice; it had a beautiful garden and a decent looking restaurant.  The room was a cinder block room with a metal door and two metal framed beds with mattresses.  It was very Spartan; but, what can you expect for $5 a night?

As soon as we packed our bags away, we returned to the “nice guy’s” restaurant and ordered a pair of cold beers.  We had a nice dinner and chatted with some of the other travelers and found out what the island had to offer to a couple of American travelers.

Later, we made our way down to the lakeshore to capture some photos.  Lake Nicaragua is really quite pleasant and beautiful.  While there I saw some beautiful birds who didn’t seem to have a care in the world.

We found a small cafe with an ocean view and ordered another cold beer.  The view was somewhat obscured by some palm trees and creeping jungle but is sure made for some beautiful tropical photos.  I made the photo below into a postcard and sent it to a few friends.  I’d say that of all the photos I took in Nicaragua, this one sums up the place the best: peaceful, beautiful and relaxed.

Jeff and I met a business man from Managua who was at one of the hotels with his mistress.  He gladly announced that he had a wife and 3 kids at home and this mistress stayed at a hotel in the city.  Every other weekend he took her out of town and told his wife that he was on “business.”  He was eager to know about us “Americans” and we chatted with him about the new government, the old government and the civil war.  His English was quite immaculate and it saved me a lot of embarrassment using my broken Spanish.

As we chatted the sun set and I captured dozens of photos.  I had to look through them all for perhaps 15 minutes before I could select two that captured the Nicaraguan sunset the best.  I selected these two: both are the same shot but captured 10 or 15 minutes apart.  They show the changing colors at sunset.  Just behind the mountains on the far side of the lake are located on the isthmus that separates Lake Nicaragua from the Pacific Ocean.  For those who like fresh and salt water, few places on earth offer such beauty and versatility of natural wonders.


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