Khichan, India

January 19 & 20, 2003

Weather: high of about 75ºF and clear

 Just like we learned of the Camel Festival from fellow travelers, we were urged to go see the Siberian cranes in Khichan.

The chatter, clucking, and bugling of the cranes is incredible at sunset. But we hear from the caretaker that it is even more spectacular at dawn. So we come back the next morning and see the whole ritual of 10,000 cranes gathering on a sand dune before flying to a feeding station where we watch. On a normal year there would be 35,000 cranes, but you know, the drought and all.
There aren't many places to stay near the birds and the one we try to book with charges so much that it makes our friend mad who is helping to make the call. Instead he offers to let us stay with his uncle for free. No one speaks English there, so we have some slow conversations through the phrase book. The house has great chalk drawings on the patio.
We stop in the town of Phalodi to eat some fruit and wait for the day to warm up after watching the birds at sunrise. A friendly phys ed teacher and a voting commissioner come to stare at the bike and ask us questions. The teacher knows English and so the voting official gets him to ask all the questions. How many children do we have, how much money did our trip cost, what do we do, what are American weddings like, do Americans wear clothes like they have on. This conversation evolves gradually over 40 minutes as they step away and discuss us, then come over with their latest question. They are very endearing in their curiosity and warm smiles.
On the long and lonely stretch of highway leading up to Jaisalmer, Julie logs about 250 miles of driving time on the bike. She admirably dodges animals, construction workers, and on-coming busses.
I discover just how boring the view is for the passenger, and how much more painful the seat is. But it is a whole lot warmer and more relaxing on the back seat.

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