We spent the last 2 days in Jaisalmer at a permanent desert camp outside the city. Jaisalmer is the golden city since supposedly the buildings are golden. Like all cities in Rajasthan, there is a fort in Jaisalmer which is impressive from the outside but quite small and extremely touristy within its walls. Every available surface within the fort's walls is used to display or advertise some sort of tourist good or service. We walked around for about an hour and then walked back to the hotel to relax.
On Valentines Day Brian and I were driven about 45 km west of Jaisalmer where we spent the day riding camels in the kind of sand dunes which one usually associates with the desert. It was quite enjoyable and scenic especially in the long shadows of the late afternoon/early evening light
. We even filmed our own music video of sorts for In Sync's hit "I Want it that Way." Originally I thought that we were going to be riding camels for the better part of 2 days so when I learned that we were only going to be riding them for 5 hours I was upset thinking that I had once again been scammed. However, I hadn't been on the camel for more than 20 mins when I realized that this instance of being taken advantage of in India was to be welcomed with open arms. Camels are ornery, smelly animals and as was my experience totally uncomfortable to ride. The handler usually stands on the camels knee as it sits waiting for you to mount the hard saddle covered in cloth that has the feel of a burlap sack and a bale of hay. There are no stirrups within which to place your feet leaving your legs to dangle and rub against the saddle. Then the handler utters some sort of command and the camel rockets skyward, hindquarters first followed by the front. I've never ridden a natural nor mechanical bull but holding on as the camel stood seemed to be a fair comparison. Despite all of this the ride was very enjoyable. During one of our rests I recognized another traveler from the previous nights hotel. I asked him to change one of my 100 rupee notes so that I could buy some water from one of the vendors on the dunes - yes there are even vendors on the sand dunes. I asked him how he was liking India. He smiled and said, "I love it and I hate it." I couldn't agree with him more. My time here has vacillated between the two constantly
. After enjoying a day of riding camels there's the sudden miscellaneous charge that needs to be paid. Or after an evening of local song and dance which you assumed was part of the package you purchased you are presented with a separate bill for the entertainment. But then just when you feel as if you will strangle the next person who says, "Hello my friend...." you stumble across a fascinating market or impromptu celebration in the streets. In India there is rarely a moment of quiet or rest. It's a whirlwind of animals, people, colors, pleasant and putrid smells, vehicle horns, drums, singing, garbage, harassment, scams, genuine smiles and hellos. Moments of peace and solitude are basically non-existent. You attract so much unwanted attention in India that the best times are where for whatever reason you are suddenly invisible.