Camel Safari time

Trip Start Aug 26, 2012
Trip End Dec 22, 2013

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Where I stayed
Hotel Golden Haveli Jaisalmer
Read my review - 5/5 stars

Flag of India  , Rajasthan,
Friday, December 28, 2012

It was such a nice change to have a leisurely morning in a nice hotel ( we didn't have get up near the crack of dawn to sight see or start a drive day.   After a bit of a lie in and a nice breakfast on the rooftop, we set out to wander the streets around town.  In the afternoon after a stop for a bite to eat and a Kingfisher we headed back to the hotel to catch some jeeps for our camel safari, organized by the hotel. Donning our home-made or pre-made purchased turbans we hopped into some jeeps and headed about an hour out of town into the Thar Desert.  Awaiting use were 19 camels and their handlers; men as old as probably sixty and boys as young as six.  A small boy came and grabbed my hand and led me to his camel and motioned for me to hop on and told me to hold on tight while the camel got up from its hunches.  Sitting on a camel and being lurched forward while the camel got up on its hind legs and then thrust forward to get up on his front legs was definitely and experience it trust on part of me to the camel.  The only other camel I had been on was at the Toronto Zoo where the camel was already standing and got on from a platform.

When everyone in the group was up on the camels they handlers started leading the camels along a trail taking us out into the desert.   Once we got further in, most of the handlers stopped the camels and made them sit down, so that they could hop on and ride behind us.  After a few minutes of walking we suddenly started trotting and I am so glad Amanda gave us the sports bra pre-warning.  Camels can go fast and there movements are quite jarring, even when walking.  They would stop the camels from trotting when navigating up and down hills but aside from that it was a jostle of a ride that we weren’t mentally prepared for.  Going downhill while on a camel is another strange sensation as you feel like you could literally fall off head over heels.  After about and a half hour of trotting we arrived basically in the middle of nowhere in the desert and were told to get off.  Very quickly the handlers turned around and trotted back. We learned from Amanda later that the reason they were trotting was because they wanted to quickly drop us off so they could go back and get another group for a sunset safari.  After standing around for a while one of the guys who would be taking care of us overnight in the desert pointed aimlessly in a direction and said we would be camping over there. Wandering about 700m up and down a couple of sand dunes we found our camp site for the night.

By then the jeeps had arrived with our overnight bags, sleeping mats, blankets and most importantly beers. Grabbing a beer we walked back up to the top of the dune to sit and watch the sunset as more camels walked by and witnessed Flappy enjoying a sand bath.  Unfortunately wild dogs found us out so had to chase them away for Flappy’s sake.

After the sun went down we went back to camp were they set up the mats and blankets in a semi-circle and served chai masala and biscuits and enjoyed some live Indian music and dancing from 4 musicians and 2 dancers; one being a hijras; look like a transvestite and are accepted as a transitional third sex between male and female. Pukka hijras are born with genitals that are neither fully male nor female while eunuchs are those who undergo castration to become hijras.  They put on a really good show and of course when asked I got up and danced.  Good times.  A delicious dinner followed with traditional Indian fare and our first time with no utensils.  Some of the group either was prepared or happened to have a spork in their bag; the rest of us did as the locals do and eat with our fingers.  I think eating with my fingers it made it more delicious or maybe it was eating with my fingers in the middle of the desert under a full moon.  Either way I was happy.

The rest of the night was spent sitting around the campfire talking and some people playing games.  Most scattered away and went to bed fairly early but for those that know me won’t be surprised that I was one of the last to go to bed which meant a primo spot by the campfire.  I was worried about it being really cold at night in the desert but with the blankets supplied, my sleeping bag and beanie I was quite warm until the wee hours of the morning when the wind picked up.  However there is nothing like sleeping outside; I’d say under the stars but there was few due to the full moon. Still, as I was lying on my back looking up at the sky I saw an amazing shooting star.

Sleeping by the campfire had its other advantages as those that did, were able to have chai masala in bed while we watched the sunrise and waited for breakfast; boiled eggs, toast and fruit.  After packing up our stuff our 19 camels came around the dune to pick us up and take us on a longer, gentler safari then the previous day.   I was chosen by a different boy (the one who was riding in front of me yesterday) and was lead to his camel.  This time I got the camel’s name, Raj and the boy’s name was Garaj (I think) and he was six years old.  It was a beautiful morning and so peaceful walking around on a camel.  After some time, those who were brave went for another bit of a trot.  At first I said no, but then thought why not and turned around to Garaj and said "Run?".  He got the biggest grin on his face and off we went to catch the others. 

We came across this tree with a big fence around it and all of us who were trotting stopped and our handlers (3 boys and 1 man) jumped off the camels to make a beeline for this tree. The boys hopped the fence and the man was firing directions with the sole purpose of gathering a fruit that was the size of a cherry but yellow in colour and was sour but they said was sweet.  They shared with us but could tell they were happy when after trying one or two we declined on having more.  They clearly enjoyed them more then we were.

Arriving back on the main road after about 2 hours it was time to say goodbye to our camels and friend and head back to Jaislamer in the jeeps.  About half way back we were stopped by the police because apparently the “big man” (never found out who this really was) was going to be travelling through. So all vehicles were stopped in both directions but after about 5 mins., everyone stopped decided just to take off again.  We never did see any car go by that might look like it had the “big man” in it.  Only in India. Shortly after this pit stop we arrived at the ghost village of Kuldara which is one of 84 villages in the area that were abandoned one night in 1825 to protect one of the villagers daughter from the Brahmin king.  Most of the houses had been demolished naturally but there were a few still intact enough that you could walk through them and even up to the second level.

Back in Jaislamer after warm showers, Zoe and I went out to check out the fort that dominates the town as it 100m above the new part of town.  Approximate 2,000 people still live within the fort walls catering mostly to tourism in the forms of shops and restaurants.  Inside it is an amazing maze of small narrow winding streets that often took us to a dead end or someone’s front door. .  For lunch we enjoyed a pizza on a rooftop patio having a desert view on one side and the Jain temples on the other.   As we wandered through the streets after lunch, we meet a few nice shop owner’s, one who focuses on promoting and selling crafts made by Rajasthani women and another who does great paintings on t-shirts from which I bought a Ganesh t-shirt and ad him sign it.  Finally being able to find our way out of the fort we headed over to the area where we were going to meet the group for dinner.  Being pulled into a few shops along the way we made it close before we got the “Remember me?” line from a shopkeeper.  Turns out it was legit as we had actually meet him (Ali Baba is his name, 'hotdesertguy’ his is FB handle- and no he’s not hot) the day before while at another shop.  Inviting us in, we chatted for a bit and Zoe negotiated with him to buy a Ganesh t-shirt.  After turning him down numerous times on not wanting to buy anything he finally said, “That’s ok….all I want is you”, making me promise him I would come back after dinner to his shop for chai and aperitif…  Promising with my fingers crossed we politely said goodbye and moved on.  Then not more than 100 metres away after explain to a tuk tuk driver who almost drove into me that I was where I needed to go and didn’t need a tuk tuk he said ‘I’ll give you my number and you call me later and we will go somewhere”.   Shaking my head in dis-belief I continued walking.  Only in India (?) Anyways after finally finding an ATM that works we went for the peace and beer at the rooftop restaurant with the group.  Despite being hassled by more than a few men in town I did like Jaisalmer quite a bit; very walkable, manageable and not nearly as stressful as other places.  The camel safari was definitely another highlight of this trip so far, second to Agra.
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Claudia on

How will you ever settle down after such an amazing adventure? Love your blogs. Claudia

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