New Year's Eve with the Camels I
Trip Start Aug 21, 2006
57Trip End Feb 13, 2007
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A large group of camel trekkers gathered in front of the travel agency in the morning, waiting to be sent into the great Thar desert by jeeps. This scene deepened our doubts: every agency (including this one) swore that their trail would be an off-beaten one, somewhere 40km from Jaisalmer. But if that is true, who are on the beaten ones then??
We met our camels around 10:30am. People were divided into groups according to the trip duration. We signed up for 3 days and 2 nights, and got into a group of ten: J&K (our Australian friends), a British couple, two French girls, one Irish, one Korean, and us. Each of us got his/her own camel. Mine was a five-year old male, Andica (not to be mistaken for Handicap!!), dark brown, slim, with handsome long eye-lashes
Every group departed at a different direction, and ten minutes later, we were indeed the only trekkers within the visible range. The great Thar desert was all merciful at this time of the year: not too cold at night, not too hot during the day, plenty of little salty watermelons for the cattle, plenty of dry wood for camp fire, plenty of trees with large shade for lunch break, plenty of shrubs for the camels to graze on and as well-covered toilets for us...We stopped for lunch around noon. The camel-men cooked an admirable meal including appetizer (pakora: deep-fried vegetables), salad, and thali (boiled rice, lentil soup, curry vegetables, Indian bread [chapatti]), followed by chai (Indian tea with a LOT of sugar and milk)! But our desert restaurant didn't carry any spoon, so we all had to eat in Indian style: with our fingers. It did take some practice to be able to finish my meal gracefullyJ. After a nice siesta under a big tree on blankets spread over the prickly sand, we got back onto our camels and started our afternoon ride at about 3pm.
The Thar desert is mostly hard sandy land with shrubs
We concluded our day on sand dunes. An ocean of real, golden, soft, beautiful, clean, atmospheric, fine dunes, like in the movies!! And here, was our camp site! Sitting on the dunes, we saw off the last sunset of 2006, then sat around a camp fire for our New Year's Eve dinner (thali, of course)
At 11pm, half of the group retreated for bed, while the rest of us held on, determined to wait for the midnight. A problem was that our watches all gave a different time, and there was no way to tell when exactly the midnight was. But who cares! We picked one watch, counted down 10 and shouted "happy new year" to each other. Then we saw fireworks, real fireworks (!), blooming in the sky. We thought we must have been dreaming. But it turned out that there was indeed a little village somewhere nearby that launched the fireworks. The camel-men headed off towards the village, for their real party with plenty of dance and maybe also girls. We went bed.
Our "bed" was some sleeping bags and blankets on the sand, behind a camel saddle used as wind shield. I quickly fell asleep, and woke up at some point to find a stunning starry night sky above. It was so beautiful!!!
We woke up just in time for sunrise. Savai, a 13-year old camel-boy, was asking us softly whether we'd like some black tea or chai. With a cup of hot tea in hand, we curled up in our "bed" and enjoyed the first sunrise of 2007. When we started to feel hungry, a hearty breakfast was already waiting for us: (plenty of) toasts with jam and peanut butter, and boiled eggs. We all sat on the dune, ate, chatted, and watched camels being brought back slowly in the rising morning sun. What else could you ask from life?!!