A night in the desert
Trip Start Oct 30, 2010
62Trip End May 29, 2011
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When the overnight bus from Pushkar had stopped outside the fort town of Jaisalmer the bus driver (who we later found out received a small fee) decided to let on about 20 touts who were all fighting and struggling for our attention. It wasn’t helped by the fact that the four of us (myself, Ellie, Katrin and Klaus) were all sat separately. Each tout tried to spin a story about how our hostel was destroyed, closed down or had moved, or that they knew a better/cheaper/best place to stay or (my favourite) that they were the official guide hired by the bus company to take us, for a small fee of course, to the "trusted" hostel. We were cold, tired and hungry. The touts did not receive a warm welcome from any of us.
Jaisalmer is largest fortress in India and is surrounded by tiny (in comparison to the gigantic fort) sandstone buildings and small narrow streets. There are many hostels outside of the forts walls but there are several within and part of the fort itself. Due to certain ethical reasons the lonely planet guide book suggests staying outside the fortress. However the novelty of sleeping within the walls themselves, coupled with the cheaper prices, we found it too great a temptation. The windows of our room were windows in the side of the fort. The hostel restaurant was on the top of those walls. The view was incredible; we could see the whole of the town outside of the fort and most of the rooftops of the town within.
The main attraction, despite the gigantic fort, in Jaisalmer is the camel trekking experience. This is why the majority of tourists visit the town and it’s what we have been looking forward to for quite some time. After getting an uneasy feeling that the hostel owners were lying and completely trying to rip us off, I’m happy to say that we booked our safari at the aptly named hotel paradise and paid less than half the price our hostel was demanding of us. We explored the fortress town and after dinner had a relatively early night.
We awoke early and arrived at hotel paradise by 8am. After a tasty breakfast of porridge and honey we were taken by car into the desert. After first being taken to yet another temple and driven a further 50km, we eventually found our driver taking us off road. We were met by 5 camels and our guides. It turns out that “completely English speaking guides” means 2 guides who understand a couple of English words and one 14 year old who has quite a grasp on the language
This had definitely been the highlight of the trip so far. We rode the camels for a few hours, briefly visiting an oasis to allow the camels to drink. We stopped when the sun was at its peak and our guides cooked us lunch while we shamelessly read our books and sunbathed. After lunch we loaded the camels again and rode on for several more hours. Eventually we came to stop atop a sandy hill overlooking a wide empty valley. Here we were again cooked for and ate while watching the sun set. We then made our beds of several thick blankets which, luckily for us, had the dual use of protecting the saddles from digging into the camel’s backs throughout the entire days trek. We all fell asleep wrapped up and warm, gazing into a star filled sky, smelling of camel.
One really surreal experience was waking up that night at 5am. The desert was still pitch black and the sky was full of stars. Everything, even the wind, was completely silent and everyone else was completely asleep. After about 20 minutes I drifted back to sleep.
We all awoke around 7am and ate breakfast while watching the sunrise. Considering we were in the desert it was so cold! However after a few hours and even more sunshine we were again roasting on our camels. After a morning of camel trekking we were again cooked lunch and again we shamelessly sunbathed and read our books. After lunch our trek came to an end as we were met by our driver. After saying goodbye to our guides we were driven back to our hotel in the fortress.