Camel Safari

Trip Start May 04, 2011
Trip End Oct 08, 2012

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Flag of India  , Rajasthan,
Thursday, February 16, 2012

Never say never! After swearing I would "never" take another night bus in India, I was regretting boarding one the next day heading to Jodhpur aka “the blue city.” Luckily the guest house not only arranged a complimentary pick up but they even provided me with a mattress to sleep on for a few hours until a room came ready. Together with a few other travelers, we spent the next couple of days wandering the fort and eating thali.

The Mehrangarh fort is massive and provides the best view of the blue painted houses below but not nearly as impressive as the sandstone fort of Jaisalmer. Jaisalmer Fort is one of the largest forts in the world with nearly 5,000 people still living inside the fort walls.

Around late afternoon as I watched the hand carved sandstone turn a beautiful amber, I could understand why they call Jaisalmer the “golden city.” But what actually drew me to take this side trip to Jaisalmer was a chance to go on a camel safari and sleep under the stars. I booked a one night trip through the highly recommended and very friendly folks at Shahi Palace.

Along with a nice German couple (also road cyclists) Emmi and Johannes, the journey started with a cold and dusty jeep ride to Badabagh, the site of royal cenotaphs where the former rulers of Jaisalmer were cremated with their respective wives. Next we were driven to a spot further in the desert where we were greeted by Mula age 23, three camels and a nine year old little boy name Suna. It made me sad to see such a young boy choosing the life of a camel guide over attending school but so is life in the desert. Once mounted on the camels, fearless Suna led us out for what was supposed to be a two hour journey. However, the three of us barely lasted a half hour before opting to go the remainder by foot.

It was curious to learn that camels have only one large hump and no upper teeth. They go to the bathroom non-stop as a result of munching on prickly shrubs and have huge callouses on their chest and knees from where they rest when in seated position.

The sun was at its strongest with no shade in sight. Instead we stopped for lunch near a shrub. For over an hour the guides washed the dishes with the sand then prepared some chips and chapatti and over-spiced vegetables. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that the hands used to prepare the food had probably not seen a bar of soap in at least a week. I watched the man massage his feet just prior to rolling the dough of the chapatti. Had the lack of sanitation not already killed my appetite their idea of “mild” spicy sure did the trick. This was certainly one of those moments of surrender, but thankfully there was a package of Maria biscuits for back up.

The next leg of the trip was supposed to consist of another two hour camel ride but it was more like walking the camels. We arrived at the sand dunes just shy of sunset with ample time to get creative with the camera and enjoy the silence. The rolling sand hills of wavy lines were screen saver perfect.

Meanwhile; Mula and Suna prepared dinner: dhal, rice and chapatti with chili sauce on the side this time. Utensils not being an option on this trek, I ate with my hands for the first time since arriving in India nearly three months ago.

Joined by Ivan and Richmond from Malaysia, our group sat around the campfire playing cards, drinking beer and discussing the stars. Mula set each of us up with a mattress and built in pillow, a sheet and two thick blankets. Aside from being hard on the hips, nuzzled under the blankets, looking up at the stars has been one of the best night's sleep since arriving in India.
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