Plodding through the desert on one of these hilarious creatures has been a life ambition of mine for some time and finally that dream has become a reality!
Just before we left Jaisalmer for good, Max and I managed to squeeze in a one day camel safari with overnight camping in the desert. It was an utterly fantastic experience. We booked through Sahara Travels, a small agency located right on the entrance into the Old Fort. I had been researching various companies and this was one which got consistently good reviews and offered on of the better prices. 3,000 rupees in total (£35) saw us set off at high speeds into the desert in a doorless jeep, ‘Barbie Girl’ by Aqua, blaring from the speakers. As we rocketed down these narrow roads, scarcely avoiding crashes with trucks, goats and cows, we were greeted and waved to by all the passing farmers and locals we saw. After an hours journey, we arrived at our first destination, the Abandoned Village.
This village is having some serious work done to it, roads are being rebuilt and some of the buildings restored. There is very little to see here in truth, aside from a large quantity of ruined and crumbling buildings. Yet the interesting thing, I think ,to witness here, is the complete destruction lack of trade can bring to a place. The Abandoned Village used to be part of the Silk Route but as soon as this connection was cut off, the villagers no longer had any means to survive, due to being so removed from other places of trade, that they literally all got up and left for greener pastures. Leaving behind a sandy shell.
Leaping back into our racing car, we sped off for the only natural oasis found within the desert surrounding Jaisalmer. This was very beautiful to see and due to the silence that is fund within the desert, very calming and tranquil. Little frogs line the banks, bathing in the shallow water and who all spring off, skimming over the surface and plopping under as soon as anyone approaches them. A set of steps lead down to the edge of the oasis, built for the women not so long ago, so it was easier for them to gather water. When this oasis was the only source of water within Jaisalmer, women would walk all the way down to the water to collect some and take it back to their families in the blistering heat – incredible.
Our pitstop sightseeing tour over, we were finally taken to the village where we would begin our camel ride into the dunes. Here, we met Al Pacino (my camel) and the rest of his gang, loaded up and ready to roll. Having been warned that riding a camel is a pretty uncomfortable experience, I was prepared for far more pain than I felt upon mounting Al Pacino and declared happily that was nowhere nearly as bad as people said and that I was particularly comfy in fact. Sadly, my cockiness was short-lived, as I soon discovered that after half an hour of swaying with no stirrups, your groin does really begin to stretch and ache! None of this could distract from the scenery that surrounded us and the highly amusing, contented faces of the camels. After an hour and a half of wandering over the dunes, peppered with cacti and other such plants, we found our sandy bedroom for the evening. Waiting for us were cups of chai and some snacks which we munched on whilst watching the sunset. Both of us felt completely at ease and peace here and were loving every minute. As darkness set in and Max began to have a meltdown about the various stars, planets and galaxies he could see so clearly in the sky, dinner was served. A really quite excellent meal, we had dal, a spicy vegetable curry, rice and chapatti, eating off silver plates. Sadly, as the sun disappeared and the stars came out, so did the wildlife. Beetles, flies, snakes, lizards and the like all began to pop up out of the sand and weave across its surface. The need for raised beds became abundantly more clear in light of all these new friends that had come to join us. Overall, they didn’t really bother with you but the odd beetle did sometimes bowl straight into your face or ear and give you near heart failure in the dark.
Sleeping under the stars in the open was completely magical and both of us loved it – Max probably slightly more so, as it is practically a physicists wet dream. We both slept relatively well, the only downside being that the wind picked up a little in the night and we got completely showered in sand and had it in nearly every orifice imaginable. A quick breakfast of fruit and porridge perked us up and got us ready for our camel ride back to the village. Now, as experience camel riders, we were given charge of our own camel and set off at a quicker pace for home. I absolutely loved the journey back and the scenery we saw was, once again, just fantastic. I was sad to finally arrive at the village once more and dismount from my queerly regal friend.
Before our jeep arrived to take us back home in record time, we had wander around the village. All of the houses are made from sand, water and cow poo and are built by the inhabitants within them. The villagers were incredibly smiley and welcoming and as with most things you see in India, you realise just how easy we have it in the Western world and how hard they work just to live on a day to day basis. Pretty humbling. Along the way, I became just a little obsessed with an old man surrounded by hist goats and sat on a step outside his house. His face was incredibly wise and welcoming and so I asked if I could take some photos of him. He happily accepted – or at least I think he did, he spoke barely a word of English – and we discovered, with a lot of hand gestures, that he was blind in one eye. After both of us talking to one another in our own language and having absolutely no idea what the other was saying, we parted ways and got in our jeep.