Traveling is about experiences, and one thing we wanted to do was to get out into the desert. We left Delhi on the overnight train to Jaisalmer, eighteen hours later we arrive in the hot and sandy ‘Golden City’.
Jaisalmer is a fraction of the size of Delhi, it doesn’t have the frantic activity; or seemingly, the poverty either. It seems to be a relatively affluent place. Historically, it was wealthy due to the trade caravans, carrying spices and other goods, these were superseded by the seaports and the proximity to the new Pakistan border meant trade routes were cut off.
Whilst in Delhi we felt very much out of place and saw few foreigners, Jaisalmer is now a town built on tourism. In Delhi people would invite you into their shop, some of the shop owners in Jaisalmer would say things like “would you like to spend some money in my shop”. Quite a different place, and attitude.
Anyway, we came here specifically to go out and camp in the desert. We spent a day and a night in the Thar Desert, on a camel safari. Camels are pretty awesome, they’re sort of like a cross between some sort of star wars creature and a horse, and contrary to my preconceptions, they’re actually pretty friendly.
Unfortunately, we awoke on the morning of the trip feeling pretty rough. We had either eaten something bad the evening before, or a culmination of our eating so far had caught up on us. Either way, we were fucked. We spent what precious time we had left in sanitised accommodation tagging each other into the bathroom, and then went to meet the driver.
We rode out with three guides. My favourite, and the youngest was ten year old Jalam. He was the camel herder and general firewood collector. He shuffled around and made funny noises like an ewok, he was quite the little character. As we rode out, taking in the landscapes, it reminded me of old western films, Indian gazelle darted in and out of the bushes around us and eagles flew above us.
When we stopped to have lunch and keep out of the strongest sun. The camel boys were bemused as I wrote in my notepad, in English and with my left hand. We were both a bit ropey still with a spot of Delhi belly, and the thought of facing two days of desert food was filling me with dread! We had plenty of time to kill in the midday heat and chatted with the boys, teaching Jalam some English, and reading from my book. When we had packed up we rode onwards towards the dunes with the sun burning down on us.
When we arrived, we set up for the night and drank chai on the dunes as the sunset. It was pretty magical and an awesome moment to spend just sitting and watching in silence. I was pretty glad at this point that it was only us and the guides and we didn’t have to come out in a bigger group. As the night settled in I thought I had escaped the raptures of an upset stomach, the boys cooked another mountain of vegetable curry and roti. I hope we did not come across as offensive as neither of us were particular hungry due to the heat and wary of our upset stomachs. The boys didn’t seem to mind and little Jalam managed to put away five whole plates of dinner. What a champion.
The full moon, and starry sky were again pretty spectacular. I feel like I’m over-using the superlatives but everything was just so beautiful, and peaceful too, except when Jalam and I, were jumping off the bigger dunes into the sand.
We woke up at around six to see the sunrise, which again was a pretty awesome sight, still lying in bed. Unfortunately, as quite often is the case, the rough comes with the smooth I was hit with the call of nature, and behind the dunes created something not anywhere near as magical as all the sights and scenes I’ve mentioned. It was pretty grim, and hastily buried.
After a desert breakfast, with an excellent variation of porridge, (with something similar to quinoa, or bulgar wheat instead of oats, and lots of honey) we decided we needed to go back to the city and deal with our digestive issues.
It was a great experience, and we’re really glad we did it.