"10 Day Camel Safari" Jaisalmer Travelogue by Waxbag
Jaisalmer Travel Guide: 409 reviews and 1,478 photos
No Running Water- Water is scarce in the desert so preserving was important. When we came across a pond or village water source we filled up a bottle of water to use later for washing. A few times we bathed in the ponds. This is difficult as a woman. There were always men around (shepherds, camel drivers, farmers, etc) so I had to discreetly disrobe under a sarong and wear my sarong while I bathed. The edges of the ponds were muddy full of frogs.
No Toilet- Basically we were cats in a huge litter box! Dig a hole with your foot, do your business, then cover it up. It was a little hard to get used to but after a few days we could do the steps without skipping a beat. And, for those who are wondering (especially my brother, Phil), we did not wipe with leaves as it would have been very uncomfortable to use those spiny desert plants. We brought plenty of TP.
No Tent/No Sleeping Bags- At first I didn’t think this would be a problem. The thought of sleeping under the stars is supposed to be romantic, right? Well, maybe if there were no beetles, snakes, flies, or mosquitoes! We had two blankets each (one to lye on and one for cover) and a small airplane pillow (compliments of India Air). On day 6 we figured out a way to at least beetle proof the ‘bed’ and I finally got some sleep. I wish we would have had a tent!
Same Clothes- Before we left, each of us bought a pair of baggy cotton pants ($2) and the vender threw in cotton long sleeved shirts free of charge. These were so practical (cool and comfortable) that we ended up wearing them every day. Surprisingly we didn’t stink (Well, maybe we did but if so we both did so it wasn’t a problem).
Same Food- We ate the same food every day for 10 days (which we ate with our fingers) and had chai (tea) before every meal. Breakfast- toast (when our bread molded we had porridge called sweet hallua), boiled eggs, and biscuits; Lunch- sabji (desert vegetables- onions with cauliflower, potato, cabbage, or dahl (lentils) spiced with chili, cumin, curry, garlic and salt, and chapatti (flat bread); Dinner- sabji again with rice and chapatti. On a few dunes desert men were walking around selling ‘desert cold’ sodas and beer which took a way from the desert ‘feel’ but was nice after a hot day of riding.
John on Day 2: At 6:50am a beautiful sunrise greeted us to our second day. It got chilly last night but we had plenty of blankets. It’s impossible to sleep on your side on the dunes which is how I like to sleep. We had bread, jam, a hard boiled egg, and chai for breakfast. Even early in the morning the sun is hot and with no breeze this morning the ride was very hot and hard. Our bodies are so sore. There are no stirrups on these camels to rest your feet so it feels like your legs are separating from the hip sockets. The inside of my thigh feels bruised. The afternoon was more pleasant than the morning. The breeze and strikingly beautiful desert landscape was the difference. We camped on top of a large dune in a narrow dune belt. There are great views east looking out for quite a distance. Some wild melons and hordes of dung beetles dot the dunes. The Pepsi guy came to deliver “desert cold” drinks. He had large glasses that matched his equally wide grin and handlebar mustache. We had the standard fare in the desert kitchen, curry vegetables, rice, and chapatti. Rhman, our guide, is masterfully quick at whipping up a hot meal and then cleaning it. There is limited water so he uses sand to clean the dishes. There are no utensils so we eat with our hands. Sunset was nice. The moon’s strong light dominates the large evening sky. Once again dung beetles invaded us even with the wall and moat we built around our blankets. I got very little sleep and once again had to pull a dung beetle out of my shirt in the middle of the night.
Beetle Bulls-eye – Cara on Day 4- John attempted to help me get over my fear of the beetles by creating a game we coined Beetle Bulls-eye where we each had to pick up a beetle ‘contestant’ and throw them at a bulls-eye in the sand. I gave it a shot but it didn’t alleviate my aversion to the beetles.
Cara on Day 6- These beetles are driving me crazy! I can’t sleep, eat, or even go to the bathroom without these damn beetles! There are so many of them and they don’t just go about their business, they chase after and crawl all over me. At any one time I see 6-10 beetles coming toward me. Last night was the worst. The barrier that John made did not work and they kept climbing in and scratching at the tarp. I feel like they’re on me so I sit up and then I see several coming toward me so I try to stay awake but it is so cold and I’m so tired so I fall asleep but then I feel another and jump up again. Now even when they are not climbing on me I feel like they’re climbing on me so I’m a paranoid basket case and I can’t sleep at all. Last night I was convinced that I wouldn’t be able to do four more nights but John has convinced me to stick it out as he says he has another idea about how to beetle-proof our bed.
John on Day 7: We got a late start in the afternoon as one of the shepherds squeezed out some goat milk into one of our bowls right in front of us and Rhman used it to make some chai. We finally got off and headed back to the Khuri Dunes where we stayed last night. As usual Lalu, Cara’s camel, was about 50 feet in front of me. Rhman had the rear with Babalu and I was riding my camel in the middle called Papu. Rhman told us as we approached a farm that we needed to have “full camel control” so the camels wouldn’t eat any of the plants (not easy to subsistence farm in the desert). Sure enough ten paces into the trail that runs through the farm Lalu started munching away. Immediately we heard the farmer screaming at us about 300 feet away while swinging a whip around his head. My camel, Papu, started to pass Cara and Lalu on the right just as Rhman started yelling at Lalu swinging his own rope at the animal. At this sudden commotion Lalu jumped up quickly nearly hitting Papu and me. The next moment both camels were running and jumping wildly. Papu jumped up and to the right violently just as I was trying to pull the reigns to steer away to avoid Lalu. I just couldn’t get a hold of the saddle and after two or three jarring jumps from Papu I was on the ground in a bed of prickly briars. Papu continued to run out of control until Rhman caught his reigns. I picked up my blanket that was also full of prickles and walked to Cara and Rhman who once they realized I was okay started laughing. Rhman must have asked twenty times if I was alright. He said out of the seven years he has been doing camel safaris, I was the only who had been thrown off. I have 0% camel control
Cara on Day 7- Last night we finally figured out how to beetle-proof the blankets and we had 99% beetle-control. However, we had 0% snake-control! When we were satisfied with our beetle-proofing efforts, we lied down for the night. I had my sheet balled up beside my head and when I started to pull the sheet over my head I felt a briar in it so I sat up to pick it off. Just then I noticed something partially under the sheet and partially draped over the side of the blanket. At first I thought it was my shoelace (we were using our shoes to bolster the side of the blanket to keep the beetles out) but then I noticed it was moving. I thought then that it was a lizard and I casually got John’s attention. We both looked a little closer and realized it was not a lizard, it was a snake! It slithered out of our blanket onto the sand and side winded in figures of eight away leaving small squiggly
John on Day 8: This morning after breakfast Rhman went off to get the camels for our morning ride. What, we were wondering, would the camels have in store for us today? Well, Rhman brought the camels up to the dunes and Papu had a bad case of diarrhea. Not only were his hind quarters covered in the slimy green feces, his whole body was covered from the neck down. Stupid camel just had to roll in its own poo. As we do before putting the saddles and gear on the camels we have to pick all the briars off their backs. Papu was covered with clumps of briars among a patchwork of fly covered green goo. The last thing to do before mounting a camel is to put the reign ends on its nose peg, a wooden dowel that pierces the camel’s nose so you can control the animal. They don’t like the rope and can snap at your fingers. I successfully put mine on Papu. I went to put Babalu’s reign on his nose peg and he groaned loudly at my face expelling the horrendous stench of half digested grass as slimy green goo cud from its stomach belched up and sprayed my face, shirt, and pants. Revolting! I had my sunglasses on, thank goodness, but had to wipe the green slim off the lenses. Needless to say, Rhman put the reign on Babalu’s nose peg. I’m so glad I had my mouth shut!
John on Day 9: So we set off away from the dunes with Cara and Lalu in front, me in the middle with Papu, and Babalu trailing behind. You become trained quickly to keep your lips pursed when riding because of the flies. I can only imagine that they were just feasting on the green patches covering my camel before they land on my lips. I consider myself fortunate that camels have tails because Lalu’s rear, only a few feet away, is prone to violent gastrointestinal explosions that would propel green pellets my way if not for the tail to deflect them. Babalu doesn’t like to walk behind Papu and instead walks with his head inches from my leg. This wouldn’t be a problem except Babalu sneezes often spraying my legs with snot. He then likes to wipe is nose on my leg. Except for camel burps, sneezes, and flatulence, which basically happen constantly, the ride is quiet and our minds drift in thought.
Rhman Khan – “Camel Driver Desert Cook, King of the Desert”
Rhman is an easy going guy who truly loves the desert and enjoys being its ambassador for tourists. He is a devote Muslim who always makes on small chapatti for Allah each night. At 27, he has a wife, a one year old daughter, and a one month old son. He was married by arranged marriage 9 years ago with his brother. They both married sisters as it was cheaper than to have two separate weddings. Rhman and his wife have only been living together for the past 3 years. When Rhman was 14 his father died leaving him the head of the household and the only one capable of providing for his family. He has worked as a camel guide for tourist safaris for seven years which he does eight months out of the year. The other four months, during the hot season when tourists don’t come due to 100 - 120 degree temperatures, he cuts stone in the desert. He is very dark due to the sun exposure, is as thin as a twig, and looks ten years older than he is. He is paid the Rupee equivalent of a dollar a day by his boss although he makes more on tips. He and his family live in a mud and dung covered stone house with no running water and no electricity. By our standards, he and his family are incredibly poor. But, with his positive attitude, his jovial outlook on life, his beautiful family of which he is very proud, and his faith, Rhman is rich indeed.
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