Initially, we had mixed feelings about riding camels. To be honest, we still do. But, now that we can walk normally again (anything beyond 20 minutes on a camel and you’ll feel a certain… stiffness…), we appreciate our Camel Safari experience even more.
We connected with our safari through our guesthouse in Jaisalmer (Surja Guesthouse), though there are so many tour companies available!
We were picked up around 3pm one day, and would be back by 11 am the next day. In the time between, we would take a Jeep for about an hour to the meeting point, each ride a camel for about 2 hours into the Thar Desert, arrive at the dunes in time for sunset, have dinner around a campfire, sleep under the stars, and after breakfast, ride the camels back to the Jeep.
Here was our initial meeting point with the camels. These poor guys don’t get much time off. The Jeep that dropped us off, picked up the people who had just finished their trek. The camels they used, we used. It took about 20 minutes to restock the camels with fresh food and water, and we were off!
It turns out that Earl spent about 3 hours and 45 minutes longer on his camel than he would have liked. He was fortunate to have the youngest camel as it turned out, and the camel safari leader didn’t trust that camel to be loose and still go the right way. On the way back, Earl got to share the camel with one of the “assistant” drivers (the safari leader’s nephew, who was about 13 years old).
We trekked our way through scrubland for most of the time, finally getting past the wind-turbines that really contributed to the authentic “desert” look of the area, just as we got to a village, where we stopped to water the camels.
All the kids in the village came to watch.
So, for much of the trip, we wound our way through desert plants, trying to avoid the thorns that were on most of them.
If you’ve ever been on a camel, you’ll know that there’s an art to controlling them. They don’t just listen to anyone, and these camels apparently did not understand any English. But lucky for us, they seemed to know exactly where they were going.
We finally got near the dunes, or the “real” desert, just before sunset. The camel driver and his two assistants stayed with the camels, collecting firewood (we were just a dune or two away from the scrubland desert area) and making chai, while we hiked to the top of the dunes to watch the sunset.
Unfortunately the sunset was disappointingly anti-climactic. So depressingly poor, with no colors on the horizon or anything, that we’ve just deleted those photos. But here’s the two of us, standing as if we’re the only people in the entire desert!
By the time we got back to the camels, it was almost dark. We drank our chai, and watched our camel driver make a vegetable curry and chapatis from scratch, over an open fire.
Then, after dinner, we sat around the fire and listened to one of the boys sing, using one of our empty water jugs as a drum.
By that time, we were exhausted (camel-riding takes a lot out of you!), so the boys spread the blankets on the dunes for us, and we tumbled in to them, and went to sleep.
In the morning, we crawled out of bed early, in the hopes that the sunrise would be better than the sunset, and luckily, it was!
We walked back to our camp for a breakfast of chai, porridge, and toast, all made over an open fire.
Here are some of my favorite shots from the whole trip:
Then we (well, they) packed up camp, loaded up the camels, and we set out again.
Here are Tomas and Elisabeth, from Austria, the two friends we made on our camel safari. (We became such good friends that we had lunch together before we left Jaisalmer, and ended up meeting up again in Jaipur and Agra, our next two stops!)
The ride back, honestly, was painful. Especially when we galloped. During our time in Spice Paradise, we had met another couple who had done a 9 day camel safari. After our experience, we weren’t sure whether to question their sanity or applaud them for their bravery. Two half-days was more than enough for us!
We distracted ourselves looking at the scenery, the herds of goats we walked through, and our shadows and prayed a little that the driver would not make the camels gallop, a rather painful process, since camels, unlike horses, don’t have stirrups where you can cushion your descent.
We were very happy when we spotted the Jeep at the pick-up point. We paused (posed) for a group photo before jumping in the Jeep for a ride towards a much-needed shower!