Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Camel Safari

It's seems I couldn't've come up with a better itinerary if I tried....
It seems that Alysha has never been to a desert and seen a hill of sand away from the beach. Our 3 day, 2 night camel safari started as all safaris out here start, with a 2 hr delay (welcome to Indian time). After a 1 1/2 hr (including a couple stops at temples) jeep ride out into the desert we were introduced to our camelmen. 5 of us, 5 of them, and only 6 camels. The guys doubled up on the spare or alternated walking/jogging along beside. We thought this a bit silly at first but I'm now inclined to believe that it was a carefully planned scheme to save their arses. Ours are completely pulverized. After all the horseback riding we've done we were expecting some pain but I've never been in worse shape after a few days of riding. It's not that it is due to uncomfortable seating or even a weird gait but there is something about the whole thing (possibly the lack of stirrups?) that wrecks you more. Having said that, it was worth it (although we'll be a while recovering).
Jaisalmer (beautiful town, awesome sandcastle fort on a hill overlooking everything right in the middle) is the camel safari town and although it is very small (~50,000 people) it sees tons of tourists come to ride out into the desert sunset on the sand dunes on the back of a smelly camel. Because of this it is notoriously known as a huge tourist trap with some of the worst harrassment and hassle anywhere in India. Fortunately our luck continues and we fell in with someone from a nice (and friendly) guest house which has saved us a lot of trouble. We organized the safari through them as they are the only group doing safaris in one particular area away from all the other groups and camp followers associated with them. Consequently we were very quickly out in the middle of nowhere on the back of a camel straining to hear....anything. Deserts are always cool because of that deathly silence that accompanies them. The only sounds were the crunch, crunch, crunch of the camels stepping on the dry, crusty ground or their constant chewing. Occasionally the girls would break out into a chorus (the sherpa song from Nepal) to pass the time.
I must admit though that I can no longer say "the middle of nowhere" comfortably because I have been there and it is actually somewhere in the Gobi desert. This desert (the Thar) has much more life. There are quite a few bushes and the occasional tree here and there, and often we found ourselves walking over what was once farm land, apparently they've tried to irrigate large sections of the desert but the growing season is really short and the land is just left barren most of the time. We would also come across random herds of goats or sheep watched by a shepherd trying to stay cool under a tree. From what we've been told nobody owns the land and if you are crazy enough to start building a house somewhere you can have it, so there are small villages scattered around and plenty of wells for drawing water. It was at the wells that we would attract attention and suddenly become surrounded by curious village kids. They are nice enough but wow, crazy ear piercings and massive amounts of jewelry on their mother's (gold is for married ladies only). So I guess this particular "middle of nowhere" was dry, dusty and quiet, but not lifeless.
We spent a total of about 4 hrs on the camels each day and set up camp each night right on the sand dunes that we got to just before sunset. Food was simple but adequate and the guys were really accomodating. Alysha was right into it all, wanting to help cook, clean, gather firewood and learn all she could. The rest of us just wanted to recover. We did find time to goof off in the sand and have fun too (hopefully we can get some more videos up soon). I know you guys at home are getting nothing but rain (and we haven't had any for 5-6 weeks now) but I want to complain about the weather too. It's cold! It's winter here so it's pushing 30C during the day but at night it's almost 0C and that is not cool (ah, but it is so very) when you are sleeping on the sand with a blanket looking at all the stars. Tons of stars too. Great, awesome, but not the best. The best were still in Kyrgyzstan. (I wonder if that is due to the fact that in Kyrgyzstan we were at a much higher elevation so there was less atmosphere to distort the image and thus the stars feel closer? If anyone knows, do tell.)
We will be in Jaisalmer for another day or two recovering and exploring this little city. It has tons of character and it may be the only chance Alysha has to shop for clothes and get stuff made so we are going to take full advantage.


At 10:38 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi guys,
We are finally moved into our new place. Computer is up and running!!!!!!
Sounds like you have had a great and wonderful time with all these experiences. Love your video clips and sure have missed your voices and laughing. Hug each other everyday and be safe. God bless and remember we love. David,Ronna&Family.


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