A quick note: For those of you who are have been following the blog – please note that I updated the previous post to include our haveli visits.
So, the camel safari. One of the most recommended excursions for any trip to Jaisalmer. It was one of the few trips we didn’t arrange in advance, so we decided to ask our hotel if they offered a safari. The owner said that they did, and he quoted us 1700 Rs each (a lot!!) for a “non-touristic, music and dance safari”. It was a lot more than we were expecting, especially since our guidebook said it should only be around 1000 Rs. We negotiated down to 1500 Rs (ok, we aren’t the best negotiators), and the deal was done.
However, we weren’t entirely sure what we had signed up for. All we knew was that we were leaving at around 3pm, and that at some point we would ride a camel, and watch the sun set over the dunes.
A couple from Australia had also signed up for the safari that day, so we all got into the back of a small jeep and the driver took off. It was very dusty and thankfully we stopped after about 30 minutes to look at some cenotaphs. We didn’t expect to see a wind farm in the middle of the desert!
…and a few children begging. After we got the beggars to leave us alone, we enjoyed a few minutes of peacefulness while taking pictures of the monuments.
There didn’t seem to be any efforts made to preserve the site (as was the case with most, if not all, of the historical sites in India). Some of the structures were falling apart, or had been vandalized.
When we finished, we all got back in the jeep and drove for another 30 minutes or so to the next historical site, an abandoned desert village.
It wasn’t terribly exciting and we were glad to get back in the jeep. Little did we know we had another 45 min on the dusty roads before we would reach our destination. The “non-tourist” safari that we were on did not go to the famous Sam Sand Dunes. Instead we were to visit some less impressive, but ostensibly less crowded dunes. Hence, the “non-tourist” part of the safari.
When we finally reached the tent camp where the safari started, the scrub along the sides of the road was still thick and there was plenty of grass around.
We were led to some chairs in a large concrete area, and we waited for what seemed like forever (but it was only 20 minutes or so). As soon as our camels arrived, we went to pick out our steeds. I think we both tried to pick the least cantankerous one – but it was hard, because all the camels were pretty cranky. Getting up on the camels was an adventure in itself – you really have to hold on tight. There weren’t any stirrups on our saddles, so riding the camels was pretty uncomfortable. I’m pretty sure it’s always uncomfortable, though.
The camels were completely covered with fleas. Ugh. It was really gross, but the 7 and 8-yr old kids who were leading our camels were friendly and distracting. Rob’s camel was not cooperative, so one of the handlers tied the nose of his camel to the butt of Shana’s camel. We didn’t think too much about it until some funny rumbling noises came out of Shana’s camel – from the wrong end. Luckily it was just air, but it happened a lot (and kept us laughing)!
The little kids led us on along a path for what seemed like an eternity, as we watched the sun getting lower and lower. We were supposed to watch the sunset from the dunes, so we wondered where we were going. Finally we all realized that the kids were leading us to a small village in the distance. We convinced the kids to skip the village and take us to the dunes right away so we could see the sunset.
The dunes were beautiful, though small, and we did make it there in time to rest a little and enjoy a nice sunset.
After the sun set, we headed back to the tent camp on our camels. In the center of the camp, there were a few dozen chairs set up in a semi-circle on the concrete floor. There were also a few flood lamps, which unfortunately attracted a small army of flying, biting insects. Some musicians and dancers came out and started to perform for us.
They were ok. At this point we were quite hungry, but it would be another hour before the food was brought out. In the meantime we swatted at bugs and tried to enjoy the show. When the food was finally ready, a long buffet was set up with lots of different dishes. Our hotel owner, who had arranged the safari, had said something earlier about cooking the food before we left and then reheating it in the evening. Shana was nervous about that, so she stuck to the Cliff Bars she had brought (and some chapati). Rob tried everything (and survived – he didn’t get sick at all).
The trip home seemed especially long, because it was so dark and dusty. We passed several military trucks and a few motorbikes, but luckily there was very little traffic. It had been a long day, and we were relieved when we finally arrived back at the hotel at around 10pm or so. We wished we had skipped the camel safari, although at least now we can say we did it! After that, we were ready to leave Jaisalmer and head back to Jodhpur – our last stop before leaving the state of Rajasthan.
Next: our trip to Jodhpur, and then on to Agra (via Delhi)!