A Camel Safari In Jaisalmer: Once In A Lifetime

 
The camel safari and night in the desert in Jaisalmer was one of the highlights of our trip to India. Sleeping in the desert under a million stars is magical and definitely something we would recommend to anyone visiting Jaisalmer. Here's a report of our camel safari...

Joris was the one that came up with the great idea of booking a tour that would take us through the desert on camels. My initial reaction was “Holy cow! That sounds so cool!”. We still had plenty of time until we would reach the city of Jaisalmer -which is a popular spot for camel safaris- so we went on with our trip with the thought in the back of our heads.

 Thar Desert at sunset.

Thar Desert at sunset.

...until a few days before reaching Jaisalmer.

All of a sudden I started to doubt if I would really enjoy an uncomfortable ride in the scorching, dusty desert, on a... stinky camel. I really imagined the worst.

I started reminiscing about the first time I rode a horse; about how magical and amazing I thought it would be and how it turned out to be a terrifying experience. Back then, 20 years ago, I didn’t have many realistic expectations.

 Camel in the sun.

Camel in the sun.

On my short chubby horse I felt too high up but the biggest problem was the wobble. How the walk of the horse made me move back and forward and made me feel extremely unsafe. I felt like I could easily fall if the animal would make a sudden movement.

To make things worse, the horse my cousin was riding -a beautiful tall white horse- decided to be naughty and started galloping away. My terrified cousin cried while tightly grabbing hold of the reins. The horse keepers went after them but by the time the whole ordeal was over, I was just scared.

The years passed by and even though learning how to ride a horse properly is one of my dreams, I still have reservations about it. Would a ride on a camel be any better? An animal twice as tall, twice as... wobbly?

 Our camel group.

Our camel group.

 One of the younger guides.

One of the younger guides.

Nevertheless, we were making our way further into the desert. Jaisalmer was a day away and we would be staying 4 nights there. Loads of thoughts went through my head and I couldn’t deny that I really wanted to do it. Since we’re not planning to go to the Sahara any time soon, this would be the best opportunity to have a cool desert adventure. Let’s do it! Of course Joris was pleased that I was finally positively affirmatively on board.

Booking The Camel Safari

We booked our tour online with Trotters because they had good reviews and we didn’t want to leave a one time experience to chance. They're not the cheapest company but they have good reviews and it wasn't going to kill our daily budget in India anyway. The itinerary consisted of leaving the city in the afternoon with a jeep, doing some sightseeing, reaching the camels and riding them for one and a half hours further into the desert where we would eat and sleep and then return the next morning after breakfast.

  The main camel guide of our group.

 The main camel guide of our group.

So the next day we went to make the payment and received further information from a not particularly nice guy but anyway, we hoped that because it was not high season, we wouldn’t be part of a big group... 

The Day Of The Camel Safari

The day of the excursion we checked out of our hotel and were able to leave our bags in what would be our next accommodation. Then, we had breakfast and lunch at a nice café until it was finally time to meet at the starting point of our adventure.

We were a nice group of 9 people divided into 2 jeeps. The almost deserted road made the ride seem longer than it was but the driver pumped some catchy Indian music through the speakers for our amusement. After 40 minutes we made our first stop. It was an oasis, not nearly as impressive as the ones you see in the movies but nevertheless a large body of water from which animals and local people get their precious drinking water.

 The oasis.

The oasis.

Once again in the jeeps we went further into the desert. Next stop was at the abandoned village of Kuldhara. The locals say it’s haunted but in a land so full of mysticism, people will believe anything and in the end, it gets more attention from tourists. We walked around in a building partially in ruins that had a nice view of the village. Cold water was distributed to everyone and we took the jeeps one more time to meet our camels.

 Kuldhara.

Kuldhara.

Finally! There they were! Seeing them triggered an excitement hard to describe. These enormous creatures with longer than life eyelashes just sitting there in the middle of nowhere waiting for us. Of course, they weren’t as excited as we were, since they would have to carry us and other bags and luggage one and a half hours through the boiling desert. Tough luck... we were ready to go.

The instructions to get on the camels was: “Hold on tight and lean backwards!”.

As we mounted them one by one, some already began making noises of complaints. Michael Jackson and Rambo, our camels, where amongst the ones that didn’t seem to be bothered with the task ahead.

 One of the camels.

One of the camels.

And off we went, in two rows of camels tied to one another. Aside from feeling so high off the ground, the seats felt sturdy and safe. The real adventure had began and I was actually going to enjoy the ride. Yes! It was amusing to see the camels pee and poop while they walked and listen to the peculiar sounds they make when chewing their regurgitated food.

Also, with lots of sunscreen, sunglasses and a light scarf wrapped around my head and a cap for Joris, we were able to survive the blazing sun. The second half of the trip was during sunset.

 Arriving at the camp.

Arriving at the camp.

How pretty can the desert be!? When we reached the sand dunes it was beautiful. With only a few traces of vegetation left, a clear sky and pure air, smooth sand and a golden reflection of the sun. I imagined how much more amazing it would be if we were in an Arabian desert but for the moment, this was amazing, hehe. We kept going for a little while longer...

We were all happy to arrive at the camp. Our legs were SO cramped... Already not looking forward to the way back the next day. 

A Night In The That Desert

It was time for something else though. Waiting for us at the camp there where a few men who had already started two small fires and where cooking for us. Big thick blankets were placed on the sand for us to sit and rest and a man “conveniently” passed by selling cold beers.

 Cooking for the group.

Cooking for the group.

 Finding some missing camels.

Finding some missing camels.

One beer, a few pakoras (deep fried vegetables in cheek pea batter) and a bathroom break (behind the bushes) later and it was already pitch dark.

The atmosphere changed drastically. The sky was lit by a bazillion bright stars. It was silent and remote and together with the fresh evening breeze it became a different type of magic... which got quickly interrupted by a big dung beetle climbing on my shoe! Ughhhhh... Why!? Why do bugs always come to me?

As I shook it off, diner was ready. Sitting on the sand, in the dark, using the light of our phones to keep an eye on the beetles, we ate. The food was delicious. Our hosts made dahl (cheek pea soup), aloo gobi (cauliflower and potatoes), something spicy, white rice and flat bread. All from scratch. Our desert dessert was rice mixed with sweet warm milk and spices.

 Desert cook.

Desert cook.

Tummy happy and then we decided to jump on our beds, which had been arranged next to each other for the few of us who booked the ‘staying the night’ package. The rest went (probably in pain) back to the city.

Ahhh, I could finally relax not having to worry about the beetles and we just lied there looking at the stars and enjoying the fresh breeze.

Unfortunately, our camp wasn’t too far from a town and most of the evening we had our silence interrupted by some sort of performance with music and someone speaking through a speaker. We could also see the lights from the distance.

 Preparing the camels for the night.

Preparing the camels for the night.

After a while we fell asleep.

And the night was... well, a whole different experience. We were briefly awakened by such a strong gust of wind that it blew sand into our beds. The night was chilly, so we were glad we had thick blankets that we thought would be too much but turned out to be much needed and cozy.

Then came dawn and with it came the most annoying, loud mosquito ever. I had to shower my arms with bug spray and cover my face so I could have a few more hours of sleep. Joris heard it too but we don’t know if it bothered anyone else. 

Riding Back To Jaisalmer

Waking up in the middle of the desert felt kind of liberating. No need for a shower, brushing your teeth or changing clothes. We were quickly greeted by a warm cup of chai and our hosts put together a nice big platter full of biscuits, toast, jam, bananas and we even got served a sweet sticky porridge, yum! All 5 of us who stayed the night sat together around the food and ate to our heart’s content.

 Getting ready to ride back.

Getting ready to ride back.

At around 8:00 we were ready to leave and with sore thighs we all repeated the all important step of: “Hold on tight and lean backwards!”.

The way back wasn’t as bad as we though. We managed to pull through the pain, maybe because we knew what to expect and we reached the camel pitstop after a little over an hour ride. And just like that our adventure was over.

 Almost there.

Almost there.

This was one of those trips that felt like a dream. “Fortunately”, the pain in our thighs for a week was more than enough proof that it was real. And it was worth it!

Although some things could’ve been better, this was a really nice experience. Definitely something special to do at least once in a lifetime. Riding camels is just so cool. Their strength, their looks and their personalities are unique and amazing. Being in the middle of the desert and experiencing the ‘night life’ was wonderful and definitely something we will always remember...

 

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