Camelback Safari in Jaisalmer, India
My memorable journey started in the desert city of Jodphur, known to many as the Blue City. The bus departed in the early morning and travelled continually westward from city to city across the desert landscape of Rajasthan, to the ultimate destination of Jaisalmer near the border of Pakistan. For five hours the bus trundled onwards, along predominantly straight roads, heading directly towards a slowly setting sun in the far west. I would poke my head out of the window and feel like I was on a true adventure as we continued into the heart of the wild north-west of India.
I soaked up the dramatically changing landscapes, while considering the unique cultures and politics which lay ahead of me, beyond my destination Jaisalmer and past Pakistan, all the way through to the Middle East and on to Europe.
The Safari Begins on a Camel Called Michael Jackson
Upon arrival into Jaisalmer there was time to explore the “living fort” which towers above the small town below. It was interesting knowing that the majority of families living in the array of houses, from the quaint homes to the more extravagant havelis, had been living there for centuries. Watching the sunset from the top of the fort and knowing that tomorrow I would be heading west through the desert on camel back, just like many farmers and merchants had done in years gone by, set the tone for a great adventure.
The meeting time was 6:15am and after a quick 30 minute jeep ride we were at the camel pick-up location, ready for a hearty breakfast and to meet and saddle up on our sturdy steeds. My guide was called Arj, who was dressed in traditional Rajasthan clothing; a one-piece, long flowing robe. My camel’s name was Michael Jackson, a name given to him by Arj, and he was an older male camel who also carried plenty of equipment, such as blankets and rucksacks.
Tip #1: Sit Side Saddle on Your Camel..And Tie Them Up
The first few hours on the camel was a bit of a roller coaster, a novelty at first with varying degrees of comfort level depending on positioning and tolerance levels. I followed the example of Arj and decided to sit side-saddle. Lunch was set out for us in the shade of a big tree, and consisted of roti & chapatti, rice & dal, various fruits and plenty of chai.
As we were resting after our meal, avoiding the peak of the afternoon heat and sun, the camels were left to roam free. As we all began to snooze in the shade, everyone started to comment that the one hour break was slowly turning into two hours, and Arj was nowhere to be found. We weren’t all too concerned, as the other camels were within sight, and assumed that Arj and Michael Jackson were just over the lip of a sand dune out of sight. More time passed, and then finally we spotted Arj’s blue robe in the distance. It turned out that Michael Jackson had trotted off over 2 km’s into the distance to chase a female camel that he had spotted, leaving poor Arj to chase after him on foot!
Set Camp for the Night in Desert Dunes Under the Stars
We continued our camel ride for four hours across the desert, with Arj telling us stories of the desert and his life. Arj was always squinting heavily, and although I never specifically asked, I did notice that he never wore a hat or sunglasses, items that many Westerners might struggle to live without, especially in such surroundings.
A few hours before sunset, we reached the spot where we would set up our desert camp. Surrounding us was a wide expanse of rolling sand dunes that you could see changed daily as the winds blew the sand into new positions, forming new hills, troughs and cliffs for the next set of travellers. Roaming the sand dunes barefoot, watching the sun set over the west with the knowledge that Pakistan lay only 100kms away, we all felt a sense of accomplishment in making it to and conquering the far north west of India.
Sleeping under the kaleidoscope of stars was magical, especially captivating for anyone who spends the majority of their time in cities.
Visiting Isolated Desert Villages
Early the next morning we set off again, meandering over the endless sand dunes and stopping for lunch inside an abandoned circular farmers hut, a common resting point for travellers crossing the desert.
After lunch we visited a small Hindu village that was fortunate enough to recently be the recipient of charity funding to install a water well and pump, which sat proudly in the heart of the village. The local children were especially curious to see a ‘gora’ (white man), and were fighting to catch a close-up glimpse. The village had no visible vehicles or access roads in or out, and the surrounding desert was too desolate for agricultural purposes, so such an existance was one of the most inhospitable I’ve ever encountered.
After another night under the stars at the same makeshift desert camp, it was time to say goodbye to Arj, MJ and the other camels. It was an amazing adventure, but it was definitely welcoming to climb aboard the jeep and head back to civilisation in Jaisalmer.
Check at our 2 day / 1 night Jaisalmer Camel Safari trip here.
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