A night in the desert: A Jaisalmer camel tour

by Kim on January 29, 2013 · 45 comments

Kim’s note: Many of you have asked what Brian was up to while I was puttering my way through India in a rickshaw. Alas, I’ve guilt-tripped convinced Brian to share his solo Indian adventures here on the blog. First up, a desert camel safari.

To kick-off my solo tour of India, I stayed in Jaisalmer, an ancient fort city, and went on a camel safari in the Thar Desert.

My trip started with a pre-dawn ride out to a village about half an hour from the city.  There I had breakfast and explored the village. When the sky started to lighten, my guide told me it was time to leave, so I climbed atop my camel and the two of us headed into the desert as the sun rose.

My guide spoke very little English, and I speak no Hindi, so we exhausted our communications within the first half hour. It was awkward at first, because it was just the two of us, but we soon settled into the rhythm of the camels and he would occasionally point to plants and animals and tell me their names.

Riding through the desert atop a camel is an amazing experience.  First, my head was 10 to 11 feet off the ground, so the perspective was very different than what I am used to.  Every time I got off the camel I thought, “Why do I feel so short now?” Second, the desert is peacefully quiet. The loudest sound I heard was the swish of camel feet on the sand. The rhythm was calming and relaxing.

My camel’s name was Rockette.  I nicknamed her Chewie because of the constant cud chewing and the Wookie-esque ‘mmmrrrraaaarrrrraaaahhhh‘ she would occasionally belt out.

Brian camel

After a few hours of riding we stopped for a lunch of vegetable curry, rice, potato chips, naan, and chai.  My guide cooked everything from scratch over an open fire in about half an hour. It was one of the best meals I have ever had.  But the best part?  After lunch, as we sat under the shade of a shrub, a herd of sheep and goats wandered by.  My guide rounded up a couple goats, milked them, and then made another pot of chai using the goat milk.  It was delicious.

In the early evening we set up camp on sand dunes. Most of the Thar Desert is scrub desert, full of small, hearty shrubs and the occasional 10-feet tall tree.  It has its own desolate beauty, but you quickly realize that even the desert is full of life. It is odd to say, but the dunes looked out of place in this desert, like a small part of the Sahara had been dropped down in western Rajasthan.

  Sand dunes Thar Desert

After an hour of exploring the dunes solo, about a dozen people arrived. This was another group who rode camels out on a shorter trip, stayed for dinner and the sunset, then headed back to Jaisalmer for the night.

As we sat and chatted, the sun was rapidly retreating from the sky. The sand began to glow gold and we all became quiet and enjoyed one of the best shows Mother Nature provides. What a sunset it was.  I like to think of myself as someone who takes the time to enjoy the sunset, and since Kim and I have been travelling we do this a few times a week. But this, THIS was a sunset. There were no lights for miles and nothing but desert on the horizon. Words fail to describe it, so here are a few pictures:

sunset2

 

sunset3

After dinner, everyone but a few of the camel drivers and myself headed back to Jaisalmer. We sat around a small campfire and they spoke to each other in Hindi while asking me occasional question about my travels, the United States, and life in general. One of them translated for the others.  It was a pleasant, easy night.

After the fire died, we all crawled under our blankets and went to sleep. It was a cold night in the desert, close to freezing (at one point I woke up and there was frost on my beard), which meant the air was clear.  I have never seen so many stars in my life. It was simply amazing.  Seeing the millions of stars in the sky and being surrounded by the silence of the desert was truly an awesome experience.  It filled me with awe, wonder, and the giddy excitement I get when I know I am having an experience that can only be lived here and now.

In the morning I awoke to a pastel sky.  Some clouds had rolled in overnight and they glowed pink in the sunrise.  It put a smile on my face as soon as I opened my eyes and a wave of happiness washed over me.  I thought to myself, “How often does simply opening my eyes make me so happy?” A sense of contentment settled in as I turned my head and watched the sun crest on the horizon and make it’s steady march across the sky.

After a breakfast of toast, jam, cookies and chai, it was back atop the camel.  A few hours of riding brought me to a waiting jeep, which would take me back to Jaisalmer.

After a nice hot shower, a change of clothes and a quick lunch, I boarded a train to Jodhpur.  I was on my way to the blue city, and hopefully a new round of unforeseen adventures.

Desert Camp

Desert camp

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{ 44 comments… read them below or add one }

Hannah January 29, 2013 at 7:32 pm

I love it when you blog Brian! What a beautiful experience, and your photos are stunning. I loved driving through the desert in our rickshaw and agree that the occasional sand dune does seem out of place in the wild, rugged landscape. Looking forward to reading more on your solo adventure :)

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Brian February 7, 2013 at 9:14 pm

Hannah: as wonderful as the beaches of Goa, there is something about the deserts of Rajistan that calls you back to them.

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Rhonda January 29, 2013 at 8:13 pm

Sounds like a lovely time. We, too, spent the night in the desert but at a camp so I did the solo ride on the camel (Jim was horribly sick from food poisoning in the room!) and had an amazing adventure of a different kind but now I want to actually camp out.

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Brian February 7, 2013 at 9:12 pm

Rhonda: any excuse to return to India, right?

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Lauren January 29, 2013 at 8:26 pm

It makes me happy that you are so happy, B! Love you.

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Brian February 7, 2013 at 9:12 pm

Thanks, Lauren. Love you too.

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Michele January 29, 2013 at 11:01 pm

A lovely post Brian. Thanks for sharing! And Chewie is adorable…what gorgeous eyelashes she has!

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Brian February 7, 2013 at 9:11 pm

Thanks, Michele. And I agree that camels eyes are strangely beautiful.

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Amy January 30, 2013 at 4:22 am

Wow, amazing pictures – they almost don’t look real. My fave is the cartoon-like camel!

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Brian February 7, 2013 at 9:10 pm

Thanks, Amy. Rockette was one of my favorite parts of the trip!

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Carmel January 30, 2013 at 7:30 am

Shawn has been awaiting to hear from you, Brian! This is just lovely and I can almost imagine what it was like.

How often SHOULD we be happy by simply opening our eyes? What an amazing experience.

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Brian February 7, 2013 at 9:09 pm

Carmel: I agree. It reminded me of a friend who told me their little kid woke up giggling most mornings. When do we lose that feeling of just being happy to be awake?

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Sarah Somewhere January 30, 2013 at 10:02 am

What a wonderful experience Brian (especially the image of frost on your beard!). Your photos of that sunset are AMAZING!!!

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Brian February 7, 2013 at 9:05 pm

Thanks, Sarah. I think that is the first time I have ever had frost in my beard!

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Tracy January 30, 2013 at 10:16 am

Good to hear from you Brian! Sounds like an amazing night in the desert

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Brian February 7, 2013 at 9:04 pm

Thanks, Super T.

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Steve C January 30, 2013 at 10:32 am

Brian, great job on your story! I’m relatively new to you guys’ blog and it’s the first one I’ve read by you.

I’ve also done a camel safari into the desert. We took a bus south from Jaisalmer, 45 kilometers to a small village called Khuri. Here’s a short quote out of my diary dated Dec. 13, 1987 Day 296 of our RTW trip.

“bus ticket: 7 rupees, (54 cents) The ride out into the desert was a Fantasy! Camels everywhere. The people on the bus were all very typical local people. Women in bright colors, the men with bright turbans and gold earrings. The two ladies in the seat behind us were great; one was nursing her very small child, the other was holding a baby kid (goat). They all had bags, boxes and cans full of all kinds of things, and next to them, and me, was a big black goat.”

We wandered around through the desert for 3 days, 2 nights and it was very similar to how you described yours. I’ve just read back through the 17 pages in my diary that describe that part of our trip. I also described the sunrises and sunsets, the food, cooking and campfires, how many stars there were because it was so dark, how cold it was and my good friend, Choudria, my camel.

Brian, it’s been 26 years and I still remember my camels name! You are now making “mind stories” that will be flash-backs for the rest of your life.

Hope to hear more stories from you, for no other reason than to get the male point of view once in a while. (No offense Kim!)

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Brian February 7, 2013 at 9:04 pm

Steve-glad I could help bring back the good memories! And I am pretty sure I will remember Rockette for the rest of my life!

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Krystin Castro January 30, 2013 at 2:07 pm

Great post Brian, your pictures are amazing!

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Brian February 7, 2013 at 9:02 pm

Thanks, Krystin.

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Wil @ Where's Wil January 30, 2013 at 2:17 pm

That looks like a great experience.

I’ve seen a few hosts on different work exchange sites that are looking for help with different desert tours and I think it would be a great experience. Hopefully I can do it some day soon.

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Brian February 7, 2013 at 9:02 pm

Wil- I think the opportunity to live/work in the desert, even for a short period of time, would be an opportunity that would be hard to pass up.

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Tia January 30, 2013 at 3:43 pm

Brian, when the day comes for you to make a permanent home again, I can’t imagine how you will choose what pictures will grace your walls. They are all positively breath taking!

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Brian February 7, 2013 at 9:07 pm

Tia-It is going to be a hard choice. We have so many pictures, I am afraid we will make everyone sit through our slide shows!

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Michele January 31, 2013 at 8:28 am

We’ve have done the camel trek/camp experience in Morocco and didn’t think we would need to do it again anywhere else. But after reading your post I am re-thinking the decision. Can’t wait for part 2.

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Brian February 7, 2013 at 9:00 pm

Michelle-if you ever find yourself in Jaisalmer, I would consider it a camel safari a must do!

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Kristin Thomas January 31, 2013 at 8:41 am

What an amazing experience! I am fascinated with the desert, and what stunning sunset photos! Thanks for sharing your journey.

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Brian February 7, 2013 at 8:59 pm

Kristin-the desert was amazing. The desolateness of it helps clear your mind and put everything into proper perspective.

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Annika aka Indinika February 2, 2013 at 9:13 am

Hallo Brian! I love your writing and the unbelievable beauty of this detail of your life. I’m still looking back on those intense talks we had in Jodhpur! You inspire me and what you and Kim share here really makes me think… well, I was into that before, but to read about your view on things adds more shades to my picture of life. Hope you will share more tiles of the big mosaic of your journey! Viele liebe Grüße

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Brian February 7, 2013 at 8:58 pm

Thanks, Annika. I am happy these stories can add colors to the picutre of your life. More stories to come!

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globalhelpswap February 3, 2013 at 9:02 pm

Wow! What a great read. It reminded us of our time in the Gobi desert. We felt exactly the same way about the sunsets and the stars at night.

We are major lovers of the ocean but there is something about the desert that stays in your heart.

Happy travels!
Paul from globalhelpswap

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Brian February 7, 2013 at 8:51 pm

Paul: I agree that there is something about the desert that will stay with me always. And I still can’t believe how many stars there were!

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Desert Safari February 16, 2013 at 12:11 am

The contents of this blogs are just awesome. Nice collection of pictures…

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Ali February 21, 2013 at 4:41 am

Brian, it sounds like you had such an amazing experience! Gorgeous sunset pictures. I’m suck a sucker for sunsets. Thanks for sharing!

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Lucie February 24, 2013 at 2:17 pm

Wow, that was a beautiful sunset! Thank you for sharing!

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Shenaaz February 27, 2013 at 11:06 am

Reading this post made my day, reminded me of why we travel and the beauty of life around is- if we’re just willing to get out of the way-literally and figuratively! Beautifully written, great pics, nicely done.

Now I’m going to read your next post which doesn’t sound as if it went as well?!

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Harsha February 14, 2014 at 3:30 am

Ru traveling in India now?

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Lela Bonchjela May 5, 2013 at 2:53 am

Hey Kim/Brian, which tour company did you guys engage? I’m going this December ;)

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Kim May 24, 2013 at 6:07 am

Hi Lela… I’ve asked Brian which company he used but he doesn’t remember. There are two or three travel companies by the entrance to the fort and he used one of those, but he can’t remember the name. He thinks it started with a “K.”

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Kim May 24, 2013 at 6:08 am

Okay, it’s me again. He googled it. The company is called “Trotters.” He recommends them!

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Tobias December 4, 2013 at 3:04 am

Hi there,
Fantastic post, thanks!
I’d like to do a similar tour, any chance you could share the name of the guide, agent, hotel, etc you booked with?
Thank you ever so much!!

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Tobias December 4, 2013 at 3:06 am

Whoops, just saw the previous post. Thanks!

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Richa August 5, 2014 at 2:38 am

Hi,

Nicely written and really nice pictures. I am also planning to visit sam sand dunes in a couple of weeks so need your help. Can you please give the contact details of the camel man who arranged ur ride? As your experience sounds so great i would love to get booking done by the same guy. If possible please reply soon. Thanks

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Kim August 7, 2014 at 1:37 pm

Hi Richa, I don’t remember the name but there is a stand outside the main entrance of the Jaisalmer Fort and that is where Brian booked his tour. He doesn’t remember any more than that. Have fun.

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