A night in the desert: A Jaisalmer camel tour

by Kim on January 29, 2013 · 49 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:




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