Recently our trip to India has been coming up in conversations for a variety of reasons over and over. The trip was a personal reward for completing my master’s degree and was also going to be our last big trip before we tried to start a family. Possibly the biggest highlight of the trip was the camel safari we took in Jaisalmer just across from the Pakistani border.
We had started our trip in Delhi and then traveled by train to Varanasi, Agra, Jaipur, and Jodhpur before arriving in Jaisalmer. Instantly we loved the city. There was a slower pace here than the other cities we had visited and fewer tourists.
Booking Your Safari
Though the spectacular Jaisalmer Fort is one of the largest preserved fortified cities in the world, most tourists come to town to go on a camel safari. There are many tour groups and travel agencies in the area who can help arrange a safari. TripAdvisor is a great place to look for reviews by other tourists of the different camel safari companies in Jaisalmer.
Another option is to allow your hotel to arrange the safari and we went with this second option. We did an overnight tour and since we still had a room reserved with all of our things in it at the hotel for the night away, we were given a discount for booking through them. On our tour there was only my husband and I, two women and our camel handlers.
The Desert Tour
Our tour began with a jeep ride to Bada Bagh which is a garden complex with beautiful cenotaphs just outside of Jaisalmer. After visiting for some time and exploring the small village area, we were driven about 2 hours into the desert to meet our guides and the camels.
We waited while the camels were loaded up and then that was that. I’m not sure if our guides couldn’t speak English very much or just didn’t but not much was said for the next day really!
We followed the path through the desert. There was nothing around. We noticed that the plants and grasses would change as we went through different areas but there were no buildings or people for as far as the eye could see. Suddenly though there were sheep! Lots and lots of sheep. Our camels to wait for this large group of sheep to pass across the desert path.
We got down off of our camels and some of the sheep sniffed us curiously as they surrounded us. After what seemed like ages we could hear a faint bell ringing. As it became clearer a single man came into sight. He was the shepherd of this large flock taking them who knows where across the desert. He and our guides exchanged greetings and then we just carried on our way.
“Carrying on our way” is actually much easier said than done. Getting back up on our camels required holding on for dear life while it felt like you were going to topple over forward and then flip over backwards. Camels also smell quite bad and would relieve themselves constantly while walking. Every person in the line except the very first got to repeatedly witness the camel in front of them urinate and defecate over the 3 hours of our trek.
There was also the discomfort. Even with pillows, blankets and padding it was fairly uncomfortable for a woman. My husband though wondered if we would in fact be able to have children in the future (2 weeks after returning home I was pregnant).
We took our next break at a hand pump in the desert next to the path. There was a well where the guides filled up their canteens with water. We ran into another camel guide there and also a dog who was asking for water. After having a drink, the dog followed us along the path to where we would make camp that night.
From what we could understand, the dog just lives out in the desert. When someone comes to the well, he gets water. When tours come along, he follows them and gets a warm meal. Every day just walking along the desert path.
When we got to the dunes we were able to go explore while our guides made camp and cooked dinner. I have never felt sand as soft as the sand in the Thar Desert. It felt like silk running between our fingers. Though it seemed like nothing was there we discovered all sorts of small animals, birds and insects.
We then gathered around the fire, ate our meal and after the sun went down we went to sleep under the stars. It was winter when we went but the blankets kept us more than adequately warm. I’ve heard that some tours include tents but we loved sleeping out in the open air.
In the middle of the night our fire had died down and I woke up to find that I couldn’t move my legs. Something was definitely on top of my legs. I moved as little as possible and woke up my husband beside me. Through whispers I asked him to grab the camera from the top of my backpack and to quickly take a photo so we could see what it was without disturbing it by shining a flashlight on it and angering it.
The image showed that there was something black on my feet. I decided that if it was going to kill me, it probably would have done so already so we just left it. The next morning we found that the creature was a black dog. A very old black dog that was so ancient that every step was labored. She was hardly a threat.
Years ago she had likely also walked the trails like the white dog we had met but now she spent her days sleeping closer to the camps. When visitors set up for the night, then she would come.After the sun had risen and our breakfast finished we packed back up and headed in to town. We had the option of riding for 3 hours again or being picked up by the jeep after about an hour and a half instead. We opted for the shorter camel trip as we were all having difficulty walking. We were all pretty quiet on that trip back to town. The desert has a wonderful ability to make everything quieter at the time and loud conversations didn’t seem appropriate. We then just said good byes and continued on our trip.