Camel Trekking in The Thar Desert
My guide Gunput singing by the fire one night on my camel trek through the Thar Desert, a funny desert song peppered with a little English. It was a great night after a long day on the camels. The desert whiskey we drank was a nice finish to the evening.
Hello, Namaste and welcome to Far East Adventure Travel-The Podcast heard worldwide from the iTunes platform and also brought to you by Far East Adventure Travel Magazine-just go to the iTunes app store… search Far East Adventure Travel, download the app and subscribe. Starting with this month’s issue just out on the iTunes newstand-Camel Trekking in the Thar Desert.
This is John Saboe the publisher of Far East Adventure Travel Magazine in this podcast thoughts and stories from my camel trek on the Thar Desert of Rajasthan in India.
So first off let me tell you that I love India, it is a magical place, with things you won’t see, hear, or experience anywhere else in the world. I have many beautiful memories and have made some dear friends. India has made a place in my heart.
But there is one thing you won’t like about it, and that’s the touts. The men who will do anything to get some money out of you. In their eyes you are a walking ATM machine. They will try to take you to their shop, which really isn’t their’s, in order for you to buy something and they will get a hefty commission. They will also lie to you and will tell you your hotel has burned down or is closed but they know another place you will like. The stories are endless.
So I was heading for Jaisalmer, the desert town in the far eastern portion of Rajasthan and I had been fending off touts for a few weeks but I was getting tired.
When I heard that they liked to board the buses and trains about an hour before they reached Jaisalmer from Jodhpur to start hassling people for hotel rooms, rides, camel safaris and everything else I had it.
Instead I hired a car to take me from Jodhpur to Jaisalmer, about a 4-5 car ride, for about $50, which by Western standards, is very cheap, but about 10 times the price of bus ticket. Well worth it for me.
When I arrived in Jaisalmer I was quite pleased with what I saw. The golden city as it’s known, is made up of buildings and houses made out of the local yellow sandstone. It has this beautiful glow and during the sunset it’s absolutely breathtaking, especially given that Jaisalmer sits right on the edge of the vast Thar Desert.
Jaisalmer Fort sits high above everything else, from a distance, it looks like a sandbox castle. Up close, it is one of the most unique looking forts in all of Rajasthan, perhaps even India. This is where I would start my 4 day camel trek.
There are several places than can arrange a camel trek for you, including some specialized outfitters in town. I liked the guesthouse I stayed at and they were very fair in pricing. Plus later I got extra things thrown in like a free upgrade in room, and the owner treated me to dinner on my last night.
My guide, Gunput, showed up at 8am the morning we started. Right at the side entrance to the inn, with his two camels, packed with gear, food, and water, for the four days.
The stories you hear about how sore it is to ride a camel are all true. The first day was excruciating. The camel has a gait or stride, that is nothing like a horse. A camel lumbers back and forth, so you are constantly swaying around, sometimes just trying to make sure you’re steady and don’t fall off. It’s a big fall if you go down- and an awkward mounting of the camel as well. The camel has to drop right to the ground in order for you to get on it’s back. When it gets back up it’s a severe motion that if you’re not prepared, could also throw you off its back. You have to remember to lean back when it rises.
It was a long ride from Jaisalmer to the dunes we would sleep on the first night. Eight hours of riding back and forth on the camels. Camels are sometimes called the ships of the desert because of their up and down motion that’s so extreme some people actually feel nauseous and have the same symptoms of seasickness. Fortunately I did not experience that, but my ass and thighs were extremely sore and fatigued by the time we arrived on The Khuri Dunes about an hour before sunset.
The camel guides do everything on your safari, from taking care of the camels to cooking all of your meals. My guide was a good cook, we always had some mixed vegetables, with chapati bread. Simple but always tasty, and on a couple of nights he made some pakoras, deep fried fritters made of onion and potatoes. Very very tasty.
The first night on the Khuri Dunes was magical, I would go so far as to say spiritual. There is no ambient light this far out in the desert so the stars shine brightly in the very dark backdrop.
Crawling into my little bed on the dunes that was made up of a comfy little mattress and blankets and staring at the stars that were so bright was amazing but what really gave me a reset through the night was waking up every two or three hours, only for a brief moment, and noticing the almost full moon appeared to have shifted from the last time I was awake. By the early morning and just as the sun was rising, still in another spot.
It seems simple, the moon shifting, but the perspective it gave me in relation to my place in all of this-being the world, the universe.
Now would I have gotten that same experience if I had gone camping in Europe, Canada or The United States? Quite possibly.
It wasn’t just the stars and moon that gave me this feeling. The combination of riding a came for the first timel all day and being physically exhausted, being in such a vast space like the Thar Desert, in India, less than 200km from the Pakistan border all contributed to my awakening moment. It still moves me today to talk about this experience.
Read about this and more in this month’s issue of Far East Adventure Travel Magazine, including images and video from the trek. Go to the itunes app store, search Far East Adventure Travel, download the app and subscribe. As well you can go to breezy-size.flywheelsites.com and sign up for your free newsletter including this month’s ebook-5 great tips for getting the most out of your smartphone when you go on your next big adventure.
So, that’s it for this week’s edition of Far East Adventure Travel-The podcast. Thanks so much for listening. Next week, more on my Camel Trek in the desert including a story of desert whiskey and becoming a brother. Until then this is John Saboe – Namaste and safe travels!
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