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Published: April 4th 2005
Welcome to the desert
What a striking head!
Astonishingly, we had to come to India to ride on a camel
for the first time. Actually, Jaisalmer lies on an old merchant route through the desert to Afghanistan and further on to Europe, it was the spice road. That’s the reason why you still find many camels in this region, which are used as powerful beasts of burden, and as a major tourist attraction as well. The group met at Jaisalmer’s main square for breakfast, where we made the acquaintance of a very nice Canadian couple who would be on the safari with us. We made the first part of the trip by jeep, we were eight people and packed like sardines, in addition we took part of the provisions with us. There we already wished to be on camel’s back, at least we would have more space at our disposition!
Camels are strange creatures indeed, beautiful and ugly, gracious and clumsy at the same time. Actually these were all dromedaries with only one hump, camels have two. They have long thin legs, very big feet with soft soles and walk by moving both legs of one side at the same time, that’s why they sway like this, making
Ready to be packed
Hold on, this is just the beginning
you feel like on a ship and are sometimes called ships of the desert. When you see their strong and big teeth, you wish they treat you in a friendly way and don’t bite you! Like cows the camels are ruminants and after eating you will see them chewing their food over and over again for very long. Our camels were nicely made up, some had their tails dyed and specially cut, others had the fur sheared in beautiful patterns, others again wore nose rings and necklaces.
Finally, no more time for excuses, we had to climb the camels
. Sufficiently protected against the sun, our backpacks hung before us, we mounted the lying animal, which did not pose any problems. Then the camel stood up, first on its hind knees, then the front knees and the same again until it was standing on its four feet. Believe us, it was not easy to keep one’s balance! Stephan had fewer problems but Klaudia quite disliked the mounting and dismounting. We started at about 10 a.m. and were to ride until the noon break, interrupting it once for the camels to have a drink. Our group had four camel guides with
Shit, another long working day lies before me!
it, they owned the animals, took care of the tourists and the camels, made the food for us and provided the water. The riding did not cause us any problems, it was only strange that our two camels did not walk by themselves but had to be lead on the leash, Stephan’s beast in front and Klaudia’s as the rearguard. Shortly before the break Klaudia had some problems with her blood sugar and almost fell off the camel, but she got off lightly, and after some juice she was feeling better and walked the last metres to the tree, under which the group would have lunch. On the way there we passed another tree, where we met Basil again, a young Swiss guy we had already met in Jodhpur and who had jokingly said that we might meet again in the desert. How small the world is!
It had got hotter and hotter, at noon it was boiling hot and not even the wind brought any refreshment because it was hot, too. Have you ever drunk hot water without a tea bag or coffee powder in it? We did, on the safari. But what shall you do, you have
There she is still smiling...
to drink a lot and all we had was hot water. For lunch we had simple but tasty food, drank some tea and were al quite glad about the three hours break. On the second part of our trip we visited a small village, where only women and children were present because the men worked in the city or with the camels. They tried to sell us “cool” drinks, but we were all too tired, especially because we had to walk the camels for quite a long time before and after the village. Up to now we had not seen any dunes, only flat sand, some pink rocks, many cacti and other thorny shrubs. But even here they had water problems, it had not rained for three years and huge parts of the vegetation had dried up, even the cacti. The draught also affected the animals and we saw skulls and bones lying around and once we spotted a huge group of vultures feasting on a cadaver. Apart from goats not many animals were to be seen, Klaudia saw some lizards, and there were some birds, two small owls were especially beautiful with their big yellow eyes.
Lots of stuff
This is a case for the camel trade union
came to the first dunes, we erected our night camp
there, it was around 6 p.m. Our camels were discharged and given plenty of food, good animals which had carried us and all the equipment stoically. Our guides lit two fires and started to cook, in the meanwhile our blankets were spread out. We took a short walk up the dunes to make use of our legs again and found out that there were only five small dunes, but still impressive. Then we ate at the campfire, chatted and listened to our guides sing and make music. We all admired the stars, astonished that so many would twinkle in the sky when no artificial light disturbed our view. This day had been our seventh wedding anniversary and we had spent it in a very unusual way, romantic in a rustic manner. Klaudia even saw a falling star and of course she wished for many more happy years with Stephan. We had heard that the nights in the desert can get quite cold, but of course this is hard to believe, until we experienced it ourselves. This night we required two blankets and in the morning we had fresh water in
Klaudia mastering the camel
... as long as she did not have to mount or dismount the animal
At around 7 a.m. we had breakfast, then the camp was cleared, the camels packed, we said goodbye to the rest of the group, for us the trip was almost over, we would ride two hours to the place where we had started the day before. We had other camels this time, which walked by themselves and we enjoyed the ride very much, also because it was scenically more beautiful. We had found techniques how to keep our balance when the camels went up or down a hill and were carefree on the camels’ backs. When we arrived, the jeep with the next group also came and our two camels would be given new riders. Afterwards we found out that we had developed blisters on our buttocks, but apart from that it was a nice experience and we were glad that we had done it.
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