I’m fresh and ready for the Thar Desert Camel Safari, I’ve got a slight headache but I’m excited. Papu picks us up in his jeep. We are six strong, a mixture of English and Danish. We stop at some mud hits and uninspiring lakes with temples.
To our delight, we hear the song we saw being filmed at Charbuja on the radio. It’s actually a real high hitter! It’s on the bloody radio.
Eager, we arrive to see our three guides and nine camels. I check the mileage on the jeep. We were promised to drive 60km away from Jaisalmer, we only topped 35km. What Johnny had done was give us the middle deal for the standard price, not the top deal for the middle price. Ha. Good old Johnny eh. Either way, the next three days are epic, no complaints, just another lesson learned. I love the way us tourists are treated as stupid.
Matar, Raman and Samir are our guides, they are happy, confident and constantly singing. I’m introduced to Prabu, a big, strong, expressionless camel. A fitting named for my camel seeing as I’m half way through Shantaram. Camels are odd creatures, I like them, I stroke his head, he checks me out, I jump on board.
I notice the metal bar through his nose is attached to a rope, which in turn is attached to the camel in front. I presume this keeps them in check. Not sure I’d like to be led around the desert like this but hey, I’m in the Thar Desert baby. I’m on a camel baby. Yeah.
Prabu stands up, I hold on. The huge smile on my face stays there for the next 2 hours. I giggle at my situation. I’m on a camel in a desert. Life is being good to me.
We plod forward. My thighs cramp, the seating position is sore but the pleasure overrides the pain. The land is dry but cactus plants an greenery survive out here. Where’s all the sand? I conclude that this isn’t going to be like the Sahara.
We pass desert gypsies, farmers, lone mud huts and small settlements. Windmills litter the horizon, supplying the locals electricity. It’s a shame for the tourist as it ruins the feel of a ‘deep desert’ experience but vital for local survival after the droughts of the late 90’s.
The midday heat unbearable, we rest under the cover of a tree. A fire is started and a fresh masala chi prepared. Our guides prepare us a feast of vegetable masala and chappatis while the camels get some play time. We rest. The food is delicious. Matt over feeds us with a huge smile on his face. He sings ‘full power, 24 hour, no toilet , no shower’ repeatedly with a huge Cheshire cat smile. I like this guy. A gypsy family surround us, hungry. Matar gives them some food served on a leaf. They sit with us and eat. I’m fascinated. we stare at each other smiling.
Collecting the camels is the job of our guides but I want to get involved. I help unaware of the small spiky ‘pickles’ that are soon to be sinking into my trousers and flesh. Pain is temporary, pride is forever. Joe, Casper and I successfully collect our camels and spend the next 15 minutes picking these pickles out of our shorts and skin.
Desert lesson number 1 – ‘Pickles’ are painful. Don’t get involved.
We ride our camels until breaking point, we finally arrive at some stunning sand dunes to see the sunset. Euphoria sets in, we jump off our camels and run riot in the dunes. I feel young again. Immature we bask in the sand dunes and role around like little boys.
We return to camp and a feast is ready for us. We lie down, eat a cookie. the clear night sky illuminated by the moon and stars. Relaxed, we sing songs. The wind picks up and the temperature starts to drop. Covered in sand and cold, my sleep was interrupted. No complaints here though, I paid to do this. What an experience, sleeping under the stars in the That Desert wasn’t quite as picturesque as I’d expected but it ticked a box in my list of things to do before I die.