We arrived to Jaisalmer sometime around noon. Everything felt blurry after the endless 22-hour overnight train from Delhi.
Dragging ourselves to the hotel after a bumpy auto-rickshaw ride felt like a chore, but the expectation of what’s to come was enough to energise us. We strolled with our bags around Jaisalmer, the golden city, the sandy city, a desert palace, weaving our way to the hotel. We checked in, dropped our bags, and we were ready.
I’d been looking forward to this part of the trip for months. The night we’d go into the depths of the Thar desert and sleep under the stars. No tent or facilities, just us and a blanket.
Up until then, I’d never been to a desert. To get to our base camp we had to drive for about an hour to a meeting point with our caretakers, and from then it was a 2-hour camel ride (or a further 40 minutes by car for those who wanted to skip the safari).
I had absolutely no idea what to expect when we first jumped on the cars and the scarce vegetation gave way to arid land and sand. As the quiet magnificence of the desert started to seep in, I was in awe. The Thar Desert can be the perfect amalgamation of nature’s inhospitality and human-animal adaptation. Wind turbines stood high in the horizon, and a pack of wild dogs secretly followed us to our camp.
The sun set and we ate our delicious dinner, cooked by our wonderful caretakers, as darkness embraced us and we traded stories, secrets and songs. We then lay on our hammocks to see an exclusive show of shooting stars. There’s nothing I love more than looking at the stars when there’s no other light source around and feeling your eyesight slowly adjust to the night.
At night the wild dogs made an appearance. In between giggly trips to the bathroom (a.k.a a sand dune), little paws and noses tried to steal our water and food. Wild dogs can be terrifying when they growl and howl, but soon enough we learnt that they had no intention to attack.
The sun rose and sleepy-eyed we enjoyed a breakfast of porridge and toast before driving to Jaisalmer.
About camel safaris
I didn’t feel comfortable riding a camel. I was travelling with a company hired by my tour operator, Intrepid Travel, so I have no doubts that the animals were treated with love and well cared for. However, it didn’t feel comfortable to me to ride a camel for two hours while the caretakers walked the same distance. In the end, I rode a chariot for half of the way and drove the rest.
Being near healthy camels was a wonderful experience. These animals are curious, gentle, and loving and are the symbol of love. I’d caution tourists and travellers to ensure that camels are well cared for before hiring a ride or a safari; throughout our tour of North India we found many guides with ill or sickly camels, and I’d discourage anyone from supporting them.