Camel Jockeying


I’ve absolutely no idea who these men are, other than they’re village elders in some anonymous village we stopped at on our way to go camel riding in the Great Thar Desert.

One of the great things to do in Jaisalmer is a one day camel trek into the desert where you sleep under the stars.  You set out at 1 in the afternoon and travel by jeep into the Desert National Park.  That’s where things start to get strange.

Our camel driver, an old man with an orange turban like the man above, stopped the jeep at this village and took us on a tour.  The place is so primitive that women literally hew water at the local watering hole (it’s refreshed annually by the monsoons):

In the village they make mud houses out of a lovely mixture of sand and cow dung.  Children run wild about the village; most of them teased Aine about her white skin (she’s Irish) and some tried to empathize with her by trying to stick sand on their faces.

By the way, it’s not exactly clear what the men do all day; they guys in the photo above spent the day smoking cigarettes.  They must have been shaking from all the nicotine flowing through their blood.

After the village stopover we arrived at the launching point for our camel safari.  Aine received Mr India and I was given Lala; I have to say I was jealous of Aine’s camel’s name.  But not so much of him: he was in heat and when we passed by female camels he would inflate a sack in his throat that would then spill out of his mouth as he made a throaty bellow in hopes of attracting a mate.  Love works in strange ways.

It turned out that we weren’t so much riding the camels as being led around on camelback by two guides.  Who were our guides?  A 12 year-old and a 14 year-old.  I thought the grizzled man who travelled in the jeep with us was going to be our guide, but no.  Instead, I was able to contribute to the problem of child labour (School?  What the hell is that?).  By the way, our guides would also cook for us, carry firewood twice their weight and get blankets for us at camp.

Our guides also loved to sing.  They’d intersperse traditional tribal songs with Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and John Denver’s universal classic Country Roads.  Ever interested in reducing cultural barriers, I attempted to teach them You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling so they could serenade Aine but the magic wasn’t there.

Anyways, we went out across the desert and up on to some and dunes.  The desert is a mix of scrub and sand and rock; along the way we saw women gathering firewood on their heads (again, I’ve no idea what the men do).  We also saw a couple of antelope:

After a few hours on the camel and an hour or so walking on sand dunes we arrived at camp.  My saddles sores and aching thighs were ecstatic.  We watched the sun set while sitting on a sand dune (Wendy-I promise we’ll do this some time) and then had a dinner under the stars.  Finally we bedded down in a mass of blankets.  I was frozen solid and woke up at about 4 in the morning.  If you do this, don’t wear culottes and take two blankets.  Here’s a snap of the sunset:
These ones give you a sense of what the desert looks like-and what Aine looks like on a camel:

Saturday, December 16, 2006

# Exception: TypeError
# Message  : contentDiv.getElementsByClassName("comment-manage-link").each is not a function