Camel Safari

 Posted by Ines at 1:33 am  India
Jan 092011

Last weekend I went on a camel safari. What an extraordinary thing to do! Along with four other volunteers from my Jaipur house, I was driven to Pushkar in a comfortable four wheel drive and at about three in the afternoon, we found ourselves being fitted with camels for a three hour trek to a camp in the desert. I have ridden a camel before in Alice Springs, Australia and remembered it as an uncomfortable ride where I lurched along on a camel that had very bad breath, so although I was keen to do the ride I anticipated having a sore backside by the time I reached my destination. Once astride a seated beast, it was encouraged to its feet by vigorous tugging on the rope attached to the post through its nose and up onto its front legs as we lurched backwards then further up we went as it managed to stand on all four feet. Suddenly we were high above the crowd. Each camel had its assigned camelteer who led the camel for us for the first hour of our trip. I had not believed that the dust in the street of Jaipur was blowing from the desert and to prove me right the air in the desert was quite a bit cleaner. In Jaipur the roads are not curbed and the dust of the streets is constantly being churned up. I was surprised to find that I was very comfortably perched on my camel, whose name was Mr. John. We rode through fields of roses,marigolds, crops and fruit trees. What sort of desert is this? The fields are irrigated from an underground water supply and the watered earth is fertile. We stopped in some sandhills for the camels to rest and when we resumed our trek the camelteers leaped up to sit behind us. At times they gee’d them up into a lolloping trot. Viewed from behind the camel appeared to sway as though being tossed by waves. Is that why they are called ships of the desert? As night drew on it started to get colder. Our camp accomodation was small tents with camp stretchers. No zippers to keep out the chill night air! We watched our camelteers mount their camels and whip them into a gallop. It was quite something to see them race off home. We gathered in the dining tent over hot cups of sweet ginger flavoured chai and chatted to the other campers from a different volunteer house. There were ten of us, nine women and one man. The Indian guides, driver and cooks were all men. We were served dahl, rice, curried vegetables and hot chappatis. The latter were brought in as they were cooked and handed to us by the chef, a tall desert man in turban and dusty lungi. If you remember the TV series, The Adams Family, you might recall the man servant called Lurch, an unsmiling giant lacking social graces. We looked from one to another as we reached out our hands to accept our chappatis from his hand and to assure him that no, we didn’t need any more, thankyou. Dessert was a desert specialty of a sort of sugar sweetened pancake. These had been made earlier and we had to put our hands into the plastic jar to try and loosen one from the top of the pile. After dinner we took our chairs out to sit around a log fire. Toilet facilities were bushes beyond the fence in the darkness. Those of us who had bought beer earlier in the heat of the afternoon almost thought better of drinking it in the cold night air with the prospect of an extra excursion with the kerosene lamp. I stayed by the fire toasting my toes for as long as I could then crept fully clothed onto my bunk and pulled the quilt over my scarf covered head. We were woken by the sound of music at 5am, not a welcome sound! We thought our guides and cooks had turned the radio on but it turned out to be the huts further along the road. Farmers rise early to start work and before the day begins they sing and pray. Used to the noises of the street in Jaipur I mentally blocked out the sound and stayed still so that no cold air would creep under my covers. I was prepared to miss the sunrise and wait for a little warmth from the sun, as long as my bladder would hold out! It was only a short drive back to the sights of Pushkar, the temples and bazaars. A luxury trip it was not but the exhilaration of that desert trek is still with me.


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