Into the Desert

Jaisalmer | Thar Desert

India

We are walking down the streets of Mount Abu in the dark looking for the bus station. On board, the bus takes sharp turns down the side of the mountain and is forced to tango with another bus. They confront each other, one backing up while the other moves ahead.

We switch buses and begin our long trip to Jaisalmer. The seats are hard. We can see the road through the hole in the floor at our feet. The little kids are throwing their garbage out the window onto the streets. We’re both afraid to eat or drink much as we don’t know when the next stop will be or how long we’ll have before the bus pulls away, with or without us. At one stop the bathrooms are being hosed out and a brown stream of water turns my stomach.

We arrive in Jaisalmer after eleven hours on local buses. The city has emerged out of the desert. We’re here to ride camels. The Jaisalmer Fort is golden against the sand. The pace has slowed from the chaos of the eastern, larger cities.

We settle into a beer and some food before making our way home. Tomorrow is our opportunity to see the annual desert festival.

I’m woken at 4:00 a.m. with the familiar pangs of food poisoning. I’m puking and have diarrhea for about 12 hours. I’m out for the count and worry that our three-day camel safari may be in jeopardy the next day. David takes care of me and then heads off to the desert festival.

Later that day I’m into recovery mode and keep soup down for dinner. We set the alarm for 5:30 a.m.

We’re in a Jeep riding to the start of our camel trek at dawn. It’s cold. We meet our camel riding companions: a Spanish couple and an India tourist.

As we ride our camels along the desert track we’re surrounded by hundreds of wind turbines above. It’s a scene of ancient and modern melding together. At our mid-morning break we lay under the shade of a tree and wait for more tourists to join us.

In the afternoon our group doubles in size and we continue towards our evening camp. My hips and killing me from the persistent rocking of the camel’s gait.

In the evening our camp is ready for us when we arrive. Tonight is the blue moon and we’re waiting for the lunar sights while we eat dinner and drink beer together on a blanket spread out over the sand.

We’re sleeping in the open under heavy blankets on the sand. There are several resident dogs who curl up at the foot of the blankets. One dog has decided he would rather sleep on my face. I try to shoo him off and get nipped. He hasn’t broken the skin.

As the temperature drops, the blankets keep us warm. The morning brings an early start and we’re off riding camels through a local town in the desert.

We swap our new friends for another group of tourists and we spend another night under the stars. By the morning of the third day we’re ready to say goodbye to our camels and head back to Jaisalmer. We spend another day exploring the little city in the desert before boarding our final train ride of India to head back to Delhi.