Camel train, 1st class (non A/C)
Trip Start Nov 17, 2011
32Trip End May 01, 2012
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Where I stayed
We checked into the Residency Centre Point Guesthouse, which had good reviews in the Lonely Planet. It was professed to have clean, spacious rooms and great views of the fort. It definitely didn't disappoint on either front and the views from the restaurant terrace were breathtaking. The 11th century, sandstone fort rises majestically out of the barren landscape and bustles within with houses, hotels, restaurants and markets. We decided against staying within the walls of the fort because of the damage the extra pressure of tourism is doing to the structural integrity to the foundations, water and drainage systems.
We discovered that Jaisalmer (in Rajasthan), just a stone’s throw from the Pakistan border, was the most peaceful town we had been to in India so far was a welcome break from the hustle and bustle of Delhi
The next day we did some more exploring around the town and went to the Palace Museum, which had a great audio tour (we LOVE audio tours!) We were really impressed with the architectural design features that mean the palace remained cool and airy, even in the height of the dry season. It was also interesting to stand on the roof and observe the many measures taken to ensure the fort resisted attack, particularly the curved stone entrance that meant the enemy could never get enough momentum to breach the main gate and could pour boiling oil on them in the meantime! If ever they were on the verge of defeat (they once fought for twelve years against an outside enemy) the wives, daughters and princesses would dress in their best clothes and jewelry and walk into a fire at dawn. The men would then fling open the gates and attempt to kill as many of the enemy as possible before their inevitable demise, to join their wives in the next life
Apart from the breathtaking fort another common attraction of the area is the expanse of desert surrounding it which used to be a popular trade route for camel trains. A camel safari is a must around Jaisalmer. There are loads of companies but we went for a slightly more expensive one. 'Trotters’ run by ‘Delboy’ and ‘Rodney’ seemed like a good choice as they claimed to go more off the beaten track than the other companies who generally go to Sam sand dunes where there are many other tourists.
We were picked up in a jeep at 6am and picked up our fellow camel safari group members. There were 8 of us all together and it was a really friendly group of 2 British couples and a couple from Finland. We drove out to the desert in the jeep, stopped for chai and fruit and then surveyed our potential mounts. One in particular did not look like the best choice as he lolled on his side, squashing his load whilst the others obediently remained upright. This one was allocated to Femmy, much to her dismay! He was good looking, however, and definitely had the most lustrous mane and regal features, in her opinion. Ruth had the largest camel, who was dark brown and had a distinguished, independent air about him.
We set off in convoy and plodded along for two and a half hours. We discovered firstly that the desert is HOT (unsurprisingly) even in the early morning and also that the lollopy camel gait can be very uncomfortable on the inner thigh and buttocks after a prolonged time! We gladly stopped for lunch under the only tree in the vicinity and relaxed and chatted for the hottest part of the day. We then got back on our trusty steeds (who we were already becoming quite attached to) and continued on. Ruth was the first to get back on, but she had not been attached to any other camel and hers decided to set off alone at quite a pace. Ruth was understandably quite alarmed as she became a speck in the distance. The guide didn’t seem that bothered and her camel certainly seemed to know where it was going! The rest of us eventually caught up and resumed our normal pace…all that is but Dan’s camel that had been misbehaving and took off at a gallop when the guide let go of the reigns. Loud profanities ensued but the runaway was eventually controlled! A shaken up Dan walked the next day and I don’t think he was feeling the same loyalty we were to our camels! Unfortunately there were a lot of rogue females in the area and every time the camels spotted them it was hard to divert their interest.
Around six, we arrived at a beautiful sand dune and stiffly dismounted our camels
We slept really well, had breakfast, and set off again. Ruth became very intrepid and decided her and her renegade camel were above trains and set off alone looking very ‘Lawrence of Arabia’. She looked very cool!
We came to the end an hour or so later, where our jeep was waiting and said an emotional goodbye to our camels.
Back in Jaisalmer, we went for dinner that night to ‘Desert Boys’ restaurant that was strongly recommended by the lonely planet for its good food and nightly live music. It was challenging to find, to say the least, and on arrival was empty. This didn’t improve and there was no live music, but the food was good. Whilst walking home an Indian man in a stationary tuk tuk made a rather rude and provocative comment and Femmy lost her rag slightly. What she said is not repeatable but she hopes it shook him up slightly and maybe deterred him from making similar comments to western woman in the future! It doesn’t seem to matter how covered up you are. Maybe burkas are the way forward! Generally we have been fine on this front (especially compared to some of the stories told to us by other western woman) so we are grateful for that but shall keep our thumbs at the ready (Femmy’s stepdad’s self defense technique) just in case!
It was a fantastic few days and we would strongly recommend Jaisalmer to anyone travelling in India. We are now heading to Nepal through back through Delhi and Veranasi and will keep you updated!