*This post is a part of a series. – Click on the link to read more of the story. – The Day of Holi & The Desert Camel Trek: Jaisalmer, India (Part I)
We woke up early the following morning to start heading to our new hotel, Hotel Ganesh. We were supposed to start heading towards the desert around 11:00am, and we wanted to make sure that we arrived early enough to get some breakfast on their rooftop. We purposefully hid in the alleyways walking over to the hotel, just to make sure we weren’t seen. We did this in the hopes of not getting pummeled by would-be colored dye bandits. I didn’t want a bunch of Holi dust all over our packs, especially my camera backpack.
We did manage to come across several kids that had already covered each other in Holi dust. I grabbed out my Rolleiflex and took a single shot of the group of them. They promptly ran over to me after I clicked the shutter to see the image. I told them that it was film, so no instant picture, and they started swearing at me! I thought for sure that we would end up being covered in Holi dust. Even the kids in India were all used to the digital age. Luckily they let us pass unscathed.
We eventually snuck over to our new hotel, Hotel Ganesh without a major hitch and were greeted kindly and then promptly brought upstairs for breakfast.
Not long after Arianna and I had taken a bite of our food, Arianna started to complain about not feeling well. In fact, she started to get extremely nauseous. She stopped mid meal and started to walk down the stairs towards the bathroom, but alas, she didn’t make it to the restroom and hurled on the staircase. The man that had greeted us and had prepared our food, rushed up and grabbed a mop to start cleaning up. He said to me that he thought it was some ‘bad rice’, but I was thinking differently. We hadn’t really eaten any rice for the past couple days and at the time, we really didn’t know what it was.
I was extremely apologetic, and helped Arianna down the stairs to the bathroom. Since they didn’t have a room prepared for us to stay in, the man offered for us to hang out in the hotel office, which had a bed for Arianna to lie down on. We gladly obliged, and took up his offer.
Arianna started to moan and feel pain throughout her entire body. I checked and sure enough, she had a very bad fever coming on. I made sure to keep her hydrated and as cool as possible by wiping a wet towel on her armpits and forehead. As time passed, Arianna’s fever started to get worse. She was really getting afraid of the fact that she may have dengue fever, which would have required hospitalization. She did have all of the symptoms, except no rash, which is a tell-tale sign of dengue.
This is when we took the risk and I gave her tylenol. If you do take tylenol with dengue it can cause excess bleeding, which dengue fever is known to have as a symptom. The man came by and asked how she was. I told him that she was taking in water, but I needed more. He left and came back with 3 bottles for us. I thanked him and he asked if we were still going on the camel trek. Our ride was due to arrive in an hour. Arianna was starting to say that she would still go, but I insisted that she shouldn’t if she wasn’t feeling well.
I told him that we would think about it. He said that he would arrange for a later pickup to give us more time to decide.
Luckily after about a half hour or so, her fever started to break and she started sweating profusely. As I was keeping her hydrated, the hotel attendant came by again and said that we could go on the trek later in the afternoon, to make sure that Arianna was rested and feeling better before we left. Arianna and I agreed and I let her rest for a couple hours in the hotel office.
After the two hours had passed, the man came back by the office and asked if Arianna was still willing to go on the trek. She said that she would go regardless of how she felt. Seeming to be pleased by the decision, the man nodded and promptly called and told the driver the good news.
I believe she went mostly because she knew I wouldn’t have gone without her. She wanted to make sure neither one of missed out on the experience. All the while, children and even a few tourists ran by the window yelling Happy Holi! and throwing dust at each other.
By the time the jeep arrived, Arianna was feeling better, but was still feeling slightly nauseous and adamant about going on the trek. As we were leaving the hotel, I recall keeping an eye out for any Holi revelers that may come out and ambush us. Children would want to get us especially.
As we climbed into the jeep, the driver greeted us and I noticed immediately the permanent mark of the ‘third eye’ (some Indian adults have) in the center of his forehead. He was a rough fellow, but seemed nice enough. We drove off down the road and headed towards our camel trek adventure.
Ari was slowly starting to feel better but complained a little from the nausea whenever we hit a bump in the road.
When we arrived, there were two tourists from Australia, four camels, and three camel drivers waiting for us. We climbed out of the jeep and were assigned our camels. I ended up with the largest camel of the group, named Julian.
All of the camels in our group were males. Apparently female camels are more aggressive and are harder to control. Who would have ever thought?
Since we were running a bit late, we headed off the minute we arrived. The desert was not what I had expected. I had envisioned a completely barren landscape, but found it had rolling hills covered by brush and (believe it or not) wind turbines. Here is a short video of the first few minutes of our camel ride.
We trotted along the desert, with my camel Julian, leading the way. Unfortunately for him, since he was the largest camel of the group he had to carry the bulk of the gear, including me. Whenever I would try to comfort Julian, he would just grunt at me or try to hit me with his head. We continued on and on, without stopping for quite some time, and my crotch could definitely feel it. Since the pack that I had to sit on was so wide, my legs were splayed like a Sunday chicken. It was like this for hours straight, while being bounced around like a ball on a string. A camel trot is a rougher trot than a horse’s mind you.
Nearing sunset, we made it to a patch of rolling sand dunes (the kind you would picture in an Arabian desert movie). It was a beautiful, picturesque scene with tiny patches of grasses and with the camels about – it really placed you in a whole different world. We disembarked and I ran around getting shots of the scenery before sunset began to set in.
Our camel drivers took some large bags off of the backs of the camels and opened them. Each were filled with hay and barley and laid out in front of the camels. They almost immediately started chomping away.
Julian was so loud, you could hear him from just about anywhere you stood, and the chomping echoed across the dunes. I recall the camels munching away all night long, literally. Not sure if they even slept. Maybe they ate in their sleep? Here’s a quick video of the guys eating their hearts out.
The sun was starting to go down as they prepared our dinner. It was a crunchy dinner, since sand was in everything. But it was still pretty good and consisted of naan bread, rice, and chai tea. The camel drivers had prepared all of our meals (which are included in the trek) and did the best they could with what they had for us.
The bundles that were on the camel backs were unrolled and seemed to be overkill for the desert temperatures, however, we were soon to find out that they would be deemed necessary as the night went on. In other words, it would get pretty cold as the night went on.
We were ready to watch the moonrise, since it was due to be the night after the super full moon. At about 19% larger than normal, I was feeling excited to see it. Luckily for us, we were going to have front row seats. The men put the fire out to ensure to allow our eyes to adjust to the darkness – to witness the supermoon as it came above the horizon. Alas, it showed it’s face around 10:00pm and it wasn’t as spectacular as I had hoped it would be. I was expecting this massive moon…but it seemed no different than other nights. I must say that it was great to see nonetheless, especially in an Indian desert. Note, I didn’t like any of the images I took of the moon that night. So no shots…sorry.
We eventually started to get ready for sleep, being told not to worry about any snakes, lizards, or scorpions lurking about, seeking the warmth of our bodies in the darkness. Me and Arianna’s biggest concern was for scorpions. They are (obviously) nocturnal and they love a cozy sleeping bag with some human flesh to poison as a bonus.
Arianna was feeling much better by the end of the day, but was now petrified of being stung in the middle of the night. I reassured her (even though I knew it was always a possibility) that everything would be fine.
Regardless, when we laid down for bed, she kept one eye open throughout the night. Sure enough, she shook me awake later in the night, saying, ‘wake up! wake up! it’s gonna kill us!’ I bolted up and looked at the sand above our heads to find a scurrying dung beetle, pushing his prized camel dung straight across parallel to our heads! After a sigh of relief, we laughed our heads off! It was as if it were a setup for a film or children’s book. Could not have planned it better…
We were surprisingly very cozy in our desert bundle and I recalled thinking that I could do this more than one night, it was just the brutal heat of the days in between that would get in the way.
We awoke to the sun shining brightly. We had slept in, by about an hour, getting much needed rest and a chance to reenergize for the ride back into Jaisalmer. After breakfast, which consisted of boiled eggs, toast, and chai tea, we were told that we were to start heading back. So, as the driver’s packed up the camel bundles, we waited and took in the gorgeous scenery. Some more photo ops were also to be had.
After a few more minutes of waiting, we gathered our things and hopped back on our camels. We travelled along a slightly different path that seemed a bit more brush filled, and had more rolling hills. Julian didn’t seem to mind the brush, and just trotted right through most of them.
Eventually we came upon a small watering hole, and we jumped off our camels for them to get a drink. Within seconds it seemed that we were being chased down by a group of small children. They were asking for pens, candy, money, or anything that we would give them. Probably something other tourists had spoiled them with in the past.
We then greeted the father of the children and and then headed on our way. The kids were practically ready to throw rocks at us (since we didn’t give them anything) as we left. We rode straight back towards where we had been left off the previous day. My camel driver asked us if we wanted our picture taken before we had to hop back into our jeep to go back to Jaisalmer. By then it was starting to become unbearably hot, and we were ready to head back to the hotel for some rest and a cold shower.
We waved goodbye to our camels and our drivers, with Julian giving a deep grunt in return. (I think he secretly liked us, but he refused to show it.) We jumped into the back of the jeep with our two Australian companions and headed back to town. By the time we reached Jaisalmer, we were pretty exhausted and ready to relax. The hotel concierge was very friendly and helpful and took us to our prepared (temporary) room. We had a train to catch that night to head off to Johdpur, at about 11:15pm, so we had a few hours to kill before we left Jaisalmer.
After resting and napping for a bit at the hotel…we both showered and headed back out into town. We came across a young man and his son, and I asked to take their photo. They obviously had a fun day of Holi, and were pleased that I wanted to take their picture.
A man had watched us from his shop and came over and gave me his card. He had said to email him the picture in the future and he would give it the young man and his son as a gift. After we had come back to the U.S.of A., I made sure to do just that. But with dial-up the way it was in India, he may never had gotten it. Sadly, he never responded.
All in all, Jaisalmer holds good memories for that part of our trip to India. By the way, we figured out that Arianna got sick from the barfi that she ate on the eve of Holi. We figured this out because I had refused to have some and didn’t get sick (we often had the same food at the same time throughout our trip through India). So, we were 90% sure that that’s what it was. Typically, I like barfi, but it can be iffy at times.
Overall, Jaisalmer is definitely a place I would recommend others to visit. The hotel should still be there, and possibly even the same man is running it. Look it up, and be sure to tell them happy Holi for us! Happy (camel) trails!