A Camel Safari Through the Desert … With Delhi Belly

Jaisalmer, India

One of the things Carrie and I were most excited about thus far was a camel safari through the desert next to Jaisalmer (a desert town in the far west corner of India, around 75 miles from the Pakistan border).

A baba in Jaisalmer, IndiaThe town itself is architecturally one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen with buildings that look like they belong in the Middle East or the Aladdin Disney movie. There was even a fort on top of a hill looming over the city, though it had been converted into a tourist trap filled with people hawking cheap souvenirs and trying to get us to stay in one of the countless hotels in the fort.

We spent our first evening wandering the city, avoiding the fort (after about 20 minutes inside) and planning out our safari for the next day. For the grand total of $22 per person, we, along with three other people, would take camels out into the desert surrounding Jaisalmer, ride to a few local villages, have a freshly cooked lunch, ride to pristine sand dunes, have dinner and camp out under the stars.

The next day the safari would continue with breakfast, a stop at an amazing abandoned village, lunch and around six more hours of riding on camel back.

 

The outer walls of the Jaisalmer Fort
The outer walls of the Jaisalmer Fort

///////////////////

Camel Safari + Delhi Belly = @!&%

Shortly after our alarm went off at 6:45am, I realized that there was absolutely no way I could spend the day bouncing up and down on a camel, as I officially had my first case of Delhi Belly…cramping, nausea, the whole nine yards, and I spent most of the day in bed. Fortunately, our hotel was very understanding and allowed us to push the safari back a day for only a $3 per person food fee. Well, the next morning came and I felt a little better, so off we went.

Almost immediately after getting on the camel I began to realize that this might not have been the best idea. I get very sore after just an hour of horseback riding, and here I am committing to two days on a camel, which is even harder to straddle.

On a camel with my wife, CarrieOur first stop at a local village came only 15 minutes after we started, though it was an extremely small town and we think the only reason we stopped was because a relative of our guide lived there and they wanted to give us some tea, as it was freezing out. There was no tour, only a few words about the villagers and very little interaction. I hate to sound jaded or snooty, but Carrie and I often have a tough time being impressed by these local villages on the tourist track after living in Nicaragua and visiting real local villages, most of which are very similar.

After tea time, which was made with local water and avoided by Carrie and myself, we hopped back on the camels to begin the next leg of the safari. I made it about an hour before my feet were asleep, my stomach was in immense pain and I had to hop off and walk. Fortunately, our lunch stop was only 45 minutes later, so after a gross meal of steamed veggies and Ramen (what did we pay all that money for again?), I proceeded to pass out cold for a few hours in the fetal position.

Once nap time was over, our guides were kind enough to rig up some stirrups made of rope tied in a loop to help me enjoy the ride more. Sure, I had to take off my shoes to not cut the camel and put on an extra pair of socks to stop the rope from cutting into my foot, but it still was a thousand times better than without. This made it that much more pleasant to spend much of the next three hours hunched over in the one position I found that didn’t make my stomach hurt.

Carrie on a sand dune in the Jaisalmer desertAs for the desert itself, it was mostly flat and dry planes with cracked and sun-baked sand matted down to the hardness of a road. There were little brown and green bushes everywhere, a few trees, the occasional rock pile built in memory of a lost loved one and some animals. It was stunning to look at in terms of the sheer vastness of it all, but there was not that much to see until we came to a random patch of sand dunes in the middle of the desert. These were more of what we thought we would be seeing the whole time and made for a beautiful backdrop for the evening.

Unfortunately, by the time we got to the dunes, Carrie had officially joined me in sick land…population: us! We spent a little while wandering around, but eventually sat down on a thin blanket on the flat land at the base of the dunes to watch the sunset and try and not jostle our stomachs. After another mean that we could barely eat (rice, potatoes and chapati, which is a tortilla-esque flat bread), we huddled up by the small campfire and taught our guides how to play Rummy 500 before heading off to bed, tucked in by the guides and bundled up under four wool blankets each, and that still barely kept us warm overnight.

The stars were amazing and only got better as the night went on…or so Carrie tells me, as she kept waking up and looking at them while I zzz’ed the night away.

The next day, despite our best intentions, we decided that there was no way we could handle another six hours on camel back, so we both hopped on the same camel for a two hour ride before a jeep picked us up to take us back to our hotel.

As a whole the safari was a lot of fun, minus the sickness, and like nothing I have ever experienced before. The dunes were awesome, our guides incredibly friendly and knowledgeable and I would recommend it to anyone! Plus, getting back early allowed me to wander around town and take some pictures of the exquisite Jaisalmer architecture before we hopped on an overnight train to Jaipur.

 

Sand as far as the eye can see
Sand as far as the eye can see