We drove 40 minutes north of Jaisalmer. The sandstone city turned to scrubgrass turned to dirt turned to sand turned to a nothinginess broken only by the black strip of asphalt we were traveling down. Our driver came to a stop and myself and the group of too young german tourists chance threw together with me exited the vehicle, to the waiting hoofs of camels and a night under the stars.
There was no ceremony. No instructions, no tutorial of how to ride the camels, how to sit on the camels or how to keep yourself from falling off. Our driver waved goodbye, promising to see us in the morning and we were left with the camels and a guide whose name I never caught. I was assigned a camel, an indifferent beast who would just esaily carry a basket of rocks as it would me. At the sound of the guide the camel rose up off the ground, it's legs bending unnaturelyt, it's body first leaning far forward then leaning far back. Grasping for a handhold and leaning back as far as I could I was almost thrown immediately, before we had even moved a foot.
Camel riding didn't come naturaly to me. After 4 hours of it I feel myself expert enough to announce that I will never be an accomplished camel rider. Never shall I grace the polo fields or gallop proudly through the desert, living through some Arabian Nights fantasy while screaming "Indy!". I felt a certain sense of akwardness being so high off the ground and feared with each step being thrown off or losing my balance. It's a long way to the ground from the top of a camel.
We moved on, away from the road, away from cars, from traffic and headed into the desert. Our small caravan of 5 camels traveled for almost two hours, at a leisurely pace, a walking pace. My camel soon fell far behind from the others -- our caravan was in danger of falling apart and I would be easy prey for Pakastani marauders. It was a lazy camel, refusing to be led to be forced at a speed faster than it wanted to go. Occasionally, in frustration my guide would tell me to kick it and and I would and for a minute or so we would go a bit faster. Perhaps even galloping before I would have to call it all off, the bouncing becoming a bit too much for my nerves and the wodden saddle being a bit too much for my backside.
Eventually we made our way to some massive sand dunes and set up a simple campsite in the hollow. The guide set to work prepping our dinner and I set to work watching the sky change, watching the sun set, the sky turn pink, then orange, then black. One by one, then ten by ten, then thousand by thousands the stars came out and I found myself feeling like I was cheating on Antarctica, for I haven't seen so many stars since my Antarctic winters. Some fell, some shot, some twinkled and in the darkness we ate a simple dinner before making our beds under the nighttime sky of the Thar desert.
I'd like to say that my last thought before falling into a blissful sleep was of wonder at my life, of the things that have took me to this moment but that would be lie. My sleep wasn't blissful and my thoughts would turn alternately from the cold wind blowing over us and a rememberance of all the dung beetles I had seen scurrying around the desert. Sleep came, and then it didn't and then it did again and so it went.
Morning announced itself with a cool breeze and a hint of color in the eastern sky. The evening before reversed itself, camp was struck, the camels were loaded and relucantly I climbed aboard my beast for the 2 hour trot back to our pickup point. Unlike the day before I was already sore. Each footfall hurt. Each stumble traveled up the camel leg and directly into my ass. When we finally came to the end and the camel knelt down for me to get off I was barely able to walk. Almost two days later and I am still a bit sore. But getting better.
Glad I checked that experience off the list but will never go on a camel again. I feel sorry for the folks that signup for the 3, 7 or 30 day camel treks. Masochists all!