It’s common to make your way from Jaipur to another popular far flung destination on the intrepid travellers trail – the desert fort village/town of Jaisalmer. However, it’s a 600km, 10 – 12 hour journey, so my advice would be to leave early in the morning so you can enjoy the passing countryside during the day. This way you’ll get a better feel for what the majority of rural India looks like rather than just seeing the central areas of cities. On arrival you’ll immediately see why Jaisalmer Fort is considered a World Heritage Site and the “Golden City”. Despite it being one of the largest fortifications in the world, daily life still lives and breathes within its ancient walls.
I thought our accommodation was worth a mention; from a value for money point of view. Possibly due to the owner hoping we would book a desert safari camel trip through him, and giving us a cheaper rate, but the guesthouse we stayed at provided us a twin bed room with ensuite for only USD $4.00 a night. Isn’t that just crazy? India, incredible India indeed. I digress, the main reason a backpacker comes to Jaisalmer is to join a Camel Safari into the Thar Desert which is an unforgettable experience. Usually the place you’re staying at has some options for their ‘non-touristic’ safari, but if you play it right and go with the actual camel owners it’s usually a win-win.
We joined a two day, two night safari, with guides named Sarjit and Mr Khan and a couple of trusty camels. Usually there are groups of up to eight people, however it was just the two of us for the majority of the time. Of course some additional company would have been great, but I guess just the four of us made for a special experience too.
We would ride about four hours a day, calling in at local desert peoples’ villages for water for the camels once a day. I might suggest that ‘The Simple Life’ bases a series out here… it continues to amaze me how other people live and exist in such harsh environments. Towards the end of the day we would make it to sand dunes and prepare the camp for the evening, once the camels were feed, then we’d eat. Chapati, mixed vege and chai was on the menu and of course a day in the desert meant the meal was delicious regardless.
Before long the day would be about to end after watching several spectacular sun sets. Our sleeping arrangement was unique to desert life; we would spend two nights sleeping outside on the dunes under the northern stars (incidentally the southern skies are far better, but then maybe I’m bias). On the second night the wind picked up during the evening which slowly buried us, and everything around us, in the sand drift that inevitably occurred. It was a tiny bit scary falling asleep to the feeling of slowly being buried– I thought I was going to end up on an episode of Discovery’s ‘I shouldn’t be alive’- but what can you do.
I was somewhat sad when the two day trip came to an end; I was rather enjoying my short glimpse into desert life. When organizing a safari there are options for camel safaris from a few hours up to 14 days or longer. Meanwhile once we were back in Jaisalmer, we stayed at a guesthouse within the fort walls, one with a rooftop terrace where we relaxed and enjoyed the sky was putting on its own cloud display. It would have been a perfectly serene evening had the Indian Air force not been humming around in their various Russian and American fighters. Again, considering how close we were to the Pakistan border you have to wonder what goes on that we don’t hear about.