Desert, Camels, and Dinner
Jaisalmer Travel Blog› entry 10 of 37 › view all entries
We left Pushkar by night bus. As with everything and anything,
Having learned our lesson regarding bus travel in McLeod, we booked 2 single sleeper cells. The bus was too bumpy to write, but did allow for some much needed sleep and quiet. Jaisalmer was a 10 hour bus ride; we left at and arrived at Upon arrival and disembarking, we were swarmed by tourist hungry vultures, frenzied by their commission at delivering fresh white meet to ever inflated nefarious hoteliers. "Fortunately", we were befriended by one who offered us a free ride to any hotel, told us we could stay at his place for Rs 150, and unlike ALL the other hotels, he wouldn't hassle us about a Camel Safari. He was young, tidily dressed in slacks and button up short sleeve shirt, and slick.
To our surprise, demeanor changed when our hoteliers learned we were riding another safari. Not only where they rude and indignant, but they also employed a guilt trip, and refused to allow us to keep our bags in the room. Apparently they said it’s was a problem in case someone came looking for us.
My camel trailed the back as we walked single file.
Suddenly, Danielle's camel started trotting, not a lot, but enough that she bounced uncontrollably on top. She called out "Whoa", "Someone help me!", but, by then she had bounced herself sideways on the saddle. She started to fall from the camel, when her foot caught in the stirrup. Instead of hitting ground, she swung beneath the camel. The camel started jumping up and down, ferociously kicking its oversized feet at Danielle as she swung beneath like a human piñata.
Time froze, as did our guides, as we all watched in horror at the rag doll beating. Finally, her front foot freed itself, she plopped to a ball beneath the camel, as it stomped at her motionless body, fortunately missing her, and then darting off to eat the bushes.
I was fist down from the camel and rushed to her side. She was alert and could talk. She was trying to move, but I told her to lay still. After some time, way too long, Roger was let down from his camel to join her side. 15-20 minutes passed and we assessed that Danielle could move. Her head back and shoulder hurt, but there was no numbness or tingling. After much discussion, we secured a jeep and raced (well drove reasonably fast) to the hospital. Danielle was on a blanket in the back, Roger and Dan were at her side, and I was trying to make sure arrangements were set at the hospital, with our two guides who spoke almost no English.
Arrival at the hospital an hour later confirmed every Indian hospital horror story I had heard.
Meanwhile, a crowd of 20 people gathered in the government hospital room to look at the injured white girl. The guides, the safari owner, and a myriad of others milled about, including one man wearing all white (who I presumed was a medic of some sort). It was nearly impossible to discern medical staff form spectators, but for the stethoscope adorning two of the Indians in civilian clothes.
Arrangements were made to deliver Danielle to the private doctor and short distance away. While it was unclear why the doctor could not come to the hospital, we readily accepted any alternative. Danielle was wheeled atop the blood stained gurney, back into the jeep, and we headed to the doctors' home. I rode aback the gentleman wearing white's motorcycle.
In the dark we arrived at the home of the doctor. Beneath his porch light, he sat before a row of patients seated on plastic chairs, each awaiting his attention. Being white and injured, and escorted by an entourage of whites and Indians, we immediately skipped to the front of the line.
So he yelled aloud in Hindi, and a voice responded from the house next door. "Go next door," he said. "He is a good surgeon." Aghast, we scooped up Danielle, who by now must have figured out if she was not OK; she would have to walk to the oncologist down the street, and walked herself across the pebbled yard to the surgeon's home.
With another K-Mart style flashlight in hand, the surgeon gave Danielle a once over and diagnosed her as fine. He prescribed painkillers and antibiotics for the minor abrasions, then said thank you and disappeared back into the front screen door. I looked in to see his 1/2 full tea cup and hear the sounds of his unattended TV.
Meanwhile - from the time of the hospital, to the doctors, then the surgeons, the man in white told us that, should Danielle and Roger require additional hotel accommodations to suit her injured state, he could arrange a place within the fort. The first time it was a generous offer, the second time it seemed inappropriate considering the medical situation at hand, but by the third time it was simply aggravating and annoying.
Later we learned that Danielle would be OK, and she was feeling much better in a few days.
We returned that same night to the Radjani. Perhaps glad to see us, more likely tickled by our ill fate at arranging another tour operator, we were greeted.
I had enough of
But, by this time, we had discovered Dylan's Internet Cafe, run by the music loving proprietor Om [who seemed to know about artists from every nation] and Chandra, a long haired Indian how lived in Spain and speaks English ~ with quite good slang. Irritated and frustrated, we returned to Dylan's that night for a beer, internet, and to sit on his rooftop deck and talk to some tourists for a fresh perspective. On the way out of Radjani, the owner TOLD us to be back in an hour because he was going to sleep. Already pushed to our emotional end, we told him we would return when we were done. And miraculously, he came up with another plan. At Dylan's we retold our camel story accident.
I laughed and talked, relaxed, and gently floated back to feeling comfortable among like-minded people who weren't trying to sell me something. That night, Dan and I decided to give the camel trek a second go. In the morning, we went to Desert View to see about a trek. We booked a single overnight trek, departing at and returning the following morning at Significantly, Desert View promised to hold our bags and provide a room to shower upon our return.
After buying a Rajasthan turban, we headed back out on the road to our camel pick up. I watched Jaisalmer and its golden fort sink behind us swallowed by the desert. The rocky, sparse, and inhospitable desert spread out everywhere. It is dotted with small stone villages, but mostly its empty space. Our camels waited for us some 30 minutes away.
Eventually the rocky caked earth turned to gentle rolling golden sand dunes. After a short time, and dark skin manned appeared carrying a burlap sack. We had met "Beer Man" ~ real name Hootu. From Beer Man, we purchased a few beers and some soda.
Through the dessert we walked as the sun began to set. The desert sand began to glow as we arrived at our camp. Grabbing our beer, Dan and I raced along the dunes like high school kids, running up the soft mountains and jumping down the other side. Finding the prefect perch, we toasted ourselves, and watched the earth swallow the sun. It was at this very point I realized the only sound I heard was the ringing in my ears. The desert was silence.
As the stars poked through the purple veil above, I returned for dinner. Chapatti, veggies, rice, and more beer. Earlier that day, we were offered the possibility of a Gypsy dance. Unsure, we procrastinated, but now with the night here, and silence, it seemed like treat.
The morning found me cold and damp. I pulled my blanket over my shoulders, hiked up the dunes, and meditated for an hour as the sun immediately heated the desert. We secured another night, and ate breakfast of black tea, boiled eggs, toast, and jam. I wrapped the turban atop my head, and off we went by camel. 2 villages were our agenda. On the way, Madan asked if we liked chicken, and then sang the praises of Desert Chicken ~ chicken raised in the desert. My only meat experience in
The first village was a Gypsy village. Only after we arrived and a young, very plain looking girl took my hand and lead me inside saying, "You remember me from last night, I danced for you," did I realize this was Kolki and her family's home. Dan and I were surrounded and separated. We took photos and showed them on the camera. I was offered a bidi (Indian cigarette) and accepted. Of course, they all asked for money and things. They lived in small semi-enclosed circles of branches. Their homes were mere shelters with simple places to sit and sleep. Bare dirt floors, some blankets, some clothes, and the beautiful dancing clothes hung over the branches wall. Revealed by the sunlight, the colors, mystery, and shimmer vanished as I saw the simple clothes for what they were- faded black cloth, plastic, shoddily decorated and also torn and patched.
But the people were fun and charming and we laughed as they fought for photo time. Prepared by stories of Gypsies, I previously emptied my pockets. While standing there, Kolki went searching through each pocket - seeking coin. A reminder...
Madan pulled us away, but not before I dolloped 1/2 my sunscreen out to the Gypsies. I was impressed most by Kolki as it seemed she clearly asserted dominance over her older male siblings. As we boarded camels, Madan fastened a live chicken in a burlap sack to the back of my camel. With some guilt and remorse, I said aloud, "And I shall name you Dinner.
We spend the rest of the day walking the desert, letting the sun and subtle breeze carry away the travel and fatigue. We made camp at the same place as the night before. Beer Man found us. In paparazzi fashion, I took photos of Dinner as Beer Man skillfully killed, cleaned, and skinned the chicken. I said a prayer as he slit its neck and observed the fragility of life as it passed indescribably away.
Dan and I sat atop dunes, watching the sunset. The newness of the desert somewhat faded, and the serenity so much stronger. Dinner was bony and gamey. But we enjoyed the company of Madan, Beer Man, and a few other camel drivers. We joked about spending another night in the desert as we drifted off to sleep in the silence and chill of the night, blanketed by stars.
I awoke in the morning and climbed to the powdery dunes and meditated. It was cold and windy. I cocooned myself into the blanket and sat in lotus for 40 minutes. Slowly I made my way back to camp. Dan and I agreed to one more desert night. Having tasted desert vegetables and desert chicken, we asked what else the dessert offered. "Mutton," Madan replied with a sly smile across his face. "Why not?" we eagerly agreed.
After a day of camel riding, Madan and I returned to see the goat tied to our campsite. Always, the taking go life disturbs me, yet somehow participating in the whole process reminds me where my food comes from. I appreciate that something must give life to sustain life, and to tread lightly in this exchange.
Gnawing meat off the bones was a bit barbaric as is sucking out the marrow, but Madan explained that the flavor is in the bones. So I did as best I could. Kolki danced and the others played and sang. During the twilight we photographed Kolki, and she swallowed the attention with a coy smile.
That night Madan, Beer Man, Dan, and I told stories. Beer Man started by reciting stories of the Koran. Madan retold Hindu stores. Both were historically competing by retelling mythological battles, tales of overcoming impossible odds, superhuman feats. In the Koran, Beer Man said, Muslims came from Sara and Ishmael, who gave birth to Abraham, the first Muslim. Before that, all were Hindu. He told how the Mogul invaders conquered
My final meditation in the morning, the wind and cold was perfect. A short while later, after breakfast, we were on camel back.