Camel safari in the Thar desert

Jaisalmer Travel Blog

 › entry 32 of 33 › view all entries

A 30 minute drive out of Jaisalmer in to the desert and Richard, Laura and I were dropped off roadside to meet our guides and camels for the next few days.  I was introduced to Ganguly and after a few minutes adding my bags to the weighty seat in front of his hump and water containers on his hind, I was sat on his shoulders and held on tight as 1st front legs nearly ejected me backwards and then hind legs lunged me forward before we were stable and standing.  With our camel train joined with Ganguly attached to the back of Laura's camel, we set off in convoy away from the road and in to the desert.

The ride smoother than an elephant as we progressed through scrubby desert with many cactus, dry grasses and occasional trees (with branches drooping to a straight line within reach of hungry camels) covering the horizon.

   The early morning mist soon burnt off by the ever increasing heat of the desert.  Our early entertainment was provided by Laura's camel Raju, who being the youngest (5 years old), was keen on impressing the girls by blowing out his tongue at every sight of a female (apparently camels can detect female camels from 25km) which left Raju very excitable.  At a point when we stopped at a water trough and several females were also at the trough, he progressed to foaming at the mouth causing Laura alarm who had to lead him away.  I seemed to have got lucky with Ganguly who seemed to be by far the friendliest of our camels and seemed to enjoy a good neck scratch, even if he did smell like a wet dog.

We continued our tranquil trip and found a small group of trees for a lunch stop.

Our two guides quickly unpacked the camels and left them to wander off to chomp on the grass and trees whilst they prepared lunch.  A little cheating going on by using paraffin to get the campfire going  but all forgiven with the standard of food as our guides-cum-chef cooked up a fabulous curry with noodles and freshly made chappatis.  No cutlery on offer so did it the Indian way eating with fingers.  Relaxed for 2 hours in the middle of nowhere and watched desert birds flutter around trying to pinch a few scraps with our camels watching from afar.  This is the life  !!

In the afternoon we continued on, passing a surprising amount of wildlife with herds of goats following our train, deer, sheep and wild camels.  Towards the end of the day, we passed by our 1st village with a resident group of camels with 1 male lording over his 50 females.

  Raju and Raj (guides camel) needing some additional shepherding from our guides to ensure they didn't move out of line.  We shortly after arrived at the edge of untouched pristine sand dunes without any vegetation.  Setting up camp and with the camels set loose for the night, we were free to wander off in to the desert. With a pure blue sky and the only mark in the dunes caused by the gentle breeze making snake like trails, we were treated to the iconic images of deserts surrounding us.  I found a quiet spot and enjoyed the sunset without anyone else in sight.

With the moon high in the sky, we gathered round the campfire for a surprisingly chilly night.  Our guides made up our beds and everyone settled down for the night in no rush to go to sleep looking up at the star filled sky that is only possible miles away from the nearest city lights.

Start of day 2 and everyone feeling the effects of a full day on a camel and rapidly changing my mind that a camel is more comfy than an elephant. 1st ten minutes very painful until settled in to a rythym.  With everyone acclimatised to riding the camels, our guides stepped up the pace as we progressed to a light trot.  Surprisingly less painful than walking. Todays terrain a little more taxing and needed more balancing in the saddle in line with horse riding as we climbed up dunes and back down the other side.  Thankfully the camels surprisingly obedient in following the guides various calls and slowed down or sped up as required by the terrain.  With the temperature well into the 30s, the breeze very welcome as we pushed on through cactus filled dune valleys.


Lunch on day 2 was another very relaxing 2 hours to avoid the intensity of the midday sun and found some large trees to get some shade.  Our guides made another feast with far too much food for us to manage.  Our guides refusing to move from the protocols of letting us finish our meal before they started theirs.  We joined up with another small group (a young couple from Barrow) with their solo guide.   

After a post meal snooze we continued on with everyone feeling the effects of the camel riding.  The tranquility of the trek just about outweighing the pain. Very happy when we made it to another group of larger dry unvegetated sand dunes.  The 1st 10 seconds after dismounting agony as cramp slowly subsided.

  The pain quickly forgotten about though as we were given a few beers that we had paid one of the guides to take a camel to a village and buy.  Richard, laura and I climbed to the top of the nearest big dune and enjoyed a beer with the sunset leaving the other 2 to go down very nicely with our spicy curry. 

After another beautiful starry night, I made the effort to get up in time for the sunrise.  I climbed back up to the top of the big dune where Matt (Barrow) was already watching the top of the sun hit the horizon. The view was slightly spoiled by a wind farm that although in the distance, was exactly in line with the rising sun.  Oddly quite a cool view with a few turbines silhouetted in the huge sun.

After breakfast, we were back on the camels for the last stint.

 Sadly I was split up with Ganguly as he had his own mission to go with one of the guides and carry some bales of straw back for camel feed.  I was therefore put with one of the other guides on the horny Raju. Initially a little put out by having to share a camel, I was soon thankful as the camel train was split up for the first time and all camels free to travel separately.  Laura and Becca experienced horse riders and with handling very similar, they seemed relatively comfortable.  Matt and I were sharing camels with guides that left Richard the only inexperienced rider on his own.  We travelled on in convoy and even made it up to a light run with the guided camels at front and back.  No mishaps until we hit upon a cluster of trees with a group of vultures watching over a goat carcass.
  A good photo opportunity, but Richards camel not for stopping and I was soon chasing down an out of control camel with my guide grabbing Richards reins and pulling it back in to line. 

We stopped at one more village for an appreciation of local life.  I was a little disappointed by its authenticity with very well built stone houses with a couple of token wooden huts, but the guides left us to wander around without giving us any information about the place.  The handful of villagers clearly used to tourists walking around their village.  Matt got pickpocketed, (thankfully to only the loss of a pen) and one teenager wanted to help himself to Laura's broach that she was wearing.  The lad seemed genuinely offended that Laura didn't want him to have it !! 

We moved on and made it back to the road.

The others found some trees with some shade, but knowing this likely to be my to be the last sun of the trip (with only 2 days in Delhi left), I took in some last sunny rays before lunch.   We all had a go at making our own chapatis from a dough ball that was similar to shaping a pizza base (with varying success - mine was pretty good), before enjoying a final desert curry. Enjoying some last moments in the desert, we were a captive audience to a group of 5 local women who sat next to us and started a staged performance of singing and dancing.  They continued through 5 quite good harmonious songs until our guides suggested they wouldn't go away until they got paid.  Obviously a well rehearsed set up, my travelling companions gave them a contribution to get rid of them. 

With our jeep arriving, Richard, Laura and I left Becca and Matt for their final afternoon in the saddle.  We were happy to be getting a lift back with our thirst for camel riding quenched.  A great trip with the camel riding only part of the novelty and enjoyment, with the tranquility of trekking through a deserted desert, campfires and fantastic food, sleeping under the stars, and lovely sunsets and sunrises all making it a memorable experience. Two and a half days just about right.

We returned to the hotel for a much needed shower and headed off for the mammoth 18 hour train journey back to Delhi.  On arrival, a one hour delay soon turned in to a 3 hour delay.  Richard, Laura and I decided against hanging around a train station with nothing to do and headed back for a last meal at the Renuka hotel for one last meal.  Our enthusiastic chef was there and provided another fantastic meal before we headed back to the station for my return to Delhi. 

Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
5,921 km (3,679 miles) traveled
Sponsored Links
photo by: lrecht