The group sets off....
Along with Suzanna, Mirna and Sarah, we met at Ganesh at 8am sharp. I was feeling a bit dodgy - I had broken my no-meat rule last night and it seemed I was paying the price. Urrghh. So I had a light breakfast while Phil steamed in with about 3 plates full. The jeep came and picked us, our group turned out to be 11 in total (despite being told it would be max 9) - we were crammed in like sardines and Juan the Spanish guy had the unenviable task of trying to keep a tray of eggs from breaking as we sped out 40km towards the desert. He didn't succeed. Oh well, that's breakfast gone for the next few days! We eventually made it to the start point. The kids from the local village had kindly come to greet us.
Well, not really, they had come to beg of us. Great start. At least the camels were there, taking a rest in their strange own way. They are amazing animals with two joints in all four legs which allows them to collapse their legs flat to sit on the ground! They started farting, which was a theme that continued unabounded for the entire trip...I can still smell it now! Sumar and his team of camel drivers loaded the camels with what appeared to be about 3 tons each (poor animals) and then had a tourist plonked on top for good measure. I have to say, I immediately felt the discomfort of having my manly goods squashed in the 'saddle' and was glad when we stopped after 20 minutes to visit a village. Strange experience this - the tour pay no money to the village, yet tell the tourists not to give to the kids who beg. It all felt a bit wrong.
There wasn't much to see and I think we all felt uncomfortable being there, so we quickly moved on. We had another hour-and-a-half riding through the arid-scrub desert to the lunch spot. There is nothing to see out here apart from: (i) wind turbines, (ii) sand, (iii) sheep, (iv) billy goats. That's it. So it doesn't make for the most riviting tour of all time. I'm a scenery person and this really didn't do it for me. The crew cooked up a rather bland lunch and let us have a good break while the hot part of the day passed. The highlight was watching them give the camels haircuts - they make amazingly intricate designs in the fur which looked so cool!
Lawrence of Arabia??!
After lunch I decided to walk rather than ride, in order to preserve my family jewels.
We passed through another village, which was more genuine and less hassle. At least the villagers here attempted to make a living selling something of value to the tourists and didn't just pester us for handouts. The camels took a well earned drink and we completed the final 25 minutes or so to the sand dunes where we spent the night. Sumar and his crew set up the camp fire ready for dinner while we went up the dunes ready for sunset. Unfortunately, I found the first cloudy day of my time in India and consequently the scene was a bit of a let down. Dinner wasn't too bad and we all sat around the fire listening to stories from Sumar before heading off to our open air sleeping arrangements. No need for tents out here, the temperature was perfect and we just slept on matresses on the sand with the stars above us.
The following day, after another cloud obscured sunrise, Phil and I headed back. The others were staying another night or two and I felt sorry for them. I couldn't understand why the Canadian girl in our group had opted for this second safari having just got back from another - it has to be one of the dullest tours I've done on my trip and a complete disappointment given what I'd heard from some people. But I guess, the thing to remember about travelling is that different people like different things and no one thing is going to be great for everyone. So I happy to head back to the town, grab a shower and head onwards, to Jodhpur.
Round the campfire