Friday, October 21, 2011

Travel TidBits: Thar Desert, India

Camel Ride at Sunset
 We have traveled deep into Rajasthan and we are in camel country.  It is dry and hot and the desert is all around us.

By mid afternoon, we reach the Camp Thar Desert outside a small village Osian.  Since our driver and guide had not been there, we stop in the village to ask for direction and head into the desert on a narrow but paved street.  Along the way, we need to backtrack and finally find the entrance to the camp:  The reception area is an open but roofed area with a desk and some chairs and as we sign in it becomes clear that no computers are used here.  Our passports and the Indian Visa number are copied by hand together will all other necessary information. We then enter an open square lined on the outside with permanent small “houses” roofed by a white tent canvas.  Inside we find the walls covered with Indian printed fabric including the ceiling which gives the impression of being in a tent.  It is blazing hot upon our arrival and we are glad to have AC in our ‘tent’.  It is cozy and has all amenities for a comfortable night.  Our dinner is simple Indian food cooked family style and we enjoy it under a starry sky.

At the end of the afternoon, we are invited to a camel ride to see the sunset.  Two camels await us outside the reception area since Ashim decided to walk.  On command, the camels ‘fold their legs under their bodies’ by first going onto their knees, then bringing their hind down before lowering their front.  We are being helped up into a sort of saddle, a very well cushioned affair, and the camels stand up in the same stepwise way – rocking us frontward and backwards as we ascend to the heights of a full standing camel over-towering everyone around us.  And off we go!

We each have our camel driver, 2 young boys of 9 and 10 years of age.  My camel driver is Monsoor who speaks “little English, not big English”.  The boys handle the camels skillfully trying to prevent them from stopping and grabbing a mouthful of leaves from the trees.  We walk through desert farmland where crops have been harvested and now the stalks are drying to be gathered for fire woods.

The path we walk on – or better the camels walk on – is sandy.  The Thar Desert is a hot and dry place and supports only vegetation adapted to sandy grounds.  But it appears that the farmers here work the land to feed their families.  We pass by little hamlets where a few families have built their modest homes and where livestock from cows and goats to peacocks live in harmony with the people. 

After an hour’s walk we reach a hill side and our camels reluctantly climb up to a sand dune their broad hoofs sinking into the sand and sometimes sliding backwards.
As we de-mount, Lynda’s camel flops down on its side as if to tell us how exhausted it is!!

... and we all sit down to rest.

Our walk was perfectly timed as the sun is setting the sky turned yellow and red with the last rays  and our camels silhouette beautifully against the darkening sky.

Night has fallen fast and as we descend the hills, it becomes dark but our sure-footed beasts carry us back to camp in a steady walk and we marvel at the stars above.  With no lights around us in the desert, we see the Milky Way and many star constellations shining down on us.  It is peaceful and the world is at rest.  But as the warm lights of camp greet us, men and beast are happy to be home.

Til next time,