Jaisalmer is situated 80 km from the Pakistan border amidst scrub land and desert. The place is called the Enchanted City and is predominently made up of yellow sandstone buildings set out in narrow roads and alleys. There is something enchanting about the place as it does not seem to have that manic feel that other cities we have visited. We are tucked away in a residential steet just a few yards from the fort and enjoy a beep free nightlife. Although with Diwali getting ever closer the number of bangers and fireworks going off increases everyday and it is common to see tiny children playing with these expolsives and scattering just in time ashuge bangs ring out.
We are collected by the house boy to our hotel from the railway station who has to battle with imaginative and very persistent tuk tuk drivers all vying for out business. With a few hours we have been offered Dope Lassi (like a thick shake) which we declined in favour of some water; We have watched a heat grazed and plainly randy bull trying to mount a motorcycle. Whilst the Honda was attractive it wasn’t all that so am confused as to what the bull saw in it. Unfortunately we failed to get that golden moment picture before the frustrated fellow was shooed away from the object of his desire by its angry owner eager to retain the Honda Hero’s virginity; And, I have broken a tooth. I was assured that it was no problem so was show to a nearby dentist’s surgery. The ‘dentist’ was sitting outside on his hands and welcomed me with a smile, a hawking of phlegm and a gob on the rubbish pile beside him. Throught he poor translation abilities of the houseboy the dentist assertained what was needed so without wasting time washing his hands he poked my tooth with a felt tip pen, put those grubby fingers on my tooth and rubbed it it see how sharp the edges were. Mimed that he could put a cap on the tooth using a dusty plaster cast model as an example. Then after vigorous shaking of my head resolved to smooth off the edges a little instead. I sat in the dusty chair whilst he took the drill (the only one) and ground down a sharp edge until I decided enough was enough, sat up and spat into the dirty mouthwash bowl, paid my 100 rupees and fled to buy hole plugging chewing gum until more suitable dental care could be obtained.
Day two and we are collected by jeep at 8.00am to go on a 2 day and 1 night camel safari. We drive about 20 miles outside of Jaisalmer where we meet our camel driver, boy and team of 6 camels for the 6 of us in the party –us, a guatamalan woman called Maria 1. Who’s accent, expressions and mode of speech kept us giggling the whole time “Aye aye aye. I eff torns in maiy pantsahs” (Oh dear that’s painful I have some thorns in my underwear”, her work colleague a german guy – Christian, with a dead pan face, dry sense of humour and uncanny ability to open beer bottles, Maria 2. An Argentinian student who had travelled for 1.5 years, was friendly, quiet and looked like a pretty femail Antonio Banderas and finally, Shanka, said it rhymed with something or other, a cool indian graphic designer and aspiring rockstar who played around the campfire.
We ride the camels for about 3.5 hours out into the scrubland that was densely populated for 75% of the way with huge wind turbines (somewhat took away the sense of being in a desolate desert). During this time we stop for lunch cooked around campfire whilst the camels wandered off to graze and we all fell asleap. Eventually we set off and after a further hour arrive at the dunes where we are to spend the night. The dunes are inhabited by snakes (didn’t see any) dung beetles (crawled everywhere) and Crickets (big buggers that land in your hair and make you whuhuhuhuharrrggghhh! every now and then
We drink a few beers and share a litre bottle of rum with cokes, eat a meal of dahl and vegetables and watch the most amazing sunset before settling down around the campfire to chat and listen to Shanka (what did that rhyme with?) strumming and the camel driver singing trad Indian songs mixed with Aquas Barbie Girl – interesting.
We sleep the night on stuffed mattresses under white sheets and thick blankets using the sand for pillows. I would like to say it was wonderful but won’t as I would be lying. Sand is really hard and uncomfortable and in the desert noise travels so any movement wakes others up. For me it was a long night and I was glad Dawn eventually came. Rachel too found it hard but can sleep anywhere. Having said that we fell asleep in one anothers arms staring up at the biggest clearest sky. The deep blue scattered with twinkling stars and punctuated with shooting stars and satellites. It was really magical, then it was uncomfortable then really cold. However I would willing do the whole thing again (with a pillow though) as it was a great experience. Rachel especially liked being woken just before dawn to watch the the sunrise and then the sunrise develop into yet another golden day which found us eating boiled eggs and toast and drinking Chai sitting beside our camels on the sands in Rajastan before tootling off back home to our hotel.
And they said she had no style