We hit Jaisalmer which is a town in north Western India near the Pakistan border. This place is possibly the most tourist oriented place we have been since landing in India. The prices of everything in the town are 2-5 times more than everywhere else we have been (this means that dinner for 2 with beers is about $30). The main attraction is the fort in the centre of town but there are also a bunch of desert related activities available such as camel safaris, jeep safaris and dirt biking etc. The key thing that we have noticed though is the regular returning of fighter jets as they patrol the India/Pakistan border. On our drive to the desert we passed the base and we now know that this is the home of the “Border Bayonettes”.
Directly opposite our hotel is sunset point. This is a mausoleum area where everyone heads at sunset to watch the sun go down over the desert…which of course we did too. The hotel is owned by a kiwi woman and her husband who also run camel safaris…so we headed off on a 5 hr camel ride through the desert. Jill was really looking forward to this as it is a full moon and the concept of the stars, camels, desert and moon just seemed to be ringing her bells for some reason.
As we drove in we hit a checkpoint where we had to pay 20 rupees to keep going. The dude told us that we had just crossed the Pakistani border and that was the fee. Some of you may have remembered the Great Wall comment and the gullible tourists who bought it…well I bought this one…I entered into a chat with Jill about not needing visas and that you could just bribe the guard at the gate. It was about 2 hrs before it dawned on me that I had joined the ranks of the gullible tourists. Alas it was a windy day that whipped up the sand and the sunset and moon were both partially obscured by sand.
Now let’s talk about camels. This was my first camel ride. I know others who have been on them and every story that I have heard has not been complimentary. They were right. Having seen a bunch of old movies I knew that the Arab kings had harems, and these harems were protected by eunuchs. Having never knowingly met a eunuch I wondered how they managed to find so many. After having my first camel ride the answer is obvious. The motion of a camel and the anatomy of males do not react well with each other. The first 10 minutes were possibly the most uncomfortable I had been ever. After the ten minute mark my anatomy decided to rearrange itself to possibly my armpits and was no longer in the saddle firing line. What seemed like an eternity later the ride was over and we settled down to watch the sun set over the sand dunes.
While lazing on the dunes we relaxed to the soothing sound of Indian tourists in 4WD jeeps blasting over the dunes throwing empty beer bottles and general rubbish in what was, at one time, a pristine environment. The killer was as we ground our way through the desert my dude driving the camel was texting and talking on the phone most of the way…when we turned a corner a random guy on foot offered us beers from a carpet bag over his shoulder (kinda shattered the middle of the desert concept). We chatted to our guides who told us that the foreign tourists are great but the locals treat the environment as their own personal trash cans.
As we sat waiting for the sun to go down we got into a conversation about the location of the Pakistani border. To try and check our location we tried google thinking we would get a 3G signal. As it happened Jill was able to pull up the local wifi signal from the camping spot run by one of the big 5 star hotels. The whole middle of nowhere notion completely shattered we watched the sun disappear behind a cloud of dust and went back to the hotel.
Our movements are slowing as we near Christmas as the transport options are full. After Jaisalmer we returned to jaipur for a night and then off to Udaipur where we will be on Christmas Day. While I love curries I am hoping to have a traditional ham and turkey style Christmas meal but our googling is not yielding results, even at the 5 star hotels, at this stage. Jill has e-mailed a couple of them but the customer service over here has seen no responses.