One of the most popular activities to do in Rajasthan in general and in Jaisalmer specifically is a camel safari. They can be as long as several weeks (although we only heard of one person doing that!) or as short as an afternoon and evening. Most people do an overnight, but after our overnight train ride and impending overnight bus ride, as well as the prospect of a rather chilly night, we opted to just do the afternoon to evening outing.
Inside the fort of Jaisalmer there are dozens of travel companies offering camel safaris. We opted to go with a company called Ganesh that was recommended by Lonely Planet, which they publicize quite loudly on a large banner near the entrance of the fort. The owner was definitely a good salesman and the three of us were very excited for the journey as we set out in a Jeep through the Thar Desert.
We were supposed to stop at some villages, but after the first one we told them not to stop at any others because the “village” was extremely disappointing. As soon as we got out of the Jeep a bunch of young children immediately started asking us for money. There was nothing to be seen of the village; it was unfortunately just a few poor families who have grown used to tours coming here and have taught their children to beg in a very aggressive manner. When we politely declined to give them money the children began to grab and poke us and we basically had to run back to the car. I hated being made to feel like a snob, but I refuse to give money to beggar children because it simply continues the cycle of parents or others using children to get money. Of course I feel terrible for the children and the poor families, which is why I am glad that I was able to do some positive volunteer work while in Mumbai.
When we finally reached the place where our camels were waiting we climbed aboard and were led through a very lovely desert walk. There of course isn’t much to see in a desert besides sand, cacti, and other camels, but it was very peaceful and even somewhat meditative. My camel was somewhat enamored with the guy on the camel in front of me (we went with three other people) and kept nudging his head into the guy’s legs and waist.
After a couple hours we reached some sand dunes where we saw a gorgeous sunset and then had a simple but yummy dinner cooked over a bonfire. We were hoping to stay a while longer to lie under the stars before heading back, but for some reason the driver insisted on us leaving almost immediately after dinner.
So we got a quick peek at the expansive, star-filled sky, but we all wished we had been able to stay a little while longer–although it was getting very cold! We were indeed happy to get back to our warm beds at Hotel Tokyo Palace in Jaisalmer.