Day 21: the camels, the dogs & the night in Thar

Jaisalmer

Back in Lebanon, I tried to go camping several times. I failed. No exceptions. I have never managed to stay a night outdoors, in a tent. I have relatively good excuses; first time, it started raining at 2 AM and the tent was soaked so my friends and I hid 5 kilometers away, inside a friend’s villa. Second time (same place), my friends were in the woods, looking for anything that would keep the fire from dying. The bushes moved. An iPhone plummeted to its death. A little bit of screaming, a lot more of running to the cars, going back to the same villa. It probably was a cat by the way.

Third time was the charm though. I slept like a baby under sandy blankets and the stars of the Thar desert. Not too shabby, eh?

***

“One cup of water, one cup of beer, don’t you worry, one cup of happy”

It was dark and I couldn’t see what was on the plate. I took my chances – rice and potatoes a la Indian with a bunch of other stuff. Not bad. I was still trying to overcome my Indian food aversion, the one that my fever bestowed upon me. Tanx.

“More potato, madam?”

Yes, more potato!

“1,2,3… nothing in India is free!”

IMG_2378

They had beds for all of us which is weird because I was expecting tents. We were going to sleep right under the stars. Not complaining! We made a big circle with the beds, the fire that the camel drivers made was right behind us. They were still cooking.

I hoped they had mattresses (they did!) because the metal grid wasn’t too comfortable – but not a uncomfortable as a 2 hour camel ride. I laid on my back, eyes wide open. It was the starriest night I have ever seen and I wanted to make sure not to miss a thing.

Kira counted 13 shooting stars.

The desert isn’t such a bad place after all – as long as you had food, water, company and a way to get out. The dunes reminded me of the Little Prince. Suddenly the constellations looked a whole lot more like boas, elephants and hats. Whenever I felt like I was falling asleep, I focused on one star until all of the others disappeared.

My friends were trying to scare each other with ghost stories. In the distance, our camels made music with their bells. The drivers soon joined them with plates, kitchen utensils and songs that we all found to be enchanting- the kind of songs you would want to listen to while stargazing in an Indian desert.

“It’s the desert wedding song. Woman from one village is marrying man from other village. They never met before. She cries in her wedding because she has to leave her family to be with her husband”, explained Paput, the alpha driver, as the rest of the camel drivers continued to sing.

More bell music from afar.

Dogs running around us. Not desert dogs, village dogs that followed us. After having spent over three weeks in India, I grew accustomed of being followed. Selfie crazed people in touristic sites. Kids in villages. Bulls on the road. Cows and horse on campus. Goats on the way to the mall. Dogs everywhere.

I decided not to worry about the dogs.

We all went to bed at 10:30 PM. By went to bed, I mean dragged our beds further inside the dunes and ined them up. We received mattresses, pillows and blankets (that were so heavy that I couldn’t move once I snuggled under mine)

I spotted a shooting star before I fell asleep and wished not to feel the urge to pee until we were back to the less-deserted much more crowded part of Jaisalmer.  I really didn’t wanted to “go” behind the bushes.

At first, the desert wasn’t cold. I wasn’t impressed. Where’s that “can reach 10 degrees” that Google preached? But when barks woke me up in the middle of the night, I understood why the blankets had to be heavy. Super cold, super strong wind.

Back to the barking. Any normal perspn would have tried to understand why the dogs were suddenly so loud. And why people were yelling. But my mom says that I’m a heavy sleeper, almost impossible to wake up. So, I went back to bed. If something bit me, I’d wake up and defend myself. Or I’ll be a sleeping chew toy. I covered my head with the blanket, getting sand inside my ears and fell back into my self-induced cmoa.

I woke up to Egyptian chatter. Just in time for the sunrise. I grabbed my camera and ran off into the dunes. I had high expectations for my semi-pro.

Look.

Sunrise

IMG_2375

Breakfast: porridge, biscuits, bananas, jam, bread. And chai, of course

IMG_2358

-So what happened last night? I asked

-You didn’t see?

I had to explain to May my sleeping “dynamics”.

-Me too! said Marwan. No reason to worry until I get eaten alive.

The dogs who have been following us since the village have been joined by two black dogs from the desert. They had a fight while we were busy sleeping. I didn’t mention this earlier on but there were two lines of beds. I was in the second one. The Egyptian girls, on the other hand, had the misfortune of sleeping in the front, on the side by which the dogs were having their “bark-off”. They suddenly started towards them (the dogs to the girls, not the other way around). The girls woke up to see yellow eyes approaching them super fast and hence, the screaming and yelling.
Luckily (for the girls, not the dogs), one of the camel drivers intervened and shooed the dogs away

– Oh so that’s it?

-Well, the best part was that Rana started calling Paput to the rescue. Rahma (who was sleeping next to her), thought that a paput is the French word for a monster in the desert. She also thought that the paput was about to attack them and so she started yelling while pointing at the approaching paput. That’s why the yelling intensified.

Being the only francophone of the group, I chuckled. “Paput” has a French ring to a terrorized Egyptian ear.

***

Sherif (also Egyptian) wasn’t impressed.

“This is not real desert. This sand is not even yellow. It is like beach sand.”

It was like beach sand. I was a Mediterranean sea and flip-flop (and half a continent)  away from sunbathing on a Lebanese shore.

“Too many trees and bushes too”

Probably improvised WC for campers.

Time to go back.

If a camel looks comfortable to you:

  • WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH YOU?
  • Don’t be fooled

You need an extra padded saddle for the ride to be barable. Fortunately, we took the shortcut back to the village.

Is it possible to get seasickness from riding a camel? They wobble when they walk. Left. Right. Left. Right. And don’t get me me started on how they stand up or sit down. A rollercoaster.

My camel’s name was Puma, unlikely eh? And Puma loves to “drift”. While crossing a dune, she kept on taking sudden side steps as I tried my best to hang on.

“Lama, go easy on the hand break!”, shouted Marwan, one camel ahead.

Great. An Arab wearing a cowboy hat, riding a camel, was teaching me how to “drift” camels on sand dunes. Just great.

Puma

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