Riding camels and staying inside Jaisalmer fort

22 days travelling and we are definitely putting on weight.

15 October 2018

My wife and one of the other women on our tour woke up at 5:30 AM full of enthusiasm, ready to watch the sunrise. I’d reluctantly agreed the night before, but after being prodded awake, I saw how dark it was and simply rolled over and went back to sleep. About 10 minutes later they both sheepishly re-appeared having realised they still had at least another 30 minutes before anything would happen. Slowly, one by one, we all started to wake up and made our way up the dune behind where we were sleeping. From there we had a pretty good vantage point of the sunrise and got a glimpse of the camels that we would be riding back to the main road.

Once everyone had finished breakfast we headed out for our camel ride. You’d have thought that I would be used to camels having grown up in Dubai – but I’d somehow, rather conveniently, forgotten just how much they towered above you. With the worlds worst acrobatic display, I flung one leg over the saddle and realised I’d misjudged the height. Awkwardly, I stood there half straddling the camel, hopping on one foot as the local guide looked on in disbelief. “Jump” he said, shaking his head. What does he think I’m trying to do? With one last push, I almost toppled over the other side and grabbed on for dear life. Sadly this was only the start for me.

Camel riding in Jaisalmer
The start of a love/hate relationship

Camels get up in two stages, funnily enough. First they get up on their back legs, leaving you leaning backwards, flat as a pancake, hoping you won’t slide off. Then they raise their front two legs so they are up on all fours – all whilst you cling on, hoping you won’t be the only fool to fall off. At least the sand might make for a soft landing. Why am I doing this, I thought to myself. Next thing I know I am leading the pack and it wasn’t long before I realised that certain parts of me weren’t positioned particularly well. It seemed impossible to readjust and an hour and a half later I was desperate to get off.

It was a great experience, riding through the desert landscape. How anyone manages to survive out here is beyond me. It didn’t take long to realise just how important tourism is around here, as the majority of people earn their living through it – either directly or indirectly. We all had a good laugh after our camel ride, as it turns out I wasn’t the only one looking forward to getting back onto solid ground. Sore bottoms in tow, we hopped into our jeeps and made our way to the beautiful Jaisalmer fort, where we would be spending the night.

Architecture of Jaisalmer
Just one example of the intricate building designs

After settling into our rooms, we met with a local guide who took us on an orientation walk around the inside of the fort, as well as the surrounding market. The architecture was like nothing I’d seen before, the attention to detail and intricate designs were mesmerising. After admiring the ornate havelis (traditional Indian houses) and learning about local life and traditions, we made our way outside the fort for lunch.

Killa Corner served up some particularly good food with an impressive backdrop of the fort. Bellies full, we walked through the nearby market before ducking into a cooperative (70% of profits go back to local artists) to view some of the traditional Rajasthan textiles on offer. It was a bit of a sales pitch but they served masala tea and cold water, which just about got me through it – we were all shattered from the night of broken sleep in the desert.

Beautiful house entrance in Jaisalmer
Beautiful entrance to someone’s house

Deepak Hotel may be basic, but the staff were lovely and it had such an incredible setting. Situated within the gates of the fort, it has panoramic views of the surrounding city and the rooftop seating was a welcome retreat at the end of a long day. We had an incredible buffet spread made up of local dishes and a musician played songs for us. Our guide also made us dress up in traditional clothing, which was good fun. As the night went on the birds above us turned into dozens of bats, darting all over the place.

Dodging cows in Jaisalmer Fort
The sort of cows you have to dodge

16 October 2018

This was our first full free day of the trip and we spent most of the morning dodging cows and wandering around the inside of the fort. Stopping briefly for breakfast at Desert Boys, we filled up on coffee and took the standard tourist snaps of the spectacular views – seems everywhere here has incredible backdrops and panoramic settings.

The view from Desert Boy’s
The view from Desert Boy’s

Our guide was kind enough to help us organise a local SIM card and what a faff it turned out to be. I was incredibly glad we had him with us as the first place charged double what we ended up paying. It seems they only just stopped short of requiring a blood sacrifice before handing over a SIM – needing countless information, photocopies of IDs and a photo. I’m sure it will be worth it in the long run.

We rounded the evening off nicely by walking up a nearby hill to admire the fort and sunset from a distance. A rather fitting end to our time in Jaisalmer – we just have to prepare ourselves for our first train ride tomorrow morning. Surely we can’t miss two in a row?

Hilltop view of Jaisalmer Fort
Hilltop view of Jaisalmer Fort

Until next time.

P.S. The SIM card we got was only just activated, a whole four days later – I suppose it is better late than never.

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