Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Camping with Camels and Cacti

Camels are about as exciting to my Israeli friends, native to the middle-east, as cacti are to me growing up in the Sonoran desert of Arizona.

Despite our previous exposure to cacti and camels, we couldn't resist the biggest tourist attraction in Jaisalmer: a camel safari trip in the Thar Desert of northwest India bordering Pakistan.

Early Saturday morning we were driven 50 kilometers deep into the Great Indian Desert. At a pre-arranged meeting point, we were introduced to our lovable desert guide, Rhaman, and his 15-year old apprentice, Usman.

It was a brisk and windy morning in the desert, but Rhaman managed to get a fire to catch in no time so we could drink piping hot chai before hopping on our mode of transport.
Ya'ara, Avia and I before setting off on the camels
Rhaman's nonsensical sayings, singing and infectious energy ensured us we were in for an adventure. But we couldn't yet know just how much and how fast we'd grow to adore this humorous, desert-habitating Indian man.
Rhaman caught a goat to add fresh goat milk for a memorable cup of chai
And so was our routine for our three-day desert safari: eat, ride our respective camels, visit remote desert villages, ride the camels (or walk if our bottoms needed a break), prepare our meals over a fire, eat, nap, relax and camp for the night.
One of our campsite locations
“24 hours full power, no toilet, no shower!" Rhaman chanted, though 24 hours as dirty desert creatures was more like 55. "No hurry, no worry, no chicken curry! What can we do, Katmandu?" And his best lesson of them all: "Anything is possible - this is India!"
We stopped in Rhaman's desert village and met his adorable children
For meals, we sought the traveling kitchen bag filled with veggies, flour, rice, mineral water, pots and pans. We all chipped in to peels and cut the veggies, while the experts started the fire and whipped up perfectly round chapati to accompany our curries. With fresh and delicious meals, the repetition and added sand crunch didn't even phase us.

We laughed at our former habits back in our overly sanitary countries, who may have shrieked at our grimy, unshowered selves shoveling food in our mouths with our hands. Oh, India!
For the cold desert nights, we layered ourselves in thermals and sat around a campfire until it was time to crawl under our hefty stack of blankets in the sand. I was even grateful for Avia's middle-of-the-night nudge to witness the glorious sight of the stars above us.

Adorable 15-year old Usman,
starting work to help support his family of 10
In the three days with Rhaman and Usman, we shared many inside jokes and laughs, even considering Usman's lack of English. This was Usman's first trip, and just like when Rhaman began 10 years ago, he would slowly learn English and the ways in which to give the tourists a trip to remember. Usman, with his innocent adolescent blush, even warmed up to our harmless teasing.

Post-safari back in the fort of Jaisalmer city, we had the comforts of a hot shower and a large bed. Though we were cleaned and groomed, something didn't feel right.

All three of us were simultaneously missing Rhaman's quirky presence, so much so that it slightly felt like a bad break up. He is one of the funniest people we've met, without even trying. Life just will never be as interesting without Rhaman by our side.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I wonder if ALL the camel guides use the same nonsensical sayings? We had two, and they were repeating them nonstop for the entire journey! Funny...the first time around. But cute nonetheless.