Heading North V – Jaisalmer, the Golden City

This creed of the desert seemed inexpressible in words, and indeed in thought. – T. E. Lawrence

Sunrise in the desert
Sunrise in the desert

I arrived in Jaisalmer around 11.30 pm, waved goodbye to my dearest French train companions that I would meet two days later in Jaisalmer itself as well as on the platform again and got picked up by a local guy who I found on Couchsurfing and who organised a nice place for me to stay, namely the hotel The Golden House (best place to sleep I had during the whole trip). Apparently, Couchsurfing in India is often not about staying at someone’s home, but at the hotel or guesthouse that a friend or relative owns. Looking back this is an awesome system, but I have to admit that before coming there, I was a bit worried that they would charge me loads of money afterwards, which was not the case. Thumbs up for Indian hospitality! 🙂

The next morning I had to start early as I booked a camel safari to the desert, which was scheduled to start at 8 am in the morning. The itinerary included the visit of an abandoned city and an oasis by jeep, a three hours camel ride before lunch, freshly prepared lunch in the desert, two more hours on the camel, a super delicious dinner, one night in the desert under the stars, a decent breakfast and a two hours ride back to the point where we would be picked up by a jeep again.

When it came to the point where we had to choose our camel, I picked the one that looked the cutest and friendliest to me (Liar! He was a badass… :D). My boy was named Kalia and indeed he carried me the whole way with only little complaining. In order to still demonstrate that I was too heavy he would anyways walk through every bush or tree he could find on the way, so that I had to use all my ninja self-defence moves in order to fight against the branches and thorns that hit me the whole time. Thank you bro… 😉

Considering the fact that the Thar Desert even carries the word “desert” in its name, maybe some of you wondered where my dear camel friend could find all those bushes and trees. The reason is… that this desert is damn green! It seems like the tourist hotspot in the area is a desert as we would imagine it when we hear the term, but as I booked a tour that advertised to take non-touristic routes, we were 80% of the time surrounded by some plants. I have to admit that this was a pity concerning photo shootings and pictures in general, but in the end, nothing could substitute the experience to spend a night in the desert only with the few people that were on the same trip as me, instead of plenty of other tourists that explored the same area. Because after all, the promise of the agency that we would take non-touristic routes proofed to be true. 🙂

Our group consisted of five people (including me) first – a young couple from the Netherlands and two girls from the United States. We were accompanied by one man and a 14-year old boy, both of them living in a village in the desert. They were awesome! The boy – Hooka – was always smiling and joking, and our official guide Papu was super friendly, open to any question and funny as well. Marriage is always a big topic here (cultural differences being the number one reason for this), and as he explained, a boy and a girl from two different villages but from the same caste would marry each other without meeting before. I guess this system of arranged marriage is one of the hardest things to understand for someone growing up with all these liberal Western values, but also it is interesting to find out more about how this system works and how it starts to change. Myself, I’m still in the phase where I try to understand it. 😉

In the evening then three other people joined us, who booked a shorter tour – another couple and one more female solo traveller, Jennifer!

In the desert itself, many small things happened that seemed memorable to me. Like washing the dishes with sand, our camels walking far away during every break we took, so that Papu and Hooka took around one hour every time to bring them back – explaining that the camels (that actually were dromedaries 😉 ) eventually will have to get a proper lunch/dinner/breakfast as well, wild watermelons and papaya growing in the desert that would be completely white inside (even though they were perfectly ripe), the moment Kalia would trot under me (so funny!), the songs our guides were singing for us in the evening, sunset and sunrise, the stars at the sky during the night, the many many lightnings we would see during the same which were not followed by a thunder, and the amazing, deep and peaceful sleep that I had in this bed, in the middle of the desert, without any tend or barrier around. And the sweet chai we got before breakfast definitely compensated us for the annoying flies that woke us up in the morning…

21.10.2015

I simply loved it. My butt was hurting as hell when I had to sit on my grumpy Kalia for the last time the second day, but it was definitely worth the pain and when I think back… I would book the exact same tour again.

Back in Jaisalmer, after taking a shower and finally feeling like a human being again (washing away all the sand and dust), my Couchsurfing friend – an official tour guide – gave me a quick tour through the city. And Jaisalmer is indeed beautiful and special. All the pretty havelis, the golden colour of the sandstone they used to build the fort and the houses inside… I couldn’t get enough!

Later the day, together with Jennifer who I met on the safari, I kept on exploring the city, found the leather bag I was desperately looking for and got a henna tattoo, so that I finally qualified as a proper tourist. 😉 It came that we stayed together until the night, when both of us had to catch a train around 1 am. And on the platform, the Frenchies I met in the train two days ago were sitting there again, so that we could exchange the impressions we got on Jaisalmer until we had to split up in order to get in all our different coaches and sleep.

Jaisalmer is a beautiful must-see for everyone, and spending a night in the desert probably one of the most romantic things ever. Twinkle, twinkle little star, …

Bisous,

Jana ❤

PS: Jaja I know, I know how to dress up in the desert… 😀

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