Three Monkeys Online

A Curious, Alternative Magazine

Canadian Camel Trekking in the Rajasthan Desert – a personal memoir.

When we got to the Hotel Hanna, Nice Khan indeed introduced me to the Canadian couple who were apparently leaving on the trip in 2 hours. The other people would be meeting us out by the camels. Under pressure to make a decision, I gave in and paid $1800 rupees ($50CAN) for the 3 day/ 2 night trip.

We drove a few hours and arrived at the edge of the desert to meet our camels and the rest of the group. It was already blazing hot as we met our local guides and mounted our camels for the first leg of our journey. The other part of the group would meet us at lunchtime we were now told. We started off into the desert.

Riding a camel was fun. The fun lasted about thirty minutes.

I soon started to notice an uncomfortable feeling in my inner thighs, as though someone was prying them apart like a wishbone. I'd ridden horses in the past, but the girth of a camel was something my groin was not used to. How to get relief? The stirrups were missing so there was no way to press down and take some pressure off of your tender regions, so you were forced to sit completely splayed. Another hour passed and I noticed one of my safari mates trying to ease his pain by bringing his legs up onto the camel's neck. This solved the stretching problem, but resulted in all of your weight being placed on your backside. The incessant rocking of the camel soon resulted in severe pain from both pressure and friction. This discomfort could be relieved only by going back to doing the near splits by hanging your legs down.

While I struggled to find a comfortable way to sit, the temperature kept rising. Not only was I was still weak and dehydrated from my recent illness, but here I was, at noon, in the Rajasthan desert at a time of year when only the acclimatized native and the dim-witted tourist are found. I simply could not believe the heat I was feeling, totally exposed to the sun’s harsh rays.

It's not true that you don't sweat in the desert. Your sweat simply evaporates instantaneously, sucking the moisture from your body in a futile attempt to cool you down. I reached for my water bottle which was ice cold only an hour ago. The guides had strapped it near the saddle in the direct path of the suns rays. I discovered that when I'm overheated, nauseated and in severe pain, near boiling water is not refreshing. The frequent flatulence of the camel in front of me wasn't refreshing either. I forced down a few swallows of water but could tolerate little more. I began daydreaming of ice cold glasses of lemonade, swimming pools and snowstorms. I looked at my watch. Only ninety minutes had passed. This was a three day trek.

About an hour later I could see trees in the distance. One of the guides pointed at them and said “lunch”. I was so weak that I felt like I'd fall off my camel at any moment, but I remembered that in Lawrence of Arabia if you fell off your camel, you were left behind in the desert to die. I managed to hang on until we made the oasis. The guides knew little English, but could easily see that I was in distress. They quickly put a blanket down and had me lie down and rest. I tried to drink more water but again managed just a few swallows. They prepared lunch while I rested with the couple accompanying me. The guides explained that at this time of year, we must wait here until at least 5 p.m. until it would be safe to venture out again. It took most of that time for me to be able to sit up. I thought to myself that a breeze might be refreshing, but the occasional strong winds that came out of the east felt like a thousand hairdryers set on high heat. I managed a fe
w bites of food just before we were off for the second leg of the day.

With the sun lower on the horizon the ride was a bit more tolerable, although still quite painful. Another three hours of trekking and we arrived at our final camp site for the night. It was getting dark and after thirty minutes of rest I was actually starting to feel pretty good. The guides ingeniously dug a hole in the ground and wrapped my water bottle in a wet burlap bag and buried it for half an hour. When they dug it up it had cooled down enough to make it palatable. Dinner was prepared and I finally got to know my fellow camel jockeys. It turns out that Nice Khan had woken them up that morning to tell them that the other people they were expecting to be a part of their trip had begun arriving (he had told them that lie the night before). They had been traveling alone together for quite a while and had also been thinking that it would be more fun to do the safari in a group. Nice Khan had used them to con me, and me to con them. By now we realized that the three other supposed members of our group were just a mirage.

Fortunately, the three of us got along well. We spent a pleasant night eating curried potatoes and chapattis while looking up at the full moon and crystal clear sky. The moonlight was dazzling, aided perhaps by combustibles that they had rolled up and handed to me many times during the evening. Lying beneath a clear moonlit desert sky was a beautiful experience. We started to hear noises in the distance. A Rajasthani shepherd stood atop a sand dune in the distance guiding a herd of goats in our direction. The shepherd was a friend of our guides. He and his goats spent the night with us. We slept well, on carpets in the open desert night.

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