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DESERT SPELLED WITH ONE 'S'

Written on: Thursday March 20th, 2008

A journal entry from: ASIA PART II

The Great Thar Desert, Rajasthan

There is a strange beauty that can be found in the desert and a simplicity I have learned to appreciate. I have never seen a night sky so heavy with stars or a moon that has shined any brighter. Comforted by the white glow of a full moon, I drifted asleep atop sand dunes, gazing towards a star studded sky. Last night was the first night of our three-day camel trek here in the Great Thar desert.

We started our trek early yesterday morning after an hour jeep ride onto a small desert patch alongside the roadway. Our camels and guides were already waiting for us when we rolled up. Our caravan consisted of Tom and myself; Randall and Steve, an American couple from San Francisco; Mikaela and Hannah, best friends from Sweden; a British bloke named Ian and Fanny from France. In total there were eight foreigners, five camel drivers, and nine surly camels. We made a great bunch!

I clambered up onto my camel's back, and sat on a saddle with a half a dozen blankets underneath. It was uncomfortable and the camel smelled a bit on the offensive side. I couldn't tell apart if it was my own who was the culprit or if it was coming from the rear of Hannah's camel in front of me, either or, it smelled just as foul. There was no crash course given on how to drive these creatures, which made for an amusing introduction to our desert safari. After several hours of riding we all developed numbed rears and cramped legs, the novelty of riding a camel wore off very quickly for each of us.

The terrain is just how one would imagine it - an endless sprawl of desert, a barren landscape, monotonous and lonely. The sun beats down incessantly and scorches everything in its path, it is probably the hottest encounter that I have yet to experience. We stopped well before noon, before the sun was its hottest and took refuge in the shade of a tree. Chai was served, lunch was prepared promptly and we spent the early part of the afternoon resting on blankets waiting for the sun to let up. After our desert siesta we set off once again in search of sand dunes.

Our entourage continued in a leisurely fashion for several more hours before finishing our desert trek for the day. We set up camp, very near to the Pakistan border, amidst giant sweeping sand dunes, it seemed like miles from anywhere, surrounded only by desert nothingness and the infinite sky above. We kicked off our shoes and explored, climbing atop the golden ridges and burying our feet in the fine sand. We sounded like squealing children, letting go of our inhibitions, as we raced to bottom of the steep sandy slopes. At sundown, we climbed the highest ridge and marveled at the fierce sun as it surrendered itself to the horizon. The remainder of the evening was spent cooling off with Kingfisher beers and sitting around a bonfire sipping on Indian whisky.

After breakfast this morning, our entourage separated into two groups. Our half was to continue, while the others headed back for various reasons. The village we visited was very small and simple. In fact, there was only a cluster of four or five structures, houses built of stone, mud and straw thatched roofs. It was home for one family, but several generations and extended relatives were noted. The children were playful and the women were hard at work. They tended to goats and were transferring water via large pots on their heads.

There was another afternoon siesta before settling at our second set of dunes, although these ones were not quite as large as the night before. At the moment, we are crouched underneath the canopy of a large bush, hiding from the direct attack of the sun and its beams. The four of us are exhausted - delirious from the heat. I've somehow managed to write this entry and so, here I am, somewhere in the Great Thar desert, looking forward to another peaceful night. Have I mentioned that it's BLOODY hot!

Visit my photo album to have a glimpse of desert life.