My camel ride across the Thar Desert just outside of Jaisalmer, in the state of Rajasthan, was definitely one of the most memorable things I’ve ever done. A real highlight of my month in India
Booking My Tour
I ended up booking the Camel Trek with the Royal Thar Safari company, the night I arrived in Jaisalmer. I wanted to make sure I was getting an “authentic” and “non-touristy” camel trekking experience. For 6200 rupees (a small fortune by Indian standards) I was assured that this would not be the typical tourist experience, and boy did they deliver! Most other people that I spoke to paid 1500 rupees on average for their camel treks, but they were with much larger groups and not taken as far out of the city as I was.
Day 1 on the Camel
The next morning I met my guide, Cirosh, at 7:00 AM to drive to a small town, Khuri, about 45 kilometers from Jaisalmer, where we embarked on the first leg of our trek. I quickly realized that I had unknowingly booked a private tour of the desert. From there Cirosh and I rode our camels, Babaloo 1 & 2, out into the vast nothingness of the Thar Desert. I thrusted around on the back of Babaloo 1 for about an hour before we made our first stop on top of a sand dune for a typical Rajisthani lunch- vegetarian curry with fresh chapatis, cooked by Cirosh and myself over an open fire.
After we packed up lunch, we hopped back on the camels and trekked another 10 kms before we stopped in a rural village for lunch and a drink for the Babaloos. From here, we continued on for another 8 kilometers before we arrived at Cirosh’s cousin’s goat farm.
I spent the rest of the afternoon taking abuse from Cirosh’s playful nephews and nieces. Later, I wrangled some of the baby goats to help them to feed off their mothers (many of the mothers were reluctant to allow them, as they were fairly aggressive). Cirosh’s sister-in-law made us a tasty dal with vegetable curry, fresh chapatis and some chai for dinner. At dusk, we set up our blankets out in the sand and fell asleep under the stars.
I woke up around 4 am and stayed awake for an hour just staring at the amazing starry sky. During what felt like an eternity, staring at a galaxy of stars, I suddenly heard a loud running noise. I turned my head, and under the bright light of a full moon, I watched the silhouettes of a pack of 15 camels sprinting across the desert. It was an image I will never forget. It turns out they were fighting each other, as they often do at night. I was blown away at how fast they were running, I would guess around 70 kms/hour!
Day 2 on the Camel
The next morning we said our goodbyes over a hot cup of chai and rode for about an hour until we set up for another campfire cooked lunch. Afterwards, we trekked back to Khuri across some of the most amazing sand dunes I’d ever seen. From Khuri we got back in the jeep to drive back into Jaisalmer. Unfortunately the leaf spring of the jeep’s suspension snapped so we cautiously crawled back to Jaisalmer at a snails pace. I just made my train by 5 minutes to Jodhpur.
My experience out in the desert on camels was amazing, but not what I expected. I’d seen Disney’s Aladdin and assumed the desert would be miles and miles of sand. I was surprised to find the desert covered in about 85% vegetation and only 15% of pure untouched sand dunes. This is due to the roaming behaviours of cows, goat, and camels, which have called the desert home for thousands of years. In fact, some places that we walked were almost completely covered by cow patties and goat excrement (so lovely…). We regularly saw large herds of cows and goats roaming freely to find food. However, they always return back to their owners due to the promise of free water!
If you find yourself in Rajasthan, I highly recommend getting out to the Thar Desert and riding on the back of a camel! Whether you opt for an “expensive” private tour or a more budget friendly group tour, I’m sure you will love it!
Has anyone else done some memorable camel trekking? Where did you go? We’d love to hear your experiences!