Safari Experience – Camel With No Name
In a nutshell the camel safari experience is a little like this:
Been to the desert on a camel (safari) with no name, it felt good to be out of the rain… In the desert, you can’t forget your name, cuz it’s the only thing the people know how to ask… la laaaa, lalalala la… lala laa laaaaa la…
Okay, think that’s copyright infringement? Let’s hope not. If you’re looking for the actual song in order to get you into the mood, than you can check out America’s song, Horse With No Name.
Two quick digressions:
1) That’s possibly the easiest song to learn how to play on guitar, here’s a little Marty Schwartz lesson (he’s awesome).
2) Many people think that that song is written by Neil Young (as a Canadian, I can confirm that Neil Young is amazing, but did not write that song)… Even Neil Young’s father was caught by this… he actually called ol’ Neil after the song came out to congratulate him…
So, let’s take a camel safari to the desert separating India and Pakistan shall we?! it’s camel safari time.
Alright, there were many choices an things to consider but you decided to take the easy route and go with our hotel. I mean after all, you have been sleeping on the roof there (almost free) for the last three or four nights.
As much as the 10 (or was it 12) day camel safari to Jodhpur or Bikaner sounded cool, you’re pretty sure that buddy was just up-selling. After all, the people who’ve returned from the desert have all said that a couple of days was more than sufficient.
Meh, let’s go for one day, with an optional second.
However, these other guys that are going are certainly into the drug scene… why don’t you just take off on your lonesome?
You have a short delay in the morning where you watch one of the million cows in India eat some of your cauliflower out of the back of the jeep (is there anywhere else that this would happen?). And you’re on your way.
Found a Chilean with a cool story that’s going with the other guys… well that’ll help pass the 40 minute jeep ride and act as yet another reason to learn Spanish.
Now that you’re off on your own with the guide, it’s painfully obvious that you will not be learning Hindi on this trip… education and the desert don’t go hand-in-hand, and this guide will certainly not be teaching you much.
Damn, these camels are pretty cool. Not the most comfortable animal in the world, but cool. Getting on a camel isn’t that strange, but when they stand up, holy crap! You go from sitting on a calm animal to almost falling face first off some damn monster that decided to stand up ass-first… what does he think this is a booty-shaking video? You ain’t a 19-year-old girl and YouTube ain’t watching there, bud!
Walking along beside the road was a little lame, but that didn’t last too long, now you’re off on your way to Pakistan (ish) and it’s so peaceful. A quick little stop in a village where you get hounded by the kids for some pens, chocolates, or rupees… but hey, this village was pretty tame compared to what you’ve heard from other tourists. The kids even set up the baby so that they could help you take pictures of him… a little strange, but cool… and off ya go…
Another couple of hours before stopping for lunch… Well, you get to help the guide make lunch, that’s pretty neat. Throw in a little yellow stuff, some of that red stuff, some white stuff and some black stuff and presto… that wasn’t so hard. You did decide to use your knife instead of the butter knife he brought in order to cut the vegetables, but aside from that, you did it all his way.
The camels are kind of set free (their two front legs are tied together), and they’re allowed to wander. Some of the guide’s friends materialize out of nowhere, akin to the way they do in Crocodile Dundee (if you’re that old)… and you sit and have lunch with a few desert people, a couple of camels and a million goats. Not really how you pictured a ‘camel safari’ … but that’s just fine.
“No water, use sand” he tells you when it comes to washing the dishes… riiiiiight.
“I’m not totally sure what you mean by that… no water?”
“Water, no. sand” he says, “like this” and demonstrates a motion that looks oddly similar to gold panning (if you were to smear the gold around the pan)
Well I’ll be… Stainless steel (silver?) really shows it’s value in the desert. You can get these things sparkling clean without ever using water… crazy! Hygiene 101 anyone?
Hmm… sidenote… Taking a dump in the woods is much easier than doing so in the desert.
Another couple of hours and finally you’re on the ‘dunes’. It is a stretch to call these things dunes. They’re more like little windblown hills that happen to be made of sand.
Alright, stopping for the night. You head out to take a little gander while he makes you some desert Chai. He asks if he can use your knife for making dinner, no problem. You sit on the dunes, looking out over the sunset and the desert. And ponder the implication of drawing lines in the sand. Only 50 kilometers away is Pakistan. You cannot cross, you must not cross (according to the Indians), but you’re pretty damn curious and vow to get there at some point in your life.
It’s so peaceful here, how can it be so different such a short distance away? It can’t be… there’s just no way. The camels are wandering, the goats are about, there’s probably even the foxes and deer… just like here.
A place to sit and think… or maybe just a place to sit.
Looking back over the dunes you’re struck by an odd thought so you crunch some numbers.
He makes 1000 rupee a month. Current exchange is about 60 rupee to a dollar. You left a backpack (open) beside him that contains:
U.S. Dollars – $230
Indian Rupee – 8000
SLR Camera with zoom lens – resale value at least $500
Pentax lifeproof camera – resale value at least $200
Harddrive – resale $50
Ipod – resale $50
2 Blackberries (Okay, I’ve never used them and they’re old, but they’re still in the bag) – resale $100
Passport (How the hell did you leave your passport behind?) – resale $500 (but damn difficult)
Hmm… call it about $1600 dollars (if he manages to sell the merchandise) and 8000 rupees, coming to just over 100,000 rupee… Okay, granted he would have to sell a lot of crap, and he might not have the ability to do so…. but still, in your bag you literally have the value of 100 months of his salary, (just over 9 years)… Damn, how the hell did you allow yourself to tempt someone with that? Could you blame him if he took it? Wouldn’t you?
You come back and see your bag untouched… You’re almost tempted to ask him why?
You settle in for some great conversation. Time to really embrace the awkward. The usual pleasantries come and go and you’re left with the fun interrogative questions that you never really know how to answer.
“No, not married, you?”
“No, god no give me luck?”
“How old you?”
“29, how old you?”
“Why you no wife?” Hmmm… change of subject?
“How old you?”
“22” … There’s no way, can life in the desert really be that difficult? You were thinking he was at least 35. Maybe it’s his lazy eye, maybe the teeth that are falling out, or the general demeanour of someone who’s been getting the tough side of life for at least 3 decades.
“You want Opium?”
“No… no thank you”
“Very good, cheap, make you strong”
“You want, we buy in village”
“No, no… I think I’m good” …
“Very good, and cheap?”
“How cheap?” you ask more out of curiosity but understand that it’s dangerous territory.
“For how much”
He says some sort of word you don’t understand and follows it with, “You want, we go village tomorrow”
“No thanks, just curious”
“How much you want, you want cheaper?”
“No no… just curious”
“How much you want spend”
“I have nooo money with me” Okay, that’s a blatant lie, does that make you a bad person? “I think I no have spend money in safari, boss say, no need money”…Okay, now not only are you expanding upon a lie, but somehow you’ve also developed this fun new way of speaking… hope that wasn’t offensive.
His boss phones, always trying to sell just a little bit more. The guide is cool, you like him. But there’s something about the boss that just rubs you the wrong way. That slithering desert snake!
Let it go….
What an amazing night as you settle in to sleep on the sand, sure it’s a little cold, but at least you got out of those conversations, and look at the stars! Incredible out here. Your stomach is a little off, but that’s gotta be par for the course.
…getting a little colder…
…and a little sicker…
…and a little colder, but still not too bad…
…and a little sicker…
…yep, you might not be freezing, but it’s tough to sleep like this…
…and now you’re throwing up… awesome.
…hmm… so much better, a couple hours of sleep, here we go!
“My friend, Chai?” It’s gotta be maybe 6 in the morning, seriously? “You say you want up for sunset”
“I sorry, no understand”
“My English bad sir”
“Okay, sun not up yet?” You ask knowing full well it’s not.
“No sir, it come up there,” he points in the direction you’re looking, “soon.” Alright, fair enough. You don’t even have to move, just watch that direction and you’re good to go.
“Sir, sun almost wake up”
“Tiika” you nod.
You wake up and eat breakfast.
“You still have my knife?”
“Yes, still have”
In the morning you start by running the camels… brilliant! Now you have a sore butt (and other areas) for the rest of the day… why in the world did you do this at the beginning of the day?
You enjoy the rest of the morning on the camel, telling him that you don’t care to run on the damn things too much more and start looking forward to sitting on a doughnut cushion for the next few days.
Returning to the jeep, you meet up with the Chilean and a couple of the Germans that went with the large group. You trade some stories and realize that you’re happy that you went by yourself… and experienced the camel safari in the manner that you did.
You get back to town and realize many of the perils by being a small town traveler in a friendly city like Jaisalmer.
When you finally do make it back to your hostel, you realize you never got your knife back. Was that planned? He seemed to go out of his way to not give it to you. What happens if you tell his boss. Does he get in shit. What if it was an honest mistake? Do you really want him to potentially lose his job? But… wait… what if he did steal it from you? I mean, he didn’t take anything out of your bag… but he did really want that knife. Can you blame him? What do you do about it?
Well you’ve finished up the experience of your camel safari on a camel with no name, so now what do you do about the knife?