Camel trekking in Jaisalmer and the first day of Udaipur
We left our guest house at 7.30ish to head off and meet our group for breakfast. We had our breakfast on the rooftop and personally I was starting to get a little concerned when at 8, the time we were meant to leave, no-one had showed up. Luckily "PK" popped up on to the rooftop to take some pictures and informed us that the rest of our group (who were obviously much smarter than us) were making the most of the air con downstairs while they could. All very lovely. We then set off down to the jeeps, the journey on which was actually not as bumpy I had expected. We drove for I guess maybe 40 minutes in to the Thar desert and got some nice views of the Fort from outside, as well as lots of lines of windmills that followed us for the whole trek.
We set off on our camels in a little line tied together with our guide on the front camel. Some of the rest of the group were driving the camels themselves (not really the right way to say it I know but they had their own reigns). I named my camel, who was luckily quite well behaved, Humphrey and Jade's slightly naughtier camel was called Ben (after a brief bit of confusion when he was named Lola). Quite early on one of the camels went a little rogue. This lovely Belgian woman was driving her own and the camel spotted a lovely spot to roll in so ran over to it and threw her off having a little roll around. Luckily she was fine and got straight back on, although she did then opt to join our line of guide-driven camels. I'm not sure if the people driving their own had been asked if they actually wanted to do this/given any directions or just sent off with the reins. Either way I was glad to be sans-reigns because I would have probably turned right around if I had been the lady.
We trekked for about an hour (I think, I'm not very good at calculating time) before we arrived at the first little village. I think this was meant to be an opportunity for us to get an insight into desert village culture but by this point the only thing any of us were interested in was the desert shop with a fan and cold sprite. I had two sprites, the best use of 60p I've ever experienced. I had a little look at the village but there wasn't much shade so we all spent most of our time loitering around the shop. Eventually we headed off again for about another half hour before finding some shelter from the sun under a big tree and stopping for a very long lunch break. Sat on a tarpaulin turned blanket and had some nice chats with the rest of our group: two teachers from Spain, a couple from near Spain, a Belgian couple, PK from Mumbai who lives in Canada and two (possibly Korean or Chinese but can't remember) boys. All lovely. I was hopeful about the lunch they cooked from scratch. Started off very well with yummy crisp type things the kind of texture of pom bears which I loved. Also had some yummy oranges which were green (and luckily not limes as I first thought when they gave them to me) and fried green peppers. Sadly the good start did not continue and the main meal turned out to be noodles which were so overcooked Jade thought they were rice, boiled leeks and chapati. I ate mine all as fast as poss to get it over with, and then looked up to discover everyone else looking at me in amazement that I'd eaten the whole plate. Haha, who's fussy now! The rest of the group mainly left at least half of theirs, all saying it was "too hot" to eat.
After lunch we all chilled out under the tree/napped while we waited for the hottest part of the day to pass. I was a little alarmed to wake up and discover that our camels and camel guides seemed to have wandered off, but luckily they reappeared a little while later, Humphrey in tow. We hopped back on and trekked for a little while longer until we reached the camel watering hole where we each took our camel up to the water for a drink (a little nervously in my case). Jade was feeling a little dizzy at this point but luckily my chocolate bourbons brought her back from the brink, to find a group of the village children surrounding us all and staring at us oddly. We hopped back on the camels (actually it wasn't that casual, I didn't manage to remain calm once while the camel was standing up, it's really freaky!) and set off to find our overnight site. We started trotting for a while which I actually found quite fun. Unfortunately the naughty Ben, who was in the line behind Humphrey decided to try and come up beside us while trotting, maybe he wanted to race. This led to Jade's leg getting squashed between Ben and the back prongs of my chair, not very comfortable. In addition to this her foot accidentally went up poor Humphrey's bum. Eventually I managed to pull Ben's rein back and pull him back in to line (hero).
The rest of the trek was quite enjoyable, with the guide singing "come on camel, let's go desert" to the tune of Barbie Girl and some nice barren landscape. We eventually arrived at the only sand dune we went on during the whole trek (the rest was just barren dry land, not really traditional desert imagery, but I still enjoyed it as it was a nice difference from the Morocco camel trek) which is where we settled down for the night. We were all quite glad to arrive because by this point our bums were all pretty bruised. We put in some orders for cold drinks, and one of the guides then set off on his camel to a nearby village. We took some pictures and played on the dune for a bit, sadly no great sunset because too cloudy but still pretty. It started to get quite windy so we all spent quite a while just trying to shield from the flying sand. We took shelter at the bottom of a dune for dinner, of a slightly nicer rice, chapati and "curry" aka slightly flavoured potato. Mine was mainly flavoured by sand. We then discovered that there are snakes and scorpions out in the desert so I spent the next half an hour nervously looking around.
About 3 hours after we'd placed our cold drinks order the guy finally came back (camel service is slow). At this point it was already dark and cool and everyone's desire for their cold water and pepsi's had declined a bit. Jade and I, clearly being the only intelligent ones, had instead opted for beer. Everyone looked a little jealous, but I was mainly glad from the thoughts of creepy bugs. We all sat around and chatted until quite late and then went to sleep under the stars on rugs and pillows the guides had brought along and set out for us. I can't say I slept all that well, I kept thinking scorpions were on my sleeping bag. Also, I thought I saw a glimpse of a "wild dog" which sounded scary but turned out just to be a dog without an owner. Woke up at the crack of dawn the next day (no great sunrise either but oh well) and had boiled eggs and toast before setting off again. I decided to have a crack at taking the reins on Humphrey, but was not very impressed when, having informed the guide of this, he told me I had to take Ben (who was too disruptive for a line).
Set off a little gingerly but Ben behaved very well, and basically I did nothing. The camels were well versed on their trail so just followed each other without any need of direction. It was quite fun when started trotting and I started going "hya Ben, hya" feeling like a proper camel racer. Unfortunately Ben does not do well trotting, he seems to lose his composure. He started playing camel bumper cars and running in to the side of the other camels. I was trying to get him under control but was also struggling to stay in the saddle, so took a little while. We returned to walking pace though and I got a bit better control of the reins. Well I thought I had until we set off trotting again at which point I suddenly found myself being trotted in to thorny bushes and trees. Luckily I then worked out how to direct him and avoided getting my eyes poked out.
I was sad when we arrived back at the jeeps but also pretty grateful, as we all were, because sitting in the saddle for any longer would not have been all that comfortable! We struggled up to the top of the guest house on arrival back in Jaisalmer and then had to wait for everyone to get through the one shower made available to us. After this we headed off to the Sunset cafe for lunch. I had a tasty veggie sandwich and also ordered a cucumber salad which turned out to literally just be a plate of cucumber sliced up. Slightly disappointing. We all chilled out in the restaurant, chatted and lazed for a few hours before everyone set off for their buses/trains. Jade and I went and got (more) takeaway pizza and then took a tuk tuk to the bus stop for our overnight bus to Udaipur, which turned out to be a strong contender for the worse bus journey of my life.
We had paid a couple of quid extra to get an AC private overnight bus, mainly because it left and arrived at a better time for us. We managed to find our double berth, after a little bit confusion (the seats were N and O, but I thought this meant NO to seats because we were in a cabin bit but apparently not). Seemed much nicer than the previous overnighter, no wee smell, windows that didn't even open and AC to keep us cool. I ate my pizza and watched the beautiful scenery for a bit while Jade wrote up her blog. Then we watched "I love you man". This was all quite nice for the first couple of hours. Then we lay down to sleep, both absolutely exhausted. I honestly would have slept anywhere at this point. Unfortunately it was literally impossible to sleep on this bus because at least once a minute we went over a bump so big that we literally took flight and ended up about an inch above the bed thrown up in to the air. The only sleep we got was during the 10 minute rest stops once every three hours or so. It started off quite funny but by the end I was trying desperately to distract myself from the fact that this was all making me feel a bit sick and the windows didn't even open. I was also convinced I was going to break something on landing from one of these little jumps. Luckily, we arrived safe and sound in Udaipur. Never been happier to get off a bus.
We arrived in Udaipur around 5 in the morning and took a tuk tuk to the city centre. After a trip round a few LP recommended places that didn't suit our prices (all the cheap rooms apparently booked) we settled on Jag Niwas Guest House for the grand price of about £1.60 each a night. We settled in to our room and promptly fell asleep for a few hours of lovely, unbumpy sleep. We woke up around lunch time and pootled down to the "Lotus cafe" for brunch. I had a yummy veggie burger, with slightly undercooked chips and Jade had two very mini jacket pots with baked beans. We then thought we deserved a treat so I got a massage (about £1.60) and Jade got a pedicure in a little beauty parlour nearby. Can't say either was wonderful or very professionally done but still nice . We then went to the train station to book our overnight trains to Mumbai and Goa. We waited for ages at the tourist counter which then turned out to be closed (the specific timings being the only bit on the whole window only in Hindi, useful). Frustrated we headed back to our hotel. Our tuk tuk told us about this dance and puppet show on nearby so we went down to buy tickets. We had about an hour to wait so we went to a German bakery and I had a laaaaaaaavly Blueberry chocolate cake and mint tea which put me in a much better mood.
The dance and puppet show was odd but fun. It was a bit like watching a family performance, with the girls coming on to do "traditional regional dances" giggling at each other, and two unimpressed looking older ladies sitting in the bag banging bells. Then there was a bizarre puppet show. The main bit of the puppet show was based on this woman who had been ordered by the king to make him a rug or something and had been told she couldn't eat until it was finished. She was hungry so she ate the thread but then she felt sick so children were called from the audience to pull the thread out. The first girl that went up the puppet snapped at her before letting her take it and I thanked my lucky stars I wasn't the audience participator because knowing my tendency to overreact on instinct I'd have probably screamed to high heaven. The highlight of the show was this woman who kept balancing more pots on her head while doing a semi dance. At the last point she had something like 9 pots on her head and was standing on blunted broken glass. Impressive, but not exactly seamless, and I was quite nervous they were all about to come crashing down on my head (she also looked quite nervous about this). At one point we thought she might be about to pass out or something because she appeared to be heavily breathing and leaning against the wall, but this then turned out to be part of the dance and all was well. After this we headed off to a rooftop restaurant for dinner (yummy paneer butter masala for me) and then collapsed in to bed.