When you wish upon a star...
The day had arrived, we were to wander through the Thar Desert on camels and then sleep under a starry sky. First let us meet our companions, Alyssa and Patrick a couple from America who have been working in South Korea for the past two years and Sammy (Alyssa's childhood friend) and Dan a married couple from Wisconsin. Our driver/guide/cook/photographer Edu was there to assist us in whatever way he could, apart from explain things clearly in English! Before we even saw the desert we were shown around a few areas of (limited) interest. James was in the front so automatically became our translator for Edu. We stopped at a Gypsy village where we were hassled for money but took a few photos and James and I were happy to part with a few pennies, which the gypsies were delighted with. We got shown around a traditional village town by a local who only knew how to say 'country?' and then repeated to everyone we met which country we were all from. So according to him we were all British because he asked us first! The least interesting stop for me was the abandoned city that was mainly a pile of rubble as people have taken the useful bricks etc. when rebuilding elsewhere. The only thing that remained was an average looking temple. When we got to the outskirts of the temple we were told it was a toilet stop. Us girls asked where exactly was the toilet and Edu pointed at a few low lying bushes! I even attempted to walk to a few higher ones to gain some sort of camouflage but I was told I couldn't as it was on the way to the village!
The camel owners came sauntering across the arid landscape with five beautiful camels and a mangy one. We were sent to our chosen camel and I was given Mange (otherwise known as Prapu)! He was a nice old boy really just not quite as glamorous as the others. I was relieved I didn't get Patrick's camel Mandru. Poor Patrick, as soon as he sat down on Mandru he shot up to standing. Holding onto a camel when they stand up slowly is not easy, let alone surprised and at that speed. Dan's camel turned out to be worse in the long run as he did not follow the pack and liked to go for a run every now and again! Alyssa was given the cutest camel and by far the smallest. Sammy had the friendliest with a medium build and James had Michael (after Michael Jackson) the biggest of them all and the leader! I am strongly opposed to the suggestion that each camel reflected their rider.
My bum was getting progressively worse so I was relieved when just beyond the amazing sand dunes we came to a stop. Edu, the jack of all trades was already there with a smile on his face and a quick demand for photos. We all took some silly jumping photos running off the sand dunes, with a varying degree of success; I was hesitant at first thanks to my dramatic fall on Straddie Island but we all landed safely! As the sun began to dip beyond the sandy sea we sat to enjoy the sunset with a chai and Indian crisps. A fire was lit and we all crept around the warmth as the cold night drew closer. Dinner was a potato curry with chapatti and rice. The camel owners and Edu turned into Nan and I had a double dinner, that almost turned into a third as I bartered with the men for less food, they were satisfied when I said 'just one more chapatti.' James had shown off with his chapatti making skills and Patrick demonstrated he was not a natural at the circular shape making. We had enjoyed listening to the young camel owner sing some traditional Hindi love songs. They asked us to sing some English songs. We were all going to have to sing by ourselves when I suggested a song I knew everyone knows the words too, from a previous experience in a bar in Colchester with Flynn-'I want it that way' by the Backstreet Boys. The Indian guys didn't seem too impressed but I was the best singer amongst us and that is saying something! We all chatted for a while, found a bush to call the toilet and lay down on our beds for the night-a pile of blankets. James and I picked out the sand burrs and attempted to make the sand as flat as possible. When the flame from the fire flickered out and all we could see, forever and ever was the beautiful starry skies. Even the moon wasn't out tonight so the stars seemed even brighter. I saw my first shooting star so I got very excited and quickly made a wish. The third shooting star was the most magical. It looked exactly like the star Tinkerbell makes as she flies across the Disney castle. Although I tried to stay up my sleeping ability skills soon set in. James managed to stay up longer, enjoying the sky and saw a total of nine shooting stars.
A few drops of sunshine fell upon my face and the sound of chai boiling on the fire brought me to wake. The sun hadn't quite made it over the sand dunes so we were able to watch the sunset on the cold, cold sand. Patrick's, Mandru jumped him to standing again this morning but we all had the chance to watch him carefully to see the fear in his eyes so it was a lot funnier. The ride back was relaxing and beautiful but my bum was pleased it was getting off the camel and back into the jeep!
We all decided that we could easily spend another night under the gorgeous stars but not another hour on the camel; I can see why Karl Pilkington made such a fuss! A great experience with good people.