In the desert outside of Jaisalmer, India. Yes, that’s how I would describe my ride on a camel. I did it; I will always remember it; I will never repeat it.
Don was a big fan; he loved the view from up there and was gently swaying as we moved across the dunes. I ended up walking the last bit due to a very sore backside and a newfound aversion to a large lurching animal underneath me.
Our camels were Michael Jackson and Johnny Walker. I had Johnny, and while he was quite friendly, he did unsettle me when we went up and down the dunes. Also, I think there were rocks inside my saddle, so I was content to lead Mr. Walker, as he finally got me walking. I would have even carried him, if that were my only other choice.
Our friend Gail was absolutely correct when she sent in this newspaper comment from a camel rider of 1879: “Readers were told to seat themselves in the broad saddle and cross their legs in front of the pommel and then to expect the unexpected: Before you are ready, something like a private earthquake begins under you. The camel raises his hindquarters suddenly, and throws you over upon his neck; and before you recover from that, he straightens up his knees and gives you a jerk over his tail; and, when you are not at all certain what has happened, he begins to move off with that dislocated walk which sets you in to a see-saw motion.”
I have seen camel ladders, but our guys did not come with such modern conveniences. Camels have not changed since 1879, so the experience – except for the leg-crossing bit – was exactly the same. Graceful, camels are not. Graceful, New York camel riders are not either.
We rode across the dunes for about a half-hour, and then parked Michael Jackson and Johnny Walker. Our young camel master stayed with them and we walked away into the desert. Having found an especially comfortable looking place to park ourselves, we sat and admired the lovely empty spaces.
Then we learned that being alone in the desert is rather like standing on a street corner in Delhi. First, there was some camel traffic nearby. Then, our driver came by and sat down. We were sad to learn that he comes from a village with no school, so he and his six siblings are doomed to a life of illiteracy.
An old man who had ridden by on a camel a while earlier plopped down to visit. Next, a young girl and her father (?) came by. “Gypsies!” muttered our guide. I guess we were warned. And as gypsies originated from northern India, that made sense.
Of course, we were the targets of all this neighborliness. When money didn’t start exploding from our pockets, the young girl launched into a dance that was charming, though a bit forced. (We are getting somewhat cynical.)
Not that this trip was cursed, or anything, but it became clear that the day was too cloudy for us to wait to see a gorgeous sunset over the dunes. (In fact, when we finally got back into the car, it started to rain. I always knew we had the ability to bring rain to the desert. It’s just a gift.)
Having relinquished the sunset fantasy, we returned to our patient ships of the desert, and intrepid Don remounted. I led the way – on foot. It was a very – what’s the word? – interesting outing, and our camels were much more placid than I expected. What was great was seeing the sand dunes rippling and the vast spaces around us – which were actually never that empty. I think we could have hailed a tuk-tuk if we waited a while longer.
Despite not seeing the sunset last night, the night before, we had a beautiful one right outside our windows. The resort looked especially lovely and a little music made it even more magical.