We enjoyed a small lie in for the first time of the trip and had a small breakfast on the rooftop overlooking the fort. The sun was extremely hot and bright.
Sukhvinder left us at the foot of the entrance and we slowly made the small climb. The chaos once we stepped inside honestly made us just stop and stare! The fort is a living fort and a quarter of the people of Jaisalmer live within the walls . It was just full of tiny houses with people selling all kinds of things. The noise, smell and the sight of what we saw is something I shall remember forever and something I don’t ever think I will see again! I felt as though I was being twirled around and around and felt so dizzy. I am so done with the people offering goods; haggling etc and will return with nothing but 15 ceramic doorknobs!
We went to the entry of the palace with one the fort which was tiny. We paid our entrance fee (you pay extra fee each time to be allowed to take photographs which is strange?) and went to get our audio guide. Unfortunately they wouldn’t give us the audio as I was not prepared to leave our passports with them. They insisted on us leaving our passports and they would give them back at the exit! For the very first time I just didn’t feel safe and said I would rather not; the man became quite aggressive, snatched the audio back and told us to go! We carried on, like two naughty school girls, around the vast palace with lots of nooks and crannies and made up our own history story as we went around. The views weren’t particularly spectacular and we were still reeling from the man’s behaviour that we decided to leave. Wouldn’t recommend Jaisalmer Fort in my travel guide.
Sukhvinder drove us to the Gadsisar Sagar Lake to gather our senses again and to relax after the chaos and upset of the fort. There was a small boating lake and I bought tickets for Hannah and I to row a small boat around the lake. We took our ticket to the small jetty to be shown a pedalo?!!!! No, I said, pointing to the small row boat, we want to row! “Two peoples – pedalo” he shouted. But I want to row I cried! “Two peoples- pedalo”. He then pointed to a blue swan shaped pedalo and at this point I became quite indignant and said “sir, I am a 52 and 9 month old English lady I will have you know – no swans!!” We ended up with a pedalo with more water inside that in the lake itself! Laugh? Again a surreal moment on a lake in India, surrounded by small temples and pedalling like mad in a pedalo. Street cred at an all time low.
A short drive out to the sand dunes and we arrived at a tiny camp with makeshift Indian day beds around a camp fire. Slowly more people arrived and a lovely atmosphere started to form. Hannah and I sat next to a French/Canadian mother and daughter similar ages to ourselves. We shared tales of our adventure in India and they explained that they had been travelling in India for two months. The daughter brings groups of people over from Canada to show them around. She asked whether we had seen the elephants in Jaipur as it was a highlight of her trip, so much so she told us she spent three (!!) hours with her elephant just talking and singing to it. She quickly went down in my notebook as loopy loop as she then explained that she was having difficulty sharing a room with her mother who snored like a pig! Quelle horreur ma petite!!
The time arrived for us to embark on our camel trek in the sand dunes. I circled the camels ensuring Hannah and I got the smartest looking ones and chose the two I liked – mistake number one; looks are deceiving! Mine had the worse case of halitosis (M&S mints at an all time low or else I would have thrown one in its mouth) and extremely incontinent as spent the entire time peeing (I know an extremely good Urogynaecologist who would sort it out!). I thought Sukhvinder was going to explode with laughter as he watched Hannah and I get on the camels. To hell with it, I thought, I lost all dignity on the pedalo – who cares whether I fall off the other side of a camel?
We headed off towards the huge dunes and discovered Loopy Loop and her mother were behind us. Losing myself in the moment (and a little tear escaped my eye because truly, honestly, this was beyond beautiful), I was surprised and horrified to hear Loopy Loop calling out to us asking whether we would mind if she sang to her camel ?!? Are you joking ma petite? Here in the midst of the mind blowing sand dunes of the Thar desert surrounded by the most beautiful scenery – you want to sing to the camel ?!? Please believe me when the two of them began to sing Frere Jacques – I kid you not; as honest as a 52 and 9 month old true Brit can be – THEY SANG TO THE CAMEL!! Sacre Coeur and eat me alive they did. Thankfully our leader took a different path and after a little while, and a few more French songs, we went separate ways. Later when we stopped for a break, we spotted Loopy Loop and her mother smoking something rather dodgy with their leader.
We met other camel riders and locals with their camels and walked and sat in the dunes for about an hour and a half and watched the sunset. I am almost in tears as I write and share this with you all (and thank you from the bottom of my heart for being with me) as this will go down in my book as one of the most beautiful and special moments in my life. I so wish John and Francesca were with us! Simply spectacular.
A beautiful ride back to camp and I quickly found two daybeds on the opposite side to Loopy Loop and her mother for fear they would start singing to the campfire. A scrumptious buffet was served and Hannah and I enjoyed a couple of glasses of shandy (didn’t feel it was the time nor place to ask for the wine list). A beautiful dancer and a band arrived and danced around the campfire which was super. Another “female” dancer arrived with surprisingly large hands and, you guessed it, was a man all dressed up as a belly dancer with the most impressive hip movements; take note Mr Laing! Hannah was rather taken with one of the men in the camp who, she said, resembled Johnny Depp (not sure whether she had had too much shandy or whether the Indian sun was having an effect!!). It was all very strange but the evening was fabulous. We were then all asked (about 40 of us) whether we would like to sleep in the large tents in the camp or a tent in the sand dune. Sukhvinder encouraged us to choose the sand dune which we did. We should have realised at that moment that our decision was a mistake as only four of us (two French guys and us) decided to head to the dunes. I should also have realised it was a mistake as Sukhvinder couldn’t stop laughing as we quickly scrambled some overnight things and were taken by jeep deep into the dunes. Relieved to hear that Loopy Loop and her mother decided to remain at camp as couldn’t bear the mother’s snoring or Loopy Loop singing to the stars.
Attached is a photo of our tent! Trust me when I say that, during the day, the temperature is about 27 degrees and I swear at night it drops to the minus figure! The two guys were shown their tent and the guide pointed to a large sand dune at the bottom of which was our tent. No, no I cried, without even thinking, we want to sleep together!! Well the horror on the faces of the two French guys and the look of sheer disappointment on Hannah’s was a picture! I quickly saved the moment by saying I would rather both tents were together but was told we had to go to the lower dune. Have you tried walking lady like down a steep dune with your John Lewis silver espadrilles on in the dark?! I tried, oh man I tried, but sunk deep into the dune and slid the whole way down on my bottom and landed in a heap at the entrance of our tent. Our guide left us and that was it – alone and abandoned in the desert. Congratulating myself again, I showed Hannah how I had brought my full washbag laden with products for a full facial, Grandad’s torch (one out of his vast collection), and a sheet from Grandma which was a last minute decision. We snuggled down but couldn’t sleep for giggling so much. I was absolutely frozen despite the 5 (!) quilts we had been given. The stars were amazing and resembled a huge firework – just stunning.
I woke to the sound of a growling wild dog and hypothermia. Hannah excitedly opened the tent and ran out to catch the sunrise – AND LEFT ME ALONE!! She told me to just run but I refused and stayed in the tent clutching my quilt and silently praying for this adventure to end. I eventually ventured out, not even bothering to look in my mirror (what dignity do I have left?), and caught the tail end of the sunrise which was beautiful.
After breakfast of rice, a piece of toast, black tea and a banana we made our farewells (Loopy Loop and her mother failed to make an appearance at breakfast – probably singing and bonding with the wild dogs) and left. A fabulous experience but I shan’t be camping again any time soon.
We are now starting the 7 hour drive to Pushkar and I am told no forts await! I feel so relaxed (I do I promise!) and am loving every single, entire part of this adventure. Completely and utterly out of my comfort zone and it has been good for me. It has taught me not to fret about the small stuff. I write this with unwashed hair, no make up (I tried to put mascara on without a mirror but I exited the tent looking like something out of the Rocky Horror Show and Hannah quickly removed its whilst laughing and tutting!) and smelling like a camel. My toenails are chipped and the soles of my feet are so rough and course I fear no amount of pedicures will get them back to normal- do I care? – trying not to!
Today’s worry – there won’t be a hairdryer or hot water at our next destination.
Love and dignity