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Rendezvous on the Camel Safari

Camel Safari, Jaisalmer Desert, India – I packed my bag pack and after buying the essentials for a desert camel safari: water, oranges, pot cookies and chocolate. I met the jeep driver and was off. I was in a jeep heading out through the desert to intercept and link up with the safari. Rich and Nikki were already on. The driver was this old man with turbaned head and my courier was much younger, about 35. As we were zipping along the courier slid his foot over and took control of the gas paddle followed by his sliding behind to the steering wheel, pushing the original driver who turned out to be his father almost out of the jeep. The father was balancing himself on the jeep’s platform on the outside of the vehicle while his son was zipping along the desert highway.

The son told me he was learning to drive and my rendezvous was doubling as an opportunity for one of his driving license. I asked how long he been driving and when he responded 10 days, I calmly reached forward for the handgrip and took to a mighty hold. A passenger with an Indian student driver, God help me. He was not that bad. The road had about as many turns in it as the straight Interstate 5 in California and he only managed to run one rickshaw completely off the road into the sand before we came upon the road works necessitating the father to take over because it would have been too difficult avoiding the members of the chain gang paving the road.

Indian chain gangs road workers are funny things. They are usually all women. The men get the hard jobs like driving rickshaws and the women get heavy-duty construction and road repair. These women were dressed to the nines in their brightly colored silk sarees, the ideal attire for repaving a road and each of them had a large bowl balanced on their heads, each shuttling these huge granite rocks from one side of the road to the other. I know I could not lift up one of those bowls and how they lift them up and down of their heads without messing up their silk sarees, I will never know.

We played the live version of the old video game Frogger when we hit open road again, so the student driver got a second chance to practice. They stopped the jeep a short while later where I spotted alone camel with its dark-skinned turbaned camel driver leading it towards the road. They told me that that was my camel and that I would ride the rest of the way to meet Nikki and Rich. We were in the middle of the dessert wasteland and I must have asked my courier half a dozen times he was sure. Nikki and Rich were going to be out there to meet me. He agreed with me each time I asked and at that he jumped in the jeep and drove off towards Jaisalmer grinding the gears as he went.

I went and met my camel driver who got me up on the camel and we rode one hour to the set of isolated sand dunes. I was the only person standing on them and I could see nothing in any direction, say if another camel safari. I sat on the dune and after 15 minut, my camel jockey pointed off into the distance and I spotted there camels making their wave to our dune. When they got close enough, Rich called to me, “Brad what are you doing here?” How they coordinated this one is beyond me was my response.

Everyone arrived and as the sun was setting, the drivers began to prepare our dinner of the immortal words of my camel jockey, chapati, vegetable, chai. Little did I know the potato, cauliflower and chapatis would be all we would be eating for every meal. Rich, Nikki, and I grabbed some blankets. Once the sun had gone down, I got ready for bed. The one thing about the dessert is it is so cold like mountainous winter cold at night. Sleeping that evening was not easy as the blanket was too thin and you absolutely had to pull it over your head because it was too cold to have your head out from under the blanket. The three of us just slept sporadically, talking to each other every hour or so, because it was simply too cold.

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