A Camel Christmas
A Camel Christmas should be approached with much joy and enthusiasm.
I mean, it’s possible that you could think of your past experiences in the desert as having slightly shady sides to them. I mean, in a way you were kind of held hostage by someone who wasn’t really your friend on your first trip. And sure, you could mention that you got slightly poisoned the second time. And ya, you could mention that the third time was a little awkward when you went to you friend’s village in the desert and he passed out drunk on your bed.
But hey, you could also mention how insightful it was to meet that ‘friend’ on the first trip, how great the camels were the second time and how welcoming your friend was on your third visit…
Really, when it comes down to it, if you’re living in the giant sandcastle around Christmas time and your talkative habits could categorize you as a small town traveler, then the odds are pretty good that you’ll be on your way into the desert again on Christmas eve to try out your luck at A Camel Christmas.
A Camel Christmas is a memorable experience, don’t you worry. You will hear through some of your channels in town that there’s a large group heading into the desert, these are extraordinary circumstances and certainly don’t fit into the normal options for camel treks… This is a celebration… it’s A Camel Christmas, get into it!
You’ll head out with three or four full jeeps of tourists, meaning that the group is probably about 25 or 30 strong in total. You’ll probably have some sort of situation where someone has to share a camel at the beginning, this is India, it happens. Try to be quick to get your own camel, but don’t make a big deal out of sharing, someone will get tired of being on their camel and want to walk soon enough, and you’ll have an opportunity to hop on one.
After a couple of hours of trekking, you’ll get to the dunes with the large group, great photo opportunities here. Again, you want to be out of the gate quickly… You’re guides will probably not let you know that you aren’t staying here for long, after all, why bother telling the white people anything? Get out on the dunes, jump around a bit, go for a little slide, try to take some sort of artistic photo where you can fool any of your facebook friends into thinking that these dunes go on for awhile… and then drag your feet when your guides drag you back.
Hopping back on the camel, this is the time to test your agility. Your guides are probably going to discourage you from trying to turn sideways or even backwards on the camel, something about how falling off a camel really hurts… It’s really up to you, risk/reward type of thing. If your legs are killing you sitting in the ‘traditional’ way and you think you can get one leg over the hump, get it done! If you are quite the little yogi and have no problems with straddling that awkward animal, and perhaps a little less core balance, then don’t do it!
Eventually you’ll get to your new ‘dunes’ where you’re going to rest for the night. You’ll probably gather around on little blankets in a rectangle with the rest of the whities… and be told (not asked) to sit… take your time so that your guides understand that you will decide whether or not you will take a seat and then get comfy… some sort of crazy deep-fried snacks will work their way around. The over-sized fit decently on thin fingers and will make for some great photos, feel free to goof off, the guides already think you’re not the sharpest tool in the shed because it took you so long to sit down.
You’re special Camel Christmas dinner is about to come around… lo and behold, it will be the same thing that you’ve eaten a million times (give or take a few hundred thousand depending on how long you’ve been in India)… but it’ll be tasty and food in the desert just tastes a bit better somehow.
Get to know the people around you, there’s some interesting folk in the group, I guarantee it. You may just have some wanderlusted American with a heart of gold that’s living in Jaisalmer trying to help out some locals; or some kiwi girl with a huge infectious smile and a tendency to laugh in her sleep; or an Estonian girl with a crazy Scottish accent traveling with French guy that doesn’t actually want to speak French and a German girl spending a year in India; or an Argentine volunteer with a wee guitar to break out the Beatles tunes into the night and his fellow Australian volunteer that’s left his old life behind… and those are just some of folk.
Sit back and enjoy the fire under the starry sky whilst basking in the interesting conversations and possible tunes, this is what it’s all about. You’ll probably have the option of a couple of beer (and maybe Opium?). A couple of beer and possibly a Bhang cookie (marijuana laced cookies) are the most common forms of social lubricant or escape that tourists use out here… but even if you have some experience with such things, you might want to be careful. If you are a single female you are most likely going to be propositioned a few times by one (or more) of the guides, that should be a good reminder that you are still in India, and female or male you should be cautious about not becoming too inebriated.
The night will wear down as more heads hit the sand, and you may even be asked to stop the guitar right around midnight. This might tempt you to wander into the desert (especially if you consumed a Bhang cookie), just be sure to take landmarks so that you can find your way back, as the lights will most likely be out when you return.
Your wander into the desert is a most magical experience. Bring some tunes with you, and you will probably be able to find a nice dune to watch the moonrise. This is the time to totally shed your cares about the last year. Go dance and sing to your heart’s content, you’re in the desert, no one will ever hear or see you, just shed all your inhibitions and feel those tunes pumping through your headphones.
Ah… what a great Camel Christmas!
As you’re out there anyway, you might as well try sliding down the dune, or jumping as far as you can (make sure you find a large enough dune)… have a blast, be a kid!
After a few hours of living in childlike wonder and amusement, you might want to head back, so follow the landmarks you made (preferably oddly shaped trees) and work your way back to camp.
There’s a possibility that your bed (if you’re sharing it with someone) has been moved in order to get some distance in between yourselves and either the creepy guy on one side or the snorer on the other (or both). Oh but wait, it gets better… your spot has probably been taken by a desert dog, time to have some fun.
Without waking up the person that’s sharing your bed, do your best to move the dog. Didn’t work? Get tougher… still not working? Isn’t it amazing how a ‘wild desert dog’ is just dying to cuddle with you? I mean really, have you ever in your life seen a dog even attempt to cuddle like this? It’s decision time, you kind of need your bed, but at the same time, are you really mean enough to kick a freezing animal off the one warm spot he’s found? Oh… and are you really convinced that he won’t just suddenly snap at you if you kick him? Well… gonna have to try…
Friggin’ Camel Christmas!
In your most apologetic tones, whisper a threat at the dog, probably something like, “Listen buddy, if you don’t move, I will kick you… I have little choice… common” and when he responds by rolling onto his back and wagging his tale… well wind your foot up. Try not to look directly at his eyes as you’ll never forgive yourself. As you follow through with your foot you’re going to feel a little piece of your animal loving soul die off… but don’t worry… it’s not like he even noticed, he’s still just sitting there looking for some cuddles.
Finally, you will probably have to give up and just attempt to crawl in and share your bed. Don’t think of it as sleeping on the sand cuddling a mangy dog, think of it as lying in your comfy bed back home allowing your lapdog to sleep at your feet…
Something miraculous will probably happen right around this point, as you try to figure out how to get into your bed, the dog will decide that you clearly move too much and will whimper his way out of the bed, looking at you as if you’re the devil incarnate and head off to find a new sleeping place. Whew… that parts done.
Now you just have to get comfy. As it turns out sand and a blanket do not make the most comfortable bed in the world, but that is most likely augmented by the Bhang cookie…
Bhang this Camel Christmas is getting all sorts of strange now!
As your bed-mate who’s cocooned herself in her sleeping bag snuggles over to you to share/steal your body heat and asks you, “hey, are you here?” Two things will come to mind:
1) Somehow she’s slept through your dogfight
2) Two cocoons really don’t snuggle very well together…
The second point is easy enough to just ignore, but how in the world did she miss the dogfight and your inability to find a comfortable sandbed? You’ll have to ask.
“You seriously didn’t know I was here? I was fighting a dog” Is a good way to cut to the chase.
“Oh, I thought that was in my nightmare” she responds and suddenly you remember that she has a fear of the dogs in India due to an incident last year where she required 9 shots… and then the absurdity will escalate as she breaks into hysterical laughter.
She laughs so you laugh, you laugh so she laughs. Before you know it, the two of you will be muffling your laughter, tears coming out of your eyes, trying to ignore the fact that the dog has come back, settled into a neighbouring bed with the infrequent growl in your direction.
This Bhang Camel Christmas!
As weird as this experience is for you, just try to imagine it from your bed-mates perspective. She was half asleep having this nightmare about a desert dog that was trying to get at her inside her cocoon, and then broke into hysterical laughter that she couldn’t escape from for the next twenty minutes… You’ll hear her call it “one of the most surreal events she’s ever experienced” and you’ll understand why.
Not wanting to fall asleep yet (despite it being 4am), you can look up and really appreciate the stars. If you don’t know many constellations, make up your own… and then wake up the cocoon sleeping beside you to tell her about it and re-start the whole process…
Bhang Camel Christmas!
On Christmas day, wake up with the sun (yes, that means you got about two hours of sleep… deal with it!) and get some great sunrise photos of the camels… they’ll go very well with the sunset photos you took last night.
Time to head back out on the camels. As you are staying longer than some of the others, you’ll split off early in the morning and enjoy the camels with just a couple of other folk with infectious smiles.
You’re Camel Christmas lunch will look oddly alike the dinner from the night before, as you rest near a dried river bed and go around playing with the rocks. The desert is such a fantastic place to be a kid!
They’ll be a few more inappropriate exchanges in between the ‘camel drivers’ and the girls just to remind you that you’re in India… they really don’t want you to forget that apparently.
And just to top off the trip, the tire on the jeep might go flat, and you’ll decide to hitch-hike back to town with the two smiley girls. Hitch-hiking with two smiley girls at the end of your Camel Christmas will show you the true courtesy of some of the Indian men as one gets off of his motorcycle to offer it to you, provided that he can walk back to town with the girls… Erm… maybe not a great idea… flag down a tuk-tuk, good to go!
Whew, back in town. They say that you either hate or love India… but you’ve found the truth. It’s very possible to find a middle road and just appreciate India for what it is… an adventure into a different world, one not to be judged and summarized, but experienced and lived…
And that’s exactly what you get from A Camel Christmas.
What sort of antics did you get up to for the 25th? Anything like A Camel Christmas?