Thursday, November 29, 2007

Doing the Camel Running

So, after the standard visit to the Jaisalmer fort, and a night of way too many Kingfishers, Bestman and I went on a camel safari into the “desert” outside Jaisalmer in India. I suppose that there may have been the requite amount of sand for it to be an actual desert, but after living in Mauritania, the bar is set a little high these days. In any case, the way out involved an extremely hungover me rocking back and forth on this great smelly beast and wishing I was dead.

Upon arrival at our sand dune that would be the camp for the night, we climbed up the dune (with the hoards of other camera toting tourists) to watch the sunset, while the guides fed the camels, set up camp and built the fire to make dinner. Eventually, the other tourists drifted away, back to town, or to luxury camps (places where the bathroom isn’t defined as “that thorn tree over there looks secluded” – pansies.) We sat with the crew as they were making dinner. They let Bestman try his hand at making chapattis (like Indian tortillas), which likely was a deeply moving cultural experience for him, but mostly just resulted in lumpy sandy chapattis for the rest of us.

After dinner, we were offered the choice of sleeping or “doing the talking-talking”. (They had set up bona fide beds in the desert for us, complete with frame and comforters. It looked a little out of place on the dunes, but made for an enjoyable night.) We opted for the talking-talking, and so we all sat around the fire and they told us a little about the life and times of a tourist camel guide. After a while, they packed us off to bed because tomorrow we would be “doing the camel running.”

Next day, sure enough, up at dawn and back on the camel. Today, we went on a longer trip, and I learned how to trot on a camel. I wasn’t very good at it because I didn’t like to hit the camel to make him go faster. (The little boy guide on the back of the camel in front of me kept screaming “Heeeet heem! Madam heeeet heeem!” when I fell too far behind.) But nonetheless, up on top of a camel, ropes in my hand, trotting across the dunes, felt pretty damned badass.

After a miserable overnight train ride in a freezing and dusty third class bunk, we arrived in the blue city of Jodhpur. A hike up to the fort confirmed that many of the houses were in fact blue. (This is due to the blue being the traditional color of the Brahmin elite, and because apparently the blue paint confuses the bugs.)

Then, after a little more of doing the drinking-drinking, back off to Delhi. The last day in India, I had been planning on maybe doing a little rug shopping, but that was not to be. I was traveling with an Englishman and it was the fourth day of the five day test match between India and Pakistan. We were going to the Cricket. (Definite articles must have been on sale this week because they are turning up everywhere…)

I have to admit, I was expecting something truly exciting. Cricket is the most popular game in this part of the world, and the India-Pakistan rivalry is comparable to the Yankees-Red Sox, had New York and Boston fought a couple wars against each other in the last 50 years. I was all jazzed up when we get to the stadium. But, much to my chagrin, cricket is *boring*. It’s boring to a baseball fan- with infinite patience for slow moving sports. They stop for tea, which is weird enough, but you wouldn’t know they stopped because the level of activity involved in drinking tea is about the same as that is required to play cricket. And people watch this stuff for days…

But all in all, a good cultural experience. And, if I ever need to pick an Indian up in a bar, I can tell him that I saw Sachin Tendulkar bat.

The way home was bit of a nightmare, as I flew from Delhi to Singapore to Jakarta to Tokyo to Washington. And I almost missed the plane in Jakarta because man made the factories, that heated the air, that melted the glacier, that fell in the sea, that raised the water, that flooded the road, that led to the airport. Yes, global warming’s first victim, the rising water level, coupled with a full moon and high tide, renders the road to Jakarta airport impassable. Fortunately, my driver knew a short cut through the ghetto (he made me lock my doors), and I just made the flight. About 60 out of 600 of us were on the plane when it took off for Tokyo.

But I am home now. Back to the daily grind in DC. I should be here through the holidays, so I wish everyone the best and I will be back in action in January.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You are a great storyteller. I love travelling the world with you. I'm glad you're safe. Now go more places after Christmas. gb