I spent most of my holiday in India touring Rajasthan. Each of the desert towns has its own individual atmosphere. I loved the empty landscapes, the architecture and sitting on rooftop restaurants while dusk fell. Jaisal Italy, an Italian restaurant in Jaisalmer, was one of my favourite places, because it had an amazing view of the fort.
Jaisalmer has a busy tourist industry. Everyone wants to sell visitors camel safaris, and the first few people I spoke to pressured me and made me feel like an idiot. I was going off the idea of camel trekking until I visited Trotter's. Or, to give the company its full name, Trotters Independent Travels. The company is run by a local man called Del-boy. I figured I can't go wrong with a company themed around Only Fools and Horses – and, if I did, it would be a good story.
We set off into the Thar Desert by jeep just before dawn. We stopped at a small camp where a goatherd made tea while we waited for the camels. After a brief breakfast we mounted the camels and set off into the desert. The second photo below shows the camel I was riding, which was called Johnnie Walker.
Riding a camel seems easy, if a little painful on the behind. You also get a good view of the landscape. We trekked to Khaba fort, which stands above a deserted town. Travelling by camel is slow and relaxing. The landscape unfolds gradually as you pass through it. There's little to think about so you can unwind and let the day happen.
After visiting Khaba, we found a shady tree to stop for lunch, which was cooked over a fire. We lounged around under the tree for the hottest part of the day, reading and relaxing while fending off the black goats that wanted to eat our food. The meals we ate on the tour were excellent. Afterwards the plates were cleaned by scouring with sand. The camels were hobbled and allowed to go foraging.
The desert was beautiful. We saw very few people, but there were little signs of civilisation, such as flocks of sheep or wells. The paths took us over what looked like ploughed fields. During the rainy season people from the nearby villages would do their best to grow crops while they could. Later on we passed a blocky stone building that we learned was a dormitory used when people were farming.
In the later afternoon we came to a series of sand-dunes where we would make our camp for the night. We watched the sun-set over the dunes, where we were found by a beer-seller. The boy travelled between the tourist camps in the evening, selling bottles of Kingfisher. Best of all, they were cold!
As it grew darker, there was little light nearby. Despite being in the middle of nowhere, the guides' mobile phones seemed to work perfectly. It's amazing: you can't get on signal with Orange on Brighton's Upper Western Road, but there's perfect signal in the depths of the desert.
Since there was so little light pollution the stars were easy to see. I couldn't believe how many there were and spent some time lying on the dune looking at the sky. While it was beautiful being in the desert, it wasn't easy to get to sleep. Every so often I would be woken up by a wild dog curling up next to me, and I would have to persuade it to move on. The sand wasn't the most comfortable bed I've ever
had, but the scenery made up for that. I woke up around dawn, my bedding surrounded by beetle tracks.