"A camel looks like a horse that was planned by a committee."
Sir Alec Issigonis
That's me there in that picture, unkempt and seconds out of bed in the wilderness of the Great Indian Desert. What you can see behind me is the flimsy fence that the camel drivers have erected around a small patch of the dune we claimed as our campsite, and yeah, that's the orange-and-black backpack which I lugged around across the subcontinent pretending to be some cool traveler type.
I think, this is the first proper mugshot I have shown you guys since I started writing about my trip. Anyhow, I only took this picture because there wasn't any mirror lying about on the sand for me to check myself with, and the camera was the next best thing. My hair was seriously growing all over the place like a Japanese pop star experiment gone wrong and to date, it was the longest I have ever let it grow unchecked. I stayed away from the barber shoppe a couple of months before the trip started - y'know, in preparation of my vacation and stuff. No, don't ask what sort of preparation that was
I was the first one up.
I'm not at all competitive by nature but I always get this strangely satisfying sense of accomplishment every time I beat everybody else around me to the punch of the morning wake-up clock. Somehow, in the minutes between that moment I sit up in bed till the second person starts to stir, the morning feels like it's all mine - privately, deeply and utterly mine alone. It feels a bit like I'm the last living person on earth and knowing that I'm not does not take anything away from it at all. I love how everything is so calm and sedate, and I love that underneath all this serenity, there's this bubbling anticipation of a high octane new day that's about to kick up and run off cackling every direction.
Because of that, I mislike tossing and turning in bed trying to go back to sleep after my sleep meter hits 'Full'. I want to drink it all up. I want mornings which only belong to me, even if for awhile. I'm not a very religious person I always say, but I like to think I'm at least spiritual, in my own little ways.
Occasionally, I get bonuses,
This must be what? The third or fourth sunrise I wrote about?
You know how when you have too much of a good thing, and you cannot easily tell which particular occurrence of that good thing is you favourite? Take food for example; if you're a true epicurean and a sincere lover of victuals in all their shapes, sizes, colours, textures and tastes, and if you're deeply acquainted with the unique singularity of every sort of dish you have ever sampled, it's not easy at all to say definitively what you consider your favourite food. You can't simply say "this one's special" without deeper consideration because to you, they are all special.
Then one day, you taste something which leaves you, abruptly and violently, without a dust of doubt that it was the best darn thing you've ever tasted.
The sunrise I saw that morning in the dunes of the Thar was something just like that. I love just how the sky looked so mesmerizing the way the eastern amber faded into that washed out morning blue. And the camel silhouettes. Gosh, and the picture is so criminally bland compared to how excruciatingly magical it all looked stretched out all over and all around me like a cosmic-sized, stained-glass dome. I have never seen the sky so big and so close to me before.
I snapped this the day before while I was riding on a somewhat smallish dromedary named Coca-Cola (see his nose there?). You got to give me credit here; it's not easy to hold a camera steady while you're teetering what seemed like miles off the ground astride some camel's hump. The journey to the dunes from the edge of the waste took us more than four hours of Terribly Awkward Riding with only an hour respite in between when we stopped for lunch underneath a shade of a really large bush. Camel-riding is no Happy Meal at all. It's beastly hard and rattles your constitution to the bone. Contrary to what it appeared to be like, it doesn't really hurt a guy's balls (at least, not if you're sitting right) - but hey, if you're gonna sit with the full weight of your legs dangling while you're rocking back and forth in copulatory motion, there's bound to be nasty after effects. Mine, I can tell you, involved my inner thighs, and they were still sore even when I was in Darjeeling 2-and-a-half weeks later.
Trust me, if you're met with a decision of either taking a camel or a jeep safari to the middle of the Thar desert, pick the latter. You can request to ride the smelly camels for an hour or so just for kicks and to camwhore for your perfect faux Lawrence of Arabia Kodak moment. Please don't suffer on your vacation. If it feels like you're suffering, you're doing it wrong.
We reached the dunes at about teatime, right Out There in the magnificent expanse of one of Earth's bigger sandboxes. It's a strange experience though, to be so far divorced from the great unwashed civilisation of humanity and be away from It All. I have to admit, it's a novel thing which I can really enjoy on an occasional basis so long as I get to go back to where the running indoor water and air-conditioning are eventually. Stuff like this is only fun if we've never done them before. I mean, ask any desert tribe dude. Is he living in some arid wasteland where sand gets into everything just because he likes it? No. No.
Anyhow, the feeling was somehow spoiled by this bearded, turbaned bloke hawking cold beer when we arrived there. Yes, the real shit - bloody ice cold bloody beer! This is how he makes a living, he told us and what a profitable living it is; selling precisely what dumb tourists least expected and want most at double the price when they go traipsing across some hot, sweltering desert. Anytime we ordered a frosty, he'd disappear over a sand dune and come back with the bottle clinking in his hands. I suspect that he's got a fridge stashed back there. He simply wouldn't let us follow him.
Another show-stopper was those stupid automated telemarketers which kept ringing me. In the middle of the fucking desert. Now that's saying something about the insane coverage here.
The best part of the whole excursion was when we got there and all we did was just sit around and watch the world turn the day away. That's what holidays are for, in case the human race have already forgotten it. It's not about seeing things or just going places. It's about having absolutely nothing that needs attending to in the foreseeable future, immediate or soon or later. No classes in the morrow. No assignments making a crappy little Tower of Babel in the In Box. No pushy class rep (now recently crowned student council president) coercing you to design another dumb college T-shirt. It's a special kind of moment in your life where you have no responsibilities or obligations you have to fulfill. You have only things you want to do, nothing at all that you need to do.
We had a very special dinner after the Big Lamp in the Sky went out and I expect I'd talk about that in another post I reserved because... the thing we ate was nothing special on its own, but the circumstances of its provenance do warrant some interesting thoughts and coffee conversations. That night, we dined in front of a roaring wood fire under the most amazing night sky I have ever had the pleasure of staying out in. The stars, they were uncountably numerous, improbably luminous and like so totally numinous. I watched them appear slowly one at a time as daylight died and soon, they started popping out faster than
Down below it, we listened to our guides and camel drivers sing songs in their strange undulating voices as they rapped out the beat on plastic bottles and sticks. An Australian woman with a bottle of Kingfisher in her hand joined us midway with the easy air of a seasoned traveler, and we shared our camp with her. I think there must be countless groups of foreigners out in the desert that night since the Jaisalmer camel safari is that big an attraction but no matter how hard I looked, I couldn't spot any tell-tale fire-light of their camps out in the distance. There were plenty of desert to go around.
I wish I'm rich. Not rich rich but just loaded enough to be on holiday for the rest of my life.
Oh, here's a couple more pictures for you which I really like, courtesy of Lensman Vincent,
The shorter camel driver guy has a really cissy name which I don't remember now. See, riding camels can stunt growth.
P.S. Too bad none of you could guess a simple picture which I turned upside down. Okay, one of you was on the right track, but then he thought it was a sunset by a lake.
P.P.S. My T-shirt design was selected again this year. Will write about that next.
Vows never to open his legs for camels again,
k0k s3n w4i