Jaisalmer: The Golden City, and Camel Trekking in the Thar Desert

Jaisalmer is know as the Golden City because everything is made of sandstone, so the whole place is essentially sand-coloured.

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On our first night in Jaisalmer we went on a camel trek! Taylor had booked us to head in to the desert with Sahara Travels, the original camel trekking company in Jaisalmer, previously operated by the famous Mr. Desert, and now run by his son. On the way out to meet the camels we stopped at an abandoned city, which we were told was occupied prior to everyone moving into current Jaisalmer, to be closer to the fort.

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The jeep driver was absolutely hilarious. When Beth told him her name he said, “Bed? Nooooo, bed in my house! I sleep in bed!” (This is much better with Beth mimicking his voice). He brought us to meet the camels and the guys who run the rest of the show: they help us on the camels, lead the camels, cook the food, and set up the tents and beds.

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I had never ridden a camel prior to this, and while it’s kind of like riding a horse… it’s pretty different. When you hop on and they say, “hold on tight,” they mean it! If you’ve ever seen a camel stand up, you know it resembles the movement of a mechanical bull. I managed not to fall off!

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Much to my dismay, my camel saddle was without stirrups. It wasn’t so bad at first, but by the end of the ride I was ready to get off as my legs had essentially been dangling unsupported for over an hour, and had a pretty bad saddle stride going on after that. I made sure to request stirrups for the next day.

I had also never seen sand dunes before! We went for a walk before dinner to watch the sunset. The sand was so fine it was practically dust, and our shoes were sinking deep with each step.

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There were some other tourists in our group, some from Vancouver, some from Colombia, and some who were Canadians living in Beijing! We had some great chats around the fire.

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That night we slept under the stars, on mattresses that were placed right on the sand, and covered in blankets and rugs. Beth and I opted to layer our blankets together and share body heat. We also need to thank Beth’s sister Jane, who did a similar trip two years ago and had warned us that this would be the coldest night we spent in India. We went into the desert prepared! I slept in: socks, two pairs of pants, a tank top, t-shirt, long-sleeved shirt, fleece and rain jacket with both hoods up, scarf, and topped it off with socks on my hands. We were nice and cozy with all the layers and I had a great night’s sleep. We didn’t make it up for sunrise, but got up shortly after and munched on some toast before heading back in to Jaisalmer.

That night Beth and I were booked to stay in the Renuka Hotel, which is one of our favourite spots so far. For a mere $9 Canadian we got a comfy bed, hot water, and the rooftop restaurant was fantastic (we ended up eating 3 out of 4 meals there during the rest of our time in Jaisalmer).

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We filled the afternoon by wandering the fort and exploring one of the oldest Havelis in the town (which turned out to be a big scam… too long a story to tell… it was going to happen at some point).

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The positive parts of the scam were that we did get to see a really nice view (above) and we found out what all the paintings were outside the houses (see below). These paintings describe weddings, noting the date and family names. When your painting starts to fade, you know you’ve been married a long time!

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For dinner we went to Killa Corner, and chuckled at the owner who was concerned about his one terrible review on Trip Advisor (we reassured him that no tourist would believe it, as it was written in horrible English and clearly a jealous competitor). This restaurant has a great view of the fort, and no one is in a rush. One of my favourite things about the dining establishments in India is that we are rarely rushed, which works perfectly for us, especially when there is wifi!

After the scam experience the day before and a fairly packed itinerary up to this point, Beth and I took the chance to relax and hang around our hotel for the day before leaving for Jodhpur that afternoon. The view from the restaurant was pretty great! We did some planning, finished our bookings with Om (our new favourite guy, runs a place called Fort View Travels), and ate chocolate pancakes for breakfast and stuffed tomatoes for lunch. Then we boarded a train to Jodhpur.

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