Friday, December 14, 2007

Jaisalmer & Thar Desert

Jaisalmer is one of those fairy tale towns you conjured up in your imagination as a child when you heard stories involving a prince who rides in on his white horses to save the day. Except, in Jaisalmer the prince is a Maharajah and the horse is a camel.

Set atop a natural hill in the Great Thar Desert, Jaisalmer Fort is a golden vision in sandstone. Rather than imposing fear, it's curvaceous bastions seem welcome you inside where you immediately fall under the spell of the delicately carved palace, temples and havelis that hide behind the fortress' walls. The intricate designs that embellish the crumbling edifices remind you of lace, or maybe honeycomb, and give the impression that a strong wind might crumple them to the ground.

But it is not the wind that poses a risk to this exotic sand castle in the desert, it is water. Because of overpopulation and drainage challenges, the fort is on the brink of collapse. We can only hope that immediate steps are taken to address the problem before it is too late, as this city is truly a magical place. Fellow tourists can help by avoiding hotels and restaurants inside the Fort in favor of those spread out in the town below.

We took a camel safari from Jaisalmer into the desert that reaches northwest towards Pakistan. We spent 3 days exploring sandy terrain, sleeping on the dunes under the expansive, star-filled sky. We stopped in several villages along the way, and were welcomed in by laughing children and women who were appreciative for the break from the near-constant work necessary to survive in such an inhospitable place. Our camels were stubborn and rarely responded to our kicks and pleas, but the camel drivers had better luck directing them. Our simple meals were cooked over open fires, sometimes accompanied by coffee or chai made with fresh goat milk collected by one of the camel drivers as we passed a grazing herd. It was a peaceful adventure that we thoroughly enjoyed - although our butts longed for the comfort of a soft cushion and our appetites craved a little variety in our diet by the end!

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Gil looks like he has a pretty good handle on that camel...yipee ai aye!! Trip sounded cool - can't believe it, never thought of a camel safari into a desert...kind of a cool idea for BURNING MAN - flyer came about the 2008 event!! Can't even imagine the stars, must be totally awesome without the light pollution. -

Josephine said...

gil on that camel is the funniest thing i've seen in a long time. ;) the pic of you two in the window is BEAUTIFUL. Miss you!! xoxo Josy

Sarah said...

omg! gil you look like a natural!
miss you guys!
sarah