Stumbling half asleep off a grotty night bus at 10am after no sleep wasn't a highlight for me thus far. Having to stop over-eager rickshaw drivers and hotel touts taking my backpack wasn't much fun either. But after that was over, I took a short bus ride out of Jaisalmer to the tiny village of Khuri.
Here, Simone, Alex, Sol and I met Mr Badal. Mr Badal runs Camel Safaris where you go out into the dessert and spend a night under the stars. Mr Badal is one of the most genuine, gentle and warm people I have ever met. He hasn't put his prices up in 10 years (“why would I? there is no need.”), he has no website or email address and refuses to allow himself to be fully booked and won't expand (“this is enough. But I always leave space for someone who maybe could not call, who maybe just turns up.”) This is not your standard approach to tourism in India (from my experience), but it made for one of the more special things I've done thus far.
Leaving the village around 5 o'clock, we went out into the desert with a neighbour and Mr. Badal's nephew. I've never been on a camel* before (that I can recall) but a few times on horses. What you notice straight away is you're a fair bit higher! The ride was comfortable enough, and as we moved out of the already very remote village, I started to get that feeling of doing something very new, a mixture of anticipation, anxiety and excitement, that this trip is sort of all about.
As it got darker, our guides cooked us up a wonderful dinner and made our beds for the evening. Bellies full, we wrapped up for the evening and lay for a good couple of hours staring at the stars. This is probably where I should tell you that I thought deeply about my place on the universe and so on, but it wasn't like that (thankfully). Instead it was just a very peaceful and rewarding way to spend an evening, idling through conversations that weren't really going anywhere, watching as more and more stars above our heads came into sight; even the odd shooting one (won't tell you what I wished!).
In the morning we awoke early and rode back into Khuri. We knew we needed to get everything together quickly so as to catch the bus back into Jaisalmer where we were booked to stay for another couple of days so, thanking Mr. Badal for the wonderful experience, we headed off back to civilisation.