Jaisalmer – Sandcastle Fort and Stroppy Camels!

Jaisalmer – Sandcastle Fort and Stroppy Camels!

“Are you strong?”

When our guide squinted through the fierce mid-afternoon sun to greet me with this question, I could feel my heart sink to my shoes. Behind him, three camels sat in a languid, nonchalant row, chewing the regurgitated cud. The implication that I, the sole man in our British-Canadian trio, was about to have my resolve tested by one of them did not fill me with excitement.

We had come here, the Great Thar Desert, via the nearby desert fort of Jaisalmer, an imposing citadel that trumps just about all of Rajasthan’s beautiful palaces for its dramatic atmosphere and sheer sandscape wonder. Perched atop a hill that overlooks the sandy-hued town below, the fort becomes even more wondrous when you realise that it is a living, breathing complex: people actually live inside its walls, alongside the many tourist-oriented establishments clamouring for your rupees.

jai7All this is surrounded by the walls of the fort, of course, and a walk along its inner ramparts to get some close-up views of the sandcastle bastions that buttress the main walls is definitely recommended. You also get distant views of the desert on the horizon, of course, and few people come here without booking a desert safari, which is how I found myself there with two lovely Canadian ladies, who were staying at the same hostel as me within the fort…

Riding a camel is a lot of fun, undoubtedly, and the view from its back as you trudge through rolling dunes and scrub-dotted terrain is great. But if you get a temperamental camel who (a) isn’t great with new people and (b) is more used to competitive racing than plodding through the desert then it really can make for an, ahem, interesting experience.

jai4Mounting my camel was little short of terrifying, as he would give me the old buckaroo treatment while our guide struggled to keep him under control. Those of you who’ve ever been on a camel will know that it’s a long drop to the ground…thankfully, the ground underfoot was soft, and on the two occasions I was thrown off, I managed to emerge (physically) unhurt. Eventually, my camel and I came to an understanding, but boy did it take time!

jai1He looks so innocent, right?

The rolling dunes and scrub-dotted shrub land of this area of the desert doesn’t quite resemble the grand and barren terrains of the world’s great deserts. The proximity of human inhabitants makes sure of that. But, with the occasional antelope skipping through the sandscape and the distant fringes on the horizon, backlit by the blue sky sun, there is still remote beauty to be found.

But the real highlight of the trip comes when night falls. Sleeping under the starriest of night skies, sans tent, is a wonderful affirmation of the sublimity of nature. The simple pleasure to be found in watching shooting stars zip between crystal-clear constellations, with the simultaneous lightshow of a soundless thunderstorm flickering 50 miles away on the horizon in neighbouring Pakistan, is profoundly moving. To top things off, we were blessed with a light, brief smattering of rain – with scarcely a cloud overhead. This was the ultimate blessing in this most spell-binding of destinations!



  • Rebecca

    October 11, 2016 at 2:34 am Reply

    What a great post! It’s wonderful to read about a place that’s usually off the beaten tracks – and this does it for me. Rajasthan sounds beautiful…and I agree, nothing more beautiful than a sky at night with no light pollution.

    • Joe

      October 11, 2016 at 6:24 am Reply

      Thanks Rebecca, it’s a great place to get away from it all for sure, and that’s no small thing when you have so many huge and chaotic cities in the region!

  • Brian

    October 11, 2016 at 2:16 pm Reply

    Pinned to my India board. I certainly don’t associate India with desert. In an odd way, falling from a male camel into the sand sounds like an adrenaline rush!
    Brian recently posted…14 Reasons to Visit Berks County, PennsylvaniaMy Profile

    • Joe

      October 11, 2016 at 3:09 pm Reply

      Thanks Brian, and whilst there certainly is a mind bending rush of some sort, I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s the sort of thing you should go out of your way to seek out…;-)

  • Sanne - Spend Life Traveling

    October 11, 2016 at 6:34 pm Reply

    Haha this made me laugh out loud! I rode a camel once in Morocco and mine was probably about as temperamental as yours and left me with a few bruises. Still a great experience and I agree, sleeping under the stars is just amazing!!
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    • Joe

      October 11, 2016 at 7:13 pm Reply

      Thanks 🙂 Temperamental camels, eh? They obviously can be found around the world! Great to hear you got to have the same two great experiences that I had here – sleeping under the stars has a beauty that is hard to describe, really.

  • Juliette | Snorkels to Snow

    October 11, 2016 at 8:21 pm Reply

    Oh no! A temperamental camel – I shouldn’t laugh but I can just imagine it! I’ve been on a temperamental horse before and that wasn’t particularly fun. Especially when the rest of my group looked behind to see my horse without a rider on top! At least the sand would have provided a soft landing!

    • Joe

      October 12, 2016 at 6:23 am Reply

      Haha, the sand does provide a soft landing but you fall from a lot higher up 😉 I haven’t been on too many horses in my time, but I imagine that it’s no fun if it’s temperamental…and when everyone else’s is fine, that just makes it worse!

  • Katrina

    October 11, 2016 at 9:33 pm Reply

    I remember my first (and only) camel ride in Dubai. Terrifying!
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    • Joe

      October 12, 2016 at 6:24 am Reply

      Ao take it you won’t be trying it again? I’m not ruling it out…

  • Maggie

    October 12, 2016 at 3:48 am Reply

    I had no idea camels were so difficult! haha I’m laughing as I’m picturing you getting tossed to the ground. Someone should have taken pictures of that! Glad you’re ok, but you have to admit it’s funny after the fact!
    Maggie recently posted…Dallas, Texas-Travel With KidsMy Profile

    • Joe

      October 12, 2016 at 6:26 am Reply

      Oh yeah, it’s undeniably funny however you look at it. And that’s the thing, it’s often our difficult travel experiences that can make for the best stories 😉

  • Cristal

    October 12, 2016 at 9:52 am Reply

    I didn’t know camels could be so temperamental. Great story! Can’t wait to try riding one of my own 😮

    • Joe

      October 12, 2016 at 1:47 pm Reply

      The others were docile, I was the one who got the short straw here. Good luck when you do get round to riding one 🙂

  • Global Brunch

    October 12, 2016 at 10:55 am Reply

    What a crazy experience! I had to giggle so much at your humorous way of telling the story but I can imagine that you didn’t really feel like laughing when your temperamental camel decided to throw you off!

    • Joe

      October 12, 2016 at 1:47 pm Reply

      Indeed! But looking back on things always makes them seem funnier 🙂

  • Natasha

    October 12, 2016 at 9:48 pm Reply

    We rode camels in Morocco and I don’t think I will be doing it again. Love the animals just not the most comfortable of rides.

    • Joe

      October 13, 2016 at 6:17 am Reply

      Hehehe, maybe they were not born to be ridden…? 😉

  • Emily

    October 13, 2016 at 12:14 pm Reply

    Ah it’s not a proper camel ride unless it’s a grumpy camel! Sounds like yours was particularly grouchy though – hope you weren’t too bruised! Thanks for the giggle 😉 Sleeping under the stars in the desert sounds like it made up for the camel though.

    • Joe

      October 13, 2016 at 1:29 pm Reply

      I escaped with minor injuries 😉 Yep, sleeping under the stars went a long way to making up for it. A wonderful experience that I do most definitely recommend!

  • Julie Cao

    October 16, 2016 at 1:09 am Reply

    Great post and beautifully written! Have never ridden a camel before so I dont know that camel can be very grumpy and throw you to the desert. Sleeping under the stars in the desert and witness the thunderstorm nearby sounds like a dream to me.

    • Joe

      October 16, 2016 at 7:50 am Reply

      Thank you Julie 🙂 It’s true about both the camel and the desert night sky, and both were great experiences, even if the former wasn’t exactly enjoyable! 😉

  • Abu Rafay

    November 25, 2016 at 12:12 pm Reply

    camel and the desert night sky, and both were awesome Moments

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