Our last stop in India was sure not to disappoint. We started our journey to Jaisalmer in style, travelling in our first ever (and last) AC sleeper. Exactly the same as its sleeper class, the only difference you’ll find in AC3 is the aircon pumping through the vents along with the pillows and blankets handed out to each bunk. While slightly more luxury, we actually found ourselves too cold (talk about being picky!) and were quickly reminded that no matter what class of coach you are in, you are still in India surrounded by many overweight older men. This reminder was bestowed upon us very readily by a man in our coach who snored like chainsaw. Just as frequent and just as loud, our sleepless journey wasn’t quite as luxurious or restful as we had hoped but nonetheless were happy to roll into Jaisalmer Junction at 6am not coated in sweat and were ready to try and find our lift to the hotel.
Located by the huge sign he was holding (which could easily have read ‘FOREIGN TOURISTS COMING THROUGH’) our driver quickly parted the crowds of Indians, locating the two whitest people he could find (us, of course) and quickly bundled us into his car. We were quick to shake off the tourist shame when we saw we were finally going to get a ride in the jeep we had been dreaming about since arriving in India! The classic road trip vehicle of choice, these babies are all over India and we had been increasingly jealous of anyone getting to whiz around in them. Our time had come! Needless to say it was a flyyy ride and despite being the massive tourists that we were, we loved every second it (especially since it saved us a taxi fare).
After our thrilling bucket list ride we were quickly ushered by sleepy staff into our room, keen to check us in and go back to sleep, something we too were keen to execute. Being shown into an amazingly decorated sandstone room at Shahi Palace Hotel, equipped with a beautiful big bed, clean bathroom (trust me, that’s not always guaranteed) and (the most sexy feature) an AC unit, we were hit with drowsiness and ready for sleep. Collapsing into bed as soon as the door was shut, we caught up on our AC induced sleep with far less snoring than our previous slumber.
And so our first day in Jaisalmer ended up being us catching up on some much needed sleep and staying away from the 48 degree heat blaring outside. We always knew our stop in Jaisalmer had to be short and sweet. We had to get to Delhi in time to sort out a few last minute chores (mainly being to pick up fitz’s phone) as well as catch our flight out to Bangkok. Considering Jaisalmer was the city everyone in India ranted about being the hot city (as if the others weren’t!) we knew our stay should be brief. Shelling out for an AC room in off season thankfully didn’t break the bank but stepping out of the hotel anytime between 11-6 was a sure way to break your spirit. The heat was suffocating and any minimal exercise was exhausting.
Never the less, despite the oppressing heat, we were determined to try and find a camel safari that (a) was still operating and (b) was flexible enough that we wouldn’t have to spend too much time out in the middle of the day. It just so happened that (thank god) we didn’t have to stray far to find an agreeable price and safari with our hotel offering bespoke safaris in the off season with discounted rates. Agreeing to pay £10 each, we got a jeep safari, camel safari, beer on the sand dunes and star gazing for one afternoon of our choice. Not only was this a great price, we also could not be bothered to shop around so all in all it was a done deal!
Setting off at 4pm we got to enjoy our jeep experience all over again! The group we were meant to be going with cancelled which meant we were handed our own private safari for a fraction of the price (off season definitely has its perks). Rather a contrast to our 6am drive, this one was considerably more daredevil with our extremely relaxed driver driving like a maniac! Avoiding buses with at least 30 people on the roof, tuk tuks and pedestrians we quickly weaved our way out of Jaisalmer city and headed ever so slightly closer to the Pakistan border, into the desert. Despite setting off at 4.30pm the air was still scorching hot under the shade of the jeep and its heat was so potent it felt like our skin was burning purely due to the heat of the air hitting us.
Despite feeling like our skin was melting off our faces, we quickly ignored this and continued driving on the only road which stretched for miles, we wove around speed bumps and pot holes, across dirt paths and finally went off road to go find our camel drivers village and get saddled up!
📷 Our young assistants; a family run camel business.
As I’m sure many of you will know, riding a camel is not a pretty experience. The men we had encountered on our travels had warned us that men struggle with ‘the boys’ while riding. With this in mind, like the supportive girlfriend I am, I made sure to check in with Fitz continuously after take off to ensure he wasn’t in too much pain. While I was thrilled to find Fitz relaxed, comfortable and happy to be on a camel, I myself was not. Aching all over and pretty sure that fitz’s camel was going to spit at me any second, I finished my ride off with a bruised bum, sore back and headache from the 12 year old camel driver’s assistant shouting ‘jumping jumping jumping!’ Every time they made the camels ride and jump us up and down which – for him – was endless entertainment. Hobbling off the camel (or if you’re Fitz, sauntering off unharmed) we bade goodbye to our camel companions and speechlessly stared at the sand dunes they had delivered us to.
Rolling sand dunes, a setting sun, a semi-cold beer (bought by fighting through crowds of tabacco-chewing children) gave us an unforgettable evening. Riding out on the camels (despite the slight discomfort… for one of us) had taken us far from civilisation, leaving us in the complete silence of the desert to take pictures, chat to our amazing guides, and watch the sun go down with a forever changing sky. It was truly magical.
📷 Because he of course had to try… Que Fitz being covered in sand for the rest of the evening
Just as we were discussing how quiet it was on these flawless dunes when we realised we weren’t alone. As if our evening couldn’t get any more perfect, we quickly found it could with three furry friends joining us. Two dogs and one puppy milled around us completely at ease if a little bit thirsty. Our guides explained they travel to villages to get water and scraps and spend the rest of their day in the desert to sleep and live in the dunes. Thankfully the dogs were friendly and we had plenty of water to spare so we opened our group of 4 up to 7 and watched the setting sun, star gaze and then slowly make our way back to the Jeep.
A popular safari option is to stay the night in the dune before having breakfast and returning in the morning. We had opted to skip the sleepover due to the hundreds of beetles that come out in the dunes at night as well as night temperatures staying at around 30 degrees. This was a decision we were extremely grateful for at midnight when we woke up to a huge storm. Lightning, thunder, terrestrial rain; you name it, we had it. The hotel restaurant quickly flooded with water dripping throughout the building while all hotel staff stripped down to their boxers on the roof and celebrated the temporary break in heat. Rain outside of the rainy season is seen as extremely lucky so this was a welcome sight to all locals, taking a shower in the freezing rain while everyone looked on bemused and thrilled to find the air so cool. While we were enjoying the spectacle, we were secretly thanking God we hadn’t chosen to be on an unprotected sand dune during a torrential storm and climbed into our warm, dry bed extremely happy with our choices 😌
With only one day left in Jaisalmer we were thankful to be so close to the fort. Our hotel had an amazing view of the fort from our restaurant, so while we had been acquainted with the outside of it, we hadn’t yet ventured inside. Since being abandoned in, the Jaisalmer fort was quickly inhabited by the locals in Jaisalmer and now houses a brand new village with winding alleyways and countless hotels and houses within the walls of the fort itself. Wandering around to find a restaurant still open, we wandered past countless doorways of the families living within the fort, past cows and dogs alike finding a place to bed down for the night and wandered to the cannons to examine the incredible view of the lit up city.
While our time in Jaisalmer was short, it was one of my personal highlights of India. Experiencing desert life in the city and the dunes is incredible and the camel safari was an absolutely incredible. When you’re on a shoestring budget, finding out of this world experiences can be difficult and they don’t come around all to often.
Just to put it in perspective, we’ve costed out what our trip should have cost us vs what it did cost us in off season:
Our room should have been 2,500 rps. a night. Instead we got it for 650 rps. On top of that, the camel safaris should cost around 2,000 rps. each whereas we were offered it for 850 rps. All in all, our three day trip would have cost us £140. While this seems small, in India it’s a lot and with £9 a day budget, is obviously out of our price range. Our actual trip cost us £45 – far more manageabl and crazy crazy cheap!
Thankfully for us, this was one of those times that everything managed to align just right and meant we got to experience this incredible city at its finest (which is what travelling is about right?!?) and is one of the most incredible things I’ve done in India. Now – with the travel bug planted firmly – we make our way to Delhi to catch our flight to Bangkok to start all over again with a new currency, new cuisine and new adventures!