Thar Desert

'I believe any trip in search of wildlife can be coupled with physical activity and elements of cultural diversity to form a thrilling opportunity '
John H.Eickert

At 120 degrees in the shade, the Thar Desert in northwest India is no place to be in May, June, or July. However, from late October through early March the weather is suitable for an adventure to Jaisalmer. Set in the province of Rajasthan at the edge of this great desert, home to Thar Desert National Park and Wood Fossil National Park and one of the worlds great adventure opportunities; a camel safari! Think of gliding across shifting sands with enormous greater Indian bustards floating overhead, listen for the guttural ?rhonk? sound camels use to communicate, feel the history of caravan trade dating back to the beginning of civilization and become part of this ancient place. Before I, go further I want to issue a strong warning to all concerning travel via ?the ship of the desert.? I grew up around cattle and sitting on a horse. I have spent much of my adult childhood bouncing down the world?s rivers in a raft. None of those things prepared my bottom for the camel experience. I encourage one and all to take a pillow and ibuprofen for this adventure, but it is worth it.

Within the first hour of gliding across the stark terrain my whole being drifted into another time and another place. Sitting under the vast ink night sky, warming to the cooking fire and then eating fresh chapati and daal creates a truly unique adventure opportunity. On my five-day trip, I saw black buck and a desert fox. Each bush and shrub is the home to an amazing array of wrens and finches; surprisingly the Thar is great habitat for bird watching. Our caravan passed through small settlements carved out of the vast desert expanse. Here are sand dunes 500 feet tall and sunsets and sunrises as stunning as anywhere on earth. This is a large chunk of sparsely populated landscape within one of the world?s largest masses of humanity. The sands run from the Indus in the west, to the Aravalli Mountain Range in the east, to the plain of Punjab in the north and south to the Rann of Kutch; a vast salt marsh which once was part of the Arabian Sea. Go ahead, pronounce ?Rann of Kutch? out loud right now. I delight in how the name rolls off the tongue and conjures an exotic image.

If you are looking for Jaisalmer on a map, follow the only road north and west from Jodhpur. There are a number of tour operators here who offer camel adventures, be very careful in your choosing, price does not guarantee a great trip. Ask about the food, the cook, and how your meals will be prepared. Water is scarce in the desert and cleaning up is with sand. Shop as many vendors as you can, insist on cleanliness and watch your cook like a desert eagle. I really hope some of you go on this one. As always, take your time and take the time. Enjoy!

( Photograph: At Jaisalmer-from the family photoalbum, Susan Sharma)

Contributed by John H.Eickert

Num Bum Adventures or call 406-777-2228.

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