The Thar desert and Jaisalmer

May 1, 2010 at 4:06 pm | Posted in India | 1 Comment

Jaisalmer is a small city near to the Thar desert. This place got seriously hot(110+ degrees F) in the middle of the day. It’s known as the “golden city” because of the sandstone used in the main fort.

Jaisalmer fort – unfortunately this place is in danger of collapsing due to the flow of water through the pipes, over 12 times the original capacity. The government is now taking steps to save the fort but there were still many hotels within the fort. also unfortunately, we accidently spent the night in one of these hotels (scammed of course). the outside of a temple wall was one of our room’s interior walls – very cool(and a bargain for a $6 room), but not very good for preserving the temple. oops.

our main reason for going to jaisalmer was to take a camel trek through the thar desert. this guy i’m riding is named lalu – he was a real champ and had “tatoos” cut into his fur. the guides cut their fur to make it cooler, and one guide told me he was a designer (like me) and showed me all the crazy patterns in lalu’s fur.

the guides each own one or more camels and since the camels are their livelihood, the animals are treated very well. riding on the camels was a little bumpy, although once they got in a groove it was pretty good.

some of the local kids from a desert village we passed. at first they asked for money, but then asked for pens to write with. they even got excited to receive an empty bottle. we were really wishing we had known about this beforehand and bought a load of pens and markers for them. as in most places, giving money isn’t a great idea because it goes straight to adults and encourages mistreating children.

a desert village. all the buildings were close to the ground and very simple. the only running water was one central pump that everyone shared.

hudson nailed his hat full of water and dumped it on his head to cool off.

there were just a few other people with us the first two days. it was so hot that everyone had to cover their skin to keep from burning. i was sporting my sarong indian-turban style at some points(really embarassing for pictures).

these dunes are where we camped the first night.

 the guides made simple meals of veg gruel and chapatis (crappy indian bread); it wasn’t great, but we weren’t expecting much. this is basicially what the desert villagers eat all the time.

sunset was really pretty on the dunes.

This is jampoo, my special camel. he was very fussy, but could really run fast. i hated when he ran because i bounced around so much. what a naughty camel he was, and very vain as well.

hudson loved his hat.

random camels wandering through the desert.

i wore the same outfit for 3 days.

sumar and saleem, our camel drivers.

sumar and saleem were nice guys. they walk the majority of the time in intense heat for a measly $25 a month + tips.

Sumar’s woman problem: We got talking to Sumar one night and he was very open about the situation he’s in regarding his future wife. he is from a small desert village. Like many muslim people in india, sumar was supposed to have an arranged marriage. This is where the family of the groom looks for a wife for their son, usually in nearby villages. After they have found a suitable bride, the negotiations commence. Once a sum of money is decided, the marriage is set without either of the happy couple having met. surprisingly, the man’s family must pay the woman’s family (oppisate of doweries); sumar said this is because there are more men than women so women are in hot demand.

In addition to an initial gift to the bride’s family, Sumar and his family have had to give numerous gifts (like jewelry) and money for each year that goes by since the initial arrangement was agreed upon. the bride’s father keeps putting off the wedding and screwing sumar and his family out of more money.

although it seems unfair, sumar can’t do anything but keep paying or else he and his family will be disgraced from his village and he won’t be able to marry anyone else. The only way he can find another woman (chosen by his father) would be for the bride’s father to refuse his daughter; this would mean the guy would have to pay back all the money he has received with a considerable increase. the fact that sumar has wasted 10 years wouldn’t really matter.

in short, i felt sorry for the guy and hope his eventual wife will be a stunner.

i think we’ve written enough about sumar, but he also had a hard time because he was illiterate and basically had no chance to learn to read. 40% of men and %70 of women are illiterate in india. hearing about sumar’s life made me realize how screwed you are if you can’t read and write. we wanted his address and he couldn’t even give it to us properly. he was really proud that he could write his name (few in his village could) and showed us. this was heartbreaking and is yet another memory of how much help india and its people need.

best of friends


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  1. Poor Sumar I feel so badly for him. kelly I love your outfit that you wore for 3 days. After that terrible food I don’t know why your pants were not falling off you.

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