Thirsty Camels, Stars and Wandering Beetles

Jaisalmer, 2012

I am standing in the middle of nowhere waiting for the camels to arrive. It is hot and dusty. Some children come up to me: chocolate, chocolate, miss? Pens? Candy? Money? A nice Canadian women offers them some chewing gum and the children take off with the whole pack.

After a while, a big group of camels with tourists on them arrive. They get dropped off. I never realized how big they are, and get nervous imagining I will be on one of them too.

cute camel

But it is time. I will be a nomad, riding my camel through the desert. Eating and sleeping with the desert people, in open air.

I get called over to the camels. I ask my guide for an easy going, non- grumpy  Camelia, that reflects my personality.. He tells me to take Lulu, one of the smaller camels. She has a ring through her nose and wears a nice, red piece of cotton to sit on. I take a seat. Lulu starts stretching his front legs and stands up. Help. I hold on tight. Before I know it I am high above the ground.

Lulu starts walking. Slowly. I watch my fellow nomads on their camels. The sun is burning on my skin.

camel ears

After an hour of riding through the dry landscape, with some grass and bushes we make it through the first sand dunes, and probably the only ones around. I expected to see more sand, but instead we seem to make different rounds around the same bushes and sand- dunes. My bum starts hurting. I try to chat with my nomadic guides, for some distraction. I ask them if they grew up in the desert, if they make long days, and what age they are. They seem to be more interested in their phones. I can’t blame them.

The camels are getting thirsty. We make a short stop that turns out to be longer. The well is empty. We have to walk over to another well, where there is still some water out in the depths.  While I am watching the process I take a sip of my bottled water. I am not an entire professional nomad yet.

Lunch. I am sitting in the grass while the guides are preparing a full meal. From scratch. Garlic, potatoes, tomato, cabbage and lentils in curry. Rice, chapatti. Chai. One pan and a self-made fire. Picnic professionals. I could not have done this better. After eating my bum still hurts and feels bruised. Never thought riding a camel would feel like this.

desert picnic

Another short ride. Back to the sand dunes, where we will watch sunset, have another meal and we will sleep. Our beds will be in the sand, right under the stars.

The sand dunes are busy. More tourists and camels arrive. We are not the only ones with painful bums. And more unexpected visitors, the sand beetles. Big and black and they crawl around in the sand. Anywhere.


A glowing stripe of orange in the sky. The sun is setting. I try to look for a spot to enjoy my new nomadic life in the desert. Where the other tourists will just dissolve in nothingness. I watch people run for the best bed- spots and realize I will soon have to make my reservation, or will sleep next to the beetles in the sand. It slowly gets dark.

sunset 2

Another big meal. Two curries, again made from scratch. Spicy pickles. Rice, chapatti, sweets even. And the biggest surprise: beer. I never knew they had an oasis of beer in the desert. And coke. I feel excited about all these unexpected natural resources and start drinking. On the desert.

I have to pee now, and make my way through the dunes. In the dark. I walk through the sand until everything gets quiet around me. No camp sounds, no light, nothing. Just sand. And beetles. After I have found my spot, I realize that I am not sure where I am. All the sand and darkness look the same. I see that people get lost easily around here and try to focus on sounds of people camping. Suddenly I am back at central spot. Thankfully.

In bed. In the sky there is a big cloud with a hole in it. Through the hole I can see a lot of stars. Satellites too, and sometimes a plane. Two shooting stars. I make a wish and look up. The same sky that I would look at from my window in Amsterdam. Just from a different angle.

I wake up cold in the middle of the night. The wind took my blanket. A nightly desert storm. I make sure to be warm again and look at the stars until I fall back asleep.

desert bed

Sunrise. The people around me are already awake. I hear the guides offering chai. I feel groggy and decide to watch the sunset from my bed. When I get up, all my muscles hurt, especially my bum.

To my regret I get a different camel. A hungry one. I call her Zsa- Zsa and she likes to stop whenever she sees small plants, or other appetizers to munch on. She also reflects my personality but is harder to work with than Lulu. She is a bit more unpredictable and scares me sometimes. Maybe she is also tired after all the long days of carrying tourists. I decide to be easy on her today.


After another two hours of riding, we make a stop again. My bum hurts so much that I can hardly sit anymore, and some skin is coming off. An open wound. Never thought you could get that from a camel. I need a break from my nomadic desert life.

At the end of the afternoon I am back in Jaisalmer. I feel very excited about my first camel adventure. Sleeping under the desert stars and riding the camels, I did feel that I was in the land of a fairytale, with my bum being the witch. I would go again any time!

3 thoughts on “Thirsty Camels, Stars and Wandering Beetles

  1. Another amazing account of your fascinating journey. I did something similar in / near Dubai. Was up all night. Didn’t sleep a wink! Not for me this desert existence as a nomad. I prefer the indoors 🙂

  2. Laura, I truly love this story – you captured the essence so beautifully. I like the part about your second camel not being as cooperative as the first. When we lived in Sudan we rode horses. I always managed to get Balalaika – her nickname was “The Stumbler” – and she did … a lot! All the Best, Terri

    • Thank you Terri. Meeting the camels was one of the nicest things I ever did, so funny to have to deal with their personalities. Loved it! Had a look at your website and story, a big source of inspiration. Going to read more of your stories:)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s