Saturday, December 24, 2011

Thar Desert, Christmas Eve

Whatever it was going on in my intestines, it made for a good early morning alarm clock! I shot out from beneath my blankets and ran up the dune, looking for a place to pull down my pants in private but settled for pulling down my pants before they were soiled...

As I exhaled a huge sigh of relief and looked around for a leaf, I was stunned by the surreal morning I'd awoken to. Last night's rain was now a lake of mist across the desert with the nearly full moon setting on one side and the pale glowing sunrise on the other. One of the magical characteristics of the full moon is that it arrives with the sunset and leaves with the sunrise. 

As the sun claimed itself as Raja of the desert sky over the other orbs, the mist slowly became one with the air, as though it had never even been. We ate breakfast then Carlos and I explored the dunes, sharing some of our little, bitter, desert delicacy for desert. 

As the morning quickly became barely bearably hot, we packed up for the second phase of our trek towards some large sand dunes, where we would unload for lunch. With the help of our guide, I tried to figure out how to wear a turban, then he told me it wasn't a good color because it's a color that should be worn when somebody dies. I imaging the fellows back at the taylor shop had a good laugh about it once I'd left...

The two french brothers we'd met on the bus, along with a few other people from the guest house, had booked their trek at the same place we had, and the organizer said we would probably meet up with them on the second day. We were hoping we would so we could have a nice group of people to spend Christmas with. While eating lunch, we spotted some people across the dunes, but our guide told us not to go over. We explained that we were hoping to meet some friends but he said it would make trouble with the other guide if we joined them. Trouble has a way of making itself though, and as Carlos and I went exploring the dunes, the other guide came over, upset that our guide had sent "his son" over to beg for food. Actually, it was a local boy who'd come over, and we'd shared our food with him. Our guide wasn't pleased about the other guide coming over and assuming it was his nephew begging. We'd missed the confrontation, but as we mounted our camels, he told what had happened, muttering a few things we couldn't make out. 

As we rode passed them, our driver shouted out a greeting, "Jaa Apni Bajaa!" and urged us to do the same. So, we followed, "Jaa Apni Bajaa! Jaa Apni Bajaa!"
"What does it mean?" I asked.
"Go fuck yourself! Jaa Apni Bajaaaaaaaaaaa!!"
I should have asked a little sooner...

Our guide was Hindu and he told us the other man was a "something-something" Muslim. I think we'd already figured they don't like each other...

We stopped at a well, where the camels could drink and met one of the French brothers who had come over to the desert village to get some butter. We were excited to finally find him and he said they were going to cook up quite a feast for Christmas. When we mentioned to our guide that this was our friend we'd been hoping to find, he quickly asked him the name of his guide. When our friend answered, our guide held his head in his hands and said we couldn't go with them. Their guide was the same man we'd just shouted at.

Carlos was especially disappointed.  Back in Jaisalmer, he thought we should wait for another group to join, but I'd suggested we try and catch up with the others. Anyway, the next leg of the journey, we were noticeably quiet. Our guide started worrying we didn't like him and were going to give a bad word to the guesthouse about him. We were annoyed about the situation, but his worrying about it wasn't really helping. He began singing some folk songs to us, one about a boy who loved a girl, but he father rejects him, so he commits suicide. His high, quivering voice irritated my ears more than anything, I was glad when he finally stopped.

Eventually, our annoyance wore off, as the sun got low, and we stopped at some small dunes for the night. Carlos just said that he felt like there was something missing. His friend had told him about his experience, where he was with eight other people, one with a guitar, and they would sit around fires talking and singing songs. He was hoping for a similar experience.

My legs were starting to adjust to the journey, but it was still a little strange each time I stepped back onto the ground. Even with my legs beside each other, they were still wanting to push back in and I couldn't take a step, at first, without wobbling side to side. We searched the dunes for sticks and dead shrubs to build a small fire with and had a milk-chai and dry chapati with spicy vegetables. My haggard stomach was starting  to wish for something different, but I wasn't in a position to make any requests!

As the day faded and the sun sank behind the distant line of clouds along the horizon, the bright orange Christmas Eve full-moon rose behind the camels resting on the dunes. What was there possibly to be disappointed with? 

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