Off Season Tourist - India Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta
Two weeks in India, 2003 Notes from the Off Season Tourist
Julie at the Pushkar Palace
The Pushkar Palace
Riding Camels off into the Sunset

Back in April, I was speaking with one of my classmates, Ifat, about our upcoming trip to India. "Are you going to Pushkar? You HAVE to go to Pushkar. It's beyond beautiful." I was a little sad to hear this, as Pushkar was not on our itinerary. However, this was because we had originally planned to fly from city to city. When we decided to have a driver for our Rajasthan trip, our itinerary changed, as driving from Udaipur to Delhi in one day would be impossible. "How about a night's stay in Pushkar?", asked the tour agent. Because of Ifat's recommendation, I easily agreed with his suggestion.

The happy couple on camels
At the start of the camel trek...
On the drive to Pushkar, our driver Sanju mentioned that we could take a camel ride, if we wanted to. If we wanted to????? In my mind there was simply no question! Marcus, on the otherhand, had heard of the aftereffects of a camel ride and was not looking forward to a sore bum. Given that marriage is about compromise, he agreed to come along and luckily, he ended up enjoying the ride and neither of us was too sore the next day!

On the outskirts of town, we arranged for a sunset camel trek (it was already 5 pm). After we settled into the "Pushkar Palace", a beautiful hotel right on the lake, we came back out front to find our camels and their drivers waiting for us. I was chosen to mount my camel first. I got on the camel's back and the driver climbed on behind me. Then the driver told me to hold on (to a tiny little insignificant nub on the saddle) and commanded the camel to stand up, something for which I was completely unprepared. If you've ever seen a camel stand up from a kneeling position, you know what I'm talking about. The camel stands up two legs at a time, which for the rider translates to an extreme leaning forward while the back legs stand and then a bucking backwards when the front two legs straighten. Wow, better than a rodeo! There were several times when we'd stop and give the camels a rest and would therefore have to remount the camels. Although the first time was terrifying for me, the other times were exhilerating!

Marcus and his thirsty camel
After both Marcus and I were settled, we took off along the mountain range, towards the sunset. It was so peaceful, being the only ones on the path. We proceeded slowly into the desert for the first hour or so, our drivers letting us get used to the unique swagger of the camels. I chatted a bit with the driver. He was 20 years old (although he looked 16), and had been driving camels since he was 10 years old! He came to Pushkar from his village, in the search of a better life. His career goal was to earn enough money to buy his own camel and have his own business. Good luck to him! After awhile, we took off on a trot, which made me feel like I was going to fall off the camel! The driver tried to calm my fears by telling me that only 3 people have ever fallen off his camels. Great. I didn't ask how many of them had then been trampled by the camels after they'd fallen off. I just didn't want to know!

Marcus on camelback
Marcus' camel, The Biting Camel as seen from atop The Kissing Camel
We saw a beautiful sunset in the middle of the desert. Just when I thought we would turn around and go back, we continued forward, riding through a village. We took a different route back, at one point stopping in the middle of the desert to give the camels a rest. It was almost pitch black and extremely peaceful. The only noises came from my camel, whom the drivers called the "Kissing Camel". She was younger than Marcus' camel and was always trying to kiss him. Marcus' camel, on the other hand, not only did not like being kissed, but didn't like other camels period. He had a tendency to bite other camels if they got too close, especially if they tried to kiss him!!! Therefore when riding the two camels, the driver made our camel keep a respect distance behind Marcus' camel to prevent us from being bitten.

Back at the hotel, we showered then went out for a quick bite to eat. We discussed again how happy we were to have come to India during the Off-Season. The drivers had told us that if we had come to Pushkar during the Tourist Season, we would not have been alone on the ride, rather there could have been upwards of 20 other camels on the same trek. As it was, Marcus and I had a peaceful yet exciting experience that would not have been possible had we come to India during the Tourist Season.

We slept very well that night in our luxurious room at the Pushkar Palace, only to wake up by 6 am to hit the road for Delhi.

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