Can it be real?
I’m getting the impression that a lot of the places in Rajasthan that are listed in the Lonely Planet are faked to be really backward (to the naivity of LP writers) so that people get to see stereotypical images of India. We went on a Camel Safari with Ganesh Tours (listed in the Lonely Planet) – in my view a scam and a half. they skimmed on everything including hygene. The lonely planet pushes the view that manufactured is not authentic and that services that are extremely frugal are more authentic. not true – when i visited Italy, we went to a proper production to see opera, not to some shack with a woman singing. Ganesh tours falls into the category of a shack providing a service. At one of the villages we went to, the kids were doing absolutely nothing except waiting for us so they could ask for rupees, and the women were also such sitting around doing absolutely nothing (although they must be spending a lot of time cleaning because the places were spotless and had no junk laying around) – no running water, no electricity, no dirt, no crap on the ground, but when someone wanted a beer, one appeared from somewhere… there was absolutely no indication of why some of the villages existed prior to the tourists coming to the area – no cattle, no farms, nothing.. one of the kids even said that he was from Jaisalmar (an hour away from the village). The LP book inadvertantly encourages many of the poor to not go to school and to give tourists what they expect to see.
The only reason that the safari was good was because of the guides and the rest of the group. basically you group up with about 15 people and go on a jeep ride about 30 minutes outside of Jaisalmer. Then you get on the smelliest and dirtiest camel you will ever see and ride across the desert – but don’t expect soft sand desert like in dubai, it’s more like the deserts you’ll see in Arizona or Nevada… and the fact that you can see windmill farms and city lights in the far distance reminds you that you ain’t that far from civilization. After about 2 hours of riding, we stopped for lunch (the most basic meal I’ve ever had in my life…) and a nap (although the intruding goats made it a bit difficult to sleep. We finally made it to our campsite just before sunset (ok, fine, I’ll admit that it was an amazing sunset), and then an early campfire dinner (even more basic than the lunch), and then nap time.
Here’s where the best part comes. We slept on a blanket with another blanket on top with nothing but the stars and eventually the moon providing light. It was incredible. I felt a bit embarrassed that I could barely remember anything from star gazing lesson that we had on the hike 4 life in December, but I still made some stuff up and made it seem like I knew what i was talking about…
Sleep was not the greatest though – in the middle of the night we could hear a bunch of wild dogs fighting it out, and at one point, I saw one of the dogs creeping by, staring at us, from a nearby ridge. That coupled with the hundreds of beetles running around, has me thinking that next time i’m using a tent. you can’t see the stars once your eyes are closed anyway.
The next day was pretty much just a prolonged version of the first. I have no idea what people do for 4 days out in the desert. The only really worthwhile part was the star gazing and hanging out with the group. Don’t need to kill yourself riding a slow ass camel for days… I definitely wouldn’t recommend Ganesh Travels – not only was the trip not very good, but the operators purposely misled some of us, and was a prick.