The walk in the hot sun included evading cops who were clearing the road and the desert of every insect for our manneey politicians who were coming to inaugurate the mela, we finally ended up on a small road off the road that led to Savitri mandir. Essentially we had gone back to the resort from the Savitri mandir, circled a part of the town away from the lake and landed up back here.
|The entrance to the desert|
Here in a small gully were the camel buggys. A small cart with a cushion on which some 4-5 people can squat. We spoke to one chap who settled for 2500 rupees for two hours. The camel would ride through the desert and we would see the camels that have been evicted from the fair. That's the closest to the cattle and camel fair we would get. Every year the largest camel fair in the world attracts 25000 camels!
|First stop - pictures in Rajasthani clothes|
|Does seem like the desert|
We hopped on, took our shoes off and put them in a bag they kept hanging at the entry, and settled down comfortably (not so comfortable for me and I opted to sit up with the rider). Our camel mahout was one slick smooth talking fellow Raj who would earlier operate a jeep for this desert safari but he tod us that ever since the jeep safari fellows accidentally killed someone it was banned and he was downgraded to camel rides.
|Caravan of two|
|Stop 3 - Romeo saves the day for Raj and local business|
Our camel was Romeo and he said they spent some 1600 bucks feeding it every day which looked rather steep but knowing Raj we knew he was pulling a fast one. Any way Romeo went on quietly and we enjoyed the ride - he was mostly under control except for a couple of times when he probably saw a Juliet and got distracted. We soon hit the desert sands, and right at the beginning, not a kilometre in, was this place where you could get off, wear Rajasthani clothes and take pictures. Raj was keen we do that but we told him we had no interest. This would have taken a good 15-20 minutes. A little further down the desert we found another touristy attraction - shops where you could buy stuff or sit on camels and take your pictures. People were doing this with great gusto. Also there were a lot of musicians and dancers who urged the tourists to get up and dance. Once again we told Raj we were not into this.
|Acquired a turban - true to make in India|
|Deserted the desert for the road|
Finally Raj had to use his last card. He said Romeo was thirsty. Up until the he had told us how the camel was the shop of the desert and how if we have no water we can get water from its reserve and drink - he said we just had to hit it on its belly and water would come out - wonder how they would do that. Anyway he was bent on stopping and that's part of your 2 hour trip.
|The camel fair - a few hundreds which is more than I hoped to see|
|Buyers and sellers|
Here a kid came with a turban and said she would take our pic for 20 bucks with the turban. I thought the turban would be a good idea because I had no cap with me so e bargain (Raj did) and got it for 100 bucks. Some buttermilk and off we went down this stretch which looked a bit like a desert. There were people zipping by on ATVs. A point where people come to enjoy the sunset - the sunset point. The banjara crowd apparently puts up a song and dance show here and certainly some high spirited stuff. Before we left a few musicians came and played and urged Vasu to shake a leg and he did so. Then off we went into the desert.
|More buyers and sellers|
Or so we thought.
In a short while we hit the main road and Raj pointed out mango orchards, amla orchards, banjara settlements etc.No more desert for the time being. We laughed at the irony of taking a camel ride on a regular road but on the other side was the promise of the camels that had come to the fair. And soon we reached a point where the camels were put up with their owners - in an open land on both sides of the road. The owners had come with their tents and stuff and were living out there. Since the camel fair had been officially cancelled this year they were selling whatever and moving on.
|Legs tied up|
|All dolled up|
|Another fine specimen|
We could see a few hundred camels on both sides. Small, big, colored, made up, their legs tied up as they waited patiently. There was a camel aid ambulance van sponsored by some Australian NGO. The owners dressed in all their Rajasthani finery were sick and tired of being photographed and shooed many away. Abhinay spoke to one Malayali reporter who was covering the mela. He had come from Ajmer where he said he had found accommodation for 200 bucks a day on sharing basis. I am amazed at the options there are these days. We went to the other side and Abhinay stuck up conversation with three little kids and asked them about their schooling - he is into education and works with the Wipro Education Trust. Their education was right on track - money they said and baksheesh and smiled brilliantly. He also found another youngster from the community who took him around and showed him him some camels. They go for 20-40 thousand here apparently. The women folk were busy in their tents. Each tent had this funny speaker - apparently they love their music.
|Spread over many acres|
|Three young hustlers|
|The old man on the left interested me|
After we had enough of camels we headed back on a different route as promised by Raj. Basically he avoided the main road which might not have been the best for Romeo and took us on a side country road, past the mango orchards, the banjaras and the same route and deposited us back at the entry. The buggys were fully busy and we caught him asking one guy who said it was his third trip already. Romeo threw some tantrums on the way - perhaps the memory of Juliet came up again.
|Camel Rescue Center, Bassi|
|Vasu capturing something|
|Abhinay with his new friend|
We got off and paid the man 2500 and headed back to Vela in the mid afternoon heat. The arrangements for the CM's arrival were picking up pace. More laal bathis were moving around. Funnily we were still quite full from the kachori of the morning. At Vela Vicky asked us if we were happy and satisfied and we said we were. We ordered some food on Swiggy (ker sangria, daal bhati churma which was now Vasu's firm favorite) and then some form their kitchen. By the time we freshened up and came Abhinay was chatting up with two young foreign girls - both had just completed their 12th - one from Germany and one from England and came to India on their break year. They had done a two month yoga course at Rishikesh and were now here for the Indian experience. They were enjoying their swim and chatted with Abhinay while Vasu and I wondered at the ease at which this generation did so many things while waiting for the food.
|The kids behind just got off a gallop on that horse|
|Raj waiting for us with his companions|
|A look at the camp|
We also met Pravesh, a young Bihari lad who championed the cause of Champaran chicken to us. He was sitting in a tent too and I asked if he was volunteering. He said he was couch surfing and Vicky bhaiyya had offered him the place. He was a vlogger and went all around India like this and was soon heading out into foreign lands. He had been to Vizag, Hyderabad and was now here. As I understand it couchsurfing is a concept where you register and check on people in any place where you are going if you can put them up for free - primarily offer them a couch. Vicky is on this app too and it sounds pretty exciting at the number of options they have and how they are living their lives.
Lunch arrived and we ate to our heart's or rather stomach's content and headed back to our rooms. Vasu had a meeting to attend online. I had a date with sleep. And soon was in la la land.