The Desert Safari near Jaisalmer, India

Desert Safari

I imagined riding a camel would be similar to riding a horse. Camels are a lot taller than horses, but there are some similarities. They way you move on them. You also turn them using the same method of hand control. You squeeze them with your legs to speed them up. You can kick them or use a crop like thing or the reins to get them to move faster. I didn’t do any of these things. I know these things because I asked one of our guides. I am not actually complaining about this either. Camels are a LOT taller than horses! Oh, I admit I did have one stupid second of disappointment when it became obvious I was going to be led by a guide. The entire rest of the time though I was happy about it.

My camel is the brightly decorated one. His name is Michael Jackson. Michael Jackson has bells all over so he jingles when he walks. I asked the guides about camel racing. They all think it is a fine sport, but as you would expect none of these camels are racing camels. 

Here I am on Michael Jackson. It was fun when the camel stood up. If you wonder if I have a different standard for camels than I do for elephants, I don’t think so. The camels are similar to horses from the guide’s perspectives. If you have thoughts to the contrary let me know. Sean is on Rocket. We met a great father and daughter during the safari, Pooja is the daughter. Pooja lives in Pennsylvania. She was so much fun. Pooja is 21 years old. Sean and Pooja really hit it off.


I have layers of clothes on. It was too warm for 15 minutes. The rest of the time all the layers were perfect. I debated about bringing warm gear or not. I was glad for most of the trip I didn’t bring all that cold weather gear, but this night it was cold.

(I am sitting here writing this at breakfast on 12/31). I was really excited when I saw soy milk which meant I could have coffee with soy milk! Yeah! Then I ordered masala tea without milk (actually nahee dhood) instead. Oh yes and make it extra gingery. I like my ginger as hot as Indian people do. This is something I have learned on this trip. I also learned that I do like some spicy in food. I have come to the conclusion that I do not like jalapeños. It is not the heat it is what is used to get that heat.

The way the safari works is that groups of people are brought out on the camels to the dunes successively to watch the sun set. There were 4 groups. We were the first group. At first I wasn’t sure which number group you would want to be, but at the end I realized the first group is the best group to be in.

The guides leave us to go get another group.

Carat, Jim, Pooja, and me

The first group gets pristine dunes to play on and to photograph.

It was fun to run around in the fine sand.

Hi to you, from the desert outside Jaisalmer, India

Then we watched the sunset.


The first group to the dunes is also the first group to leave the dunes. The minute the sun went over the horizon (hmmm, which is technically not correct)… The minute the earth rotated enough that the sun was no longer visible from where we were, just doesn’t have the same ring though. Does it? Anyway, it became cold when the sun vanished.

I was never so glad to see Michael Jackson before, and honey, I am a Michael Jackson fan from way back. 5th grade in fact,: 1,2,3 it’s as easy as A, B, C.. Oh yeah! I even own his greatest hits CD.

Camel feet are cool.

If you are the first to the camels, you are the first to the camp, too. It was a wonderful night, filled with great food, good company, dancing, and singing.

Here are the singers. We were told they sang some songs in Hindi and some songs in Gujarati.

I took a video of them playing. They are giving me their email address so I could send it to them when I get back to the States and have an email connection that will allow me to do that. There was only one problem, they did not know how to write or read Romanized letters (the letters used for the English language). They only knew the Hindi alphabet, or maybe it was Gujarati.

There we met Nellika (I am so sorry if I misspelled that). Nellika is from the Netherlands. She has been on the road for the past 8 months, 6 weeks of that time at the Damodra Desert Safari. Damodra Desert Safari is the outfit we booked our desert safari with. They picked us up at our hotel, took us sightseeing through the desert, provided the guides, camels, and location, then brought us back to their camp where we were spending the night. At the camp were tents, food, and entertainment. Nellika was one of the people at the campsite. She has been working for the past 8 months all over the place in Europe and now here in India. She finds jobs through a site called At businesses post jobs they have. Interested people contact the businesses about the jobs. If hired, it is for a limited time, you receive room and board but no salary or travel fees. Nellika has used this to travel these past 8 months. She was a secretary in the Netherlands and wanted something different. She wanted that something different to include travel, but she coundn’t afford traveling. Now she is traveling and working her way around the globe.

After everyone got there, the dancers began. It was beautiful to watch the native dancing under the stars with live music.

In between the dancers’ numbers there was a man doing acrobatic routines. He began taking mouthfuls of kerosene and breathing fore. It was spectacular and difficult to watch at the same time.

Spectacular… But the chemist/biologist side of my brain doesn’t sleep. I kept saying things like, “That is so carcinogenic.”

I felt conflicted, because here someone is giving a bit of them self (literally and figuratively) for your entertainment, but what they are doing is harmful to their health.

When the dancers came back out, they asked people from the audience to dance with them. I got up. What do you know so did Sean. Good for him.

Sean has had a persistent cough. One of the staff made him a local cough remedy that had a little rum. Sean drank it over the course of the evening, and did cough a lot less. He was a bit crispy from it, but very, very funny. I went to bed on that note. Sean stayed up and hung out with Pooja.

It was cold in the desert. I wore every article of clothing I had with me to sleep that night. Most of my clothes were back at 1st Gate, the homestay we were going backp to in Jaisalmer. As I lay snuggled between Sean and Jim in our tent, I realized this was as close to a scene from Arabian Nights as I was likely to ever get.

Check out part one here and two here.

The Road to the Indian Desert Safari

Indian Desert Safari

We are driving to an Indian desert safari for the night. Jaisalmer is surrounded by little villages. Some of the villages have people in them and some do not. Some are crumbling, and some have been fixed up. The first village we went to was not welcoming. The adults hid and the kids followed us around asking for money. These villages probably get tired of tourists showing up. They are very small, more like collections of a few houses with a wall around the complex.

This is a view in so you get the idea of what I mean about the structure of the village. This is the traditional style house in this area.

Cricket! This is a cricket obsessed country.

We saw more and more goats. Some were unattended and some, like these, had a shepherd with them. We were picked up at our hotel by a driver in a jeep. There was another group, a father and his daughter, already in the jeep. Their names were Carat and Pooja. We lucked out they were Indians from American. Lucked out because we hit it off right away, and Carat spoke Hindu and perfect English.

The experience in this village was completely different. The woman in pink looked over the edge and waved us in to the village. When she caught my eye she said, “Lady you come in, please.”

Look at that roof. Perhaps this is the type of village the man who wants to come work in American is from. Actually it must be a village similar to this one. At least these were the only type of villages I saw surrounding Jaisalmer.

The group of women and kids who invited us in. They were all warm and welcoming. They invited us through an entrance into a courtyard with a few buildings in the courtyard.

Sean loves kids and animals. They are drying clothes in the sun, check out the solar panel.

The two baby goats were being kept under the domes structure, penned in.

The bangles from elbow to shoulder mean these women are married. Years ago ivory was used for this, now the bangles are made from plastic. We just started seeing the bangles in Udaipur, but only occasionally. They are more common in the villages outside Jaisalmer.

I asked the woman in green where she cooked. She brought me into her house to see this. It was not smoky smelling inside like you might think it would be.

Many times kids have asked us to take their photo so they can look at the image. This is taken inside the house, note the floor, walls, roof, and shelving.

This is used to grind grain and beans like dal. Indian people use a lot of different grains and even some beans in their breads and crackers. Many of their breads are unleavened so gluten content is not an issue. (Yeast breads rise better when the gluten content is high. Gluten is naturally found in wheat and some other grains.)

Here is a nice example of a nose ring. We have not seen them very often. They have ranged from small hoops to huge hoops. They are more common if I include studs. Here I just mean actual rings.

Here is the roof of their house.

Then we were driven to this “lake”. The lake was surrounding by funky unnatural piles of dried mud. “Really. Why are we here?” All the Americans wanted to know. This small open body of water is used as the water source for 15 or 16 villages. The water is sucked into the blue water tank, then it is driven to the village. The piles were from dredging to make the lake.

We would drive a while through the desert landscape, then all of the sudden something would be up ahead.

Here is a fort that is being reconstructed so it is more interesting at a distance. There were peacocks EVERYWHERE!!!

India - Secular Homeschooling

India - Secular Homeschooling

The fort is being reconstructed in what looks like the crumbling ruins of a village.

This was lying on the ground.

Jim and Carat wandered off, and I handed candy out to local kids who showed up asking us for rupees.

How did they live? Why did they leave this village? What would it be like to have so few people in your life? But to know them so well?  Have you ever heard the story of how Alexander the Greek, LOL, met Roxanne? The tribal woman that he married. I wonder if she came from a village like this, except one that was in the mountains. A town filled with love, and life, and dancing, and brilliant colors; now filled with peacocks, dust, and solitude.

Check out part one here and part three here.

Daydreams and Fairytales in Jaisalmer, India


Here is a secret you don’t know about me. I am a daydreamer, an over the top, lose myself in my own head, fantastical daydreamer. It used to drive my mother wild. I was forever getting lost, because I would begin to daydream and just lose my way and everyone else too. I have many memories of being lost on streets and in department stores as a child. I would come out of my reverie in a panic, because I was lost and even felt a little lost as I went from the dream reality in my head to the place where I actually was. My sister is probably the only living person who knows that about me. What even she probably doesn’t know is that I am just as big a daydreamer today. I have schooled myself a bit out of politeness, but I can still get lost in my own head. I still have it in me to drift off in the middle of a conversation or abruptly change the subject. I work on that because it is rude to the person I am talking to, but when it happens it is because either that person or something around us triggered a dream or stray thought that sticks with me and I follow it away from the conversation. Traveling triggers so many daydreams for me. The fort at Jaisalmer was definitely going to do that! I didn’t know it until I woke up this morning and there it was perched on top of a hill looking even more impressive than it had the night before. We also went on a desert safari, which will be covered in post 2 from today. Of course that had daydreaming written all over it too. Both the fort and the safari made me think of many of the books I have read.

Why this fort more so than others we have seen? The fort at Jaisalmer is still in use. The fort at Jaisalmer is about 900 years old. It has been in continuous use that entire time. Because it is still in use, it is right there for you to see how areas are used and it has been kept up, not reconstructed, which sometimes loses something in the reconstruction. It was full of people in traditional dress, dogs, cats, a mouse, cows, and even a couple of goats. There are shops and restaurant, temples and priests, trash and poop. It is all there. All the perks and all the detritus too.

There were 3,000 people living inside this fort at one time. When I was in my teens I realized that not everyone can be the king or the queen. When people imagine themselves living in the past or dream about who they were reincarnated from (as some people like to do), they always imagine themselves as Queen Elizabeth or the King of the region, never as the the lowest scullery maid. I used to try to imagine myself somewhere in the middle. Now I don’t imagine being one person at all, I try to get a feel for the activity and the lives overall. These first photos show the hustle and bustle on the way up to the top of the fort. We are inside the first wall.

The first time we saw stairs like these was in Macchu Picchu. I wonder about the steps going across, what were they used for?

People used to dump slops out their windows. You would have to be careful walking up to the fort that nothing gross was thrown out of a window and landed on you. I wonder if people used to customarily yell something before they dumped things out the windows, something that has been lost as a part of history.

We have reached the top of sunny Jaislamer. Finally I need the hat I have dragged all over India.

It is 3.5 kilometers around the entire perimeter. We had about 3 hours to explore the fort today, which was not going to be enough time, because we were getting picked up to go on the desert safari at 2. We decided to go straight to the Jain Temple today. Tomorrow after we get back we will explore the fort more.

There were so many people trying to get into the temple that Jim and Sean let me go by myself. I walked up and in. It was crowded to get in but was not crowded once inside. We found out when we tried to get into the next temple that I was supposed to have had a ticket to get in to the first temple.

Here I am being told by the man in the turban that I need a ticket to see the inside of the Jain Temples, oops.

We were really lucky when we did buy the tickets to the temple, that is when we met Lavi, the person who taught me what I know about the Jain faith. Lavi owns a shop with his father right next to the temple. After viewing the temple, we sat in his shop while he shared tea with us, taught us about Jainism, and talked about how he wants to do business a different way, with better quality stock and without all the bargaining/haggling.

The Jain Temples were built at the fort with the permission of a Muslim King. The Jain faith comes out of Hinduism so why would a Muslim King agree to this huge Jain temple being built. One reason is back then it wasn’t about whether you were Muslim, or Hindu, or even Christian. The main problems with Muslims and Hindus came out of the separation into Pakistan and India.

Then it was about your allegiance to the ruler of the location you were at. There are 7 Jain Temples here. 5 of them are interconnected and it is interesting to go from one to the next…

looking at the artistry in the intricate carvings, and walking on the smooth, huge stone floors.

They were built over 17 years during the 14th or the 15th century. When it was built Jaisalmer was on the silk route. The Jains were big silk merchants. Because they paid such high taxes to the king, when they asked to build a temple he king allowed it. It was dangerous to build outside of forts in those days.

There was a scarcity of water in those days which made it difficult to make mortar. The Jains invented an interlocking style of architecture, where the stones stayed together without mortar. The Jain complex is named after the Muslim King, King Laxman, who gave them permission to build it. That is pretty cool if you think about it.

Jainism has no God. They believe that God lies within. I thought this was interesting and not sure I had it right so I went searching for a more complete statement. Here it is. “Jainism rejects the idea of a creator deity that could be responsible for the manifestation, creation, or maintenance of this universe. According to Jain doctrine, the universe and its constituents (soul, matter, space, time, and principles of motion) have always existed. All the constituents and actions are governed by universal natural laws and an immaterial entity like God cannot create a material entity like the universe….Jains believe that to attain enlightenment and ultimately liberation from all karmic bonding, one must practice the ethical principles not only in thought, but also in words (speech) and action.”

A Jain priest with a statue of Mahaveer

Jainism was founded by the prophet Lord Mahaveer also called Adinath. He founded the religion 2064 years ago. Jainism is older than Buddhism which started 40 years later. At this point in the conversation I had one of those random thoughts. “What must have been going on in the world about 2050 + or – a decade or two years ago? Three major faiths started at the same time, Christianity, Buddhism, and Jainism. All three of these faiths have as major tenets of their faith tolerance to all. If you look at what the three prophets Christ, Buddha, and Lord Mahaveer were preaching, it is about how to have a better more tolerant relationship with others, including at least for Buddhists and Jains non-human others. What was the catalyzing force causing this all to happen at that time? I wish I knew. Were they good times or bad times that led to these prophets’ messages? Were they aware of each other’s philosophies in which case they spurred each other on or were they figuring it out tabla rasa? Did they think of themselves and each other as philosophers or religious zealots?” I don’t know the answers to any of these questions. My initial thinking/bias is to find out if there were any environmental factors going on at the time, a decade long drought or mini ice age perhaps. Sean would argue that Buddhism and probably Jainism as well are not religions, but rather philosophies about how you should live your life. Sean does not believe atheism and Buddhism are mutually exclusive and I agree with him. I will have to get his take about whether an atheist can be a Jain.

Lord Mahaveer was the prophet who started Jainism. A God is someone no one has ever seen. A prophet is a person who sees a new way. Some people are enlightened by a prophet and some are not.

Jain is the Hindu word meaning pure. Jainism is based on 2 main principles.

1.) non-violence – this extends to hurting or negativity in any way. Jains do not believe it is okay to kill even a small ant. Accidentally is okay, but on purpose, no, that is not okay.

2.) pure vegetarianism – even root vegetables are not okay to eat because while plucking out these vegetables you might kill little animals that live around the roots.

The Jain community is divided into two parts, Shwetamber and Digamber. The Shwetamber Jains, the monks wear clothes in the temple, the Digamber Jains, the monks do not wear clothes in the temple. The Jain priests wear yellow and red. Jain women cover their heads and Jain men wear white suits. Jain people bathe before going in to temple and then change into their temple clothes.

Here is the area where Jain men clean themselves before going to temple. Both Jain temple complexes we have been to had big courtyards with showers off of them.

These lockers store clothes for people going to the Jain temple when they change into the clothes they wear inside.

There are feet stones with holes in the bottom of the stones. People clean their feet with holy water, then they collect the water, and use it to bless with.

There are small doors and gates in the temple, this is to force you to bow down to the gods.

The dragons on the steps and columns are to scare the evil out of any people with bad intentions in their heart. The last photo is a shot taken straight on looking at the dragons. See the teeth and little legs. There were lots of dragon shots, because I was surprised to see them. And you know, the whole fairytale dreamer mood I was in this day.

There is a bell when you enter Jain temples. The bell tells God you are there.

Statues of Buddha and Mahaveer look similar. There are differences.

Here is an illustration copied from the Internet for comparison. This is Buddha. No one really knows what Buddha looked like. The real man who was Buddha would not let an image of himself be copied because he did not want people worshipping an image. I guess we don’t really know what any of these men looked like at this late date, do we? But this is a common depiction of Buddha.

1.) Buddha sits in several different positions, Lord Mahaveer always sits in the same position.

2.) Lord Mahaveer is always naked

3.) Lord Mahaveer has his eyes open

4.) Lord Mahaveer has a lotus in the center of his chest

5.) all statues of Lord Mahaveer have a cobra on them.

6.) the top knots are different

There are 6,666 statues in Jain temples. 6 is an important number for Jains. There were 6*4 = 24 Jain prophets; all from a different era. The 24th prophet is their 1st prophet, Lord Mahaveer. The 1st prophet is the most recent prophet from sometime in the 18th century.

All this is very interesting but we need to eat lunch and go on a desert safari!

This is Lavi in his shop. Stop by if you are in Jaisalmer. Lavi speaks perfect English. We really enjoyed meeting him. Lavi’s father is a man with foresight. About 30 years ago (I hope I got that number correct) he opened his store directly across from the Jain Temple in Jaisalmer. It is a prime location. He also made sure his son could speak really good English. Lavi went to school to get a degree so that he could incorporate businesses, something an attorney would do in the US. He is now working in the family business.

Here is the view from our hotel, 1st Gate, while we ate lunch. Now where is Sean, we need to go.

There you are 😉

Check out part two here and part three here.

A Long Drive to Jaisalmer. What a day.


When I woke up this morning my plan for the day was to catch up on all my blog posts. The drive was going to be a long one. I am writing about events that happened a couple of days ago in present tense. It is easier to do that when events happened yesterday. The real problem with getting behind on my blog posts is that I forget some of the things I want to talk about. Well that didn’t happen, I mean the catching up part. The drive was too good to miss. In addition to photos and thoughts Jim and I have been recording sounds and videos to share. Unfortunately until the hotel/homestay we are at in Jaislamer, the wifi hasn’t been good enough to send anything like that. I will try to get a few things like that off today as well.

Udaipur is toward the bottom, the South of Rajasthan. Jaisalmer is in the middle as far as north and south go but it is on the West side. In fact Jaisalmer is as close to Pakistan as Jim and I are likely to ever get.

Back to the drive… We stayed in the City Palace Complex in Udaipur. This was like a quiet oasis in the middle of a bustling city. It really was a fun and unique experience. We left the Shiv Niwas and very quickly were thrust into the hustling bustling city. So after we turned off into narrow country roads with villages separated by farmland. I love looking at the towns. Each one is a little different.

There are miles of mustard being grown. At first I thought it was fields filled with weeds. Many of these photos were taken speeding along in our car, sorry if the quality suffered.

I asked Sohdi about the road ahead and he told me it was a one lane road. I thought he meant a 2-laned road with traffic going in both directions. You know, that it had been lost in translation. But no, it was a 1-laned steep and windy mountainous road.

It was verdant and lovely. Here is a view of some farmland.

This shot was hard to get. As we were driving I noticed that there were regular water pumps on the sides of the roads. When we saw them there were almost always women and/or children at them collecting water.

As you can see it would be really hard if you were afraid of monkeys in Rajasthan, India.

We stopped at a Jain Temple in Ranakur. I learned a lot about the Jain faith the next day, I will tell you about it in that post. We were allowed to look at the outside of the temple complex, but not go inside. There are only certain hours people who are not of the Jain faith can go inside their temples.

So we stayed outside with the monkeys.

I hope you find it easy to follow along when I post photos of signs. It is the best way I have found to pass along the information at sites where they have them.

This site is remote. It captures the imagination to have such an impressive temple at this location.

A group of men, one with a gun who is also holding a belt guarding an entrance at the temple, this also captures the imagination.

I wonder what Jains do about big beehives like this one on the side of their temple? We left with more questions than answers.

The turbans are getting bigger the farther Northwest we go. They are also put on in a more haphazard way for the most part. Our driver Sodhi is Sikh. Perhaps I am just so used to sitting behind his nice orderly turban. Sikh men as they call themselves put their turbans on so nicely and neatly it is impressive.

Women are more likely to have their faces covered in rural villages and towns. Not the covered faces but as far as more conservative dress, the few times I was not dressed conservatively, I felt self-conscious.

I, of course, look at this and wonder about spinal damage to the neck. It is more common to see women carrying things this way than it is men. Sometimes the women even have their faces covered. I would be so worried about tripping and hurting myself.

The landscape went from verdant and mountainous to deserts, similar to what we have in Bridgeport, Ca. When that happened goats became more plentiful. We started to see fewer monkeys and more peacocks and camels.

Everywhere we went in Rajasthan they were fixing the highway up. Sodhi told us it would all be finished in no less than 2 years.

These highway improvement projects are important in a country where most goods are transported in trucks. When a driver wants to pass here they honk to let the car they are passing know they are being passed. It makes for a lot of honking. Drivers in India need to be highly skilled. There are animals, vehicles, and people all over the place everywhere you go crossing roads, driving different speeds, just doing all sorts of things creating lots of unexpected situations you have to be careful of.

All this trucking creates a highly mobile group within the society. I have read that truck drivers in India are in a high risk group for HIV transmission, and that their mobility compounds the problem for all involved.

As we got close to Jaisalmer, which is close to the border with Pakistan, we started to see more and more Army trucks on the road. There is a large Army base just outside of Jaisalmer. Sodhi is from Punjab, close to Pakistan. He told us it is awful in Pakistan, that the government is very corrupt there. I asked him about corruption in the government in India. He said it was bad in India too, but not as bad as it is in Pakistan. He pointed to a barbed wire fence with four strands of barbed wire across it and told us that is what was across the area near his home, separating the two countries, India and Pakistan. I asked him if the people were different in customs, or dress, speaking, or religion. He told me they were all, “same, same.” He said it was better to be from India though, even though the people of the United States helped Pakistan more. I told him our government was more afraid of terrorism from Pakistan than from India. He agreed the threat was from Pakistan.

A couple of times on the drive we stopped for a while for trains to cross. They are very cautious and give lots of time for trains to get to the crossings, which is probably a good idea with the cow and dog wanderings/moseyings as they are. All the vehicles turn off their motors and people get out. A few of us went up to take photos, much to the amusement of the locals.

I was the only woman who walked up to the stop and I did so unaccompanied. I got lots of stares. Everyone was friendly, just curious.

We arrived at our hotel/homestay in Jaisalmer at dinner time. I really appreciate someone with an attention to detail, that is what we found at the 1st Gate Homestay. It has a restaurant at it called Fusion which had Italian and Indian cuisine. Oh yes and it has a PUG!!!!

Here is Sean sitting in the downstairs restaurant with one of the owners, Minoch, and his dog Ting Tong, TT. She is about the same size and age as Sean’s dog Jezabel. Minoch heard Sean’s cough and had a special tea made for him. It really helped. I ordered Italian food for Sean and went up to the upstairs restaurant with Jim.

This is the view from the rooftop restaurant at 1st Gate. I ordered for Jim, salad and pasta with an arrabiatta sauce. He had never had that sauce before. He loved it, and now has a new favorite Italian dish.

 There I am with the fort behind me.

It gets cold in the desert at night. TT got her jacket on so she could come and sit at the entrance to the kitchen.

Check out yesterdays blog post here and the next post here.

Read about our last day in India here.