Hanging with the Camel Man – Bikaner, India
The guest house owner Mr. Vijay Singh welcomed me into his beautiful guest house like I was a long lost pale Scottish relative. Vijay, or Camel Man as he is also known, has a personality as large as his frame and was an instantly likeable, chatty, friendly host.
He turned his family home into a guest house back in the 70’s and sees hundreds of tourists pass through his home each year. With the assistance of his delightful wife and a few helpers they have turned their beautiful home into a place that really did feel like a home from home. As well as budget, but luxurious bedrooms, they have a lovely dining hall for the guests to eat the wonderful food provided by Mrs. Singh, which is cooked for you within eye shot of the table.
After eating yourself into a coma there is the option to relax in the living room, with walls decked out in family pictures and portraits as well as various trophies to really add to that homely feel. If you prefer an outdoor environment, you could chill in their nice green garden complete with a large garden swing. As far as budget backpacking goes, this place really was the bomb.
We discussed the benefits of a local independent business like Mr. Singh gets from being in the Lonely Planet guide to India. He informed me that making it into that book ensured he would be drinking whiskey and soda for the next few years. I liked his style.
I stayed at their guest house because Vijay is the local camel tour operator or Camel Man and I booked on one of his overnight camel safaris. We set off from a local village and trekked over the desert for 3 hours. The camels did all the hard work and all I had to do was sit there and look pretty, something I excel in. I had never been on a camel before but I found it a lot more comfortable than I presumed it would be and preferred it to riding on a horse. The camels walk at a nice pace so you can enjoy the desert scenery, which is nothing too exciting apart from the occasional antelope. To compensate for the barren scenery, I found myself having a competition with the group to see who could come up with the most innovative songs with camel links. I won with a rendition of Fergie’s “My Humps.”
When I arrived at my destination, a base camp at the top of a sand dune, we were allowed to wander around the dunes at our own free will, allowing us to watch dung beetles mating and discuss the techniques involved in burning your used toilet paper whilst watching the sun go down.
In the evening we had a candlelit dinner under the stars. After the chaos of Delhi it was a quite remarkable turnaround in settings in a mere 24 hours. I had quite a nice group of people with me including two elderly American women, a couple from London and three girls from Singapore who all lived in different parts of the world. It was nice to chat with some other travellers after the isolation of Delhi. Added to this group was an Indian family from Calcutta who were not on the safari but turned up for the dinner. Flashpacking I believe it is called.
The beautiful three-course meal was accompanied by a local musician who played a variety of local instruments to great effect, which then led to some dodgy, elderly tourist dancing. I headed to my tent before I was requested to cut any shapes to the beat of a nose flute.
I was blissfully happy to be sleeping in a tent in the middle of an Indian desert. Sleeping in the middle of the nowhere is one of my favourite things. I truly believe it cleanses your soul and mind. (Self edit – Four days in India and I’m going all hippy. Oh No.)
If anyone would like to check out the guest house I stayed in and get some more info on the treks you can check out www.camelman.com
After a few bedding-in days in Delhi, my Indian adventure started here.