• Saturday , 25 October 2014

A harrowing night camping under the stars in Jaisalmer, India.

Chris and I have done our fair share of camping desert safaris.  In fact, the last desert safari was done on the dunes of Dubai.  It was Christmas eve 2009 and we ended up spending the night literally stranded with two Greek dentists we had just met, a hookah, and bottle of rum.  I awoke on Christmas day to the most glorious sunrise as well as a huge, bulging right eyelid that had fallen victim to the bite of a horsefly.

Squishing the right side of my face into Chris so you can't see how awful and swollen it was.

Squishing the right side of my face into Chris Staudinger so you can’t see how awful and swollen it was while camping in the desert

Conforming to tradition, our Jaisalmser camel safari was just as exciting.  After the usual, touristy meal with the native band playing the background, we were treated to a bout of traditional dancing and flare.  As the festivities wound down, the throngs of French tourists returned back to the tour bus leaving only Chris, our two guides, and myself in the quiet, open desert.

Already reminiscing about our previous desert experience, I had told myself that I would sleep in a tent this time around to prevent the bite of another rude horse fly.  I watched as our new friends and India liasons, Imran and Ali carried our supplies to our campsite for the night.  Imran brought a bottle of rum, as per tradition, and made sure that it was the first item and staple of the campsite.  Next came our sleeping bags, pillows, and bottles of water.

Our open-air campsite in Dubai.  Horseflies and all.  Camping in the desert.

Our open-air campsite in Dubai. Horseflies and all.

I organized my sleeping bag and pillow and happily awaited the arrival of my tent.  Item after item was set down but there was no tent in sight.  As soon as Imran and Ali sat down I asked them when my fortress from the flies was coming.  They looked puzzled and Imran eventually explained, “Ah, yes.  You wanted a tent but there is no need for a tent.  See?  It’s very nice here”.  While it was indeed very nice, I knew that there were camels around, and where there are camels there are horseflies.  I tried to insist on a tent but was informed that we were too far out in the desert to get one.  I’d have to make do.

After a sufficient amount of rum drinking we all decided to call it a night.  I made sure all of my skin was covered, either with clothes or with the sleeping bag, and carefully draped my scarf over my face.  I would not become a horsefly’s meal tonight.  Right as I was settled in, Imran pointed out a faint light in the distance.  “Chris and Tawny, how far away do you think that light is?”, he asked.  I peered off.  I’ve never really been good at telling distance, but I took a guess, “I’d guess that it’s maybe 20 miles away.”  It was silent.  Imran let out a little chuckle and quickly said, “That is the Pakistan border.  Good night!

Awesome.  I had just gotten the idea of being eaten alive by horseflies out of my head.  Now I was going to be lulled into sleep by the thought of armed terrorists taking me across the border never to be seen again… or worse.  Little did I know it would be something else entirely that would wake me from my sleep in a panic.

At my best Bear Gryll’s calculation, it was about 4 am when the howling started.  I knew what it was immediately.  After being in India for over two weeks I was well acquainted with the hoards of feral dogs that roamed the country.  At first it sounded like the wild pack of dogs was at least a mile away.  There were distant yips and growls.  I tucked myself further under the covers and tried to fall back asleep.  It seemed like only minutes later that the howling was right outside our camp.  I could clearly make out the shadows of at least a dozen stray desert dogs only a couple of yards away.

This was when I began to panic.  There we were, at least 40 miles from any type of civilization (aside from Pakistan) with the only suitable defensive weapon being my empty water bottle.  Things were not looking good and the dogs were only getting closer.  Chris, Imran, and Ali were now awake and to my ultimate horror Imran started calling out to the dogs.

My fight or flight instincts took in.  Do I try my luck at running ,knowing that I have no idea where we are and knee-deep in sand?  Or do I get up and punch Imran in the face, hoping that the dogs will see my abuse and get the message?  Naturally, I did neither.  Instead I stood completely still as the bravest dog of the bunch ran right over to my sleeping bag and…

lied down.  Yup, the ferocious leader took no time in making herself comfortable.  So comfortable in fact that at one point she tried to actually snuggle into my sleeping bag.

My new buddy.

My new buddy.

 

As the early morning light began to break, the other members of the pack slowly trickled away leaving me and my new buddy to take in the scenery.  The boys went to check out the stunning sunrise, but my new friend, Mit-hai (“desert” in Hindi) and I decided to stay behind and watch over our camp.

While my Thar desert experience wasn’t exactly what I expected, I did walk away with a new friend.  I’ll take a puppy buddy over a horsefly bite any day.

Thar desert camping safari

thar desert safari india

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13 Comments

  1. mark
    December 17, 2012 at 6:17 am - Reply

    he ended up being your bodyguard!

  2. D.J. - The World of Deej
    December 18, 2012 at 6:51 am - Reply

    Yeah so obviously I’m not a camper given my addiction to hotels, but this is pretty flipping awesome. Well, except for the brush with the man-eating dogs:)
    D.J. – The World of Deej recently posted…The King & Prince Resort – St. Simons IslandMy Profile

  3. Kieu
    December 18, 2012 at 7:41 am - Reply

    You should have punched Imran in the face anyway. LOL, our night in the Thar was no where near exciting as yours.. except I did walk away with a tick on my back. Worst day after ever! haha
    Kieu recently posted…Tasting Hungary in BudapestMy Profile

  4. the lazy travelers
    December 18, 2012 at 3:44 pm - Reply

    WELP, my heart just melted.
    the lazy travelers recently posted…no travel requiredMy Profile

  5. @mrsoaroundworld
    December 19, 2012 at 6:39 am - Reply

    LOL, I did not see the end of the story coming as well! Very brave of you to, well, brave the desert. The dog was soooooooo sweet.

  6. Hogga
    December 19, 2012 at 8:05 am - Reply

    I’d pretend I was ferocious to get into a sleeping bag in the desert. Good on ‘em!

  7. The World Wanderer
    December 19, 2012 at 2:51 pm - Reply

    This is awesome! And, after Africa, now something I would definitely do. Though the story with the dogs, and nearby country, did make me feel the way you did. Love the photos, and your scarf!
    The World Wanderer recently posted…Printcopia Canvas Print Giveaway!My Profile

  8. Traveling Ted
    December 19, 2012 at 5:36 pm - Reply

    That is hilarious. That is what I love about camping. You never know what is going to happen. It is better to find a friend than a horsefly bite.
    Traveling Ted recently posted…Anaconda envy in the Iwokrama Rainforest, GuyanaMy Profile

  9. Pola (@jettingaround)
    December 20, 2012 at 12:11 am - Reply

    Neat story!! :D I love the picture of you two at the top. And nice buddy you got yourself there. :) I would hate to be the next victim of a horsefly, but desert camping got me intrigued after reading this.
    Pola (@jettingaround) recently posted…Photo of the Week: Boats in the San Diego HarborMy Profile

  10. lola
    December 20, 2012 at 7:32 am - Reply

    you are so brave! i cannot believe A) Pakistan was so close – crazzzzzy B) that the wild dogs were actually sweet. GREAT story!!

    PS – i love that you love rum ;)
    lola recently posted…a different kind of castle – Four Seasons PragueMy Profile

  11. Leah Travels
    December 20, 2012 at 11:50 am - Reply

    You could have really turned this into a tale of how you fought off the dogs with a spork and a pashmina scarf with Chris huddled in the fetal position. I like this ending better though.

  12. Raul (@ilivetotravel)
    December 21, 2012 at 1:44 pm - Reply

    Tawny, what a GREAT story! I may have been a little concerned abt Pakistan and feral dogs but I couldn’t have done it up like you – lol! And you don’t look like a morning person on that last photo! Great writeup!
    Raul (@ilivetotravel) recently posted…A Year (or the World?) Ends… Either Way, I TravelMy Profile

  13. Michael Hodson
    December 23, 2012 at 1:52 pm - Reply

    Such a cute story. Gotta admit that I would have been more nervous that you seemed to be with that dog that close up to you. I like my wild animals… at a camera distance ;)
    Michael Hodson recently posted…Living Like Bond, James BondMy Profile

  14. Grace
    September 1, 2014 at 3:36 am - Reply

    Nice story! This proves really that dogs are man’s best friend! Dogs won’t really harm humans unless threaten specially for feral dogs that doesn’t have a specific territory. Mit-Hai looks really cute :). Thanks for the share!

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