On the list of things I miss about being home, seeing the stars is a big one. I have always loved stargazing.
I would often go up to the Mystic Horizons lookout point in the Turtle Mountains not far from my house to watch meteor showers, or search for the optimal viewing point for the Northern Lights when they occasionally paint the night sky. All the light pollution is one of the reasons I’m generally not overly fond of cities.
So when I planned to go on a camel safari with my friend last semester, I knew it had to be overnight. After spending half a day in Jaipur, we set our sights on Bikaner, Rajasthan, and an adventure in the desert.
One night of minimal sleep and a great breakfast prepared by our host mother later, the owner of the camel safari and the guide who would also serve as our cook for the journey met us at our homestay.
We drove to the outskirts of town and loaded ourselves onto our camels.
For much of the journey, we wove through small farm huts and fields just beginning to show signs of the wheat, which had just been planted. Sprouting fields slowly gave way to sporadic herds of sheep and goats, which gradually gave way to open country with only the occasional blue bull (a type of Asian antelope) or hawk to be seen.
We stopped at midday to cook and eat our chapati (a type of unleavened bread eaten in North India) and sabzi (mix of spiced vegetables, usually cauliflower, potatoes and peas) underneath the protection of a large shade tree. The time spent enjoying the shade and beautiful landscape was a great way to avoid traveling during the hottest part of the day.
One four-hour ride later, we reached our campsite for the night. It was a fenced in area owned by the tour company with cots, chairs, etc. housed in a small shed.
We took to helping our cook prepare the meal for the night and even tried our hand at rolling out the chapatis. Chai in hand, we watched the sunset and marveled at the vibrant display of color in the sky.
Once the sun had set, it did not take long for the temperature to drop drastically. We built a fire and spent much of the time wrapped in shawls listening to our cook tell us jokes and teach us Rajasthani folk songs as we gazed up at the stars I had greatly missed.
While saying I’ve ridden a camel is pretty cool, the night under the stars stole the show for me.