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Day #19: Desert life

Thar desert,

Jess and I were sitting at the back of a classic Indian Jeep Mahindra, listening to another unknown but moving indian music, while staring at the landscape of the Thar desert fading away. The last 3 days, we lived the simple but rough desert life. Although, this amazing trip pushed me closer than ever to my sense of inner peace and unity with the universe, slowly I could observe my sufferings, worries and ego emerging again as I was travelling back to civilisation. I already missed the sandy dunes, the milky way, the camels and our dear guide/camel driver Abhay.

This unforgettable excursion with Real Man Desert Safari started 3 days ago around 11am when we met our guide and our family of camels. We were only allowed to carry with us: a small backpack each, around 36 litres of water and a big bag of groceries (some veg, bread flour, indian spices and noodles). We knew at that moment that it wasn’t going to be an easy journey but that this genuine connection with nature would overcome any discomfort. We were going to ride under the braising sun, sleep under the shiny stars and the only purpose was to live and enjoy the present moment.

Abhay was around his fifties with a very skinny body and a dark skin marked by the sun. His face had occidental traits, a long nose and was always smiling. Although he looked old, the way he spoke, acted and sang through out the journey one could think it was just a kid in disguise, happy with life. Jess and I felt both in great hands since minute one. Abhay has been a camel driver since 1985 after all his animals had been killed by a big drought. He was an expert of the desert and a great cook in the wild. I was impressed by his ability to cook with just a handful of tools and no appropriate space. He would always start by picking the right spot under a tree with a nice shadow. Then, he would look for 3 medium size rocks and some wood to set his fire stove. In half and hour, he would make noodles, dal, cook vegetables and make chapatti (indian typical flat bread).

Besides eating, our days were composed by other simple but crucial tasks: ridding the camels across the desert dunes, resting under trees during peak temperature hours, finding the camels after they had gone to eat, taking the camels to drink water and finally sleeping under the majestic milky way. It was a straight forward routine, empty of all the unnecessary, giving us space and time to let go of our own worries and reflect. It would get to a point where reflexions would melt under the burning sun and contemplation would take place as the only action our mind could do.

The desert is mostly dead nature and can be seen as an unpleasant environment to be in, but after our first day our perceptions started to change. Behind the dried land and the heat we came to discover plenty of life. People, camels, cows, goats, dogs, antelopes, insects, fruit trees have made the desert their home. The line between it being home or their graveyard is very fine. This fragility of life showed us how everything depended on each other. Living was surviving and everything would work towards this same goal together. Behind death and hard living was a clear message of unity. For instance, every night, desert dogs would keep us alert of any intruder in exchange of a piece of bread and water in the morning. We met mothers of families spending an entire month in the desert under the open sky with their goats so that they could feed them. Our camels were our best friends, transport and we, in return, would treat them with great respect. The same covers and pillows were used to make the camels’ journey more comfortable and for us to rest during lunches. In all the villages we visited, water was shared between men and animals in the same water tank. Anyone that we would meet during our meals would get some food as well. The saying: "Sharing is caring” was experienced almost at anytime. I could see everything as One connected trough the energy of living.

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