1. Jaisalmer Old Town, March 2004. I can’t quite believe it’s been fourteen years since I arrived in the Rajasthani town of Jaisalmer. My travel mate Allan and I were instantly charmed as we set off on our first wander. Set on a ridge of golden sandstone at the edge of The Great Thar Desert, the entire place felt like something out of a storybook; a giant fort town home to a beguiling network of narrow twisting lanes and finely sculpted buildings.
2. Hotel Renuka, March 2004. Our Jaisalmer base was a cheap and cheerful little joint called Hotel Renuka. The weather was burning hot and our rooms were so stuffy and airless we spent most of our time up on the roof drinking smoothies and enjoying the sandcastle panorama. We even slept up there a couple of nights, bringing blankets, pillows and anti mosquito incense sticks. I’ll never forget those black, starry Renuka nights.
3. 8th of July Restaurant, March 2004. Imagine my delight when, during a town stroll one evening, I came across a restaurant seemingly constructed in honor of my birthday. Excitedly settling at one of its plastic tables, Allan and I were greeted by the owner, who was also born on the 8th of July. But while he was clearly tickled to meet an English birthday buddy, the mean old goat didn’t offer me as much as a free drink. The place is still going, its distinctive wall art having had a bit of a revamp.
4. The Great Thar Desert, March 2004. The highlight of our Jaisalmer stay came with a fantastic camel safari through The Great Thar Desert. Our guide was a zany old man called Mr. Magoo, while my appointed camel was just as much of a character, an unpredictable headstrong beast named Lalou. It was a hell of an adventure as we bounced our way through the arid landscape towards the Pakistani border.
5. The Great Thar Desert, March 2004. We rode in a convoy made up of Allan and I, Magoo and his helpers, two English girls called Lena and Holly and a pair of silent Japanese guys who spoke barely a word of English. Setting up base amid the dunes and tucking into a campfire-cooked dinner was a real treat, not to mention the unforgettable experience of falling asleep under the stars.
For more on that magical, long ago trip, have a look at my other 5s from around India.
You can also check out my short story series Incidents in India, twelve tales from my travels around the country.