I’ve been in a lot of traffic snarls in my life but never one caused by a herd of camels. This happened to me recently in Rajasthan, India.
It wasn’t on a remote country road either. It was on a major roadway through the area where beautiful white marble is mined. Camels, cows, dogs, and camel carts plodded along while buses, huge trucks, motor cycles and overloaded cars zipped in and out of the traffic lanes, trying to make their way through the chaos.
Our bus slowed down and eventually stopped to wait while the long necked creatures looped along oblivious to us, with the shepherds at the front and back of the herd made sure none got away.
We learned that camels are notorious for wandering off. They don’t like to be herded or confined. Independent critters.
Camels were a major reason for this trip to India. I wanted to attend the Pushkar Camel Festival in Pushkar, India. And it was well worth the trip.
The Camel Festival occurs every year late October/early November and is tied to the lunar calendar. The last night is always full moon when 2 million people swarm this tiny town in the middle of nowhere for a religious ceremony. We didn’t stay for that event, but we did get a glimpse of the fair, drawing thousands of people and their camels
It made me think of our country fairs. Lots and lots of animals. In addition to the camels for sale, folks brought horses and cattle to the week long shindig. There was a wonderfully colored carnival, balloon rides and lots of folks eager to make a buck, I mean rupee.
I enjoyed seeing the gypsies who would preen and pose for a few rupees, the snake charmer, guys selling all manner of jewelry and trinkets. It did get tiring to keep saying “no thank you.” They seemed to be deaf to my lack of enthusiasm. When we did give a few rupees to these young ladies a half dozen showed up and followed our camel cart for 15 minutes. Persistent. Later gypsies entertained us at our tented camp.
The stalls set up on the outskirts of the camel selling area not only had jewelry and rugs and stuff like that for people, but also the necklaces and bells to decorate the camels. Food created tempting odors, drawing me for a look.
The local retailers brought out all their best in hopes of enticing tourists like us (not many of us actually) and all the folks who made their way in from the country to enjoy the festival or mela as it is called. It was absolutely delightful to observe the women in their colorful saris, the men in the vibrant turbans, small children excitedly pulling their Moms and Dads along the way.
I loved all that but I really loved walking around the camels and their owners, watching the men crouched on the ground doing deals and even a camel getting groomed. Amazing sight.
Our guide and tour director, Bhawani Singh, told us that the actual negotiating for a camel happens with hand signals under a towel or piece of fabric (turban?) so that no one else could see the price. Oh, how I wanted to stop and get one of these guys to show me how this works. Who knows? I might have come home with a camel.
Potential buyers poked and prodded the patient animals, making sure they were getting a good deal. Then I sensed a lot of conversation took place about the deals, prices and state of the camel market
It was interesting to see a camel being driven away after a purchase was made. Mostly they are bought by families who use their camel for transportation, pulling a cart to and from their home in a small village out to where they have some farm land or taking produce to market.
Made me feel a very long way from home.