Thursday, June 29, 2017

Nubra Valley. On The Backs of Camels.

After breakfast at the Hotel Snow Leopard, in Hundur, we packed up our bags and met back up with Dorje.  He looked well rested which is good though since we're staying in the Nubra Valley for a second day, it will be easier crazy mountain passes!

Sadly, it was another dreary day.  Even as we made our way to the car, it was misting. On today's agenda is a bit of camel riding which I was very much looking forward to.  I have been on the backs of enough camels (Bactrians in Mongola, dromedary in Morocco, Bactrian again in China) that I could've easily done without today's ride but I knew it would be something different for the gals so I asked Stanzin to book a ride for us.

Our drive took us alongside the swath of desert that runs between the two mountain ranges.  Yesterday, I had kept my eyes out for camels but did not see any.  None this morning either so of course, it had me wondering where they were.

Dorje turned off the main road on to a side lane that crossed one of the many streams that feed into the Shayuk river, the main body of water traversing this region.  Dorje parked the car and with the usual wave of a hand set us on a path, with a footbridge crossing over yet another small stream.  With all this water, it's no wonder that certain parts of the valley are so lush.

The path ended in a small grove where dozens of camels were sitting on the ground.  I could hear their grunts well before sighting them.

We weren't sure what to do at first but then after spotting a fellow tourist negotiating with a man for rides for he and his family, I figured we had to do the same.  So, I eavesdropped on their conversation to find out what the going rate for a camel ride was.  The negotiations were being based on a group of travelers not per camel.  Seemed liked 1800 rupees for the 3 of us would be a reasonable price for this tourist trap as that amount of rupees was more than what Chantale and I spent for 3 days of transportation in Jaipur!

Bactrian camels are native to the steppes of Central Asia. They arrived in this part of India because back in ancient times, Hundur was a stop on the Silk Road - connecting India to Central Asia.  Of course, the camel caravans disappeared centuries ago but the camels have remained - serving as a tourist attractions to visitors to Hundur.

So, we walked around the gathering of camels and settled on three that we liked.  Very subjectively based on how they looked cause we have no idea how to select camels.

My guess is that the camel owners/handlers who operate here likely have a gentleman's working agreement among them that they don't undercut each other so whatever rate you get from one guy is probably going to be pretty much the same as another guy unless you bring a really big group of riders here like a packaged tour group would.  There's very little room for negotiating when it's just 3 people.  We had a choice of ride times - 1/2 hour or 1 hour.  Given that all we would be doing is riding our camels over relatively flat sand dunes, I didn't think an hour's ride would be worth it. Neither did the gals so we went with the 1/2 hour ride.

2000 rupees was the starting price.  What??  No. We did the obligatory push back and eventually ended up at 1800 rupees which in terms of USD comes to about $28.  $9 each for the experience.  In monetary terms, it was a rip off but it's not easy making a living here so what the heck.  We coughed over the money and went about enjoying our experience.

Ayşe got on her camel first.  She straddled the camel and sat down.  I told her to lean forward because as the camel raises up on all fours, it will lurch backwards.  She hung on and from the initial looks on her face, I could see a bit of fear.  As the camel stood still, she began to relax.

I was next to mount up and then it was Chantale's turn.  For some reason, she got a camel whose humps were pretty saggy. 

Looks more like she's riding on the back of a cow than on the back of a camel. 😁

I got the lead camel so that's how I was able to take this photo but it wasn't easy snapping photos with the came swaying back and forth.

It really is a shame that the weather was so gray today.  If I ever had the opportunity to do this ride again, it would be at sunset on a sunny day.  I think that would be the perfect time for a ride.

It really wasn't much of a camel ride - there are no real dunes to go up and down.  We rode out to the 15 minute point, stopped for a few minutes to take photos and then made our way back.

Not much of a ride but it gave the gals a feel for what it's like to be on the back of a camel.  They can now cross that experience off their bucket list.

We paid the man for our ride but before we could leave the area, we were accosted by a group of Indian men, tourists from Mumbai.  They wanted a photo of us so I sent Chantale to pose with them under the guise that I too also needed to take photos.  That tactic has worked successfully for me so far. 😁  They were a very friendly and chatty group of men!

It was one photo after another and Chantale graciously smiled for each.  But, it was time for us to hit the road so we made our way back to Dorje.  I have no idea where he's taking us to next.  He'll gladly tell you where he's taking you but unless you know the name, it's meaningless so there are times when I just go with the flow!