“Yes that’s me,” I replied.
“You were supposed to arrive 5 hours ago,” he says almost in a rebuking tone. I’ll later find out that Arvind, the guesthouse owner, is a retired Lieutenant Colonel from the Indian Army. His specialty: transport.
“Sorry I got on a late bus over.”
“It’s alright, I thought you had been kidnapped by one of these autorickshaw drivers or something.”
“No no, I’ve learned how to get around and deal with that since I’ve been here.”
“Yes, there is definitely an art to it. Please, come in.”
There is indeed an art to getting around in India, and in fact, there is an art to everything in India.
Osian is about a two hour bus ride north from Jodhpur. It is an oasis in the Thar desert, and if you travel about 100 miles west, will take you to the border of Pakistan. All I knew at the time was that I had to get off at the stop right after Osian and meet a man, who would take me by Jeep (which was really a Mahindra) to the base camp where I would be spending the next two days exploring the desert by camel.
Now, being in a more rural area of India than the previous cities I’d visited, almost no one spoke English. On the ride to the camp our conversation was a struggle, and answering “Yes” to many of my questions left me even more confused about what was going to happen in the next couple days. Like a logic puzzle, I had to ask simple and mutually exclusive questions to determine whether or not he understood what I was asking and if he understood what he himself was telling me.
Things became a bit clearer once we arrived at the base camp. The camp was quite impressive given the fact that it was in the middle of the desert off a dirt road. The front was structure made of bricks that looked like a miniature castle gate, with small flags flying atop the walls. The main entrance opened up to a wide area enclosed on the right side by a low brick wall extending about 50 meters into the desert and on the left side by a line of large tents, all secured into the ground by a lattice work of ropes and stakes.
I was led into a small dining room attached to the brick entrance where I met the owner of the camp, who spoke very good english. For the next couple days, I’d be staying at the camp while taking excursions into the desert and returning for meals. As their only guest, I basically had free reign over the entire camp and their staff of 4.