It's often true that you get what you pay for and so it was when I did a camel safari in Thar Desert near the Indian city of Jaisalmer. After assessing my options I settled on a three day tour that operator Ashit (really, that was his name but I‘ll just call him Ash) promised would be an interesting experience at an affordable price. I wasn't let down by that - it was certainly an interesting experience!
Being alone, I was assured the company of other travellers but when I arrived in the morning I was the only one there. "Sorry sir" came the apologetic explanation, "the others had to cancel today". I wondered whether he ever had anyone else anyway but then there was another problem. The vegetables that he'd purchased had been left on his motorcycle and been eaten by a cow!
So we had to detour via the local market to replace what had been lost. After doing the shopping we returned to find two policemen beside the car. Apparently Ash had parked in an illegal place and was in the process of being issued a ticket. It was only our timely return that saved the vehicle being towed away and creating all kinds of problems!
The camel farm was just out of the city and I was relieved that my guide was actually expecting me and had a camel ready to go. Just when I thought everything was set, a rather heated discussion developed between Ash and the guide. I didn't understand a word and assumed that it was about money. I half expected one of them to ask me for more when I discovered what problem actually was.
Between them, they didn't have a bedroll for me which was part of the original agreement and rather essential in the desert at night! "Sorry sir" came another profuse apology, "we need blankets so please wait here". With that, he kicked his motorcycle into life and disappeared in a cloud of dust. It took him nearly an hour to return during which time I could only shake my head and wonder what would happen next.
In all fairness, the safari was an enjoyable experience thanks to my wonderful guide who walked for hours across the desert, singing as he led his faithful animal carrying me and all our supplies. He was a good cook and showed me how to clean the dishes using sand. We drank the local brew, told stories beside the fire at night and I enjoyed his company.
It was hardly surprising that Ash was late to pick me up at the end and while riding back on his motorcycle we got a puncture. By now I was past getting upset and just thought it was funny. We waved down a truck driver who was prepared to give us and the motorcycle a lift. As we neared the city he turned to me and offered some accommodation for the night. "Are you kidding?" I thought, "The place would probably have caught fire if I stayed there!"