by Maria Ruiz
Maria shares with KRL not only some interesting history stories from her family’s past, but also some fun travel stories, many of which like this one includes her dog Sherman.
“Would you like to take a camel ride into the desert for dinner?” asked the guide.
“A camel ride? Is there a place to eat in the desert?” I asked.
Ted said “Yes.” I nodded acceptance. It was set up and we were in the middle of another adventure.
We were into year five of our around the world trip. We had finished a year and a half in Europe and looked for the next place to go. Not knowing anything about the Far East, we pulled out a map and looked at Southeast Asia. It seemed that Thailand was about in the middle of everything we wanted to see, so next was to plan on how to get there. From Spain, a flight would take fourteen hours. We were traveling with our fourteen- year old miniature schnauzer, Sherman, and this was too long a flight for him. We didn’t want to fly that long ourselves. We studied the map some more and thought that India was about half way. We did want to visit India on our travels. The flight from Spain would go to Paris and from there we could take one to New Delhi that would take eight hours. From New Delhi, we could fly to Bangkok in four. That sounded like it was do-able.
I searched the internet for a pet friendly hotel in New Delhi and made reservations. Everything was set and we flew from Valencia in Spain to Paris, France. Next, we flew to New Delhi, a flight that landed after dark. At the airport, we took a taxi, our first experience with traffic in India and never to be forgotten. The airport is located some miles from the city proper and we found out many trucks use the two-lane highway at night to avoid the smaller cars. There are miles of slow moving trucks in both directions. Our taxi driver would sometimes pull out into the other lane, speed up and slip back into our lane with inches at the back of him and the truck– inches between us and a head-on crash. At first, we watched in horror as this maneuver was repeated over and over until we reached the city.
In the city he drove around, apparently lost, sometimes stopping to ask people for directions. Ted and I just sat in the back seat with Sherman on my lap, holding hands and wondering what we had gotten ourselves into. Hours passed and finally the driver drove down a street with piles of garbage in the middle, empty lots and run down houses. We saw pigs foraging on the garbage. He pulled up to a small, well painted place that looked like the picture I had seen on the internet.
By now, it was four o’clock in the morning and we were numb. We had to ring the bell for some time before a sleepy man opened the door, letting us, Sherman and our belongings in. As I registered, Ted asked “Just how far are we from New Delhi?”
The man looked up confused and replied “Why sir, you’re in New Delhi. The main road is one block over.”
Early the next morning we took a walk to explore and sure enough, even thought it looked like our very nice little hotel was set in some horrible slum, it was indeed two blocks from several main streets. Walking, we discovered several places that advertised tours of India for twenty-five dollars a day for a car, driver, hotel and one meal a day. We had to investigate. True enough, we could get a two-week tour and take Sherman with us. Twenty-five dollars included gas, all entrance fees to places as well as the entrance fee to the different states of India. We booked the tour and began an adventure that we would never forget.
On top of all the wonders of India, we learned that although Indian men think they speak English, they don’t! At one stop, the hotel arranged for a camel ride into the desert for dinner and a show of local dancers. The dance group would cook our local Indian dinner and be part of the show. That afternoon, our two camels arrived in front of the hotel. My camel was fitted with two seats, mine in front and the guide’s in back. Ted was to have his own camel. I climbed on, the driver behind me and Sherman lay across the camel at my back. These camels were the gentlest camels I had ever seen. They wore necklaces of flowers and on their heads they wore barrettes of colored rocks, ribbons and flowers. A camel getting up is a picture of one of the clumsiest sights in the world. His rear legs go up first, throwing the passenger forward and too close to the ground, and then the front legs. After settling upright, it isn’t a bumpy ride as on a horse. The camel gently walks and the passengers sway gently back and forth.
As we started out, a group of musicians dressed in red jackets passed us. They all stared up at us, probably because my leg was uncovered to my thigh, although they had probably never seen a dog on a camel. A couple of other tourists passed us on their way back. The trip out into the desert lasted about an hour and we watched the sun set on the sandy dunes as we rode. We traveled on sand dunes where a few scraggly bushes grew. India is the dirtiest country in the world. Everywhere on the sides of the road was filled with paper and other discarded debris.
Sherman, by now almost fifteen years old, usually spent most of his time asleep. On this hour’s ride, he never shut his eyes. It was certainly stimulating him. We sat on rugs while our dancers prepared a delicious meal and then danced for about an hour. The dance company had put down blankets for us to sit and once we got settled, we found that a couple from Taiwan were already there. The dance company, a woman and two men, set into fixing dinner over a fire that had been burning for awhile and now was a pit of red coals. The woman stirred the shallow pan while the men chopped up vegetables; another pan held cooked rice. After we ate, the female danced and the men made music on a drum and a type of flute.
It was now late and both Ted and I were full, tired and not really up to another hour on a camel’s back, so we returned to the hotel sitting in a wooden cart pulled by the camels. Sherman lay between us, watching everything. Out in the desert, the stars filled the night sky, giving us a vision that can never be seen in any city
All three of us slept soundly that night. I don’t know what Sherman was dreaming of but I could easily have been dreaming of Scheherazade, Indian Maharani’s and The Desert Song.
Check out more of Maria’s travel and history articles here in KRL.