They call it serendipity. I’d been struggling with a brutal rash for three days, from my scalp down to the soles of my feet. This is something that never happens to me, I’m not even sure I had nappy rash as a baby! I’d tried creams and antihistamines to no avail, I’d been unable to sleep and, as my (very) Yorkshire mother would have said, I ‘looked a bugger.’ Needless to say, I was feeling pretty grumpy on my way to Sadri in Rajasthan to join what was to be the first ever Raika Journey held in the world. This was a journey inspired by a journey across the Masai Mara with the Masai and their camels and designed to raise awareness for these extraordinary people whose way of life is at risk.
I’d heard much about the Raika and the benefits of camel milk over the years, it can help with autism and diabetes and so much more, and so, having arrived at LPPS in Rajasthan, red, grumpy and itchy, I eschewed the modern medicine suggested by the doctor and went instead with what Ilse Köhler-Rollefson, a lifelong supporter of the Raika (and qualified vet) recommended, as you would.
Without question I gulped down the camel milk she swears by and then had a bath in the water of boiled neem leaves, got myself through the evening and went to bed. In the morning I was astounded, the rash had all but gone, the itching had vanished and I looked like something that would no longer scare small children.
I was raring to get going and armed on a full breakfast of camel milk chai and pancakes made with camel milk we set off on that morning’s activity, a walk into the reserve forest with a family of Raikas and a beautifully dressed camel. Foraging was the aim to learn about the 36 medicinal plants which camels eat as part of their nomadic diet and all of which contribute to giving camel milk it’s extraordinary healing properties. I was intrigued, enamoured and, having experienced the healing qualities myself over the previous 12 hours, determined to learn more. With Tolar Ram, Dailibai, Rata Ram, Pawani and Kushi we did just that, it was a rare privilege to be cherished.
Ilse has been working with the Raikas and their camels for 28 years now and has forged a unique relationship with them, and as camel numbers have dwindled by 80% in the last 30 years, is working with the Raikas to develop ways in which their livelihood can be sustained.
This was day one of a four night program in which learnt all about these people, their unique lifestyle and of course, the camels. The previous day had been the post Diwali puja dedicated to livestock animals of the Raika, not just camels, but sheep and goats, where they make effigies out of dung and bang pots to drive the demons out of the animals.
After the foraging we met the Cow Minister of Rajasthan at the temple where he is also the priest and then returned to base where we had pre dinner snack of camel milk cheese with crackers and listened to songs of the desert, Rajasthan and the tale of Pabuji around a campfire.
The following day saw us driving out to meet some of the nomadic herders who have already started on their seasonal migration and spent the night out under the stars, sharing their camp and stories. But that is a whole blog post in itself.
What an extraordinary experience and rare privilege to have such an insight of this endangered lifestyle. I truly am very lucky indeed.
We will be operating two Raika Journeys a year, the next one will be in November 2024 and numbers are strictly limited to eight.
For more details contact Philippa@indianexperiences.com or call/Whatsapp +447966025330.