The priest and the camel boy

The wedding was great. After eating and watching the pair have their snaps taken with all 900 guests, the wedding ceremony finally started at 01.30. Only a close congregation of about 50 people stayed for this and huddled around a mini-bonfire under an outdoor tent.

After promising their endless love and devotion to each other, the groom painted the brides hair-part red. Then, together, they did seven victory laps around the bonfire. Following the ceremony, the priest sat in font of me and asked whether I'm married. No. He asked whether I have a girlfriend. No. He asked whether I would like to live with him in the foothills of the Himalayas. Tough one, but I'm afraid I'm going to have to say NO! Then he began rubbing my right thigh tenderly and told me I'm a good man—as he gave dirty looks to any women sitting around me. I politely thanked him for his gestures of kindness and backed away from him. Although, not before he gave a coconut and a hug. Just what I needed at 5 am.

I returned to Delhi on Monday with four days to kill before flying to Kathmandu to start my 3-week trek to Everest base camp. So I'm currently on a whirlwind tour of the Rajasthani desert. Last night I spent 20 hours in the foul smell of a train's sleeper class—the equivalent of fourth class—but at least I got to lie down. And I think the 9-year-old boy sitting opposite was hitting on me. But I did look damn sexy.

Arriving in Jaisalmer, the sandstone desert town, I quickly booked a camel safari and left within the hour. My guide was a 10-year-old boy named Neenu. He works seven days a week and get paid 15 rupees every 30 days (about 20 pence a month). Due to his malignant poverty, he's compelled to eat daal and chipatis every freakin' day (basically lentils and bread). Only when they have enough money can he have some mixed veg. He hates daal.

Due to an obvious shortage of teachers, Nenu goes to school for 10 days and then has 20 days off. "Big problem," he said to me. He's the eldest of 2 brothers and 3 sisters and lives in a clay village, population 15. And I think it goes without saying that he was hitting on me. I'm starting to see a trend here.

The safari was great. I realised the only way to hold yourself onto a camel is by squeezing hard with your thighs. I was afraid I might arouse the camel but my livelihood was at stake. I dismounted after an hour with a permanent bow in my legs and a permanent hump in my ass. I watched the sunset, had some chai tea and double-paced it back on Papu, the camel, in pitch black. I gave Neenu 100 rupees for his service during the safari and insisted he keep it for himself rather than giving it to his boss... as most child labour is forced to do. I gave his boss firm instruction that this seven month bonus was for him only, but I still doubt Nenu will keep. I only hope that he's eating mixed veg tonight.