Day 4: Jodhpur- Jaisalmer
We set out early, the next morning and stopped for breakfast at a roadside stall/dhaaba. After which, our journey suddenly took a strange twist. Our driver decided to drive his broken car at break neck speed. To add to our misery, his cassette was stuck at the same song for a good number of hours. For those who dig Hindi movies, it was the song “Kabhi Kabhi” from the movie “Kabhi Kabhi”. We felt a strange rickety sound, accompanied with the burning of rubber. After yelling at him, he finally stopped the car. One of our tyres had burst. He did a quick patch up, and fortunately we found a mechanic, after a few kilometers. To while away the hours, we ate hot chilly pakodas and sat on a char-pai (four-legged bed). The local children were curious and friendly at the same time. We clicked snaps, indulged in small talk and soon enough, it was time to continue our journey. On our way we saw peacocks. It was fascinating to see them in the wild, definitely a first for us. We reached Jaisalmer city, somewhere, around lunch time. The sand dunes were couple of Km away. After scouting the area, we decided to settle for a small meal, as the camp package didn’t have lunch included in its package.
It is a long drive, to get to the camps at Sam Desert. The afternoon heat doesn’t make it better. We were happy to finally make it to our camp. There were probably 10 tents pitched, with a central area of the evening performance. The tents were a bit disappointing and were nothing like the website. The sheets were not in the best condition and the bathroom was pretty basic – for what was promised. We made our peace with the situation and headed out for a camel safari – organised by the camp. I’ve sat on a camel as a child. Let’s say, it wasn’t the best experience. So when I had to climb the camel again, it took some effort. Tantricana, our friend who made the mistake of sitting in front of me, had to bear the brunt of my shrieks among other things. Our caravan slowly trudged, in the undulating sands of the desert and shortly before sunset we got down of our rides. Sunset in the desert is a nice concept on paper, but it was peak tourist season, making the experience more of a menace than one of quiet reflection. Young girls, in brightly painted faces approached us and offered to dance a few steps of a Rajasthani folk dance. Tantricana joined in. The haggling post the dance was a spoiler. As the sun set behind the sand dunes, some of the moving caravans stopped momentarily, to enjoy the last spectacle of fiery ball of gas. On our way back we walked back to our camp. Most of the area was barren, except for the camps, which are functional only during winter. At our camp, we were given a warm, traditional welcome. The main foyer was lined with beds for seating. The main performance comprised a folk dance, accompanied with traditional musicians. A group of American exchange students took to the floor and danced to popular Bollywood songs. Eventually, everyone joined in and danced together. Post dinner, there was little to do and the temperatures had dropped significantly. We called it a night.
Day 5: The Golden City – Jaisalmer
The next day, we thought of ditching our plan of staying another day in the desert. It makes sense to spend only one night in the camp, as the day gets hot and there isn’t much to do or see. After breakfast, we went on a village tour (something that can be totally avoided). Our first stop was a village, that is apparently protected to preserve the indigenous tribes. We were hounded by kids who were used to tourists. It was sad to see that like the monkeys of Ranakpur and the child dancers of Sam desert; these children had been reduced to beggars, in a bid to make a quick buck. In exchange for a photograph, we had to pay them. They repeated everything we said. It didn’t help that we primarily spoke English. One of them, confused me to be a boy because I wore jeans. It made me think that although we were from the same country, there couldn’t be a greater disparity in who we were as people. Sometimes, it does feel strange to feel like a tourist in your country. The city / rural divide is evident on trips like these. An elderly man welcomed us for tea, in his house and the guide shooed the noisy children away. On our way, to another part of the sand dunes, (something that can be skipped) we saw a vulture near a dead camel. We couldn’t capture a picture due to the scorching afternoon sun. There was a caravan of expats who had chosen to camp in the desert. Our guide told us that such groups come for a week or so and camp in the desert. We climbed the dunes and sat for a while before heading back to base camp. Once we reached back, we packed our bags and took a car organized by the camp to its sister hotel, in Jaisalmer city. The hotel was quite different to the camps. It was plush and built in stone. We had lunch in the hotel itself. The Jaisalmer Fort was a chakda (sharing rickshaw) ride away from our hotel. The Fort is built in yellow sandstone. Interestingly, you will find many people living in the fort. According to local legend, the erstwhile King had allowed some families to stay in the fort, during his reign. Today, there are tourist shops, restaurants, and even hotels inside the Fort. While it might be quite a walk through its narrow, winding flight of stairs; it’s definitely worth your effort. There’s much to see and buy, if you choose to. We were a little late in the evening, so we decided to give a few things a miss. The Kings’s Palace, the Queen’s Palace, the main temple are some of the prominent places of interest. Make sure, you’re in time to catch a bird’s eye view of the golden city from the terrace of one of the palaces. To end our day we chose to watch sunset, in the topmost point of the fort. And here’s the thing of sunsets, you can never get tired of watching them.