Wednesday, March 6, 2013

A Day With The Thar - Royal Rajputana Rhapsody - Day 3 (February 2012)

The Camel Ride Begins, Khuri Sand Dunes

As against the choice of other guests, we had decided to skip the camel ride last evening. So we had an unfinished business this morning. After coming back from the sand dunes after spending the night, we were all set to go in the sand dunes again this time on the back of camels directly instead of the camel cart! We started our ride at around 9 in the morning as the Sun gets harsher towards the noon. The two camels named ‘Saaiya’ and ‘Bhoora’ were at service for us. Camel is indeed a wonderful animal. Perfected to weather the conditions in the desert. Still a thorough gentleman (and a lady if it happens to be a female! J). Never seen or heard a camel going berserk! Keeps on chewing leaves of bushes in the desert and is okay if denied to drink water for a while. So we started our ride with these two extremely adorable camels. In just 20 odd minutes we reached the beautiful sand dunes of Khuri.

The Thar Desert, Khuri, Near Jaisalmer
Beware, if you haven’t fallen in love with someone at first sight then the Thar Desert does the trick. It is just beautiful! In my childhood, I was scared of desert – the fear of getting lost, the fear of getting no water, the fear of the heat etc. I never knew at that time that I would fall in love with the desert in the future. Life, how indebted am I to you! The vast expanse of the Thar Desert is similar to that of an ocean. You can keep looking at it for hours and appreciate it (provided you have a heart who knows how to love!) Incidentally, we had few minutes with us to appreciate it.

Me with my camel, Saaiyaa :)
We took a halt at one point near an old temple in the mid of the desert. Me and Anita took a walk in the desert from this point without shoes. And mind you, it feels awesome..the sand is so smooth. I almost embraced the desert for some time. I had been carrying Anita’s ‘odhani’ around my neck since yesterday. We requested our guides to tie it as a Rajasthani Pagari (headgear) and it fit so well. I looked like an authentic Rajasthani guy! J

We came back by 10.15 am and were supposed to head towards Jaisalmer. However, we heard that all the people working at Mangalam and their family members are going to visit a temple 50 km away nearing India Pakistan border. I am always mighty thrilled to be near India Pakistan border be it Jammu, be it Wagha near Amritsar or now near Jaisalmer. This was the picture perfect journey. Desert on both the sides of this narrow and road was actually deserted. J Got the pictures clicked sitting in the midst of the road. And yes, saw a vulture in its natural habitat for the first time. Oh man, what a bird! The expanse of its wings almost covered the breadth of the road when it saw our car approaching it.

Anita with a local guy in Khuri
We reached Jaisalmer by 2 pm.  Finding the right restaurants was not a big task. Thanks to my icons, Rocky and Mayur, who are hosting the show ‘Highway on My Plate’ and have written the book with the same name. We entered the Chandan Shree Restaurant and ordered a Rajasthani thali  (that’s obvious!) but they do serve the Gujarati and the Bengali Thali (what’s that?) also. By this time, I have become an expert on Rajasthani Thali (yeah yeah…Veg ofcourse). At Chandan Shree, the ‘ker sangri’ (a Rajasthani vegetable) tasted different as it was fresh compared to other parts of India as it is produced in the desert only. ‘Gatte ki Sabji’ (Chunks of yellow gram flour boiled in a curd gravy) was not that great. I will still vouch for the wonderful Rajasthani Thali you get at Chetana at Kala Ghoda in Mumbai. That is the best I have ever tasted till date!

We were tired now and after gobbling up the unlimited Rajasthani Thali, all we needed was a good nap. We checked in at a hotel and surprisingly, we met our friends Eliane and Peter who were staying in the same hotel.

After a refreshing nap (this is generally the adjective used for nap, but honestly I was feeling drowsy), we headed towards the famous Sam sand dunes, 40 km away from Jaisalmer. Frankly speaking, I didn’t like the place. There was a congregation of tourists across the country making a lot of noise. You are attacked by the camel owners and coerced to take a ride. However, the bargain could be amazing here and you can ride camel at a minimal price. I rode on a camel named ‘Michael Jackson’ while Anita was on ‘Shahrukh’! J

The Jaisalmer Fort from a distance
My sincere suggestion to the travelers (and not the tourists) that if you realy wish to savour the sand dunes and the desert, Khuri is the place. Sam is not for you. It’s too commercial, noisy and intimidating. A small cup of badly prepared tea and we were on our way back to Jaisalmer. The sunset at Sam was though extra-ordinary. Bu too many cameras clicking and too many people with funny poses kills the surreal beauty of the sunset in the dessert.

Dusk was falling and by the time we reached Jaisalmer, it was dark. It was a cool evening. We couldn’t go to the Jaisalmer Fort though. We came back to our hotel. The rooftop restaurant of ‘Bharat Vilas’ was an ideal place to have a long dinner. I am sure it is loved by the people for penchant with alcohol. We though stuck to simple affair of spaghetti and Chinese noodles. A good sleep was necessary as we were about to cover 420 km on the road to reach Ranakpur Sanctuary near Udaipur.

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