Saturday, March 14, 2015

Jaisalmer: A Desert Mirage


From the moment I set my two-week travel itinerary with India Someday, I was most excited to visit the desert in Jaisalmer.  I’d heard other adventurers mention a camping trip to the Thar Desert, and I couldn’t wait to experience it for myself. 

When I arrived in Jaisalmer (after a freezing cold 14-hour overnight bus from Jaipur), I went straight to Mystic Jaisalmer Hotel and repacked my bag for a journey to the desert. 

Coldest night of my life!

Jaisalmer from the roof of Mystic Jaisalmer


I was lucky enough to be joined by a lovely family from New Zealand on the desert safari.  They were just like my family growing up -- Mom, Dad, two sisters, one brother -- except they all got along so well!  I couldn’t have asked for a more delightful group of people to spend the next 24 hours with.

Our first stop on the drive out into the Thar Desert was a small Hindu Gypsy village.  A local family invited us into their home and showed us around the village.  

Hindu Gypsy Village
Thar Desert


The daughters brought out their henna ink and started painting the hands of the Kiwi sisters.  When they finished, one of the Hindu girls turned to offer me some henna, but then stopped, grabbed my hand, and said it looked like my skin was already covered in henna. 

*Le sigh*

I rarely go more than three days in Asia without educating someone about freckles.

The next leg of the journey was not in the van, but on camels!  The Kiwis and I climbed up on the humps of our trusty steeds and held on for dear life.  Just so you know, camels do NOT make for a smooth ride!  

Mattais, my ride through the desert

Bumpy ride

My camel, Mattais, was not very fond of me.  He kept making a sound I can only describe as the dirty belch of an old drunk man.  



As we bumped and humped through the desert, we caught sight of herds of goats, cows, and sheep, as well as the tiniest little deer I’ve ever seen.  The landscape was breathtaking, with rising and falling sand dunes spotted with craggy trees and brush.  I’d never been to a proper desert before, and I couldn’t open my eyes wide enough to take it all in.

Thar Desert
Rajasthan, India

Thar Desert
Rajasthan, India

Thar Desert
Rajasthan, India

Thar Desert
Rajasthan, India

Thar Desert
Rajasthan, India


We arrived at camp just in time to climb atop a sand dune and watch the sunset in the distance.  Life is good!

Thar Desert
Rajasthan, India

Sunset
Thar Desert
Rajasthan, India

Sunset
Thar Desert
Rajasthan, India

Come on!!!  What more could you want?


As the darkness rolled in, our guides started the fire and cooked us dinner.  We bundled up under blankets and sang songs around the campfire.  I could have done with a few beers, but I guess you can’t have it all!



It was so incredibly dark in the desert.  The stars were out in all their glory, and we slept on mats right out in the open, no tents.  The air was dry and cold, and I didn’t want to close my eyes for fear of missing out on one more second of the beautiful desert sky.  So magical.

In the morning, we woke up with the sun and climbed back up the dune, faced the opposite direction, and watched the sunrise.  The tin cup of masala chai was the perfect pairing to the wonderful view.

Sunrise over the dunes
Thar Desert
Rajasthan, India

Our campsite


After breakfast, we loaded up the camels and headed back towards civilization.  

Packing up

Sittin.... waitin...

Camel Convoy

Mattais


Back in Jaisalmer, I said goodbye to my Kiwi family and set off to explore the Jaisalmer Fort.  Jaisalmer is known as the Golden City because of the straw-colored sandstone fort rising out of the desert.  It’s an impressive sight!

Jaisalmer Fort


Inside the fort, I felt like I had stepped back in time to a Medieval castle village.  The fort was buzzing with commerce and daily life.  The other forts I had visited in India were empty, more like museums.  But Jaisalmer is a living fort, and it made for such a fantastic afternoon of wandering around honeycomb streets and alleys, visiting havelis, sipping chai on the rooftops, and watching life go by from the steps of Jain temples.

Entering Jaisalmer Fort

Jaisalmer Fort

Haveli
Jaisalmer Fort

Haveli
Jaisalmer Fort

Haveli view
Jaisalmer Fort

Jaisalmer Fort

Jaisalmer Fort

Jaisalmer Fort

Rooftops
Jaisalmer Fort

The Golden City sprawling below Jaisalmer Fort

Jaisalmer is quite a distance out of the way from the rest of the usual Rajasthan tourist stops, but I’m so happy I made the journey.  It was one of my favorite cities and a place I’ll never forget!

4 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. I want to sleep out in the open under the desert stars with you :).

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  3. Lovely to read about your experience. Jaisalmer, this enticing city of Rajasthan is the most popular tourist spot in the state. When it comes to accommodation for tourists and travellers, hotels in Jaisalmer boast of providing excellent accommodation to their guests.

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  4. Lovely Place. Rajasthan is one of the most colorful state in India known around the World. Plenty of Tourists come here from Across the world to explore the leftover charm of royal dynasties.
    Rajasthan Tour Operator

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