Desert Diary – Rajasthan

It’s raining here in Doha today, and feeling more wintry than the sixteen degree temperature should have felt. This reminds me of my last monsoon’s vacation to Rajasthan Thar Desert. A local magazine had asked for a write up, where I had written this travel experience. Reading your own writings in print always gives the same joy like it’s the first time. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to collect a copy of the mag after it got published before I left India. Sharing the article with you here will make me feel good; if you leave your valued comments will make me feel even better, as always. And to those who have never visited India, I recommend you visit Rajasthan to experience the true colours, notwithstanding my poor narrative skill.

A continuous cuckooing of peacocks pierced through the early morning dessert, and woke us up, for we had slept the night on the terrace, in front of our hut room. If you are already taken aback with this line, then wait before you make a judgement of my experience to be too good to be true. Wait, and let me tell you that it was really late before we had fallen asleep last night cause we had a plenty to do and be fascinated about – the desert, night, stars, music et al.

Registhan: It was dusk by the time we reached here, and the camels were heading to their shelters in a row, women were done pulling water from the adjacent bore well, and were returning home carrying water vessels on their head. Some camel drawn carts were taking a few European youths 

with their camping kit further into the deeper dessert, where they planned to spend the night.

Our guest house had 2 storied thatched rooms, albeit with running water, shower and comfortable bed.  Our room was on the first floor, and from the terrace adjacent to it gave a distant view of the pristine desserts ahead.

After dark, we went for Jeep Safari, spotted some desert deer, jackals and hyenas. The jeep was speeding into the pitch blackness with uncanny ease, avoiding the undulated sand dunes and sudden appearances of bushes and shrubs, stopping only to spot an animal or two. Its powerful headlight was strategically beaming on and off to aid the adventurous feel of the night. Unfortunately we didn’t have a professional camera with us, which would have been perfect for taking pictures in this situation. However, on return, we all were pretty hungry and it was already past dinner time.

At the buffet dinner in the open area of the guest house, that was surrounded by all the thatched hut rooms, Rajasthani folk dance was in progress. Live music complimented this rugged ambience!The Dal Makhani, Naan, Dessert Beans and salad were all too delicious and should have been slurped in no time. But the steel vessels that was sometimes under the folk dancer’s feet and sometimes piled on top of her head, in perfect harmony with the rhythm of her dance steps was to be blamed for our long dinner. We were only handful of Indians here, rest all were from various parts of the globe. The apparently rustic manager of the hotel spoke in all languages with élan ! There was this Russian Lady who had been staying here alone for more than a week then, and a French couple for around 10 days. We felt stupid for having allotted only 2 nights from our busy itinerary to this place. This village of Rajasthan is clearly a place to spend an entire vacation, a place to run to, away from the heart attack lifestyle of city.

Night was cold, and bed was made on the terrace, instead of inside our room. I and my friends huddled under the quilt, giggled for a bit, and then as we turned and lay quietly on our back, it occurred to us. We were gazing at a huge plethora of stars, perhaps at all the clusters and galaxies of the universe, even the Milky Way.  The night sky of Thar Dessert was absolutely cloudless, but was so heavily star-studded, that it hardly can be called a clear sky. Of course this meant nothing but sheer perplexity and bewilderment for the city dwellers like us. For long hours we kept referring Google and tried to identify those many stars and planets. Yes, Wi-Fi was available! This is one of the very few guest houses amidst Thar Dessert, where we had put up, which offers such dramatic experience of a lifetime.

How to Reach: We had arrived in Jaisalmer from Jodhpur via car, as part of our 15 days long trip of exploring Rajasthan. From Jaisalmer, it was another 40 kilometre drive deep into the desert, where everything ceased to exist. Two popular dessert villages here are known as Khuri Dunes and Sam Dunes.  Our Registhan Guest House stands isolated in the farthest end of Khuri Village.  Extended periphery of the hotel is protected with wire so that guests can spend the night under the sky, without hesitation and get a feel of spending night in open desert without being exposed to real danger.

Jaisalmer City: The next day we went to Jaisalmer city for a bit of sightseeing and shopping. The narrow lane that leads to the Jaisalmer Fort, which is also popularly known as Golden Fort,  has interesting shops on both sides of the road, selling various artefacts made of golden sandstone, Hand puppets,  camel leather-bound notebook, calendar with Rajasthani paintings to name a few. However, a hard bargaining is the only way to go about this place. Here, interestingly, most of the shopkeepers have this uncanny ability to identify the Bengalis by uttering ‘Sonar Kella’ and ‘Satyajit Roy’ repeatedly and thereby trying to lure the tourists in his shop. Next to Golden Fort is Jain Temple with its own awe inspiring structure. ‘Nathmalji ki Haveli’ and ‘Patwon ki Haveli’ are some other important architectures of this place. Patwon ki Haveli is one of the most elaborate havelis (home) that stands in a narrow lane here. The ground floor Craft shop of this building might serve as the perfect souvenir destination. However, if you get too tired of all these forts and havelis, you can always move away to Gadisar Lake and watch various migratory birds flying over this beautiful lake and some sitting on top of the very old Shiv Temple. Getting inside the Shiv Temple is sure to give you some nostalgic goose bumps, if you had somehow missed that feeling in Golden Fort.

On our way back to Khuri Dune, we stopped at Jaisalmer Handloom and explored its huge array of bed sheets, clothing, and other textiles with the famous Rajasthani Block Print or ‘Bandhni’ Print designs. The restaurants in this area offers authentic Marwari cuisine for lunch and some even have traditional décor and floor sitting arrangements.  Milap Resturant in Amarsagar Gate is one such place to dig in Rajasthani Thali and ‘Dal Bati Churma’, a hot favourite delicacy.

Camel Safari: We had to catch the sunset from top of the biggest dune near our guest house, so we hurried back. On our return, camels were already waiting for us. The Camel Safari costed us 200 rupees per camel. There’s this funny thing the camel owners do, they pair female riders with female camels and men rides the male camels. This way, the camels are supposed to stay calm during their trip, as the local perception goes. It was scary at first to get on top of a camel, as the balancing part, when it stands up from sitting position gets really tricky. However, gradually I forsook my fear and started enjoying my ride towards the sunset point. The Camel that was allotted to me was also a mother, besides being a girl like me, and her baby was walking next to it, tied with her rope. Thus, I was the luckiest in our group to get such a cute company which lessened my fear of falling from its mother’s back. I adored the baby camel’s big innocent eyes, pink fat lips, and its constant muttering with me.

As we rode on, the way began to get steeper, seating on the camel hump scarier, and cactus and other shrubs scarce.As the sun began to set, lending the whole dessert a golden glow, there on top of that dune, I realised, no matter how many times I come back to this place, this overwhelming emotions of first time experience will never come back. I was definitely coming back for a longer vacation soon again, though! Just then the first cloud of August seemed to cover the dessert sky, a distant peacock with all its glamour started fluttering its tail fan.