Cathryn Pinto comes back enthralled from Jodhpur and Jaisalmer
There is something about watching the blue skies kiss the brown earth. And I have been longing for this voyeuristic experience to turn into a reality. So when my travel celestial bodies aligned themselves, I decided to head to Rajasthan—in pursuit of the great Indian desert experience—to soak in the culture and tradition of Jodhpur and Jaisalmer.
Our first stop was Jodhpur, also known as the Blue City. During the day we visited the famous Mehrangarh fort, Jaswant Thada and Umaid Bhavan. Mehrangarh fort, one of the largest forts in India is an imposing majestic structure. The sheer regality of the fort, the artefacts on display give you a glimpse of the royal life. The fort offers panaromic views of the city. You could also catch a view of the hazy silhouette of Umaid Bhavan, the royal palace, in the far distance. After a day long tour the city, we sampled the local Rajasthani cuisine.
The next day we set out to Jaisalmer; the drive from Jodhpur is around 300 km. The bus ride was dotted with panoramic views of open lands, desert shrubs and the shimmering sun. As we drove away from Jodhpur, the landscape changed from rocky to sandy. The shrubbery also graduates from bright green to paler shades, with occasional spotting of cacti. A rough terrian, weather-worn faces of the locals, colourful turbans and warm smiles from co-travellers—we were moving away from the madding crowd of urban life.
Having arrived in the Golden City, we checked into the hotel. The plan now was to make the most of the day and so we set off to Gadisar lake for a stroll and enjoy a relaxing evening. The view of the setting sun made for some picture perfect moments. We then made our way to the local market and browsed through shops selling goods made of camel leather, cotton textiles and silver trinkets.
On day two, we planned a visit to the different havelis in the city. Our first stop was Patwon ki Haveli. This haveli gives you an interesting insight into the life of a merchant family life. The entry and exits of every room, the passages and stairs in this haveli can make you feel directionally disoriented, but at the same time the splendour and detailing leaves you enchanted.
Our next stop was the Jaisalmer fort. While it looks impressive from the outside, once you walk into it, you cannot but notice that only a small portion of the fort is open to the public; a major portion of the fort is covered with restaurants and eateries.
But no trip to Jaisalmer is complete without the desert safari experience. On our way to the basecamp, we made a quick stop at Kuldhara, an abandoned village town. The history and the landscape of the place left us with a little eerie feeling.
We finally headed to the basecamp. Amid the dry and arid desert land, the feeling of peace and calm was much welcomed. And in that state of tranquillity, we donned our desert headgear, sat on the camels and rode into the vastness of the desert.
Dolu, the camel I was riding on, was distinguished by a slight gap in his upper lip. In hindsight, a camel ride is not the most comfortable way to traverse the desert because it can leave your legs numb. The confident and steady pace of the camel ride is bound to put you in a contemplative mood. I was pleasantly surprised to find birds like bee-eaters and white cheeked bulbuls, as well as some lone predatory birds in the distance. We also saw chinkara (the Indian gazelle) and the occasional donkey. As evening set in, besides the beetles we spotted some silhouettes, which our guide told us was distinctive of the Indian fox.
We were just in time to watch the sunset. It was enchanting. After a beautiful ride into the desert, as we headed back to the basecamp, dinner was ready. The locals cooked the local cuisine on a bonfire and we were entertained with the traditional Rajasthani music and dance. But what left an indelible mark in my memory was sleeping under the desert sky, on that full moon night. As we tucked in our sleeping bags, the moonlight created a drama in the sky.
The next morning, before sunrise, we made our way to the peak of one of the dunes and watched the sun rise over the desert land. We indulged in a leisurely breakfast and hot chai, with our feet neatly nestled in the soft sand, still cold from the previous night. It was soon time to head back to civilisation.
Before saying goodbye to the city, we took one last walk through the meandering lanes and shops. Our last meal was in the background of the Jaisalmer fort.
Back at home in Mumbai, I could close my eyes and still see that desert sky and my toes could still feel that soft sand. The entire experience calmed and surprised me.
Images by Candice Pinto.