Nov 23, 2010

A camel ride into the Desert National Park

I didn’t know a safari on a camel back was such an exercise for the bones and joints! Our camel was Laal, and there were four more in the gang, with three boys to manage the camels and four foreign tourists along with the two of us. Sitting high on camel back, holding on to it when it sways forward and backward to get up, and riding on it, jumping up and down was fun. Especially when Laal and his friends decided to run a bit to add to the excitement, at one point, I was almost off the camel and screamed! I blamed Dee for the camel running too fast and not taking care of his wife and the boys made fun saying it’d have been a task for them to search me in the desert, had I fallen off!

It was a bigger dune this time than what we had seen the previous day. And we were truly deserted - there was no one else except our gang for as far as we could see! We were to spend the night here, in the open, in the cold! We were excited. We walked around as much as we could till the sun set, not able to take enough of the desert. As it got dark, there was a camp fire for warming as well as cooking. The boys cooked a meal for us, while we all sang and talked to each other, the boys also pulling each other’s legs.
After dinner, while we were for another round of walking on the sands, and warming up, the boys made our beds, and showed us our ‘room’ for the night.
And here was our room and our neighbors’... ;)
It was too cold, in spite of the blankets and thin mattress we had, but it was a memorable experience to open your eyes in the middle of the night to see only sand and sand around you and stars over your head, and the half moon slowly rising in the east! We watched the moon rise for sometime and fell back asleep.
I was the first one to wake up next morning, as I didn’t want to miss seeing the sunrise. A bowl of hot black tea on the cold morning was welcome. We watched the sunrise, went out for a long walk around the scrubs on one side, finding many more birds, experiencing the desert. Well, the birds here woke up much later after the sun rose, may be because of the cold weather.
After breakfast, I had my ‘myself time’ just walking about with Mother Nature when Dee had gone with the boys to find the camels that were wandering off in the night.
When we were back, again on camel backs, I asked the others ‘Aren’t your joints aching?’‘Are you kidding?’ replied one of the girls in the gang, ‘do you have any left? I have no joints any more!’
It was true, but it was worth every bit of the pain.

Nov 14, 2010

Khuri - A Desert Village

After deciding that our next trip would be in the Thar Desert, we started debating on the exact locations. We knew we shouldn’t miss the sand dunes around Jaisalmer, but of the two famous ones - Sam and Khuri, we couldn’t decide which one. After reading reviews and hearing from friends, that Sam is way too crowded when compared to Khuri, we decided Khuri was the place - as both of us like calm rather than crowd!
We reached Jaisalmer by train from Jaipur at around noon, hired a taxi to Khuri - about 40km southwest. We heard from the driver that this year there was a lot of rain due to which the desert was more filled with shrubs and small plants. I was afraid we wouldn’t get to see the actual dunes, and just kept my fingers crossed.
As we reached Khuri, I was amazed to see the number of camp-resorts in that little village, tourism is definitely becoming one of the biggest business there, especially in winter. Most of the buildings are of yellow sandstone, as in Jaisalmer - the reason why Jaisalmer is called the Golden city.
We got into the home stay - Badal House, run by a real gentleman, Badal Singh, about which Dee will write in detail. (Yes, we have a pact and share topics and write, when it comes to travel!) As we freshened up and had a small talk with the owner, the weather suddenly became cloudy and windy. Once wind blows, there will be a few millimeters of fine sand settled over and around you, which we had already experienced in the train. And in a couple of minutes the weather became too chill and there was a small shower of rain! We had to postpone our plans for camel safari and camping for the night that we had planned for the next day.
Had I told you, wherever we go, be it any season, the rains surely follow us! And this we’ve been observing in all our trips throughout last year. We just smiled at ourselves, and set out in the drizzle, to explore and experience the desert ourselves.
I was amazed at the number of birds that we spotted, and Dee started shooting them. A few meters of walk out of the village and there we saw the dunes! Pure, neat and secluded! Wasn’t this what we wanted!! We started walking in that direction and what seemed to be so near took so long to reach. As we neared, there were hordes of people arriving in buses, jeeps, vans and even on camels to the dunes to watch the sunset, and with all the shor-sharaba! Oops, we immediately changed our direction and moved further to a calmer portion, away from all the noise, just to calmly enjoy the beauty of nature and watch the sunset from the clear sand dunes.
How beautiful nature is! It was a treat to walk on the clear sand dunes, watching the sun go down, with chill wind blowing on your face. Just as the sun set, it began to get colder, and we started walking back to the village, happy and satisfied for having chosen this place.

Check out the birds here.