Second leg of the Rajasthan road trip: Jodhpur to Jaisalmer
29th Feb – 3rd day of roadtrip: We were all set for another early morning drive. We got up at 5:30 am, checked-out from the hotel at 6:30 am and were on the highway soon towards Jaisalmer. Distance between Jodhpur and Jaisalmer is around 280 kms. We drove on NH125 till Pokhran and then took NH11. Tip: Driving through this part of Rajasthan is like free safari, if you are a wild life/nature enthusiast then plan to leave early morning when the wild life is active and you would be able to spot quite a few of them.
What an experience it was to drive thru, TD was simply ecstatic cruising thru miles of nothingness on both sides of the road. Kept getting amazed at the stark beauty of the desert as the surroundings turned yellow with each mile which pass by – be it the sand, plants, house, huts or even the road itself – Basically they indicated that your destination, the golden city is approaching nearer. The roads leading to Jaisalmer were smooth but one needed to be careful with the speed of the vehicle – respect nature and your own life too. Tip: Suggest driving around 80-90 km/hr as there are no cattle guards and you need to look out for animals frequently crossing the roads. You will spot all sorts of wild species like – Camel, Deer, Peacock, Black buck, Grey Partridge (Teetar), Blue bull (Nilgai) and cattle’s like Cow, Goat, Sheep on the road. We stopped many times to click snaps of the various creatures we encountered.
Since Jaisalmer is closer to India-Pakistan border there is a lot of Army vehicle movement too. Tip: After the free safari and photo clicking spree, we decided to stop at Haryali Dhani camp and resorts at around 9:30 am. Food here was awesome and a treat to taste buds for sure. We had stuffed parathas, Chola bhatura, Aloo sabzi with poori. Highlight was the in-house prepared mango pickle which added extra spice to the whole menu.
We were back on highway after an hours break at 10:30 am and as we crossed Pokhran the yellow sand dune surroundings turned scenic with windmills in the backdrop. Just few kms before Jaisalmer or we can call it the entry point of Jaisalmer is the newly built Army museum. It is not too big, but good if u want to get educated on basic army ammunition and vehicles including some tanks and aircrafts.
We reached our hotel in Jaisalmer at 12:30 pm. We were put up in Hotel Hayyat which is a budget hotel situated on the main road (Cost – 2200 rs for one night, Pros – Proximity to key areas, ample parking, big room/Cons – fewer choices in food menu, bathroom not in great condition).Since we had a very heavy breakfast, we quickly nibbled on some junk food we were carrying and dozed off.
Around 4:30 pm we went to Gadisar lake which was just few meters away from our hotel. It was still very hot and we decided not to boat, we spent some time visiting the lake side temples and clicking few snaps.
At 6:30 pm we went to watch the Puppet show. It takes place in a hall right opposite to the lake entrance. Puppet show was worth the money spent and it gives a very good perspective of the traditions and folk songs and stories. There are 4 people who run the show, one person operates the puppets, one sings, another plays tabla and the 4th person plays kartal (a wooden clapper used to produce sounds).
Since we had skipped lunch, we were quite hungry by now. We decided to go to a Hotel called Nataraj (we had read good reviews about this one) for dinner which was situated near the main fort gate. We managed to get parking in the fort premise as it was late evening. We ordered traditional rajasthani gatta curry vegetable and rotis. We came back to hotel around 10 pm.
1st Mar – 4th day of roadtrip:
Tip: Next day we left our car in the hotel and took an auto-rickshaw to the fort. It is very difficult to get your car into fort premises during the day and even more difficult to get parking near the fort. Please note that its a live fort i.e. there are still people living inside the fort premises.
Tip: You can find a lot of hawkers in the fort premises selling handicrafts and other traditional stuff. Bargain heavily to get a good deal.
Tip: There are a lot of places to be explored in the fort premises and for covering most things we did a Guide who could take us around quickly. The guide did not ask much money, we just paid him 200 rs for a 3 hour tour.
The guide took us through the Jain temples first. These have very detailed carvings and not to be missed. Lot of carvings have specific meaning which only a good guide will be able to tell you. Don’t forget to buy Camera permit if you plan to take snaps inside the temple.
The guide then took us to a Hindu temple, Palace museum and the view points. Tip: The museum is built on multiple levels and requires you to walk and climb many stairs. Also, lot of stuff to be seen and it takes time to go through all of them. So plan to spend sufficient time here.
By the time we came out of the museum it was 2 pm and we were hungry and were looking for good options to eat. Tip: Don’t eat in any of the restaurants inside the fort as the food is not great and also hygiene is questionable. Instead, have Italian food at Jaisal Italy which is on top of the forts main entrance facade – I bet you will not regret it.
Post having delicious italian food we went to Patwon ki haveli which is situated outside the fort premises but is nearby and is at walking distance. Tip: Authorized guides are available at nominal charges outside the haveli. There is a lot of history behind the haveli and it is highly recommended to take a guide for getting insights. The haveli does have great carvings too.
By the time we finished the haveli tour it was 4 pm. We headed back to the hotel, checked out quickly and were all set for the best part of this road trip – We were off to Sam sand dunes. Distance to Sam sand dunes was around 40 kms. Tip: Stack up sufficient water, some snacks as there are no proper shops in Sam sand dunes. The TD came to life now – it’s almost a straight drive of about 25 kms, desert of both sides with many windmills. If you are travelling at high-speed of over 100 kms/hr you will feel the vehicle flying at times due to frequent ditches on the road, adds fun to the drive but at the same time it is advised to be cautious.
The desert camp we had chosen was off the main road, about 5 kms inside the desert which gave TD opportunity for some off-roading. We reached Prince desert camp at around 5 pm and were welcomed with drink. The camp had a good layout and was neatly setup with proper security (Guards and trained dogs). There was ample seating area, greenery, far away from the main road making it quiet and gives a feel of camping in the desert as it is just on the foot of sand dunes.
Swiss tents were quite comfortable with good spacious seating area outside each tent, also an attached bathroom. There was a table fan in the room, dim lights and limited power sockets. The tent waves due to the breeze outside in the night and gives true feeling of camping in the desert.
We were taken for Camel safari at around 6 pm and the sunset just looked mesmerizing from the top of the sand dunes. Tip: Adventurous people can pay token money to the camel guy and he will get the camel to run on the sand dunes, they call it Camel sprinting. Tip: Wear flipflops/floaters and avoid shoes/sandals. Also you can carry cold drinks, alcohol, snacks and do a small picnic watching the sunset. Please make it a point to not litter.
We played in the sand for long time, experienced its coolness and clicked lot of snaps. When we returned to the camp around 7:30 pm we paid a handsome tip to the Camel guy and it made the little guy very happy, as the camp anyways pay them quite less.
After a photo session in the camp we were all set for the evening folk performances. All the performances were authentic and were performed by locals from the nearby village. The performances included dances, acrobats, live singing and the best part was jugalbandi (duet of two solo musician) between the tabla and kartal. Alcohol and snacks with good combination of traditional rajasthani cuisine and urban dishes was served. The musicians kept performing till the time all the guests finished their dinner. At around 11 pm we went off to sleep.
2nd Mar – 5th day of roadtrip: Next day we got up early at 5:45 am and went for jeep safari on the sand dunes and witnessed the red-hot sun rising slowly making its way up amidst the wind mills. It seemed like a red fire-ball erupting from the yellow cold sand. Tip: Take out your footwear and feel the cold sand below while watching the sun rise. Tip: Jeep safari was good, do carry sunglasses as lot of sand gets into your eyes during the bumpy Jeep ride. After another round of jeep safari on the sand we asked the driver to take us back to the camp.
On return to the camp, we had heavy breakfast as the menu was tempting. We checked-out at 9:30 am and took the highway back to Jaisalmer-Pokhran as we were off to our next destination – Bikaner – The city of Rao Bika ji!
Some interesting information on Jaisalmer and tourist attractions (Source – Internet):
Jaisalmer is named after Maharawal Jaisal Singh, a Rajput king who founded the city in 1156 AD.”Jaisalmer” means “the Hill Fort of Jaisal”. Jaisalmer is sometimes called the “Golden City of India” because the yellow sand and the yellow sandstone used in every architecture of the city gives a yellowish-golden tinge to the city and its surrounding area.
Gadisar Lake was excavated in 1367 by Rawal Gadsi Singh, it is a scenic rainwater lake surrounded by the small temples and shrines of Amar Sagar. Earlier, this lake was used to be the main water source of Jaisalmer. Due to an increased water demand for agriculture, the lake is increasingly threatened to dry out.
Jaisalmer fort was built in 1156 by the Bhati Rajput ruler Jaisal, Jaisalmer Fort, situated on Meru Hill and named as Trikoot Garh has been the scene of many battles. Its massive sandstone walls are a tawny lion colour during the day, turning to a magical honey-gold as the sun sets. The fort is 1,500 ft (460 m) long and 750 ft (230 m) wide and is built on a hill that raises above a height of 250 ft (76 m) above the surrounding country side. The basement of the fort has a 15 ft (4.6 m) tall wall forming a double line of defence. The bastions of the fort forms a chain about 30 ft (9.1 m). The fort has four entrances to the townside, one of which used to be guarded by cannon. The fort has an ingenious drainage system called the ghut nali which allows for the easy drainage of rainwater away from the fort in all four directions of the fort. This is a living fort even now and about a quarter of city’s population still live inside the fort. The main attractions inside the fort are: Raj Mahal (Royal palace), Jain temples and the Laxminath temple.
Jain temples – Jaisalmer has been enriched by its Jain community, which has adorned the city with beautiful temples, notably the temples dedicated to the 16th Tirthankara, Shantinath, and 23rd Tirthankara, Parshvanath. There are seven Jain temples in total which are situated within the Jaisalmer fort. Among these temples, the biggest one is the The Paraswanath Temple and is most attractive; others being Chandraprabhu temple, Rishabdev temple, Shitalnath Temple, Kunthunath Temple, and Shantinath Temple. Known for their exquisite work of art and architecture that was predominant in the medieval era the temples are built out of yellow sandstone and have intricate engravings on them.
Patwon Ji ki Haveli is the most important and the largest haveli, as it was the first erected in Jaisalmer. It is not a single haveli but a cluster of 5 small havelis. The first in the row is also the most popular, and is also known as Kothari’s Patwa Haveli. The first among these was commissioned and constructed in the year 1805 by Guman Chand Patwa, then a rich trader of jewellery and fine brocades, and is the biggest and the most ostentatious. Patwa was a rich man and a renowned trader of his time and he could afford and thus order the construction of separate stories for each of his 5 sons. These were completed in the span of 50 years. All five houses were constructed in the first 60 years of the 19th century.Patwon Ji Ki is renowned for its ornate wall paintings, intricate yellow sandstone-carved jharokhas (balconies), gateways and archways. Although the building itself is made from yellow sandstone, the main gateway is brown.
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