Day 1 : We (Myself, Wife and two kids) started early morning at 2.30 a.m (15th October 2009) from our Indirapuram (Ghaziabad) residence in our trusted Santro. According to our original schedule we were to leave for Jaisalmer only the next day. Accordingly, I had booked for stay in the sand dunes for the second night in Jaisalmer. However, due to leave issues in office, I was forced to start one day earlier and I had to rework my stay arrangements when I was told that the tents at Sand Dunes are fully booked on all other nights except the first night. That means, we have to reach Jaisalmer, a distance of 900 KM before 4 p.m so that we can proceed further to Sam Sand Dunes which is further 20 KM roughly by 5 p.m for the sun set and night stay in tent. This explains our early start time.
I did not expect so much traffic in Delhi Roads at 3 AM. We were held up for nearly 10 minutes at the Gurgaon Toll gate due to long queue. We crossed Jaipur at around 6.30 AM and since the roads were good, the journey continued at a high but safe speed of 80KMPH to 110 KMPH. Our first stop was after bypassing Jaipur for our packed breakfast. We went on to Ajmer then to Jodhpur and near Jodhpur we had to wait for 20 minutes at a Railway gate. Roads- absolutely no issue – maintaining the same KMPH. After crossing Jodhpur, we were pleasantly surprised by the good road with absolutely no traffic. In this stretch, particularly after Pokran, I could maintain a average speed of above 90KMPH and reach Jaisalmer at 2.45 PM. 900 KMS in 12:15 hrs flat. On the way we could see a small desert fox and wild camels (see picture).
On reaching our Hotel (Hotel Prince), we requested our hotel manager to reschedule our night in dunes which he finally agreed after much persuasion. Our hotel was just opposite the bus terminus and the Fort. We spent the evening relishing the sights of the majestic fort and the unique style of Jaisalmer’s buildings munching some veg pakodas and hot tea. The night dinner (Thali) was at roof top restaurant of the Hotel and it was good value for money.
Day 2 : We had requested the hotel to arrange for a guide for local sightseeing. After Poori Subzi for breakfast, we left with the Guide to visit the Fossil Park and Desert National Park. But, neither the hotel people nor the guide knew anything about the national park. After few enquiries we were told that the permits for the Desert Safari has to be obtained from the Forest Office which is situated on a small road off the Jaisalmer-Fossil park road. The Fossil Park had few wood fossils in the background of a small hillock and vast areas of empty desert.
I was told by the guide that this area was once a Sea (thousands of years ago). Next, we went to the Forest Office and we were greeted by an empty office. Not a single officer!. The regular person who issues permits was on leave and we had to go to the in-campus house of another officer to request him for the permit. We understood that only 10 to 15 families visit the park per week. Finally after a wait of nearly one hour, we got the permits and the cost –Rs.500 only for four persons and one vehicle. As it was getting late, we enquired about the route and proceeded to the gate of the park which is about 16 KM away. Once we were at the gate, two officials of the park greeted us and wondered how we would do a safari at that time (12 Noon). It was really hot.
Our camel cart was getting ready for the safari. It took about 30 minutes as the camel had to be fetched from 100 meters away. Long awaited journey started and after a short distance, I noticed something like a big bird resting below a tree some distance away. I actually ignored it, thinking it might not be a bird. After some distance, our camel car driver-cum-guide also spotted the same bird and told it is the Great Indian Bustard and that we were lucky to spot one. As our cart got closer to the spot, the bird flew away. We could spot couple of foxes and lots of deer. Overall, the safari was satisfying but not exciting. We rushed back to the hotel to have rest and lunch before proceeding for the night stay in the sand dunes. The manager of the hotel sent one of his persons in another vehicle carrying fellow guests and we were asked to follow the vehicle to the Dunes.
Just about 1KM before the dunes, the vehicle stopped at a place where lots of camels were waiting. The manager of the Sand Dunes Resort was waiting there. We were asked if we would do a camel ride. After initial hiccups we were found sitting on two camels – though we were frightened by the jerk when the camel stood up, it was a smooth ride and were preceded and succeeded by tens of camels carrying tourists. We were enjoying the ride as well as the sight of the dunes . After a journey of about 15 minutes, we were on the top of sand dunes just in time for the evening sunset.
After a few clicks, we walked down declining the camel man’s offer of dropping us in the resort. There were about five resorts with around 20 tents each. Ours was the last one. After walking into the resort, we noticed that the daily Rajasthani cultural program has already started. We were served snacks and tea while watching the dance cum song program. In no time, We could notice that we were actually intruders in the habitat of a variety of insects. The insects would collide with us in their flying path and some would climb our legs. My little son who is very sensitive to insects did not watch the program but only the insects on the ground and air. There were around 50 persons watching the cultural program. After the program, we were whisked away for the dinner.
The dinner in buffet form was good. I noticed that out of the 50 persons, around 35 were part of an organised tour and left in their bus without taking the dinner. After the Dinner, others also left leaving only me and my family to stay for the night in one of the 25 tents pitched in the campus. A adventurous experience indeed. Once inside the tent, we quickly went off to sleep tired by the hectic schedule. Though the tents were comfortable for sleep, the mobile toilets had insects running all around.
Day 3: We woke up early morning and were served good tea. We walked to the sand dues to watch the sun rise. After that, we left for our hotel at Jaisalmer. After breakfast, we again started off for our city sightseeing with the same guide. Nothing attractive except for the Jaisalmer Fort.
In the afternoon, we again went to the sand dunes to watch the sunset, and in a bit of excited mood I thought of exploring the land beyond the sand dunes. We cross the sam sand dunes and a village. Suddenly, we found ourselves in a road covered by sand dunes for a short stretch. Confidently, I tried to pass the sand, but got struck in the sand. Luckily, three local youths on motorcycle came to our rescue. While one took control of the car, the other two started pushing the car. He steered the car in a criss cross manner and crossed the stretch.
We thanked and let them go. We proceeded a little distance, but the thought of crossing the stretch again struck us and immediately decided to return as it was nearing sunset. As we reached the stretch, we could see a bus struck in the sand and saw a lorry going off the road on a cart track to avoid the sand. We also followed the lorry thinking we could reach the other side of the road avoiding the stretch. However, in a short distance, the lorry also got struck in sand. We are now left with no option than to reverse or get off the cart track. We decided to go forward and we were also struck. The helpers in the lorry were digging out their vehicle. As the road is 200 meters away, it would be difficult to get help from others and I decided slug it out ourselves. Soon, we saw a small boy who approached us and offered to help. He promised that he knew the place and there is shortcut to the road going ahead. He removed some sand and made our car move. A few meters and we are struck again. This happened another two or three times, before we decided not to rely on this small boy. Whenever I tried to drive out of the sand, we could smell some burning smell from the bonnet. I thought it could be due to the friction caused by tyres on the sand but soon realised that the engine belt could be culprit due to friction. We desperately required a 4 wheel drive.
After a small study of the area ahead, we decided to return to the Road by reversing. This strategy worked and once we were on the main road, we saw that the sand dunes have been watered possibly by the bus which was struck earlier and we got to the other side without much difficulty. We had to skip the sunset at Sam Dunes and proceeded straight to the hotel with a sigh of relief.
Day 4: After breakfast, we left Jaisalmer at around 7.30 am and took the Bikaner route to reach Delhi. The road upto Pokran is same and from Pokran, it is a different road to Bikaner. This road was even better and emptier with absolutely no traffic. I could even reach 140 for a brief spell and reached Bikaner – 330 KM in 4 hours 30 minutes. However, I missed the bypass for Bikaner and entered Bikaner which was congested. We wasted nearly 45 minutes before getting out of Bikaner. The roads after Bikaner were not so good, with a mix of bad and decent roads. Finally, we reached Ghaziabad at around 8.30 PM travelling through Biwani, Rohtak.
Overall, the getaway was enjoyable. I should not forget to thank the Roads in Rajasthan.