When someone said that travelling is the best form of education and that it releases your spirit and mind to a whole new broad dimension, I could not agree more. So when Sarmistha proposed the resolution for 2016 that we will travel extensively this year come what may, I said to myself that this is a resolution that I will have to keep. Otherwise, as you all know, resolutions are not meant to be kept!! Our recent trip to the romantic town of Udaipur was amazing but the trip that we took to Jaisalmer last week is simply in a different league. I always enjoy going to new places, seeing new things and experiencing new cultures but Jaisalmer evoked some very different feelings never before experienced by my conscious mind and this is true for Sarmistha as well.
The medieval town of Jaisalmer is around 550 Km from Ahmedabad where we currently live and to be honest, I was really looking forward to the drive as well. We started at around 10 at night and covered the distance in about 7 hours. Here I must also take the opportunity to praise our amazing Volkswagen Polo for taking us to our destination in absolute comfort. Hats off to German engineering!! We reached Jaisalmer early morning and one thing that immediately struck us was the architecture. They call it the “golden city” for very good reasons as virtually every structure is made of golden sand stones so abundantly available here. In the middle of the town stands the majestic Jaisalmer fort and to our astonishment, people still reside within its walls. That is why people call it the “living fort” and I will be sharing our amazing experiences there in the next post.
We checked into a simple but modern hotel called Hotel Helsinki House and I started getting excited for the desert safari that we had planned in the afternoon. The great Thar desert of India is just 50 kms away from Jaisalmer and for the first time in our lives we will be seeing sand dunes and riding a camel in a setting where they actually belong. Even though the hotel offered to take us to the adventure camp that is located at the edge of the desert, around 40 Kms away, my love for driving persevered once again and we decided to drive to the camp ourselves. By 2.30 in the afternoon we were off towards the camp and we had just crossed the city limits when our hearts stood still for a moment. Did we just see a milepost that said “Kuldhara 20 KM”. Yes, it does say Kuldhara and if the excitement of seeing the desert for the first time was not enough, we will be passing through one of the most haunted villages of India. Both me and Sarmistha are deeply interested in paranormal but as it would appear I am the more adventurous one. I immediately decided to visit the place and Sarmistha was immediately up in arms, vowing never to allow me to visit the place. We almost had an argument but finally decided that we will take the opinion of the locals and if everything sounds OK we will visit the place the next morning. I will share our experiences at Kuldhara in an upcoming post. As we drove towards the desert camp the landscape changed dramatically and it was truly like driving into nowhere. The place felt like the final frontier beyond which the earth comes to an end. The desert camp itself was located at the end of the huge sand dunes and it was quite an experience, going off the tarmac and driving across a rough wild landscape with no civilization in site.
Our desert camp stood like a mirage and it had all the modern comforts you could ask for. We had some tea, freshened up a bit and hit the dunes immediately. It was an out of the world experience walking on the slippery sand on empty feet and photos that I took came out amazing. Our heart and mind were occupied by a strange kind of mysticism that we could not explain and even though we were there it felt as if everything is a dream. We have never been on top of a camel and it was a very scary experience at the beginning. As the camel stood up and started climbing the dunes I was certain that I will fall off from his back at any second. But thankfully everything went as planned and after a short while my body was attuned with the movement of the camel. So that’s the trick then to ride a camel!!!
We got off on top a sand dune and went exploring and we were really enjoying every moment to the fullest. After witnessing an amazing desert sunset we headed back towards the camp and were welcomed by beating drums, rose petals and refreshing drinks. For a moment we actually felt like royals. The next highlight was the cultural show where the enigmatic Kalbelia tribe would showcase their culture in form of folk songs and dances. Immediately after sunset the temperature plummeted rapidly and a huge fire was lit in the camp. The bar was set and relishing Indian snacks started coming our way as we settled down to enjoy the cultural show. The folk tunes were hauntingly melodious and rustic and the soulful and energetic Kalbelia folk dance was simply spectacular. Here I must also mention about the German Shepherd called Marshall who lives in the camp and only wants to play fetch. Being dog lovers, both me and Sarmistha were only too happy to oblige to his demands. The camp is also home to a very cute puppy called Tiger who immediately became the center of attraction of all the tourists.
After the cultural night we enjoyed a very tasty dinner and started heading back towards our hotel in Jaisalmer. On our way back we again saw the sign post for Kuldhara and just for the sake of it I asked Sarmistha if we should take a detour towards it right now. The menacing look that I got back from her after that will stay with me for a while I guess. It was such a wonderful day full of amazing experiences and as we slipped into the bed I could not contain my excitement at the prospect of actually visiting a haunted site for the first time in my life the next morning.