Pride of Rajputana
It was a tense Thursday for me and my 8 other friends. The time was 21:00 and we were at a restaurant in Chandni Chowk and our train to Jodhpur was to leave by 21:15. Hurriedly gobbling down our rotis we raced to the god forsaken place that is Old Delhi railway station. Only when we could keep our bags in position and the train started to move could we heave a sigh of relief.
Mandor Express rode through the night and dropped us in Jodhpur Junction by 07:45 in the morning. We now had an entire day at our disposal. Checking in at the cheapest most run down hotel Jodhpur had to offer, we freshened up and hit the streets. Our first stop of the day was Janta Mishtan Bhandar in Nai sadak. After stuffing ourselves with delicious Pyaaz Kachoris, Mirchi Badas and Jalebis, we hired an Auto to take us to Mehrangarh Fort.
The fort build by Rao Jodha, the Marwar Rajput king of Jodhpur is the prime attraction of the "Blue City". The marvelous fort/palace took almost 3 hours to cover. The view of the blue city was just so damn good from the fort!!
The present head of the Jodhpur Princeley state is Shri Gaj raj Singh who has his residence in the second attraction of the city, The "Umaid Bhavan Palace". The palace was an oasis in itself as it is the largest private residence in Asia!
Jodhpur is also very famous for its collection of "Jhootis" made out of leather. We took to the market place in Nai Sadak. Bought shoes for the family and went back to the hotel. We checked out of the hotel and by 20:30 we had our dinner at Pankaj Dhaba across the station. (Note: Rajasthanis tend to prepare all their food with some extra oil) . We reached the station well in advance for our train to the Golden City!!
14810 JU-JSM express had a lot of excited travellers on board. It showed in the only reserved bogey of the train. Full of Gujjus cackling the night away. By 05:45 in the morning we found ourselves in the Golden City. We had our bookings in "Thar Vilas" an oasis in the desert. We knew it was almost 18 km away from the city. After haggling with many touts, We parked our butts and our luggages in a Bolero. The driver was a delight in himself.
We reached our hotel in 20 odd minutes and took up to our rooms. The hotel itself was a super attraction in the trip. Surrounded by pure wilderness and the Thar desert, The hotel was the only structure visible as far as our eyes could reach. Another best feature was the Cell Phone reception was patchy at best. That meant we should creep out of Virtual Reality and embrace the true beauty around us. After a sumptuous breakfast of Aloo Parantas and Bread toasts, all of us hit the pool. Some of the non-swimmers like yours truly flapped around the water like happy hippos, whilst the swimmers took turns to dive and race around.
By noon we showered and arranged for a taxi for the first day city tour. First stop was "Patwa ki Haveli".A bit steep entry tickets (Rs.70 per pax) we saw the mansion of the "munims". It was said the munims were accountants to the Ranas. A spectacular view of the Golden Fort just across called for a lot of photographs all around. There was a telescope in the mansion by which we could see the fort in close quarters.
Our minds had to bow down our stomachs as we made way for lunch. almost 80 odd rotis for 9 people and mouth watering "sev tamatar", "Gatte ki sabzi" later we were truly satisfied. We walked to the fort.
The Golden Fort known locally as "Sonar kella" due to two reasons. The colour of sand stone is golden and honey like and the famed director Satyajit Ray shot his cult film Sonar Kella in the fort locations. Built by Rawal Jaisal of the Bhati clan of Rajputs, this fort stands majestically on Trikuta hill. It is visible fromall parts of the city. A living fort, This architectural marvel is home to almost 6000 people, with hotels, restaurants and bistros. Autos move inside the fort. We were astounded by it.
We hired a local guide for our tour of the fort. We went over the four cannons, which served as vantage points in those days. The whole desert was magnificently stretched out dotted by lots and lots of windmills which swayed all around. The fort is divided into "Brahmin area" & "Rajput area". Describing the fort would take a separate book in itself!!
After clicking a lot of pics we climbed down, hearts still not filled. We made out to gadhisar lake, renowned due to its unique feature to contain rain water. A leisure boat ride and the wonderful sunset later we pushed our tired bodies but alert minds back to the hotel. This trip was getting better and better.
The next day dawned upon us and we were very excited. It had in store a 300 km drive in the Thar Desert to the India-Pakistan Border. we had our breakfast and changed into desert gear and trotted off. The drive was exquisite. Negotiating along the desert and literally swooning in the Desert we had the time of our lives. Our first port of call was "Tanot Mata Mandir" just near the Indo-Pak border. during the war of 1971 there were shells dropped on the vicinity but it is believed that due to the divine intervention they did not explode. The live shells are still kept on display and we were suitably awestruck.from there we carried on to the actual border. "Laungewala". the approach to the border made us patriotic
To get the correct preceding of what actually happened, Bollywood has captured it in the cult film "Border". We met with some soldiers of the Border Security Force and the Indian Army. We clicked a lot of pictures at the captured Pakistani tank near the border. It was a good day to be an Indian! It is to be noted that foreigners are not allowed past Tanot Mata Mandir.
We then carried our tired yet excited selves into the car and drove to Jaisalmer's famed attraction "Sam Sand Dunes" . It is an actual village called Sam (सम ) . There are resorts which provide an evening of entertainment and frolic. Firstly, we all had our wish of camel riding fulfilled. The half-hour ride with a lot of photographs and watching the sun go down while riding a camel is a sight to behold. We rode back to the camp and we were seated like erstwhile Rajput kings, while snacks was passed on. some good Rajasthani cultural performances like Ghoomar and folk singing kept us in the mood and we were happy. with dinner of traditional rajasthani cuisine , it was a day well spent! By 10:00 we were back in the hotel, thoroughly tired but extremely happy.
As we woke up the next day, it dawned upon us that this trip was over. A tinge of sadness came over our hearts, but still we were determined to make the most of it, Yours truly decided to go on a hike in the desert. Our hotel so conveniently located in the midst of the desert was the perfect setting for a Adventure!
I started walking and saw trails of snakes and scorpions suddenly I was in pursuit by a couple of fierce guard dogs. They chased me sedately, yet keeping their distance . It was a adrenaline boost for us and my bodies were now sweaty. We reached back to the hotel and jumped straight n the pool where rest of them were already swimming. A couple hours in the pool later we trooped back to the restaurant for lunch.
A taxi came to pick us up to trot back to the station where our train was already berthed. We quickly found our seats and wistfully watched the station pass by. It was an excellent break from routine life and all 9 of us till think back about it and reminisce.