January 9th, 2011
Rajasthan is a diverse and beautiful place that beats superlatives. Everywhere you go in Rajasthan, you will see so much colour and liveliness that you can’t believe that this part of the Indian sub-continent has so much happening. During much of this road trip in Rajasthan, we visited lesser known places and came back with an enviable experience. Combine this travel with an icing-on-the-cake type easy desert trek and you would never want to miss this 😉 .
I did miss some regular tourist spots though (like Mount Abu, Ajmer, Pushkar etc.) but I guess I’ll cover them at leisure when there are no better places to visit. Except in the months of May and June – when summer is at its peak – rest of the year is open for tourists. November, December and January are particularly very cold. The desert trek was organized by Youth Hostels Association of India. Without much ado, here’s the itinerary of the trip.
The Grand Itinerary
Day 0 – Flight to Ahmedabad and night train to Udaipur.
Day 1 – Udaipur. We landed in Udaipur that morning and visited the Udaipur Palace, followed by the cultural extravaganza & shopping at Shilpgram. The next morning, we visited Sajjangarh Fort.
Day 2 – Bera – We went to this place called Bera (pronounced as bay-da) for leopard sightings. Apparently, leopards roam these forests so freely that it is impossible to come back without a sighting . We saw three leopards on this day. A huge mother female (about 8 feet long), a medium cub (about 4 feet long) and a tiny teddy bear sized cub. The smallest cub was the cutest of all. We saw all of them at touching distance. The company of Thakur Baljeet Singh was superb and we more than enjoyed the few hours he spent with us.
Day 3 – Ranakpur and Kumbalgarh. Ranakpur is a jain pilgrimage spot. What sets this place apart is that, it is situated bang in the middle of the Aravalli Mountain Range with pretty much nothing around it. If you were already following my escapades, you know how I love such places! Kumbalgarh (pronounced as kum-baal-gad) is the birthplace of the famous Maharana Pratap Singh. This fort is also in the Aravalli range, massive in size and known for the fort walls that go around it. Bikers will love the drive from Udaipur to Ranakpur and Kumbalgarh. The national highway is flawless and goes on a diversion to ghat roads for the last 30 kms or so. On the way back to Udaipur from Kumbalgarh, a medium sized leopard just leapt across the road. That’s 4 leopards in 2 days! I was stunned and until we reached Udaipur, I didn’t even blink my eyes. We spotted a bushy tailed fox also on the road.
Day 4 – Jaipur. We just spent a day in Pink City and visited only three tourist spots. We went to Amber Fort, Hawa Mahal and stopped for night photography at Jal Mandir. Almost everyone in Jaipur seemed to have an accent. The cab driver at Jaipur station greeted us as, “Gewd mornin’ (insert Amrika accent here)”. One travel agent asked us whether we were from Canada and finished the conversation as “Kewl … have a gewd day (insert Amrika accent here also)”. I was shocked and felt like an alien hehe…
Day 5 – Start of Shekhawati Region – Nawalgarh, Parasurampur and Lohargal. Shekhawati is the most beautiful region of Rajasthan. This region is known for its colourful Havelis, step wells (also known as Bawdi) and fresco paintings. The Havelis of Nawalgarh, Cenotaphs of Parasurampur and the step wells of Lohargal were so beautiful that it is impossible to think that people had built it ages ago.
Day 6 – Neck deep in Shekhawati – Dundlod, Fatehpur (not Fathepur Sikri near Agra), Ramgarh, Mahansar and Churu. The most beautiful place on that day, without doubt, was Fatehpur. Every street had at least 4 or 5 Havelis and every inch of those Havelis had fresco paintings from top to bottom featuring a myriad of subjects. The most popular subjects were Lord Ganesha, Lord Krishna, Lord Siva and then the stories of the various Kings, Queens and their escapades 😉 . We had lunch with the Royal Family at Mahansar.
Day 7 – Little more of Shekhawati (Mandawa, Churu) and Bikaner – It got dark the previous day when we visited Churu and couldn’t explore much. The place had plenty of ruins and Havelis of Churu were different in style and painting than the ones in other places. Mandawa was another beautiful place with people living in many of the Havelis we visited. Then we spent the day traveling to Bikaner and visited the famous Junagarh (pronounced as Ju-na-gad) Palace and the Rat temple aka Karni Mata temple.
Day 8 – Jaisalmer – This is the Sun City and this place is close to Pakistan border. We visited Patwa Haveli, Barabagh (pronounced as Bada Bagh), Garhisar Lake (pronounced as Gadisar) and then went to another Jain temple.
Day 9 – Jodhpur – This day was the reporting day at the base camp for the trek. We reached Jaisalmer a day earlier. So I made use of this extra day to visit Jodhpur aka The Blue City. Mehrangarh Fort (pronounced as m-eh-raan-gad) was breathtaking. So were the Chokelao Bagh (royal gardens) and fort ruins in Purana Shahar (old city). Two distinct packs of dogs chased me in this place and gave me one hell of a frightful experience … enough to last for a lifetime … Some of you may have already listened to this story.
Day 10 – Jaisalmer – Visited the Jaisalmer fort and then went to this deserted village called Khaba. The actual trek started from here early next morning. Star gazing that night with people from different states in India and my broken Hindi conversations made up for the day.
Day 11 – Trek to Sam sand dunes – Sam is a tourist spot with beautiful sand dunes. From the Khaba village, Sam is about 14 kms and went to this place on foot through the desert. Desert sand was full of various kinds of thorns and the sand particles were very fine that it went in to every orifice of my shoe. Sunsets in the desert were especially beautiful.
Day 12 – Camel safari and short trek to Sudasari National Park – Camels are smelly creatures that fart at every chance they get. When you are riding a camel and if it farts at that time, you can feel the movement of every muscle in its stomach as it grinds to let out the poisonous fumes 😛 . But camel rides are fun and once in a lifetime experience. So do have a go at it & tell the mahout to make the camel run. That’ll be fun!
Day 13 – Sudasari to Berna – This was the best day of the trek. 14 kms of beautiful land with plenty of birds, deer and sand dunes. We crossed three beautiful belts of sand dunes and went crazy like kids. We rolled down the sand dunes, got buried in them and played plenty of games. It was fun! In the evening, I went exploring the sand dunes to a short distance while few people visited the village nearby.
Day 14 – Return to Jaisalmer – The bus ride to Jaisalmer was fun. The fun part being riding on top of the bus with the early morning fog, low temperature (5 degree Celsius) with wind chill (60 kmph, dropped temperature) added to the misery. My limbs were frozen while I got down at Jaisalmer and took quite some time to get back to shape . This day I had to start my return journey to Bangalore and got on the train to Delhi.
Day 15 – Delhi to Bangalore – No excitement this day except the low temperature of Delhi, followed by flight to Bangalore.
People to Thank
A hearty thanks to Arti, Neelima and Sudar for doing the trip. The trip becomes great when people you travel with are passionate about travel and it was so in this case. Jayashree from Take a Break Tours was particularly helpful in getting us organized for the first 4 days of the trip. Though we planned this trip on our own from the scratch, Take a Break Tours is highly recommended if you are planning a visit to Ladakh, Rajasthan or Kerala. Jayashree is simply amazing and her personal touch adds more to it.
After two big trips in 2010 – Ladakh Bike Trip and Rajasthan Road Trip, I couldn’t have asked for a more amazing start for 2011. Now that I have plenty of photos to show and lots of stories to tell, I wish to blog more often about my experience at those places. Expect more soon in the Tales from Ladakh series and the Colours of Rajasthan series.
Until then, see ya!