‘A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles’, Tim Cahill says so; and this is exactly how I feel at the end of our road jaunt from Delhi to Jaisalmer. Newfound friends in a new city, concocted in my life like the fragrance of freshly brewed coffee that infuses in one’s system every morning. Hahahaha….a poor simile, I know! But as winter is deserting Delhi, I am clinging to my last few sips of hot coffee.
Four families met during Dussera (a larger than life festival in India during the monsoon season) and became so genial that a road trip to Jaisalmer did seem like the most obvious thing to do. A thousand kilometres from Noida (when you take the NH 8) is definitely no sweat unless I tell you that we had two very elderly couples accompanying us! Oh yes! So, there was the enthusiastic us, our animated kids, and the high-spirited parents- all excited about setting their foot on the golden sand.
Six couples and 3 kids were comfortably packed in Mahindra Scorpio, Maruti S-Cross and Hyundai Elantra-Hyundai Elantra taking away the award for ‘The Car of the Trip’ for giving an excellent mileage of 20 plus on the highway when driven at the speed of 120 to 140 KM per hour.
We started our mini escapade at 12 midnight from Noida, sector 78. You can quite well imagine why we chose to start at midnight; it was obviously to avoid the rush of traffic during the day. Yes, we avoided the day traffic rush, but the trucks and lorries on the National Highway did not make it any easier. So, may I suggest that starting early in the morning at 4 AM may be a better idea, instead!
While some of us had filled ourselves from home, some were still to have their dinner and hence we decided to stop for a quick grub. Unfortunately, for the starving souls, that stop didn’t happen till we covered almost a 100 KM.
I will tell you where we made a mistake here;
We did not curb at Gurgaon in a haste to get rid of the traffic caused by the trucks on the Highway. It didn’t help at all. Instead, we went on looking for the right place to dine with family but found none. Finally, we ceased at a Dhaba but witnessed some rift between two men and ran away. At 3 AM in the morning we eventually halted at another highway joint and were treated with the yummiest aloo parathas I have ever had; you can also take this as a review of a hungry and tired soul 😉
Takeaway lesson: If you plan to start at night, it will be wise to fill yourselves up. Halting at the highway after midnight did not seem like an accommodating idea to me.
Our next pause was at 7 AM in the morning for breakfast and then 11 AM for tea; another one for lunch and few many brief halts. Every break was a fun of a different kind, with us seizing the kitchen to make personalised delicacies for our ever-food-craving appetites. Madness??? Oh yeah!
Our man at work
The drive from Noida to Jaisalmer took 20 hours due to our numerous stops. But we took this as an opportunity to engulf the beauty that our journey bestowed upon us. The roads and the subtle panoramic view on both sides of it were something one could get lost in. We have, of course, locked the experience in the countless pics that we clicked.
From the road!
Royal Haveli at Jaisalmer is where we stayed for the first two days.
Rewind: Fifteen days prior to our trip, all heads attacked the various travel websites, trying to find the best place for stay. Some reviewed the places from the point of view of rating, some were dogged by luxury ambience while the others looked at moderate pricing with a tasteful stay. ‘Moderate pricing with a tasteful stay’ got an upper hand over the rest and Royal Haveli, of all the hotels in Jaisalmer, had the pleasure of hosting us 😉
On a serious note, Royal Haveli in Jaisalmer is a perfect example of a decent stay. It is no real Haveli turned into a hotel property. It’s a hotel that looks like a mini Haveli – colourfully and tastefully done, with commendable service. The food was good; veg available round the clock and non-veg available on request. No hot water at night. Provided in buckets when asked.
What you may not like: Tissue Paper in bathrooms only available on request.
USP: laudable service
Since we reached Jaisalmer at 7 PM on 11th night, we didn’t venture out that day. While we ladies were busy feeding the little ones, and putting them to sleep, the men headed to a famous shop in the city to drink lassi mixed with bhang (hemp). They were nice enough to get a glass of ‘bhang lassi’ for 4 ladies to share. You are right, one small glass for four of us! Arrgg! But for the sweethearts that we are, we let it go! We spend the rest of the night on the terrace of this mini Haveli Hotel offering a nocturnal yet enchanting view of the Jaisalmer Fort, chatting and making merry!
The tiring drive did not keep us in bed for long the next morning. We were up and buzzing by 8. While some of us were busy decking ourselves for the day ahead, two of our friends found the best dal kachori and jalebi in Jaisalmer and had it packed for our breakfast. A delicious way to start the morning, indeed!
The gang! Ready for the exciting day ahead!
Our first stop that day was at the Jaisalmer war museum; a place every Indian must visit. A museum may sound boring, but the candid captures of our brave jawans smiling with heavy guns in their hands are anything but inspiring. Every letter written by the soldiers to their families brought me close to tears. There is also an elaborate display of weapons and tanks captured during wars, for those who love machinery.
Our next terminus was Longewala border which is about 110 km from Jaisalmer. I had heard once that sometimes the road to the destination is more alluring than the destination itself; so, it was! The way to Longewala War Memorial which is 15 km before the India-Pakistan border, had me lost in its curves and twists. I never did imagine that being in Rajasthan meant driving on camel’s back; not literally, of course! The 110-km stretch was beautiful with empty roads analogous to the humps on camel’s back. There was only golden sand on either side with short shrubs looking up to the sky as if asking for less sunshine and more rain. Hailing from a green hill station in north-east India, this definitely was a view to die for.
Note: There is no food stop on the way. Please fill yourselves up before you start from the city.
After a halt at the border for an hour or a little more, we continued to drive towards Tanaut Mata’s Mandir (temple). A very famous temple that is said to have withstood the test of time and explosives too, during the war. We reached the temple right in time to attend the evening prayers. A soul filling ‘aarti’ by the army jawans was simply out of the world. It engulfed us completely and we left the temple feeling heavenly and connected to the all-mighty.
We made our way back to the hotel in a sombre frame of mind reliving every moment of the day spent so well with the people we felt so close to!
On the second day, we were all geared up to roll in the golden sand under the diminishing amber sunlight. But before that, we had to visit the famous ‘Sonar Killa’. We spend half of our day marvelling over the Jaisalmer fort. Beautifully and intelligently built, no doubt this magnificent structure has stood the test of time!
A glimpse of the fort
By the end of our fort exploration, our stomachs were screaming for food. Our big boys had done their homework and escorted us to Gaji’s Restaurant. Don’t miss it! Pleasing ambience with a scrumptious continental spread. But what I personally enjoyed is the auto-rickshaw ride to the Gaji’s. Rickshaws with an open back to sit were new to me, and we all made the best of it.
We were finally ready for the sand. As soon as we were done with the lunch, we packed ourselves into different cars and headed to Camp-e-Khas, our paradise in the desert. Jammed in an all-girls car driven by one of our hotties, we were the first to reach the destination. Threw our bags at the camp and just boarded the Thar (jeep), all ready and waiting to escort us. After a long time, felt the adrenaline rush as the jeep went flying on the sand. Dune bashing it’s called, I guess. Whatever it was, it is worth every second! As planned, we witnessed the sand turn amber under the setting sun. A camel ride was what the children were looking forward to. Their shrieks and shrills made every bump exhilarating.
After an hour at the dessert, we headed back to the camp. Camp-e-Khas had organized ‘khas’ or special dinner for us. The dinner was served at the mini amphitheatre with Rajasthani folk song and dance performed by the local entertainers. The men were their best selves dancing away to folk music with the two performers. Well, it was obvious that they found the dancers irresistible. 😉 😉
As the jocund evening came to a closure, we realized that our enthralling trip too was about to end. But we could not just let it be enthralling, we had to make it crazy too. We put the children to sleep and at 2 AM booked a jeep and went dune bashing back in the desert. It was the best experience of the entire trip. Zooming away under the moonlight with the chilled breeze slapping our face, we screamed and yelled our daily stressful routine out of our systems. Till 3 AM we rolled in the desert sand and sang songs. To our luck, a tea seller appeared from nowhere and treated us to the much-needed ginger tea. That one hour made our trip truly extraordinary!
Note: On our way back the next day, we stopped at Kafe The Kaku for lunch. Amazing food with a pleasant milieu. It occupies a small part of the Jaisalmer Fort giving away a mesmerizing view of the city and the sunset in the evening.
Sunset from ‘Kafe the Kaku’
It was late evening when we started from the ‘Kafe’ back to Delhi with a bag full of thrilling and adorable memories 🙂