The Golden City...
We stayed at this charming hotel called "Shahi Palace" that has a great view of the fort from its very inviting roof garden! Owned by 5 siblings/cousins, it feels so much like home! Their warm hospitality and yummy home cooked meals, helped us to fall in love with Jaislamer.. and when we had to leave, it was with the resolve that we would come back and stay longer! They were really sweet, on the first night as we hung around on the roof top, one of the brothers kept us company, relegating tales and imitating accents from around the world. Another, cooked up some desert mushrooms (he had picked just that day) and gave it to us for a taste. It was almost like the way your mom/ grandmom tells you.. taste this,this is so yum! If you do go to Jaisalmer, this is a good place to stay!
While the fort and the numerous havelis with their intricate craftsmanship holds a unique charm that only those ancient relics can hold! And the glistening lake where we pedaled a boat was simply a wonderful find in the desert, the highlight of our visit was the desert safari! But before we go down that lane, I must stop to talk about the lake. We were very excited about the prospect of getting on the lake.. and with child like delight naively looked forward to exercising our legs! However as we endeavored to get some pictures of birds flocked on the banks we hit something and could not move!
We were a good 20 feet from the banks, and so we were really bewildered! Trying not to panic we called out to a guy rowing a oat nearby with a dozen passengers! He quickly reached us and took off his footwear, rolled up his sleeves and I had visions of him diving under the boat and laboriously extricating us from whatever tangle we had got ourselves in! Instead the guy got off the boat into ankle deep water and pushed our boat off from where we had struck land! As you can imagine, all of us, including the passengers of the other boat had a good laugh!!
The next day saw us pottering about in the wee hours of the morning as we prepared for a early start to the deep deserts! We drove off to witness the sunrise among the sand dunes.. but we fell short by a few minutes.. so had to watch the sunrise well before our rides arrived.. still it was an awesome sight!! And then we saw them at a distance.. our majestic rides... as we straddled the camels and rode off into the dawn a thrill went down my spine! We had a breakfast of toast and tea in the wilderness... sitting on a colorful mat.. on the glistening dunes, camels chewing off the desert plants on one side! It was absolutely exhilarating! And at this time of the day it was nice and cool! We were joined by a group of European tourists who had spent the night under the stars in the middle of the desert! Wish I could have done that!! Except I would have not had a wink of sleep... the images of dung beetles (they feast on the camel dung.. hence the name) a la matrix style kept interrupting the pleasant images of solitude on the Desert!
After a trek on the sand dunes.. did you know that Jaisalmer was once a sea? They have fossil stones of sea creatures! And here is what we found in the middle of the arid desert .. yes shells! Anyway after a trek on the dunes, we hopped on our rides to head back to the village! The nice camel caretaker, invited us to see his home and village. We bid goodbye to our fellow tourists and headed back (oh yes this was a special privilege he said.. because we were the only Indians he had seen in months... that was surprising!). Although our camel "Tola" insisted on brushing against every shrub and thorn bush along the way.. not to mention backs of other camels, this was an experience we will carry with us for the rest of our lives! Cheeky was sad to leave his friend "Tola" behind.. and promised to come back soon with Daddy!
We left Tola in good company though. The gaily dressed village folks in their cool sandstone homes, celebrate everyday with music and dance! They take good care of the camels. The village children skip school and hang around the village. A few of them followed us around and even took some pictures with us! As we left we handed out our stash of Candy and Cookies.. they only wanted more!! Growing up in a land surrounded for miles by arid desert must be hard! I was told the kids don't even get to see candy and cookies for months! The land had not seen rain in 3 years and even food was hard to come by! So luxuries were unheard of! Their only snack is husk from the grains.. We wished we had known.. we could have taken more goodies for the cheerful, smiling little friends we made!
After taking a stroll in the fort, seeing the palaces and the city views.. not to mention shopping for souvenirs it was time to leave! And we hoped we had planned to stay longer! I am sure the pictures speak for themselves and my ramblings in this post are superfluous! Jaisalmer with its rustic appeal is a must see.. As we left I promised myself, I will be back to stay for a week or two and experience the rustic charm yet again! But for now we were off to the Pink City!