I woke up filled with excitement as I was going to ride a camel for the first time today and also explore the Golden Fort of Jaisalmer! The owners of our boutique hotel, Pol Haveli, are two brothers, Anna and Manu. They were more than happy to arrange for a customized camel safari for us since we were pressed for time and couldn’t avail of the usual sunrise or sunset safaris. People can also spend the night on the dunes in very comfortable tents while enjoying local music and dance and a sumptuous Rajasthani meal. We decided to leave that for a future trip.
After a fantastic breakfast of masala omelets, cheese toasts with flavourful tea and a fabulous view of the fort from the rooftop restaurant, we left for the dunes of the Thar desert in a covered jeep. The road took us through dusty and desolate desert landscape, where we spotted an occasional camel loitering or feeding from the local vegetation. After about a half hour drive, we reached a small Rajput village of only a few 100 inhabitants. The houses were small and humble, built from the yellow sandstone available locally.
Our camels were ready for us and the guide instructed us to follow the method of “boarding” a camel. I climbed up onto the back of the animal and settled in before the camel was instructed to get up. This was a weird feeling as I had to lean back when the camel was getting up and lean forward subsequently to keep my balance. We started our trip down the sandy path that led us to the dunes of the desert.
I have had the pleasure of riding on an elephant many times in the wildlife sanctuaries of India but this was a unique experience in itself! At times, I had to shift my weight to make sure I was balanced properly for fear of falling off the animal’s back. Once on the dunes, we got off to walk through the sand a little bit and it was a great feeling! The sand was soft under my feet and so smooth. I felt that a little sand-slide was required to pay tribute to this beautiful element of nature and threw myself down one of the sand slopes! Yes, it was fantastic and I highly recommend this to all! I could only imagine how gorgeous it would be to see the dunes during sunset.
After some more camel riding and camel racing, we decide we needed to return to Jaisalmer as the Golden Fort was still to be explored. Once at the fort, we were approached by a very endearing and persuasive guide called Hasmukh, who wouldn’t take no for an answer and for a mere Rs. 70 ($1.55), I thought it would be worth our while to humour him. Hasmukh was quite fluent in conversational English as he dealt with foreign tourist all the time and told us that the fort was built 900 years ago and about 4000 people still resided within the boundaries of the fort.
The King’s palace was a gorgeous piece of architecture but smaller in size compared to other palaces in Rajasthan. The cobble stoned paths led us to a high point in the fort from where one could see the city around us that did look like a golden city made of the yellow sandstone.
I needed to pick up a few souvenirs made from the fabled yellow sandstone. Hasmukh took me to a store called Light of The East whose owner was originally from Calcutta! He had moved to Jaisalmer after watching the Ray movie, Shonar Kella and having fallen in love with this enchanting desert city! His store had a lovely collection of unique stones, gemstones, crystals, etc.
After I’d had enough of the charms of the Golden Fort and it’s architecture, we began our journey towards Jaipur where we would spend the night before heading for Delhi to catch my flight back to Vancouver.