The day began at 7.15 AM and I wanted to sleep for longer in Jodhpur but the desert was calling, I was very excited since it was my first visit to Jaisalmer. I never had a shower in the morning during the trip since I didn’t want to waste time in it, I was going to sweat all day hence a shower after sundown seemed sensible. I had to defecate in the toilet of another room as my room’s toilet had many ants in it, my bum didn’t want to be scratched all the way to Jaisalmer but I was happy to know I hadn’t got loosies. After checking out of the guesthouse, I got lost in the city, there are absolutely no sign boards! I was guided by other motorists but that led me to a market with extremely narrow streets where even a car wouldn’t fit in, if you’re from Bangalore then the perfect analogy for the market would be Chickpet. I managed my way out with the wide panniers and found myself on the highway in no time. The roads were an absolute treat but on the other hand, I was approaching the desert and the temperature kept rising. With full riding gear on, I had to make sure I kept riding so I could allow the wind to do the cooling.
A nice guy from Jodhpur got in touch with me and shared his article about Jodhpur city which is a city guide of the original Jodhpur that the other magzines don’t talk about. Here’s the link.
Since breakfast was dealt with at the guesthouse, I had nowhere to stop for a long time and the distance to be covered was hardly 300 kms so I kept riding off the road when I found the countryside to be picturesque and to also get a feel of riding on the desert. Doing that for absolutely no reason at all was fun! In the middle of nowhere, I encountered a small salt flat which literally had no end to it. My Duke 390 could hardly get a grip over the white surface as the ground was moist, I still managed to go a small distance just for the sake of it. With the photo session done, I moved on as villagers walking along the highway wondered what I was doing on the salt flat.
A Hotel called Sukh Sagar arrived in a while, which seemed familiar to me, you find many Sukh Sagars in Bangalore but this one didn’t belong to the Bangalore chain. Even though the temperature was well above 35 Degrees C, I had chai with Parathas as that was the most appealing thing on the oily menu and then fed some sparrows as I spoke to the owner who had relatives back in Bangalore, in the same area where I lived! I was back on the road after an hour and the vegetation on either side kept disappearing gradually. The road was a mix of long curves and very long straights, it is easy to get into a trance on the straights with the mirage and all up ahead, but doing that is extremely dangerous too because traffic on this road mainly consisted of cows, buffaloes, sheep, goats and camels.They’re not as uncooperative as the traffic in cities though and nor do they honk their arses off!
As I neared Jaisalmer, I encountered a kid on a Honda CBR 150 without a lid on his head, who overtook me at 90 and after a while, asked me to stop. I told him to get a lid first but he says god will look after him. That’s true but I still ‘facepalmed’, or should I say ‘Helmetpalmed’. He gave me his card as he worked for a hotel in Jaisalmer and said he would get me accommodation in the desert when I asked him about it, all I had to do was follow him to the hotel where I could pay and then he would lead me to the desert. I did that since he seemed trustworthy, its always good if you trust your intuition during such encounters than to trust your mind which most probably would show you images of you being kidnapped or something. Don’t blame your mind for behaving in such a negative manner though, its been programmed to behave that way since you learned what is what in childhood, and it continues to be programmed in such a manner throughout your life, especially if you watch news channels everyday!
We crossed many areas that were guarded by the army until we reached the hotel in the city. On enquiring, the tent accommodation price for a night was rather surprising in a season where you hardly see tourists, June- July is not a very touristy time to visit Rajasthan. I bargained the INR 2300 tent price down to 1600 because I wasn’t interested in the Camel desert safari or the Rajasthani dance program before dinner, all I wanted was a place in the desert to spend the night in and some traditional food! Eventually, the hotelier and I agreed to a deal at INR 1800, I didn’t want to waste time in bargaining as I was excited to catch up with sunset at desert point. The accommodation was in a place 40 kms from Jaisalmer called Sam, which is most famous for ‘stunty’ sand dunes and is on the map of many off road races that happen across the country. The hotelier guided me to a point on the highway from where it was just one straight road that led to Sam.
As I proceeded, I saw less and less of animals and humans. The view of the road ahead with desert on either sides was literally deserted. My fuel gauge showed 4 points, indicating that I had about 4 to 5 litres of fuel left but I had crossed the last petrol bunk in Jaisalmer. There were no petrol bunks in Sam. On calculating, I had to travel 80 kms by next morning to reach the petrol bunk back in Jaisalmer and with an average of 25, I could easily go another 100 kms so I didn’t worry much about fuel. Many windmills were present on either side with nobody around them, I experienced an increased sense of freedom. Then I had to cross a checkpoint on the way where I was approached by another hotelier who offered me tent accommodation for INR 1000! Damn, I paid that guy 800 extra!! Without regretting much, I carried on and entered the tent accommodation area.
Since it was hot, I was confused whether I should opt for an AC room in the desert (they exist) or a non-AC tent. The manager there suggested me to opt for the tent as power cuts could be a hindrance to living in AC rooms. I was suggested to actually opt for regular tent and then sleep in the night on a ‘Khatiya’ outside tent in proper Rajasthani style. Now that sounded like an awesome plan as night temperature in the desert remains low, the heat wouldn’t be a bother. I met a guy who had arrived there with his family, he called out to me as soon as I checked in. After introduction, he was baffled to hear that I was riding Solo to which he got negative and began to explain how dangerous it was. I had built enough immunity to such negativity, hence I just heard him for a while, responded to his queries rather than reacting and left. After checking in and unloading luggage, I swapped from the hot riding pants to my denims and went to check the sunset out, it was just above the horizon from the tent so I went on my Duke to get a better spot but by the time I could get one, the sun had already set so I ended up finding out what the locals do for business. They mostly take people in the desert in their jeeps or camels. I was done with the jeep thingy on dunes in Dubai and from my previous posts, you would know I don’t leave my motorcycle alone so I chose to not go for the safari.The only guide having a red Mahindra Thar jeep kept pestering me for a Safari so I told him I’d come again soon and asked him to take pictures of me with the motorcycle 🙂
I headed back to the tent area after taking a few pictures and interacted with a person from the dance group who was with his son. I asked him about how they spend most of the time there and what it was like to live away from civilization. I then asked him of a notion that I had about the Traditional dance they display before the tourists right before dinner and its pretty similar to the dance you get to see in Dubai after a desert safari. They say that the traditional dance and tricks belong to Rajasthani culture, my notion was that probably a small part of the tricks and dances they do is Rajasthani but the overall program has been modified and amplified just to lure in tourists and the dance itself is not a true picture of what one calls ‘Rajasthani’ but a false brand created to make a living out of. The reply I got from him just made me feel happy about myself because I didn’t believe something easily that many others did. I appreciated the man’s honesty 🙂
After having snacks, I actually got to watch the Dance and tricks program. The artists are kind, hospitable and hardworking. They put in a lot of effort to run the show and make a living out of it, hence regardless of whether they portray the real picture of tradition or not, is not objectionable according to me because it is the only source of their income on a deserted corner of the country. Frankly speaking, every business today, be it huge or tiny, makes its profits by lying about something or the other, so integrity of the hard work these artists put in shouldn’t be questioned at all.
Traditional village dinner was in place after the program, I was more interested in the food than anything else at that point of time. I couldn’t recognize some of the things I ate from the plate, but it was tasty!
The temperature dropped to around 25 by 10 PM post which, I had an intriguing conversation with one of the owners of the tents about how they make a living and the whether the income they earn during peak tourism season from November- March is sufficient for the rest of the year. He turned out to be much richer than many of the domesticated corporate workers in the city working their weary minds off for an MNC. We then went on to speak about the relevance of education today. Even though he didn’t have a degree certificate, I realized he was way more educated than many of the educated slaves who possess a degree certificate to make a living out of!
Under the beaming moon, as the clock struck 11.30, I slept on the ‘Khatiya‘ outside the tent and added 2 pages of experience to my Tourer Diary. The cool wind was such a sleep catalyst! The next morning, I thanked the owner for his suggestion to sleep outside.