….in continuation from Part I
Having come this far, I was now determined to push further west to the International Border. My first stop on this route was to be a little place by the name of Tanot which houses the famous Tanot Mata Mandir (temple).
After a sumptuous breakfast I set off again on the smooth highway leading out of Jaisalmer. In no time I had hit windmill country with thousands of them scattered all along the hills as far as the eye could see. Known as the Jaisalmer Wind Park, the area is developed by Suzlon & is supposedly one of the largest in the world & the largest operational onshore wind farm in India.
The terrain had now become sparse with decreasing vegetation cover & hardly any vehicles. Breathing in the fresh air & filling my lungs with some well-needed oxygen, following the almost straight & beautifully maintained border road I reached Tanot covering a distance of almost 120 kms in under 2 hours.
Legend has it that the Tanot Mata Mandir was the only area in the region which did not get bombed during the Indo-Pak war of 1971 & hence the reverence towards the presiding deity of the temple.
After paying my obeisance at the Mandir & completing necessary formalities with the BSF I set off a further 25 or so kms to visit the Tanot Border Outpost (BOP), arranged again kind courtesy of my fauji friends. That was as far west as I could go without crossing over into the neighbouring country!
Longewala War Memorial
I returned to Tanot, deposited my temporary ID, collected my driving licence, had a cup of tea with the BSF personnel & started off for my next pit stop, the Longewala War Memorial. A distance of about 38 kms easily covered in about an hour, the road from Tanot runs roughly parallel to the international border. You have to stop & show your IDs at a couple of checkposts enroute.
The Memorial is built at the location where the famous & decisive 1971 Battle of Longewala was fought in which Maj KS Chandpuri earned the Mahavir Chakra & on which the movie Border is based. It houses extensive exhibits of captured/abandoned equipment from the war, write-ups & the audio-visual presentation in the very bunker of Maj Chandpuri, which has since been converted into a mini theatre, gives one goosebumps as it takes you through those fateful hours of Dec 1971. You can read more about it at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Longewala & about the memorial at https://jaisalmertourism.in/longewala-war-memorial-jaisalmer.
Jaisalmer is also known for its sand dunes, the more touristy ones of them being at Sam about 40 kms away which are easily reached in about 45 mins if you’re starting from the city. I had been booked at Devi Desert Resort & Retreats close to Sam & reached there by late afternoon on my way back from Longewala. The aim was now to quickly check in, freshen up & head to the dunes to catch the camel safari & the views of the setting sun. There are more than a plenty of operators there who do that & you can pick & choose basis their reviews. They also have decent tented accommodation which is a good alternative if you want to spend the night in the lap of dunes.
On reaching my designated camp I was put atop Michael Jackson, my ‘all terrain vehicle’ for the evening. If you have ever had a chance to be on a camel when it begins to stand from a sitting position or vice-versa you would’ve realised that it takes all your effort & muscle power to hold on tight to the saddle to prevent yourself from toppling over! I managed!!
Michael Jackson’s handler Irshad, a little boy in his teens, kept me entertained with his stories & antics through that almost 30 mins cross-country ride into dune country. On the way we passed a number of Maruti Gypsies and Thars with screaming youngsters as their vehicles took them dune-bashing. Noise pollution in an otherwise quiet & tranquil environment!
We reached our designated point & joined a myriad group of people already present there. I disembarked, dusted myself, patted MJ for his benevolence in sparing me the fall & trudged my way to reserve a position to watch the sunset. It again turned out to be a breathtaking experience, as sunsets always are, making for some vivid memories & awesome photographs.
I boarded my ship again & was carried back to the desert camp. It was now time for the cultural show & dinner which were included in my package for the evening. A word of advice. Depending on which camp you’re at, who you’ve booked through & where you’re coming from the rates for the whole package can vary & you are at liberty to exercise your right to negotiate. If I remember correctly I paid close to Rs 1000 + some tip to the camel handler for the evening.
The folk dance was entertaining & the dinner satisfactory. With that I called it a day & returned to my resort.
I was determined to explore more & fished out some more gems in the region. The first of these was the Khaba Fort, a lovely drive of 18 kms away from Devi Resorts.
Khaba Fort dates back to the 13th century and was once an important part of Kuldhara, a village inhabited by Paliwal Brahmins. Sometime during the 1800s the residents fled the village and left behind a ghost town. The ticket is nominal & the fort & the abandoned Khaba village at its feet make for some enchanting images.
A further 16 kms & about 25 mins took me to Kuldhara, another abandoned village but better maintained by the government. The entry is ticketed & about half a km long cobbled motorable driveway leads one to the ruins.
It didn’t turn out to be as exciting as the hype around it suggested. You can walk around the area & climb on top of the temple’s roof to take pictures of the village.
Having thus rounded off my trip I returned to the cozy comfort of Himmatgarh Palace at Jaisalmer once again.
The Underground Library at Bhadariya
My appetite was still not satiated & I fished out another hidden secret on starting the return trip from Jaisalmer. Located about 77 kms away towards Jodhpur in Bhadariya village is probably one of Asia’s largest underground libraries. I remember visiting it way back in the early 90s during my fauji days when it was still under construction. The library has a collection of more than 9 lakh books spanning a wide variety of subjects, some of them ancient Indian epics & scriptures.
On returning to Jodhpur I checked myself in at Yogi Guest House near the Clock Tower in Jodhpur to catch the real local flavor of the city. The room on the second floor came with a view of the Fort! The third floor boasted a rooftop restaurant with another grand visual.
Run by an amenable young lady, the staff was hospitable & the food tasty. The room itself had a four poster bed & was decorated in a typical Rajasthani style. The washroom left a little to be desired but then you can’t complain much when you get all this at a budget price! Morning cuppa of chai was a project executed by walking down to the nearest tea shop close to the clock tower, thus prepping me for the day ahead.
I ditched the regular touristy stuff at Jodhpur in favour of antique hunting at Lalji & furniture shopping at the factories at Basni & had a car load of stuff when I left from there.
Jodhpur to Delhi would have been a long haul for a single day’s drive & so I had to break journey somewhere. I decided in favour of Pushkar & booked myself at Hostel Elephant Pushkar. Located alongside the main street, it gave me a good launchpad to explore the little town & the various ghats. Its a good place to stay if you’re also looking for a secured car parking for the night. There were plenty of eating options available close by though the room & the service itself left much to be desired!
That brought me to the end of my dream Rajasthan Road Trip. After an early breakfast of poori-sabzi in the local market I started off the next morning & made it to Gurgaon by mid-afternoon. The trip was over & I was happy to have returned home with a bagful of beautiful memories, a cache of antiques & thankfully, a scratchless car!
Lovely.. great optics too.. Cheers!!..
Thanks buddy 🙂
Info which will help and motivate all the Ghummakars to explore places with first hand info from an avid Gummakar.. capt Sudeep …well done sir keep it up …Cheers
Thank you Vishal! Am waiting for your review of Chauki Dhani since ages 🙂 🙂
Wow….a confession. Was there in Jodhpur and have missed at least half the sights. Motivated to head West again.
That’s how it works Arvind…one traveller inspires another 🙂
Tips on local food and where would b nice. Keep it up
Thanks Sodhi sir. Will record those in my future travels & include in my blogs 🙂
Very nicely written blog. It has inspired me to explore Jaisalmer Rajasthan as solo traveler. Thank you..
I’m so glad! That means I have achieved my objective 🙂