Exquisiteness has always been admired and the disagreeable unkempt. But nature fosters both, with equal carefulness. Our country hosts both the beautiful and serene latitudes along with miles of harsh terrains. Though we have many times travelled across green fields of magnificence, rough and gloomy trails also attracted us several times. One such attraction for the disagreeable and hard nature landed us on Thar, one of the largest deserts of the World! The arid region of Thar shares 85% of its area with India and rest with Pakistan. Sharing its borders with Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana and Gujarat the Great Indian Desert runs between Aravalli hills, Great Rann of Kutch and Indus River.
The sumptuous breakfast of ‘poha’ and tea made a wonderful beginning to our bright and chilly morning of Thar Desert in dunes. As we finished with it, our driver wearing a typical and colourful Rajasthani ‘pagri’ was ready with his Wrangler to take us on a forty kilometres trail of desert. Gradually, the engine started and we took our seats in the open hooded jeep. The initial road of five to six kilometres was a plain pitch road with sand edges on both sides. Desert camps were visible on both side of roads along with crowds and camels surrounding these camps. As we moved further about two kilometres, the jeep took a sharp turn and the crowd started vanishing. We were moving more into the desert. Vegetation got limited to only bushes and shrubs. As our jeep made its way through the loose soil, balancing ourselves with the vehicle was becoming harder. Ups and downs of the path made the situation worse. We sat tight holding the jeep handles and clutches. After few kilometres, a group of small huts were seen which our driver referred to as ‘villages’! Those were very small huts made of soil with roofs of thatches and dry tree leaves.
Few village people were standing in front of those shelters. Men were wearing white full sleeve ‘kurtas’ and ‘dhotis’ that reached till their knees. They wore bracelets of silver colour in their hands and feet. Women wore traditional Rajasthani ‘lehenga-choli’ with white bangles that covered them till their shoulder. Our jeep sluggishly passed by them as they gazed at us through their long ‘ghoonghats’. Fine gusts of sands were littering all over our clothes and seats. As our vehicle moved deeper in the terrain, we found a group of females wandering in search of water. As shown in many Bollywood films, they were carrying a series of ‘matkas’ on their heads. Our driver spoke to them in their local languages which we did not understand. Far beyond at the horizon, groups of camels were sighted moving in their slow pace.
Our desert journey of forty kilometres came to an end as we reached our destination which was again a village but much bigger and better than the previous one. Other tourists and travellers who came by other jeeps were also there. The cabins and shacks were almost the same as previously in erection but were surrounded by small courtyards where water well was positioned. Little green vegetations were seen here that comprised mostly of small tress (which was indeed a great relief to our eyes!). We got down from our jeep and were heartily welcomed by the villagers. People dressed in vivacious and lively Rajasthani attires made the gloominess of desert fade away. We were offered snacks by the villagers but we restrained us only to tea. Camels with ‘mehendis’, colourful ear studs, silk aprons and jubilant decorations were ready for riding. Those who were petrified of riding only posed at the camera sitting at the back of the camel.
We also got introduced to ‘Shahrukh’ and ‘Salman’ with whom we snapped few photographs. Local artists and musicians were playing their flutes in the tunes of ‘kesariya balma padharo hmare des’. Here, one can dress in Rajasthani costumes and attire and have their photos clicked. It appeared that suddenly, the thirsty and severe land turned into a fairyland of some unknown princess. The entire desert was singing and dancing with us as if the princess was getting married to her prince charming. The true spirit of ‘marusthal’ got into us and we got hypnotised in its hues.
Time flied unnoticed. Though it was a morning of January, sand was heating up fast and our driver made a curtain call. Biding goodbye to the villagers, we made a slow retard towards our jeep, staying back with the amiable memories.
Tits bits of jeep safari:
- Carry enough water to keep yourself hydrated. If possible carry some dry food as well.
- Cover your head and face with scarf. The sands will beat them enough.
- Wear sunglasses, hats and full body covered clothes to save yourself from tan.
- You can wear slippers in the day time but covered boots are always preferred.
- Be kind with the desert people. They may be poor but they are not beggars.
How to get there:
- One can hire a jeep for desert safari from Jaisalmer or from sand dunes at Thar. Numerous jeep safari options are available both on Google and at the location. One can budget according to their requirements.
- One can choose their jeep as per their requirements, an open hooded like Wrangler or a closed one like Bolero or Tata Sumo. Price varies little for this.
Fitting into the pocket:
The individual hiring of a jeep may prove a bit expensive sometimes. Hiring of jeeps on sharing basis among one or two families may cater the situation. Do bargain with the jeep drivers.