Sunday, April 27, 2014

Things to do in Jaisalmer

23rd to 26th December 2013

It needs a decent amount of time to explore the city of Jaisalmer and its surroundings. Here are list of things that you can do in Jaisalmer.

1.       Visit Gadisar Lake in the evening for its clean water and great sunset views.

2.       Near to Gadisar lake is desert cultural center and museum – It is run by a local schoolteacher. The puppet shows are the best.

3.       Jaisalmer fort – Visit for its Palace and Jain Temples. Do not forget to explore the by-lanes in the fort.

4.       Havelis – Jaisalmer has some beautiful traditional Havelis. The best of the lot of Patwon-ki-Haveli, Salim Singh Ji ki Haveli and Nathmal Haveli.

5.       Jain Temple of Lodhurva – 15 km from Jaisalmer is the Jain Temple surrounded by sand dunes.

6.       Bada bagh – 10 km from Jaisalmer is Bada bagh contains the cenotaphs of Jaisalmer rulers.

7.       Amar Sagar – 15 km from Jaisalmer. It has a Jain Temple with a small garden and a big lake. The lake was completely dried when we visited.

8.       Sand dunes – People come to Jaisalmer for sand dunes.  Khuri and Sam are the two places where sand dunes are present. Both are about 40 km from Jaisalmer but in opposite direction. We went to Sam sand dunes and stayed in a tent for a night. If you can spend more days, head for desert trek or safari.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Jaisalmer fort

24th December 2013

Standing amidst the vast Thar Desert is the fort of Jaisalmer. Built on a hill in 12th Century, it housed the entire population of Jaisalmer at one point of time. It is still a living fort but Jaisalmer has grown much larger than the fort now.

Morning view of Jaisalmer fort

Night view of the fort
Jaisalmer was along the ancient trade route to Iran, Arabia and other Middle East countries. The trade routes were closed with the advent of Maritime traffic. Today, Jaisalmer thrives on tourists who flock to the town from various parts of the world.

Royal Palace at the fort
When we reached the parking lot at the base of the fort, a kid was attracting lot of people by his balancing acts over a rope.

From the parking lot at the base, we had to walk up for some distance to reach Royal Palace.

The major attraction of the fort is Royal Palace. Converted now to a museum, it gives a glimpse of desert architecture. Audio guides are available which we happily used.

One can get a panoramic view of the town from the top of the Palace.

There are several Jain Temples in and around Jaisalmer. The fort houses a complex of seven Jain Temples each of them dedicated to a Thirthankara. It is located in a narrow street near to the Royal Palace.

The Temple has some great stone carvings. Surprisingly it contains lot of carvings of celestial dancers!!

Look at the carvings of the main entrance.

Carving of a beast.

Outside the Jain Temple.

The inside hall of one of the Jain Temple.

After spending a very long time in the Temple, we started exploring the fort. Went to some narrow lanes to reach the walls of the fort where cannons are still located.

There are some good eateries in the fort which I felt were much better than the ones outside the fort!! We had our lunch in a restaurant that provides good views over the fort.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Gadisar Lake, Jaisalmer

23rd December 2013

Situated not far from the town of Jaisalmer is Gadisar Lake. Once it was the source of water for this desert town, now a kind of tourist attraction. The Temples surrounding the lake add to the beauty of this lake.

The best time to visit this lake is in the evening. The rays of the setting sun on the lake give a nice feel of this place.

I was pleasantly surprised to see the area around the lake very clean. Like many towns in India, Jaisalmer does not fall into the category of clean town but the authorities have managed to keep the lake area clean.

The main attraction is boating. My daughter was apprehensive about it due to the experience in Kolli hills but was finally convinced.

Or one can just walk along the banks of the lake. I do not think that it gets crowded most part of the year. It was Christmas when we visited but still it was not filled with people.

Cat fishes concentrate on one part of the lake where there are fed with breads. Due to the easy availability of food, they have grown huge in size.

A good place to spend an evening in Jaisalmer. But some people who visited in summer months were disappointed as the lake had gone dry!!

There are some eateries and souvenir shops. And also one can wear Rajasthani dress and get a snap. Tanushree could not resists wearing the dress and posing for a photo!!

Sunday, April 06, 2014

A long walk to a waterfall

23rd February 2014

This waterfall demanded a long walk and hence we had to reach the nearest village on the previous evening. Even though the village is well connected with Government buses, it seems to be situated in different part of the world. Part of it is due to its proximity to the western ghat.

Side view of the waterfall
We had reached before nightfall to find a place to pitch our tents before dark. But things did not look very promising that evening. The local MLA had come to the village as part of his “people contact program” with various Government officials. The entire villager had congregated at the Temple. So, we had to wait for the program to end. In the meantime we had found a nice place near the school for camping.

Pool formed at the base of the waterfall
It was almost dark by the time the meeting ended. Promises were made without any actions in place by politicians and Government people. The main demand to build a bridge was not given priority. This was a tragedy as the village remains cut-off during monsoon due to swelling steams.

The tragedy for us was that we were not allowed to camp in the school. Apparently some trekkers had violated the sanctity of the place earlier by killing and eating chicken. No amount of cajoling would convince the villagers. Rajesh Naik’s contacts with some of the villagers saved the day for us. We were allowed to camp in one of the open spaces near the village.

In the camp, Adiga Sir’s prowess on culinary skills was seen. It was amazing to see the energy of the couple bring at their age. Hats off to you Sir!! It was astonishing to see the amount of preparation they had done for all the eating needs during the trek. Adiga Sir’s food will be an added attraction for me to join Udupi treks in future!!

Cooking time!!
The trek started at 7:30 in the morning. The initial part of the trek was on unmaintained Jeep track. The track climbed up continuously where we gained an altitude of about 1000 ft in an hour. And then started steep descent into the valley. After about 45 minutes of the walk that was painful for our knees, we reached the base of the river. The height we gained during the initial part of the trek was lost during the descent to the stream!!

Climb up
I was one among the first to reach the base and hence we rested for a good amount of time waiting for others to join. The crystal clear and calm water was a treat to our eyes and minds.

Climbing down into the valley
The hardest part of the trek was about to begin. It was walking along the stream. I had assumed that waterfall would make its appearance within few minutes. But I was taken aback when our guide mentioned that we need to walk for nearly two hours to reach our destination.

I now understood why this waterfall was out of reach from people until the beginning of winter. We had to cross the stream at many places due to steep rocks on the bank. And no way can we cross if the stream is running high.

This trek also had one of the “first” for me. I saw a python in the wild!! Incidentally, people in front of me did not notice this slow creature. It was lying still under a bush. When we went near it, it slowly went little deeper into the undergrowth but away from our site.

A small waterfall

We also saw the skeletal remains of a small creature. I thought it as the remains of a crocodile. But our guide mentioned it as one of the land living creature. Locally, it is called as “chaape”. I have not heard that name but it might be some species of monitor lizard.

The skeletal remains of a creature
It took little over two hours of “stream walk” to reach the waterfall. The waterfall must be about 100 feet but only a part of it is visible as it falls over three stages. The first two stages are obscured by a rocky overgrowth.

Huge pool is formed at the base of the falls. We spent a long time in the waterfalls. We jumped into the water, played for a long time, spent some time taking photographs and finished our lunch. The waterfall was so remote and pristine that it was worth walking every step to reach that beautiful place. 

Second step of the falls

First step of the falls
We thought that return journey would be faster but were surprised when it took the same amount of time. Sun was coming down when we said goodbye to the helpful villagers and started the journey back to our towns and cities.