Sunday, November 28, 2010

Khuri ->Jaisalmer->Jodhpur->Ajmer->Pushkar->Jaipur - I

After deciding to go with Rajasthan for this seasons trip, we were bit skeptical about the travel arrangements and place of stay etc. But a thorough research and advice from friends and seasoned travelers helped us. We decided to go all the way up to Jaisalmer (from Jaipur)in train and from there traverse back to Jaipur covering the circuit within 6 days. As soon as we got down from the train @ Jaisalmer, we were mobbed up group of taxi drivers and rickshawallahs, nevertheless we hired a shared auto to Bus stand, All through the journey Auto driver told us how people cheat tourists and but finally dropped us in front of hotel /restaurant and was pushing us to go and have a look there! Commission business rules here! You should make a plan and stick to it. After having a enjoyable stay at Badal House @ Khuri, we headed to Jaisalmer. Jaisalmer the “Golden city” has good tourist attractions.

Jaisalmer State Emblem

A doll shop out side Ghadisar Lake: You will find a variety of these shops in the city but you will have to wear a good bargaining hat out here!
Ghadisar Lake was built as a source of water for the Jaisalmer city, the lake is quite large and is a good spot for birding as well. It has a complex of the temples both on the shores and in the center. Boat rides early in the morning and evenings offer a good view of the fort and other monuments around.
A view of the Ghadisar lake.
Most of city looks painted in Golden color.

Lord Rama with a beard :-) May be sculptor thought after "Vanavasa" Rama should have grown a beard.
Jaisalmer Fort(Sonar Killa). Being strategically located in the Arab trade route, Jaisalmer fort occupies an important place in Indian history. As the guide said, during those days if anyone has reached Jaisalmer on camel it was considered to be a major achievement.

City as seen through the fort.

One can still see the stone armoury around the fort, which was used to defend the attacks on the fort.

Unlike other forts, still a significant population lives inside the thriving fort. You will be greeted with lot of guides as you enter the road which leads to the fort, but we found that the guides available inside the fort museum are more knowledgeable, authentic and affordable. The fort is still under the control of current Maharaja, the fort and the museum inside is run by a Trust under Maharaja.

A Busy street inside the fort

Eat out: Desert Bytes is a good vegetarian resturant, which offered us delicious idly, sambar

Next: Jodhpur the Blue City

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Quest with Birds, Bisons,Antelopes and Mokeys..

Last week, we had a great opportunity to participate, learn and make a beginning and I wish we will take forward a good beginning that we have made.

The School and the pupils

This is how we ended up drawing birds! I started to draw a Sunbird but ended up drawing a Kiwi instead!

And a great Morning to begin with…

A Wagtail basking in the sun

I wish I had these morning walks every day

Hog deer has spotted something!!!

Looks like the Kingfisher has got a fish…

Here comes the Bison.. The Hero….

Can you tell me something more about the bird we spotted?

Guess what? He is trying to simplify …

Looks like he has simplified it for Mantis…
Canons shooting birds….

As the Guru says.. it is a complex and interconnected world out there, we should respect each others place in nature.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Badal House @ Khuri

It was a windy, sandy afternoon as we got down from the train in Jaisalmer, the western most tip of Indian railways! As we ventured our way out of the railway station, needless to say auto, taxi drivers started offering accommodations, ride to Sam, ride to Khuri etc. The information collected from various sources was real handy here, finally we took a shared auto to board a bus to Khuri. At Bus stand we couldy only figure out the bus is leaving pretty late and after a good negotiation booked a taxi to drop us at Khuri. As we entered Khuri, we noticed a decent number of resorts and home stays, and after getting directions from an elderly fellow at Village naka, we reached "Badal House" .

"कर्म तेरे अच्छे तो किस्मत तेरी दासी" (If your deeds are good enough then the destiny will follow you) reads a saying written on his house. Ever smiling, simple and down to earth Badal Singh welcomes us to his clean and neat dwelling. As we start unwinding on the small platform infront of the house, the clouds have already surrounded the village and gusty wind starts blowing across. As I cover my face to save it from the sand, Badal Singh says "रेगिस्तान आपका स्वागत कर रहा है" (Desert is welcoming you). Well it's quite true that, wherever we go rain god accompanies us, I was quite suprised to see the rains in the desert with the onset of winter. Badalji attributes it to "Global Warming", and we learnt next day that there was indeed quite heavy showers at Jaisalmer.
True to his nature, Badal Singh has kept his home quite simple but well mantained.You will find 3 simple huts and 3 rooms with shared bathroom facilities. As we talk over a cup of tea, Badalji tells us he is expecting some visitors from Europe that evening and that because of rains they may not be able to make it and tells us how a guest few days back booked and after making all arragements they didnt show up! Badalji so calm and peaceful, there was not a shade of anger while was telling this.
As rains started to drizzle, goats came home and Badalji & Napa (Badalji's Son) served water to goats. You can see the ancient wisdom of rain water harvesting is being practiced here. Badalji has build two storage tanks for water in the house which is used for most of household purposes. Badalji tells as there was good monsoon this time around, he has sufficient water stored for rest of the year.

We break for an evening walk or rather trek to nearby sand dunes, Khuri offered us the peace and solitude, ofcourse the tourist activities @ Khuri have picked up with lot of resorts mushrooming around, but if you are prepared spend a bit more of energy there is no derth for solitude places. Being in the desert national park Khuri also offered us sight of lot of Avions as well. After watching lovely sunset we are back to Badal house, Badalji tells us he has arranged for the Camel ride the next day, we along with the other guests will depart for camel ride next day. He also tells us, "Seeing your state, and also state of weather sir, I cancelled your camel ride today and arranged it for tomorrow". I nod my head in concurrence, with around 20+ years of experience in this , Badalji must have read my mind!! As the loud music from near by resort cuts through the peace of the village, he tells he is not very happy about this, and how this has become part of his life.
Next day, we are up early, and knowing our interest in birds Badalji directed us to three small lakes on the outskirts of Khuri, these are for different purposes of animal and human needs of the village. And when we were back, Badalji showed us comments of an Ornithogist from Europe about Great Indian Bustard, and asked if we were keen to visit that place around 40~50 kms from Khuri. I had to forego that thought, since the travel arrangements couldn't be made in a jiffy, and good time to spot these are only during morning and evenings.
Afternoon sun rises, and so the heat of the desert, Although it was pleasant inside house, it was a bit harsh outside. Badalji told us why there are no A/C's , TV's at his home. "People come here in search of peace and definitely I don't want to spoil my kids with all the facilities". He cherishes his guestbooks, which he has been maintaining since early days of home stay, I must say, this humble man from the western tip of India is making the country proud by doing his bit of service in a selfless manner.

We set out for Camel Safari, as the desert prepares for the evening with an aim to be at the camp by the sunset. For us being first timers, Camel ride wans't that great, with whole of upper torso shaking all the way! But after a while, I guess body adjusted itself and started cooperating. It was great to watch the sun set across the border amidst the sand dunes. We retired to our bed with open sky as the roof, and sand dunes as our bed.

It gets colder during the night with cool wind breezing around, couldn't get good sleep though. But this was really a blessing in disguise as I woke up sometime in the midnight to see a wonderful and glowing "Moon Light soaked desert", It wasn't a full moon day and I made a decision to visit again on a full moon day and went back to sleep.
Spotted a wild deer on our way...

Bettle (id?) on its way...

Den of a desert fox. I was told that they dig up the sand in a zig zag fashion to confuse the predators and protect young ones.

Sun came up a bit late on the horizon next day( We were expecting early sunrise as we see in the east) , and sunrise was over real quick. We were up to birding again, after a great cup of Chai. Napa and Co prepared the breakfast for us and set out to find the Camels in the desert. They had left the camels free with the forelegs tied to each other pervious day. We were back to badal house on camel with a wonderful experience of our lifetime.

As we left Khuri, the words written on Badal house and ever smiling face of Badal Singh kept recurring. I must thank my buddy Arun for suggesting this place and I am sure I will definitely come back here to have a dekko at the Great Indian Bustard and the moonlit desert.

For an account on Birding around Khuri follow this link: Birding Around Khuri

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