Travel

My Roadtrip To Sam Sand Dunes In Jaisalmer

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“A thousand kilometers away from home, this better be good”.

My husband and I drove for what seemed like an eternity on neglected and clapped out roads with unannounced speed bumps, potholes, cattle herd, tractors and harvesters on our way to Jaisalmer from Bikaner. We were on a ten day road trip across Rajasthan from Mumbai and Jaisalmer was next on our itinerary. We had not anticipated such road conditions on National Highway 11 and it slowed us down massively, so much so that we began to question our decision of driving to Jaisalmer.

The roadtrip

It was pitch dark when we reached Sam Sand Dunes and with leaden feet, we walked towards our place of stay. Honestly, we were so beat, we did not even care enough for our ‘perfect’ stay and booked the first place that popped up on the travel website’s mobile application.

But what unfolded before our eyes was startling.

As we entered Chirag Desert Camp, we were welcomed by ladies in traditional attire and drum beaters. It was then that we realised we were going to camp in the middle of Thar desert!

Chirag Desert Camp

Entrance

The Camp

The place where we decided to spend the night, Chirag Desert Camp was located in Sam Sand Dunes, about 41 kilometers from Jaisalmer. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the camp was more “luxe” than I had imagined. It had 21 luxurious tents with attached bathrooms. There was a U-shaped ‘courtyard’ that transformed into the ‘performance area’ during evening for folk musicians and dancers and in the middle there was a bonfire!

The room

The washroom

Alladin, the owner of Chirag ensured we had a good time. We were settling down in our tent when he called everyone to the seating area – ‘THE PERFORMANCE WAS ABOUT TO BEGIN!’ The folk singers from all over the state of Rajasthan floored us with soulful songs like ‘Padharo Maare Des’ and ‘Chaap Tilak’ and got my feet tapping and hip swaying to ‘Nimbooda Nimbooda’. Then came the ‘Kalbelia’ dancers and my God were they good!

Folk singers

Folk dancers

Bonfire

But wait, there was more coming our way.

The magical evening carried me to a surreal place. I was floating in the sea of Rajasthani culture, tradition, music and cuisine. The dinner in their canopied restaurant was impeccable with flavours I hadn’t tasted before. Their Ker Sangri and Bajra roti had me asking for more. Even though the dinner was a vegetarian one, Alladin got his special homemade chicken curry just for us.

Restaurant

All this was a prelude to what was in store. The next morning was a rather curious one. We were woken up by the staff at six, while it was still dark outside, with hot milk tea and were told to get ready for ‘the ride’. Upon our arrival the night before, we expressed to Alladin our desire to see the great Thar, to which he had said, ‘It will all be managed’, and that was that.

Now, that was one helluva ride!

I am not a morning person, at all. While I was in the process of rubbing my eyes and dragging myself out of bed that very cold morning, my husband was ready. Realising that I was about to see something I had travelled so far for, I hurriedly freshened up, grabbed my jacket and gulped the very hot tea, that burned everything as it made its way to my stomach. An off roader jeep waited for us outside the camp and I imagined it was going to take us to the desert. It was ideal for I thought I’d get some shut eye on my way there but little did I know I was going to be left wide-eyed! Seconds after we left the camp, I found myself almost flying out of the vehicle. I asked the husband what was going on and he looked as clueless and aghast as I did. It took a bump here and a toss there to realise that we were dune bashing! As the light started to show, I could see the dunes and our jeep bashing through them like an angry bull. The driver tried to pacify me by saying that even if I did fall off the jeep, I wouldn’t break a bone. Horrified, I asked if there were any chances of that…the guy only grinned. I held on to whatever I could find with all my might and prayed to my mother’s Gods for some mercy. As we made our way further deep into the desert, I heard more sounds of revving engines and more people screaming their lungs out. After about half an hour of horror mixed with thrill, I begged the driver to stop. I jumped out of the jeep as soon as it came to a stop and I ran as far as I could from that monster of a vehicle. My heart was pounding as I darted towards nowhere and I could hear someone calling out my name. I turned to find that it was the husband. Of course, I had forgotten about him in the middle of all this madness. It took a while for normalcy to sink in and when it did, we laughed and we laughed till we could no more.

Desert jeep

Ride number two – the entry of Badal.

I have to admit, dune bashing was a lot of fun but there was more. As I sipped my chai in a nearby shack to calm my nerves, a man arrived with his camel, asking us if we wanted a ride. Riding a camel was one of the many things I wanted to tick off my bucket list and there was no way how I was letting this opportunity go amiss. The husband and I decided to hop on Badal, our camel for the day and take a tour of the Thar. The desert was nothing like I had seen before. There was sand everywhere I looked, no traffic, no establishments, no nothing. The camel guy took us to a spot and dropped us off. He asked us to wait there for a while for something spectacular. We did as he said and there it was. The rising sun in all its glory. It was spectacular and no words can do entire justice to what I saw that morning in a place far, far away from home.

Camels

Here are a few more glimpses from our trip to Sam Sand Dunes.

The long drive to Sam Sand Dunes, the great hospitality of Alladin and his staff at Chirag Desert Camp, the exotic desert stretch and the dunes, the thrilling dune bashing experience, the swing of the camel-ride, the folk-culture music and dance, the desert breeze caressing my face, the language of the local folk, and the flavour in their authentic Rajasthani food rejuvenated my spirit and replenished my inner peace. My trip to Jaisalmer was worth every buck I spent and more.

Cost
Luxury tent: ₹ 7000/night (We went there during peak season, prices are however, flexible)
Dinner, snacks and breakfast: Complimentary
Jeep: ₹1500
Camel ride: ₹200
Overall trip: Priceless

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