India: Spellbinding Jaisalmer


SAM_5362In the middle of the endless, dry desert suddenly there was a riot of colors. People decked in bright colors were sprouting vividly in barren of the mighty Thar. Heartrending music, the setting sun and the adorned camels ready to gallop with you. It was a carnival. It was Sam!

At the annual festival of Sam in Rajastan, India, I made friends from all over the world Austria, New York, Brazil and Germany! They were world travelers and it was my first outing solo. I had so much to learn, so much to explore. Traveling alone has many advantages one of them is, you are not confined to only your group of friends, and you can meet new people and can bid a polite goodbye if you want to be alone again.

Next day we booked a camel-safari to explore the interiors of the mysterious desert. We got one camel each and rode in the quiet of the majestic Thar admiring the beautiful golden landscape. Our camels were moving at different paces and mine was the slowest. I was left far behind and could faintly hear the camel man (Subhan Khan) say, “All ok everybody?” (Don’t expect vast, treeless undulating expanse of sand in Thar. The desert is not an endless stretch of sand dunes, bereft of life or vegetation. Thar Desert is highly ‘generic’ for it becomes lush green with slightest precipitation.)

Two hours on the galloping giant my back was threatening some serious pain. All I wanted was to get down and stretch on the soft (unmoving) desert. Every time there was a slant and the camel jerked going down, I screeched like a little girl. “I will be grateful to walk on my two feet now,” I begged Shubhan to let me down!

SAM_5348For fuel to make dinner we gathered dried camel dung and some twigs. We picked our spots in the vast Thar under the open sky and curled-up in our beddings. It was a full moon night with clear sky and all visible constellations. I set my phone alarm for 6.30, so that I don’t miss the sunrise.

When my alarm rang in the morning, nobody was awake and there was no sun in sight, I kept snoozing it and peeping out of my blanket every ten minutes hoping to see sunlight. It was eight and the sun seemed to go on a strike.

Suddenly there was light in the sky. Sun? No it was lightening and thunder. It started raining!

After fifteen minutes of the rain drama the sun shined through. The camel-men perform magic out of bare minimum utensils and basic ingredients. We are served breakfast of porridge, fried-eggs, toast, jam, fruits and tea. The desert is full of surprises!
Back in the hotel my back failed me and I do nothing but sleep, eat and sleep some more. But who was in the hurry to do anything!
Me and my two other girlfriends plan a trip to Kuldhara, a deserted village twenty kilometers from Jaisalmer. We rented three bicycles for our crazy-adventure. Paddling and singing “Main herz tantz” we rode… I had never felt so light and happy. Such rapture! My heart was actually dancing. This was it! I knew was born to travel.

A lonely road with a couple of houses sited at far distances; we heard hisses of desert-snakes and loud Bollywood songs playing on the passing tractors once in a while. But mostly it’s quiet.
Phisssssssssssssssssssssss………………….. Naah…Not a snake! Marlous’s cycle had a puncture. We were not prepared for that.

SAM_5253We walked for a kilometer and find a repair shop. But the tube was busted so Marlous and Flavia decided to hitch hike back while I continued alone.

The road to Kuldhara is made on the dunes so it’s up-down-hill. I was full of energy and excitement, singing and riding I paddled. But the real deal was coming-back!

I was glad the girls had gone back and escaped this torture. I ate five oranges, one chocolate bar, chana and drank three bottles of water and my stomach still growled. I had no energy left to ride uphill; I got down and pushed the bike and myself every time there was an ascending ride. But I refused autos and tractors offering to give me and my bike ride home. I had to do it by myself!

My legs were shaking and my mouth was dry. Panting, trembling, huffing, I kept riding, thinking about how am going to brag it to my friends! That’s my only motivation.

I reached the bicycle shop with my head held high in pride and legs shuddering in pain. I could hardly walk. Dragging myself to the hotel, I knocked at Flavia’s room, “I did it,” “And I am hungry” I announced!

I was happy, I was free. I continued random traveling for another month and joined my job back in Pune, ten pounds lighter in body and a thousand pounds lighter in heart!

About the Author: Anuradha Beniwal: I have been traveling solo from past 3 years. And I want to promote female-solo-traveling in India. Indian women are always guarded and are never allowed to go anywhere alone. The women who have the chance to travel are scared to do it alone. Though my website  I want to encourage women to travel alone and tell them how liberating it can be!


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