Jodhpur and Jaisalmer
We flew from Delhi to Jodhpur on 9 April (flight of an hour and a half). We were met on arrival in Jodhpur by Joshi our haveli (hotel) owner and a fleet of nine tuk tuks. Joshi and his staff provided us with garlands of flowers on arrival. From the airport, we had an exhilarating ride through the streets and alleys of Jodhpur as we found out later the drivers were keen to get back to the airport for a flight that was arriving 30 minutes after our flight. All good – a real experience of wacky races…
The group was accommodated between the Juna Mahal Haveli (a boutique homestay) and the Cosy Guesthouse. We had a beautiful vegetarian lunch on arrival and then boarded tuk tuks to visit Mehrangarh Fort – a magnificent castle that towers over Jodhpur – the “Blue City”.
Mehrangarh Fort houses a museum of artifacts as diverse as weaponry, clothing, artwork and the cribs of the babies of various Maharajahs. The fort is certainly one of the best in all of India.
Once we’d looked at the fort, 14 of our group did the flying fox circuit which spans over the fort battlements and over a catchment lake. This circuit took close to 1 ½ hours to complete and was superb. The longest span (the final) was 310 metres long and due to a small headwind, some of our number required to be retrieved when they didn’t quite have the puff to get to the end platform. A few days later on our return to Jodhpur from Jaisalmer, four of our group returned for another ride.
On conclusion of the flying fox, there was great excitement when a cobra was spotted meandering along a path – we observed from a healthy distance. They are not apparently seen often at Mehrangarh Fort. Small squirrels abound also and are clearly in season.
Aussies and holy cows don’t appear to mix as on our walk back to Juna Mahal, a rather grumpy cow butted both Pam and Brian in the street. Thankfully no injuries were sustained.
A beautiful vegetarian dinner was served on Juna Mahal’s rooftop that had been prepared by our host Joshi’s mother and wife.
The next day, we took a private jeep tour to visit the Bisnoi people around 40 kilometres from Jodhpur.
Bishnoi Villages Visit
Our first stop was to a place where clay water pots are manufactured. This process is just as it has been for generations where everything is hand made. We had a very skillful demonstration of the potters wheel a large stone disk that is spun by hand with a stick.
We called into the site where a massacre of Bishoi women had occurred. Trees sacred to the Bishnoi were being cut down by the local Maharajah's troops and a Bishnoi woman had intervened. She stood in front of a tree and told the soldier that he would need to kill her before she would allow him to cut down the tree - he cut her head off. Others joined after her son alerted them and ultimately 363 people were killed. There was a mass burial and a monument stands over the spot today.
We then went to a house where we had a demonstration on wrapping a turban and then the preparation of an opium drink - there was no sampling..
Then it was time for lunch and after we ate some traditional Bishnoi food, killim mat making was demonstrated and a number were laid out for sale in the courtyard.
The following morning, we boarded a private bus and drove some five hours to Jaisalmer through the very arid landscape of the Thar Desert. Jaisalmer is located about 100 kilometres from Pakistan. On arrival in Jailsamer, we enjoyed some traditional Jaisalmeri food for lunch and then boarded some jeeps for a trip into the Thar Desert.
Kuldhara "Village of the Ghosts"
Our first top was to Kuldhara, one of 84 Paliwal Brahmins villages which were deserted suddenly in 1825. Kuldhara had a population of around 4000 people and their houses (only a few have been restored) were quite substantial. We walked into their water well - now dry but a significant structure which went at least 10 metres into the ground.
Camel Ride and Dinner
Our next activity was a ride across some sand dunes in the desert on camel back. This we did for about one hour until we reached the place we were to have our meal in the desert. The food was freshly prepared and included mutton (goat) and chicken which was all cooked over an open fire. We were treated to fireworks progressively during the evening also. Drinks were kindly provided by Trevor Oliver who had to sadly withdraw from the tour - these were very much appreciated.
This evening will, I'm prove to be a highlight of our tour and was thoroughly enjoyed by all.
The following morning, we walked to Jaisalmer Fort and Krishna our haveli manager and "Al Pacino" kindly guided us around the fort. Jaisalmer Fort (established in 1156) is the largest inhabited fort in the world with around 4000 inhabitants. Jaisalmer was part of the Silk Route. We visited the beautiful Jain temples and walked around the narrow alleys within the fort.
Once done, we visited Al Pacino's carpet shop where over a cold beer he did a presentation of his wares - very beautiful work.
We then left the fort and walked to a silver shop where many made purchases of high quality silver jewellery.
On the way back to the Pleasant Haveli, we stopped at a historic haveli museum to see the way in which they were decorated and furnished.
In the late afternoon, we visited Gadisar Lake and then Bada Bagh (royal tombs) ahead of our return to Jaisalmer. Some took the opportunity to visit a wonderful antique shop and made purchases.
That evening we again enjoyed dinner and drinks on the Pleasant Haveli rooftop.
The following day, we made a six hour drive back to Jodhpur where people took some time to have a last look at Jodhpur and to do some final sightseeing and shopping. We stopped along the way for lunch where we found the temperature was around 43C - damn hot..!!
That concluded our visit to Rajasthan - ahead are the Himalayas.