Rajasthan Part 5: To the sand dunes of Jaisalmer via Pokhran

Sunset at Sam Sand Dunes - Jaisalmer Rajasthan - Pick, Pack Go


Our next destination was Jaisalmer, which is located around 600km from Jaipur. We had booked tickets in the Delhi - Jaisalmer express train. Due to heavy fog in Delhi, the train was running few hours late for the past few weeks. 


I was very much concerned about the delay, as we had many plans for Jaisalmer – which was based on the arrival time of the train. We reached the Jaipur railway station around 11:30pm. Thanks to the modern technology, the Indian Railway was updating the position of the train every 15 minutes. By the time we reached the station, we were relieved as the train was only delayed by an hour an so. ( which by Indian standards, is a totally acceptable delay and the train would gain some time by reaching Jaisalmer!) 

As we stepped into the railway station, we were a bit taken aback. There was huge crowd sleeping on the floor of the railway station lobby. Even though I have seen the same in other north Indian railway stations as well, it was a bit of discomfort to wade through the people who are sleeping and reaching the platform one. Some of these people have to board early morning trains and some others have just taken refuge in the railway station to escape the cold weather outside. Everybody seems to be quite happy and content sleeping on the railway station floor!

The train arrived around 12:30am and we boarded. Soon I slipped into a discontinuous sleep. It was very early in the morning around 4:00am and I woke up hearing noises inside the bogy and was surprised to see a large group of army men inside the train. I was a bit scared remembering those stories of bomb threats and all, however it turned out that, they were going to Pokhran. 

Desert land - Jaisalmer Rajasthan - Pick, Pack Go
The vast barren lands and wind mills in the distance

I jumped up from my sleep as I heard the word Pokhran being mentioned. It is a name which we started hearing  at a very young age. It was the place were India conducted its nuclear bomb experiment during the times of Ms. Indira Gandhi. I was thrilled to know that these army men are going to the Indian military camp at Pokhran and the train stops around 15 minutes there. I had never imagined that I would ever set my foot in Pokhran- its curious where all the life take us.

The train reached Pokhran and the army men alighted the train. My respect towards our army and the men in uniform increased many folds as I saw in what kind of harsh circumstances they survive so that the country can sleep in their cozy homes! 

Train was approaching Jaisalmer. There were only few of us left in the train bogy. There were few villagers also in the train. On either sides of the track there were barren lands with brown dust and too few plants around. The sense of “desert” clicked in me suddenly. Within half an hour we reached the west most part of India – Jaisalmer. The train was only half an hour late and we were quite happy about it. Jaisalmer has a very small yet clean railway station. We came to Jaisalmer to see the sand dunes and Oasis. We had plans to spent the night in desert camp conducted by a company called  “Damodara” desert camps. 

Jaisalmer Railway station - Rajasthan - Pick, Pack, Go
Jaisalmer Railway Station

There was a representative of the Damodara desert camp waiting for us in front of the Jaisalmer railway station. We got into his jeep and went to a hotel to freshen up. As the jeep started, I watched the Jaisalmer town curiously. One striking thing about Jaisalmer is its dusty color. Every building, be it big or small is built with yellow sand stone. The population density of Jaisalmer is also very less. As we approached the office of Damodara desert camp, we noticed a majestic fort. 

Jaisalmer Fort - Rajasthan - Pick Pack Go
A distant view of Jaisalmer fort

The guide told us that, it is the Jaisalmer fort which is the second largest fort in India where there is human  inhabitance. They call it “living fort”. The largest living fort in India is the Chittorgarh fort. 

We have two days in Jaisalmer. Half day was already over. I felt a kind of joy filled anxiety stirring in me as we got ready for the desert safari. It was one of my cherished dreams to see the desert. Even though not as vast and grand as the Thar desert, Jaisalmer has it’s own share of sand dune located near the town. Our guide described our itinerary for the next half of the day. First we would visit an abandoned fort and village named Khaba and then we would go to an Oasis named “Jessie”. Then comes the camel safari in the sand dunes and sunset in desert. Later we would go back to the camp located at a small distance from the dunes. As I hopped in the back seat of the open jeep, I realized that I haven’t lost my capability of getting excited like a kid! 

The jeep darted through the smooth and wide roads of Jaisalmer. A little while later we entered into the dusty village roads and we soon reached the Khaba fort.

Khaba Fort - Jaisalmer, Rajasthan - Pick, Pack, Go
Khaba fort Jaisalmer

 Khaba fort is built with yellow sandstone and stands on a small hill. It is said that the Khaba fort and the adjoining village was abandoned  overnight. There are many urban legends floating around this sudden flight . 
Abandoned village view from Khaba Fort - Jaisalmer, Rajasthan - Pick, Pack, Go
View of the abandoned villages from Khaba fort


It is said that a beautiful girl in this village was proposed for marriage by a cruel and wealthy Zemindar in this region and as the villagers couldn’t protest against it, they ran away with the girl. Another story is that there is a curse on this village that nobody would be able to make it as their permanent residence. Some others say that the village is haunted by ghosts and hence the villagers left.  
Abandoned village view from Khaba Fort - Jaisalmer, Rajasthan - Pick, Pack, Go
A structure that looks like a temple - view from Khaba fort

Abandoned village view from Khaba Fort - Jaisalmer, Rajasthan - Pick, Pack, Go
Interior of a house a closer view


In Rajasthan, such  folklore are plenty. Another famous abandoned village is Kuladhara, which is also nearby Jaisalmer. The “Bhangarh“ fort, which got a lot of tourist attention due to its tag of “most haunted place in India” is also in Rajasthan. When there is thousands of years of history attached to a place, these folklores are bound to be formed. Same is the case with Rajasthan.

Peacock at Khaba Fort - Jaisalmer, Rajasthan - Pick, Pack, Go
Peacock below the valley of Khaba fort

We entered into the Khaba fort,  and climbed up to the top most watch point. The distant view of the vandalized and abandoned villages was indeed depressing. When I stood there looking at the ruins of the houses, I felt kind of aloof. What would be the actual reason of their departure? Suddenly one view caught my eyes which cheered me up instantly. 

There were a flock of peacocks walking along the valley! Apart from the one or two peacocks that I have seen in the zoo, this was the first time  that I see a free flock walking around with such poise and beauty. 
Peacock at Khaba Fort - Jaisalmer, Rajasthan - Pick, Pack, Go
A peacock flock near the fort

There were least bothered by the tourist trying to take their photos. They might have been adapted to this lifestyle and who doesn’t want to be adored! 

Peacock at Khaba Fort - Jaisalmer, Rajasthan - Pick, Pack, Go
Striking a pose!

We got enough time to watch the peacocks and then it was time for us to move to our next destination.“Jessie” oasis, as introduced by the guide from the Damodara desert camp, was located very near to the Khaba fort.
Jassie Oasis - Jaisalmer, Rajasthan - Pick, Pack, Go
Jessie Oasis - A distant view

 After fifteen minutes ride through the mud roads, we reached a place which looked like a film set! It was so perfect -The oasis in the middle of the dry and barren land, the flocks of sheep climbing downhill to drink water, the turbaned shepherd, the ancient temple and picturesque tree slanting over to the oasis. We usually get to see these scenes only in movies. We spent some time around this serene place without disturbing the sheep or the shepherded. 

Jassie Oasis - Jaisalmer, Rajasthan - Pick, Pack, Go
 the sheep coming down to drink water
Jassie Oasis - Jaisalmer, Rajasthan - Pick, Pack, Go
The ancient temple next to the water

Tree of Life - Jassie Oasis - Jaisalmer, Rajasthan - Pick, Pack, Go
The tree of life

Temple Near - Jassie Oasis - Jaisalmer, Rajasthan - Pick, Pack, Go
The temple ruins near the Oasis

Temple near Jassie Oasis - Jaisalmer, Rajasthan - Pick, Pack, Go
The temple ruins near the Oasis

It was almost 3:00pm in the afternoon and it was time for us to go for the desert safari. Most famous destination in Jaisalmer is the Sam sand dunes. However, one would always find a huge crowd and groups of camels carrying tourists in the Sam dunes. Hence, to give us a real experience of how lonely and scary the desert look, the Damodara guide took us to their private dunes which are situated quite far from the Sam dunes. 

Sam Sand Dunes  - Jaisalmer, Rajasthan - Pick, Pack, Go
The lonely sand dunes

This sand dunes is quite close to the Damodara village of Jaisalmer, where the owner of the Damodara desert camp Prithvi hails from. Prithvi himself is an avid traveler and he decided to start a tourism venture giving employment to his own villagers. All the staff of Damodara desert camp is from the same village and they are in a great rapport with each other. We could also feel the same rapport with the Damodara desert camp and the team.

We kept traveling through the dusty mud roads and after a few kilometers of bumpy ride, we could spot a few sand hills in the distance. 

Camels at Sam Sand Dunes  - Jaisalmer, Rajasthan - Pick, Pack, Go
Ready to go

My heart was jumping with joy at the perspective of  seeing the desert for the first time. As the sand dunes came closer we saw a group of four camels waiting near the dunes to pick us up. It was the first time that I see a camel so close. I felt nervous about having to climb on the top of one of them. The camel’s shepherd pacified me and even the camel looked at me with its calm eyes as if reassuring me.

Sam Sand Dunes  - Jaisalmer, Rajasthan - Pick, Pack, Go
ALL IZZ WELL!!

I gathered the courage and climbed on top of the camel. It wasn’t as bad as I thought! However, one should be quite careful while riding the camel as the rhythm of its walking is a little tough to adjust to. Slowly and steadily our camels started walking towards the sand dunes.

Sam Sand Dunes  - Jaisalmer, Rajasthan - Pick, Pack, Go
Approaching the sand dunes

As we entered into the sand dunes, the topography of the place changed completely. It was such a magnificent sight, which my words are incapable of describing. We had just the sandy hills all around us. They kept changing the shape and size as the wind blew over them.

Sam Sand Dunes  - Jaisalmer, Rajasthan - Pick, Pack, Go
Approaching the sand dunes


 The sun was about to set. I instantly knew that this was the highlight of our Rajasthan trip. 

Sam Sand Dunes  - Jaisalmer, Rajasthan - Pick, Pack, Go
Random clicks from the desert

Sam Sand Dunes  - Jaisalmer, Rajasthan - Pick, Pack, Go
Random clicks from the desert


Sam Sand Dunes  - Jaisalmer, Rajasthan - Pick, Pack, Go
Random clicks from the desert

Sam Sand Dunes  - Jaisalmer, Rajasthan - Pick, Pack, Go
Random clicks from the desert

Our guide brought a few surf boards so that we can do the sand surfing. It is not adventurous like jeep safari, but quite exciting. You are sure that you wouldn’t get hurt! Only thing to note is to avoid falling with your face down. Experience taught me it could be very annoying to have sand in the eyes and mouth! 

Sam Sand Dunes  - Jaisalmer, Rajasthan - Pick, Pack, Go
Attempting sand surfing

  We walked around the lonely sand dunes till the last rays of the sun bid good bye, and then headed back to the desert camp located very near to the dunes. 

Sam Sand Dunes  - Jaisalmer, Rajasthan - Pick, Pack, Go
Sun setting in the Desert




We had arranged accommodation in tents. The tents were quite luxurious which reminded me of the stories from the Arabian Nights. 

Damodar Desert camp   - Jaisalmer, Rajasthan - Pick, Pack, Go
the "tent"!

Damodra desert camp had beautiful camp fire and lovely Rajasthani music and dance was arranged. It was quite an otherworldly experience to sit under the clear starry sky, listening to heart warming music and eating your favorite food. It was a perfect afternoon and night!


Damodar Desert camp   - Jaisalmer, Rajasthan - Pick, Pack, Go
Camp fire at the Damodara desert camp

Damodar Desert camp   - Jaisalmer, Rajasthan - Pick, Pack, Go

The next day morning, we were woken up by the creaky sound of the peacocks. There was slight fog but it was a pleasant morning.

Damodar Desert camp   - Jaisalmer, Rajasthan - Pick, Pack, Go
A wonderful morning!

 We got out of the tent and had a good look at the camp. We couldn’t see much of it in the previous day as it was quite dark by the time we arrived. 


Damodar Desert camp   - Jaisalmer, Rajasthan - Pick, Pack, Go
Sheer beauty!
We walked around and captured some peacocks quietly in the camera – of course without disturbing their serene pursuits!



Damodar Desert camp   - Jaisalmer, Rajasthan - Pick, Pack, Go


After a lovely breakfast, it was time for us to head back to the Jaisalmer town. We had planned to visit the Jaisalmer fort during the day before we head back to Jodhpur. 



Damodar Desert camp   - Jaisalmer, Rajasthan - Pick, Pack, Go
Damodara desert camp

Tents at Damodar Desert camp   - Jaisalmer, Rajasthan - Pick, Pack, Go
The tent we stayed

Tents at Damodar Desert camp   - Jaisalmer, Rajasthan - Pick, Pack, Go

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