Cycling Expedition: Jaisalmer

The sound of my cell phone woke me up, I checked the screen to find that it was just 4:30 am. The hostel room was dark and people were snoring in a funny rhythm . The late night talks with people in the common area of the over the Champions League football match  had not allowed me to sleep for more than 3 hours. But I had a train to catch, luckily had packed my bags before going to sleep. I woke a friend I met as the hostel itself and was also coming for the expedition. We left for the railway station in a rickshaw and were overcharged, didn’t have time for argument. The  station was empty and  we were the only two people on the platform which was a bit creepy, but I managed. The train arrived at 5:30 am and we departed for Jaisalmer, the train journey wasn’t that interesting as I slept for a major part of the train journey and you can guess why!

We arrived at Jaisalmer and reached the base camp to be greeted by the camp leader. He allotted tents and after settling gathered to meet other people of my camp. We introduced ourselves to each other only to find that we had people from all over the country and all age groups, with me being the youngest. Later during the day, the previous batch was returning from their four-day long expedition looking all exhausted. They had enjoyed the tour and we got excited after hearing what they had to say. Soon, cycles were issued to us and we headed off for a short evening ride in Jaisalmer. Visited the Gadisar Lake in  Jaisalmer, a small lake with a beautiful view.

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Gadisar Lake

The next morning woke up to Rajasthani folk music playing on the loudspeaker. Then had bread pakoda for breakfast and geared up for cycling. We started cycling and could sense the parched surroundings with sparse vegetation and dry air. On the way, saw wind farms of Ludhrava and a Jain temple. As the sun rose above our heads, it became difficult to cycle in the heat and we stopped for lunch which we had packed from the base camp. After lunch, with renewed energy we cycled to reach the next camp at Sam and went off to see the famed sand dunes. The sand feels as just like the one we find on beaches. We all sat on the dune and saw the sun setting beyond the horizon presenting us a very scenic view. We  returned to our camp, which was nothing but 2 tents for twenty people with a water tank nearby with no city comforts like electricity or network coverage. For light we had the stars and moon and for entertainment we had twenty channels.

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Sam Sand Dunes

When one says desert, we imagine scorching sun and intense heat. It is true during the day, but nights are just the opposite. So when we came out of our sleeping bags to watch a certain meteor shower. We just froze in the chilling cold and just returned to our cozy tents.

The next morning we faced head wind, making the climb tough. Saw the Khaba fort overlooking the Khaba village which has an interesting folklore attached. Nabhdungar temple was our next stop, Nabh is sky and dungar is hill, it was a hill that touched the sky .To reach there we had to cycle along the steep road. After some serious efforts reached the top feeling accomplished and had lunch there. It was magnificent from the top but descending the hill was thrilling as gravity pulls you down. Our camp for the night was in the Sudasari  desert national park and had beautiful dunes near it. These were different from the ones in Sam because they were just untouched by humans. There were no tourists, guides or any garbage on these dunes. Acres of fine white sand just for 40 eyes was a special moment for us. This camp again was far from human settlements and the night sky was filled with infinte stars to gaze at.

‘Off road’ is something that we associate to SUV’s. But our cycle route for the fourth day was off-road which was a strenuous job and required some extra energy to cycle through the sand. The part after the off roading was tiresome as it was hot and we were exerting ourselves for quite some time. Our route was dotted with a number of small villages, the kids playing nearby would get very excited after seeing all of us geared up and would come to the road shouting ‘bye-bye’ or extending their arms for a high-five. This was a different experience for me because for these kids we were like foreigners, they lived different lives compared to us. A kid in the city would not spare a look for a cyclist but there I had a kid running behind me for a quite a long distance before I stopped to talk with him. I click a few pictures he and was amused as he had never seen a camera. At that point, I felt privileged to live a life that I have.

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Off-Road Track

The last few kilometers after the off-road were just gruesome. We reached the base camp and felt relieved. Everyone was happy and it was a joyous time.  It was then that we had our first bath in four days and a switchboard to charge our phones. Dinner that night was a trear for us, typical Rajasthani meal, ker sangri, bajre ki roti, churma, dal chaval. The final day was an easy day for us as we went cycling to the cenotaph near Badabagh(a surprisingly green garden in the arid surroundings) where the guide told us about the history. We returned to the base camp and set out to explore the city of Jaisalmer. Went to the fort of Jaisalmer and heard the stories and saw the magnificent view of the city from the fort. The whole city is yellow and is aptly called the ‘Golden city’. Then went for shopping in the market while exploring the streets of Jaisalmer.

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The Golden City

Jaisalmer cycling expedition was a novel experience for me which challenged me both mentally and physically. These four days had given me 19 new friends, all from different fields, different cultures, different regions. We exchanged contact numbers and social network requests. But it had to end and parted ways with a heavy heart planning some future trip together.I did a cycling expedition in Goa, a few of them did the Leh Ladakh expedition, one adventurous friend did the Everest Base Camp trek(esacped unhurt during the earthquake in April 2015 ). We all are in contact, sharing our journeys with each other. This was the best adventure I had ever been on.

Life is like a cycle, in order to maintain balance, you have to keep moving

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