|Gopnath, Sam dunes Jaisalmer, Bandhavgarh: Published in CFO connect, Oct 2011|
Some people travel for leisure, and some to take a break from the humdrum of everyday life. There are still others who do so in search of a difference – to explore the unknown and get absorbed in its environs. Where nature plays host and engulfs you in its remarkable milieu; yet so real, happy, and enchanting. This is where life can be found in its most pristine form, unadulterated, and smiling. Each such place is an inimitable experience, and also hides lovingly in the arms of the Indian subcontinent.Among these places is Gopnath Village in Gujarat, which is situated on a cliff, with the sea splashing on all sides; Sam Village in Jaisalmer is an endless caravan in the sand dunes; and Bandhavgarh reserve in Madhya Pradesh, is the land of the roaring tiger.
A bungalow on the sea- Wild bushes covered the view of the magnificent bungalow, with each room opening up to a view of the sea right in front, rumbling with the resonance of splashing waves and roaring sea breeze. Each room was decorated in ‘Maharaja Style’, with ancient paintings on the walls, brick beds cushioned with mattresses, and very spacious balconies, including a marble tea table. Whispering in the air were ghost stories that rhymed with the wheezing sound of the breeze, the splashing sea, and the ancient figurines on the wall.Tea at the bungalow – The presence of the tea table reminded us of our thirst for a hot cup of ginger tea, in the freezing cold. On inquiry, we were directed to a dhaba adjoining the bungalow. Having grumbled our way to the dhaba, we had to eat our words after we had eaten there. The place serves out-of-this world, tea, and the most authentic Gujarati food I have ever had – from poha and Upma to meals with bajra roti complimented with pure white makkhan, and served with melted gur (jagri). The food was served by the host, and we ended up feasting twice more than our stomachs can normally take, having given in to the scrumptious meal before us. After we finished eating, we walked down the yellow-white fields to the adjoining temple of Lord Gopnath Mahadev.
Spell-bound by nature – The next morning we were up at the crack of dawn and were completely spellbound by the spectacular sight of the sun’s rays walking staunchly into our rooms; the open doors rendering a breathtaking view of the sea from where we sat with the wild tidal waves splattering on the undefined coast. We had been warned not to swim because of the abrasive coast. It was an experience to remember for a life time!
Sam Village in Jaisalmer
Camp at Sam Village- We embarked in an open jeep from Jaisalmer station to Sam Village. The rickety vehicle carried us noisily along on the deserted road, crossing some very up-market hotels, built like huge forts, on the way. We reached Sam in three hours, and managed to take a lot of photographs, in our attempt to grab every moment. The village was lined with brilliantly festooned tents with an elevated stage in the centre of the camp. After our evening tea, a majestic camel called Mustafa, sauntered gallantly into our camp to carry us two girls to the dunes. Mustafa, who had knelt down to allow us to climb on to him, had to bear our squeals and giggles when he straightened up to begin his journey. We heroically sauntered along on giant Mustafa’s back for almost an hour till we reached the top of an enormous dune. Poor Mustafa also had to tolerate our gibberish, juvenile banter for more than an hour. Our arrival was well timed to see the sun setting – an enormous, orange ball, gradually sinking behind the puny dune.A musical evening: The lingering dusk was a perfect setting for the folk singers and bards to enthrall us with their music and dancing. The ladies circling around and letting their coloured lehangas (long skirts), spread in the gusty wind and gyrate back onto their legs. After Mustafa took us back to our tent we rested awhile, and then set out to attend the cultural events in the evening. That night we went to sleep early as we had decided to wake up at 4 am to salute the sun, when it rises in the morning amid the breeze and the dunes.
Blinded by the sun- The next day we were woken up by the alarm, at 4 am. The biting cold slapped my cheeks as soon as I got out from under my quilt, so I dived, right back into bed. The next few minutes I lay awake hearing my friend noisily washing her face in the washroom. I then heard Mustafa’s owner asking whether we were ready. In 15 minutes we were out climbing back on to Mustafa’s back for our ride into the dunes to catch the first sight of the sun as it rose. The cold wind blew in from one ear and out from the other. Our legs had frozen hanging next to the camel’s body and our teeth rattled. We sat there cuddled up on a dune, waiting in the deep darkness for the first ray of sunlight. It was about an hour later at around 5 am, that dawn broke and by 5.30 am, the huge, round orange orb came out from hiding and splashed light everywhere. With a click of our camera we captured this sight for eternity.Later, after returning to the camp we slept till it was time for us to check out and go on a tour of Jaisalmer.
The Golden Fort - Jaisalmer, the city of Raja Rawal Jaisal, a Bhatti Rajput ruler, built in approximately, 1156 AD, stands with the same exuberance as the other destinations in Rajasthan such as Jaipur, Jodhpur, and Udaipur. The main attraction of the city is the Jaisalmer fort also known as the Golden fort. Magnificently ornate and flaunting the colour of the lion, it stands still sheltering the houses of the natives in the city. The Jaisalmer city thrives within the arms of the fort and its economy depends on the inflow of tourists and local handicraft, and weaving.
In the interior of the fort are the rooms of the ancient rajas and ranis, who conspicuously resided within the flamboyantly carved walls, embellished with mirror work. We did buy a few bandhani duppattas and mirror work cushion covers, and bedsheets, and the elegant, colourful thick bangles, before proceeding to board the train back to Delhi.
Bandhavgarh: The land of the roaring tiger
At the resort - The resort is an immaculately planned property with big cottages sprinkled at a distance of almost a quarter of a kilometer from each other. At the entrance of each cottage was a lantern that had been lit, which dimly illuminated the area around it. The all-wood cottages had a balcony that opened up to the wildlife beyond. After a delicious dinner, we headed back to our cottage for a good sleep before facing the tiger in the morning.
The jungle safari – An open jeep was waiting to take us on the jungle safari. We had pre-booked the safari for both the tala (deep jungle) and magadhiareas and so were spared the waiting time at the government forest office, where there were many people waiting for their chance. The morning safari was to the Magadhi area, where the female tiger with her two cubs could be spotted. The driver and the guide were evidently familiar with all the nooks and corners of this reserve and knew exactly where to go. We crept behind other vehicles and secretly waved at the deer and birds that we passed by. Soon we came upon a slender, jet black snake, hastily wriggling through the bushes but we kept silent as we had been instructed to. It is said that when the tiger is around, the deer, the monkey, and other animals emit warning sounds to the fellow residents of the jungle, and this is what our driver and guide were looking out to hear. There was dust blowing everywhere and our hair had become like straw, but we did not mind resembling Einstein, in our quest to spot the tiger. After four hours we had located quite a few animals but the tiger remained elusive. We returned to our resort by 10 am, with the hope that the evening safari would be much more promising, and we were greedy to meet Bengal’s pride. We spent the rest of the day waiting in excitement for what the evening would reveal.Meeting the Bengal tiger - Around 4 pm, we began our evening safari, with caps and goggles and a scarf to wrap around our faces, to avoid the blistering dust. We were well rewarded as after 45 minutes of searching we came upon a small pond and in front of it stood a brown and black striped beast lapping up the water. We stood stock still not daring to even breathe, waiting to capture the image of the tiger with our cameras. After this, the remaining part of our safari was a cheery drive in the wild!