Travelled to : Khuri village in the Thar desert ,near Jaisalmer, Rajasthan in November
When I think back about my experience at Khuri, I feel that I had stepped back in time, visited a time-frozen village and spent the night lying on the sand of the Thar desert , gazing at the shifting Milky way that enveloped up us horizon to horizon.
I had vaguely learnt about Khuri a few years ago when I was researching for my first trip to Rajasthan. Due to shortage of time, I hadn’t made it there. This time, Awshesh and I were going to Rajasthan for 10 days in mid-November, utilizing our Diwali leaves and I wanted to experience the desert and life of the desert people. After some browsing around on the web, we zeroed down on Khuri.
- How to reach- Nearest airport is Jodhpur. By road –Reach Jaisalmer by train/ bus from Delhi( 17 hours)/ Jaipur(13 hours)/ Jodhpur(4 hrs)/ Udaipur(10 hours). Take tempo to local bus stand close to the railway station and take a local bus to Khuri. There are a few buses to Khuri every day, one of them is at around 1 PM. The bus journey is 1-1.30 hours.
- Where to stay – Baldal Singh’s homestay (+91-8107339097) that I can personally recommend. Charge was Rs.1200 pp for camels, desert stay and all meals. There are other home stays and guest houses as well.
- Activities- Watching the sunset in the Thar desert, desert camping, relaxing in the village
Our journey to Khuri – My partner and I took a flight from Bangalore to Jaipur and then an overnight train to Jaisalmer that reached on time, around 11 AM. From there we took an auto-rickshaw to the local bus stand and paid Rs.50. From The next bus to Khuri wasn’t until 1 PM , so we had a hearty lunch at a local joint near the crossing ( 300 m walk from the bus stand). Being a local joint, we were able to interact with their daily customers and ate a whole lot of roti, dal, sabzi and paid Rs.120 for two meals. The people at the joint and we, both parties were curiously looking at each other. I was fascinated by their beautiful colourful turbans, the mens’ earrings that were very popular here and their dialect.
Our bus started at 1.30 PM and it was a 1.15 hour journey. Inside and outside the bus, both were equally interesting to me. Outside, the terrain changed to drier and drier with the desert. I found a couple of oases with trees lined around them. The architecture and construct of the houses changed to simpler designs of brick/mud houses. Inside there were local women, children and of course men. For a common city dweller of Bangalore like me, the women in colorful ghaghra cholis, silver jewelery and men their kurtas and turbans… were feast to my eyes. There was a kid with his mother in the seat in front of me who took a fancy towards me and smiled at me every time our eyes met :).
The home stay experience in Khuri – We stayed at Badal Singh’s house in Khuri. I would recommend staying at his place for an authentic experience with a lot of warmth. The place as very clean and simple with the communal bathroom outside the main house, which is ( or was in some places) the traditional style in a lot of Indian houses. We had the option of staying in a hut of concrete room but we chose the room to keep our stuff. We were not planning to sleep in a room at night anyways.
Badal Singh’s son received us from the bus stand and brought us home. Mr. Badal Singh and his family struck me very different, they did not seem to be running this homestay as a business but more as an experiential venture. Badal ji chatted with us for quite some time in the afternoon and when we expressed interest to spend the night in the desert, under the stars, he promptly arranged for a camel, camel man, cook and food. Our stay in the desert was the experience of a lifetime. You simply have to be there to know it!
We slept for a bit and started our journey to the heart of the desert at 4.30 PM. I have ridden camels and horses before. So, it was real fun for me. For Awshesh, it was his first time riding a camel and what should I say.. it was fun to watch, for me :p ! Our camel man asked him to hold me for support. While getting up from sitting position to standing, camels get up on their hind legs first and then the fore legs. I could not help remembering Lalmohan babu from the film Sonar Kella by Satyajit Ray.
In an hour we were in the middle of the desert. We saw dusk and then sundown in the latter part of our ride. It was serene .
After settling in at our cam site in the desert, we took a stroll by ourselves. There was another Korean group who were camping a few dunes away from us. There was absolute silence except for the wind blowing and the occasional bell from the cattle which were returning to the nearby villages now. In a short while, our beds were laid out a short distance from the camp site in front of a bush and preparation for cooking was started by the camel men.
At nightfall, we got a clear sky, a mild breeze and cool breeze caressing our cheeks. As the night progresses, we saw more and more stars in the sky. I have been to places like Yellow Stone National park , Betla forest for star-gazing but believe me, I have never, in my entire life seen the Milky way in all its might and glory the way I saw that night. It was overwhelming, all-consuming. If you gazed at it for a while, it felt like it was altering something intangible inside you. I could not get a decent picture for the lack of a good camera.
We had brought wine with us. All of us ( our cook, camel tender and us) got a little happier by sharing a little wine and sugarcane liquor that our helpers had brought. Conversation flowed. We got to know that farming is hard in this arid land. Watermelons are an important produce of this region. They prepared awesome rajma, Bajra ki roti , capsicum sabji and we hogged on it.
We slept on mattresses laid out for us on the sand . Sleep wasn’t close , so we fell into talk. Everything seemed to have a different dimension, everything in our lives seemed small compared to the universe that was surrounding us. The stars kept shifting position all night . Finally, after falling asleep under the thick blankets that were provided, we woke up in the morning, past sunrise. We clicked a few pictures and returned back to Khuri. We had breakfast, said our goodbyes and headed for our bus to Jaisalmer.
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