Night in the Thar: Desert Camp & Safari

We all have our travel peeves, things that block our minds to new experiences. From I cant use the train loo to I cant sleep on hotel pillows,  they range from the common to the quirky. My biggest travel peeve has been long road trips. Puke, pee and patience, three things I have trouble controlling so sojourns on the road with kids have always been ruled out.

But a recent Desert Camp & Safari escapade was a breakthrough. A 12 hour drive for a 12 hour holiday. Worth it? friends and family inquired. Totally! I gushed. 

“Travel. It leaves you Speechless, Then turns you into a Story Teller” – Ibn Battuta

Here’s how this story goes.

Late December of 2015, two Mumbai families holidaying in Rajasthan are driving their way to a Desert Resort, 110 kms from Jodhpur. Mine making its way from Udaipur and my friend’s family driving down from Jaipur. With restless motion sick kids on board, the 6 hour drive is feeling a lot longer. Closer to Jodhpur, over dosed on music and electronic entertainment, with one eye still on the watch, we look outside for some distraction. A more beautiful one we can not get.

It is a million bouquet welcome;  bright yellows as far as the eye can see. The mustard fields are in full bloom, flowers swaying and dancing in the wind. A single color drawing multiple emotions. For city slickers, with over loaded senses, this beauty in simplicity is inspiring. We launch into  Bollywood ‘lovers romancing in the flowers’ songs, and for once, it doesn’t seem filmy!

After inspiration, its time for some education. We are near Jodhpur, its supposed to be dry and arid. “How can these green fields border the Great Indian Thar Desert”? , I wonder aloud. “The area is water-fed by the Indira Gandhi Canal, Mamma”, says my 10 year old before rattling off some other desert facts and trivia. I am embarrassed but more impressed. He is learning something in school after all, I smile, relieved.

From inspiration to education, the journey now sparks our imagination. Just outside Jodhpur, we drive by our first Windmill Farm. A real thrill. Everyone spins a plot till we settle on one-  These are not windmills, these are giants with towers for legs and monstrous blades for hands slicing  the air to clear it off poison injected by an alien force – Star Trek meets Lord of the Rings.

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Before we know it, we are almost there. Problems of Puke, Pee, Patience forgotten.  Eyes no longer on the watch, minds lost in discovery, hearts bonding over fun, facts and fiction

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As we drive towards Jaisalmer, the landscape starts looking more desert like – arid and shrubby. The idea of a Desert adventure begins to sink in. Many resorts are lined along the highway but the one we are heading to, Manvar Resort, has come friend approved and recommended. Manvar, prounced mun-vaar, meaning a profuse request in Rajasthani. The word  beautifully captures the sentiment of Rajasthani hospitality. Here, ‘Guest is God’, or at least made to feel like one.landscape Thar desert

One part of the resort is a Hotel with modern facilities of a swimming pool, restaurant, bar and such. The other part, ‘Tents on Dunes’ pitched a few kms away in the desert, is what we opt for. We want an adventure and no sooner do we say it, we find ourselves in the middle of one.

4 adults and 4 kids packed  in an open jeep, driving to the dunes. Pleasant winter afternoon, wind in our hair, decent road, it feels easy-cheesy. In just a few minutes, the weather and wind stay but the road disappears. Easy- cheesy turns to crazy-queezy. If you can imagine a ‘roller coaster ride on land’ this would be it. Ignoring the grown-ups cringing from the bumps, letting their hands go from the harness grips, the kids beg the driver for more…faster, shakier, scarier please. He obliges.  He brings us to the edge of a 50 foot dune and lets the jeep go. A near vertical slide. We go down in a smoke of sand and screams. At the bottom, looking back, the kids wave their hands at villagers watching our histrionics. We wave and shout out too, our grown up caution thrown to the wind. IMG_1729

Many such sand slides later we reach the tent site. Its like the sand calls out to the kids. Either the sand is too irresistible or the safari has tripped the kids into a state of hyper excitement; the usual sand castle routine quickly turns into exotic sand baths and burials! Looking the other way, pretending these sand clad kids are not ours,  we steal glances, envying them their no holds barred fun.

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Live an experience like a child-unconstrained, unchecked, unbridled. 

How happier we would be, if we saw joy and lost sight of our age.

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While the kids make their home in the sand, we settle into ours. Having just done an overnight trek in the hills the week before, my idea of tent stay is a  zip-down, squeeze-in night. I did expect the Manvar tents to be better but was not hoping to see the kind of comfort and style they exuded. A porch to relax, large king sized bed, cozy lamps, private bathroom with hot water shower. A perfect combination of adventure and leisure. 

Cups of hot coffee in hand, we wait for the sunset. The sun always rises and sets in glory, you should be so lucky to witness it. In the desert, we couldn’t be luckier. With frantic camera clicks and unblinking eye fulls, we take in the many moods of the fireball.

It sets the scene for the evening entertainment. Like royals, we sit in front of a fire-lit stage, get served endless platters of tasty starters and watch local artists sing and dance  to rhythmic beats. Surprisingly, kids with their entertainment sensibilities dictated by movies and animation, can’t take their eyes away from the performance.

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An adventure in the outdoors liberates your mind, body and soul. While I love treks, marathons  and jumps off cliffs, I realized that sitting back, taking in the beauty of a starry night, listening to music and sinking my feet in the cold sand is as worth while

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The end to this travel story  comes with a few falls, laughs and shrieks- the morning camel ride. For those who have been on a camel, you know that adventure doesn’t begin on the ride, it starts way before. There is no situation lacking in elegance and grace as this. Camel is made to sit and you try to mount the saddle; you fail; they get a stool; you first die of embarrassment then you try to mount again; this time you succeed; camel gets up on the hind legs you scream and plunge ahead holding on to the saddle, reins, hair, whatever; camel gets up on the front legs, you fall back shocked yet thankful you are not the person behind; camel is now up on his legs but you can’t feel yours from the adrenalin rush. Camel starts to move and slowly you ease in, knowing you will live. 

With that this desert adventure gets over. I come here for a night but leave with a lifetime of memories.

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This 12 hour journey for a 12 hour holiday, showed me that a vacation begins the moment you set out on it. It starts on the road. I realized that road trips help not just discover the routes outside but the roots within. You bond with yourself, others around and the wilderness beyond.

It is time well spent, if we can focus on the journey and loose sight of the destination.

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Cured of my travel peeve, back in the car, we head to Jodhpur to see the Mehrangarh Fort.

View of the Mehrangarh Fort

The blog is a personal memoir of our night in the Thar at the Manvar Resort. It, in no way, is intended to promote the property. I would however like to thank the Resort Team for their hospitality and management.

 

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9 thoughts on “Night in the Thar: Desert Camp & Safari

  1. I am glad you overcame your travel peeve.
    You have transformed this small get away into a big adventure.
    “Cherished fun filled memories for the little ones”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. ‘Been there and done it all,’ feeling went out of window, after reading your write up. I envy because, I never had seen desert sand in the way discredit here. Very well written. Keep it up. Godspeed.

    Liked by 1 person

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