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Old 6th January 2011, 15:14   #1
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Cool Another Xmas in the Great Indian Desert: This time Bikaner!

Last week of December and Delhi was getting cold, awesomely cold. But I love cold weather, more the merrier. So the gray cells were in a frenzy on a lookout for snowfall happening in them mountains. Alas, nothing was materializing as HP/UK were still "bright and sunny" as per the reports of the various HPTDC/KMVN resort operators. The need for an outing was overwhelming though. Being a mountain goat, I was all gung-ho for heading to the them. Various plans; like Kharapathar-Rohru-and beyond, dash to Kinnaur or Munsiyari were on the cards when suddenly wifey laid out her wishes on the table. She'd never been to a desert (I tried to convince her than you've been to a cold desert called Ladakh but failed miserably) and was pretty inclined to check it out. Well, it had to be Rajasthan then. This led me to a flashback of my trip to Khuri/Jaisalmer in 2008 and all I saw were the super smooth, arrow straight roads, virgin sand dunes and spicy mutton dishes. Almost decided on re-doing my previous trip but then one of the rules of my travel gave a flash and Bikaner was chosen to be the place to go.

After finalizing the route to take, place to stay and desert safari to take, we were off towards the sands of the Great Indian Desert on 24th December. Wifey was looking forward to exploring the desert, forts & foods of Bikaner and I was excited about ripping through the great roads of the state & try having the authentic Laal Mass. We're able to do all that except the Laal Maas thing, though I got to hear and drool about it a lot. So come along as I take you to the sights & the feel of a part of the Thar Desert and what I found about the city of Bikaner.

A few clicks in here and the travelogue (in making) will start soon.

Into the sands of time!

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Hey, I am a sedan not an off roader!

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He's watching over us!

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All set!

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Off we go!

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The shady tree!

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The musicians!

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The Sun trying to shine through!

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More to come ...

Last edited by lordofgondor : 6th January 2011 at 15:16.
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Old 6th January 2011, 18:12   #2
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Default Day 1

24th Dec, 2010

Blame it on the cold, we're in no mood to get out of the bed at the scheduled time of 4 AM. All the alarms were promptly turned off and back to slumber we went. The backup alarm rang in all it's glory at 5 AM and this time I decided it was time to wake up or I'll be doing my driving in messy traffic. Finally rolled out around 6 AM enjoying the cold wind destroying any vestibules of sleep left in me. The route to be taken for Bikaner was; NH8 till Kotputli - Neem ka Thana (SH 13) - Sikar (join NH11) - Fatehpur - Bikaner. The road conditions were good till Kotputli. After the turn towards Neem ka Thana, we saw road repairing in progess on a stretch of around two Km. All in all, the road from the Kotputli turnoff till Sikar was good with ~15 Km having patchy roads. At Sikar we joined NH 11, which is a breeze to drive on, all the way to Bikaner. Also we encountered very little traffic both on SH 13 as well as NH 11. There're plenty of fuel bunks & dhabas along the way (except SH 13), one each of which the car & we had to use respectively. Petrol price in RJ, standing at Rs. 62.xx, is kinda expensive when compared to it's neighbour states.

Driving on the highways in RJ can be very interesting and also very boring. Interesting cause you can rip away to glory on those super smooth, arrow straight roads and boring cause it gets real monotonous doing the same on a constant basis. I was yearning big time for some traffic & turns/curves at one point, the lack of which was making me yawn may a times. Add to that wifey being asleep, again cause of the monotone, I decided to try taking my car into the sands, to take a break, as far as I thought it could go (and still come back) without getting stuck. Went about 50m off the road and luckily there were no misadventures this time.


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Then it was a non stop dash to Bikaner, which we arrived at around 3 PM. Called up Mr. Vijay Singh Rathore, a.k.a The Camelman, to get the exact location of his guest house which was to be our stay. It was right on the road leading from the highway into Bikaner city. Our desert safari, a full day & night one, was also arranged by him. Registered and moved into our deluxe A/C room (Rs. 600/day) contemplating what to do next.

Courtyard outside our room!


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We're told that the ticket counter for Junagarh fort closes at 4 PM, so visiting it was out. Now I ain't someone interested in Forts/Palaces or any architectural thingy so visiting other forts around Bikaner was not part of the plan. Thought about visiting the Camel breeding farm, for its famous camel milk coffee but again was told that the coffee usually finishes off by 4. Hence, we decided to enjoy another thing Bikaner is famed about; Bhujjia, other namkeens, daal kachoris and of course the Rasgulaas. So off we went towards Bikaner city looking for Station Road. The road leading into the market was one way, not allowing entry of 4 (or more) wheeled vehicles.

By the time we, or rather our stomachs, were done gorging on the street foods it had gotten dark and my thoughts shifted to something I was totally excited about. Mrs Rathore had told me that she'd be cooking a fiery mutton curry, along with authentic veg RJ cuisine dishes, for dinner as their relatives were coming over. Even after hogging on kachoris, soon we were begining to have hunger pangs. Reached back to the guest house and to our delight, the dinner was ready to be served. And what a dinner it was; hot spicy mutton curry, spicy karhi and a couple of other famous Rajasthani veg dishes. A couple of chapaatis down and my eyes were all watery and respiratory system was working overtime. It was time to have a glass of buttermilk before continuing with the food. Two glasses down and I was back to gorging on the amazing food.

Post dinner, we decided to visit a closeby Church and experience the Xmas celebrations. Unfortunately, we're unable to attend the mass as it was scheduled to begin at 11:30 PM.


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Before turning in for the night, I complimented Mrs Rathore on her cooking and she complemented me for my appetite! It was only later I came to know that the food was cooked by one of the cooks being employed in there. Tomorrow would be our desert safari and we'd been told to be ready by 10 AM sharp ...

Last edited by lordofgondor : 6th January 2011 at 18:17.
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Old 7th January 2011, 00:05   #3
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Default Re: Another Xmas in the Great Indian Desert: This time Bikaner!

Good write up Lordofgondor ! Btw, how cold was it during the night ?
And yes Rajasthan has fantastic roads, though at times it does get boring to drive on them specially when you dont have much traffic etc. Infact its one of the few states in India which gives the same kind of feeling as you would get while driving on most US interstates.

Cheers, looking forward to the rest of the log.
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Old 7th January 2011, 08:53   #4
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Default Re: Another Xmas in the Great Indian Desert: This time Bikaner!

Hi Lordofgondor, This is the King of Rohaan here ;-).
Really good start to this amazing looking TL. You got really good writing skills. The pics look great too. Rajasthan is my 2nd favorite state after my home state and have been here plenty of time, primarily to Ajmer and Jodhpur. Looking forward to more.
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Old 7th January 2011, 13:37   #5
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Default Re: Another Xmas in the Great Indian Desert: This time Bikaner!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dragonov View Post
Good write up Lordofgondor ! Btw, how cold was it during the night ?
And yes Rajasthan has fantastic roads, though at times it does get boring to drive on them specially when you dont have much traffic etc. Infact its one of the few states in India which gives the same kind of feeling as you would get while driving on most US interstates.

Cheers, looking forward to the rest of the log.
Thanks mate! It was pretty cold in the night but not as cold as Delhi, so we felt relatively warmer. But in the desert, the thing that gets to you is the moisture of the fog. On waking up in the morning, we found everything drenched. I mean water droplets were running off the tent when I opened it up. Looked as if it'd rained.

Yeah, I found the roads around Bikaner & Jaisalmer, especially Jaisalmer like the ones of Arizona/Utah as seen in the movies.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sami316 View Post
Hi Lordofgondor, This is the King of Rohaan here ;-).
Really good start to this amazing looking TL. You got really good writing skills. The pics look great too. Rajasthan is my 2nd favorite state after my home state and have been here plenty of time, primarily to Ajmer and Jodhpur. Looking forward to more.
Thanks for the appreciation O Lord of Eorlingas! For me, RJ is on the top spot for its cuisine. I simply love many of the dishes cooked in there for their simplicity and yet the rich taste. More coming up soon.
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Old 7th January 2011, 15:59   #6
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Default Day 2

25th Dec, 2010. Merry Xmas!

The first thing on agenda for the day was to get a shave. The stubble of the past 4 days was getting constant comments from wifey and the ultimatum had been served last night. Off I went walking towards the market, with coupla barbers, that I'd noticed yesterday. The time was 8:30 AM and the city was asleep. I saw a few souls stirring here and there but all shops were closed. And it was cold & foggy big time. The visibility was even less than 5m when suddenly a camel cart materialized in front of me. The handler was happily dozing away to glory, the camel was going in a straight line and I was making an exit, stage left. It turned out to be a convoy of three camel carts and to be frank, had an old time charm to it. Wanted to click it but had nothing to do so. Carried on walking, determined to find an open barber shop and was finally awarded for my persistence around 9:15 AM. Saw a "Saloon" with the shutter rolled up and a man sleeping on the chair inside. Woke him up and made sure that he had indeed woken up before getting set for the shave. It was pretty uneventful except for the instances when he'd yawn while running the razor on my face!

Suddenly realized that it was getting close to 10 AM, the scheduled time for our departure for the safari. Bang on time, got a call from wifey who sounded kinda frantic after the hyper frantic Mrs. Rathore had asked her to hurry up. Well then, it was time for a morning jog for me. Returned to the guest house all huffing and puffing. Soon I had one of the fastest baths of my life and we're ready to go by 10:30 AM.

Our ride to the Raisar village!

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Loading our stuff!

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Time to tell a bit about the safari arrangements. It was to begin from a village named Raisar which was around 15 Km from Bikaner city. We'd be taken to Raisar by a Jeep where our rides and a camel cart for carrying various provisions, table/chair, etc. would be ready for the journey ahead into the desert. We'd be lunching inside the desert after coupla hours of camel ride, then commence the ride. It would culminate at a pre-designated stop (called sunset point). It's here that we'd be spending our evening/night. We're accompanied by the two camel handlers and the cart driver (who was also the cook).

Our safari started around 11:30 AM with wifey perching herself on the camel. I decided to walk alongside for as long as I can and started a conversation with the one handling the wifey's camel.

Lanes of Raisar!

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Passing Raisar!

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The Caravan!

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After sometime I was starting to get not so good vibes about being able to cross & stay on those wonderful virgin sand dunes. The visions of my last safari in Khuri, Jaisalmer popped up in my mind and this one seemed nothing like that one. A proper trail though the sand was very much apparent and we're just following it. I asked the team lead, Mr. Kishore, about the trail and to my surprise (and slight disappointment) was told that we'd be following it only. Gone were those images of our camels galloping across the terrain and we trying to find a suitable place to camp, as it'd been the case in Khuri. Another thing troubling me was the amount of greenery in there. There were no barren lands or sand dunes. There was grass, loads of shrubs & trees all around. I was told that this was because of the good amount of rainfall this year in there. And there was this fog with varying degree of intensity all around. We carried forward with me intoning silent prayers of finding some real sand dunes and clear skies, which never got answered. And I was totally not impressed.

Wifey was pretty excited as it was her first camel safari and I did my best to hide my disappointment from her. After an hour or so, we reached another village, named Himtasar and I decided to ride my camel.

On the camel now!

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The camels had some water from a tank in the village and we moved ahead. Another thing I observed was that the villages of Raisar & Himtasar were pretty dirty with garbage lying all around. On the other side, the village of Khuri had been so clean relatively when I'd been there in 2008. After crossing the village, I tried clicking a few shots but the drab scenery around quickly put a stop to that. And as soon as I tucked in my camera, two deers (don't know which variety) decided to check us out. They came pretty close to us, say 50m or so. When I moved my hands to fetch the camera, they disappeared in an instant. Darn fast animals! And soon wifey was scaring the bejesus out of a desert fox. It was around 20m from us, in the bushes and probably on the prowl of some helpless victim when wifey shouted big time "Fox, there's a fox!" (it was the first time she'd seen one). The poor thing ran off with such a gusto as if something was hunting it. I and the handler told her to be quite when wildlife was around and you wanna watch it. On a distant sand dune, we spotted a big deer with even bigger antlers observing our march. It stayed rooted at a spot for close to 10 minutes and only moved away when we're going out of its line of sight. Darn paranoid animal!


Around 1:15 PM, we reached a clearing of sorts and Mr. Kishore told me that this is where we halt for lunch. We got down of our rides and the hanlders got busy removing the saddles from the camels. As soon as the saddles were off, the three camels started rolling in the mud making it dusty all around. I & wifey decided to keep a distance from those beasts in frenzy and saw the action from a distance. A table & chairs were laid out for us in the shade of a tree and tea & biscuits were served.

Lunch stop!

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I asked for the cool beverage being carried in an ice camper to refresh myself. Enjoying such luxuries while being inside a desert seemed both apt and wierd at the same time. After being recharged, we went to have a chat with the hanlders and saw that they're busy preparing our lunch. It was to be a simple affair of daal, chaawal, chapaatis and coupla dishes of carrot, peas and cauliflower.

Lunch preparation going on!

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Post lunch it was time to take some pics but the fog played spoilsport again, so clicked just coupla snaps.

Vistas around our lunch table!

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One giving us shade!

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After a short siesta, it was time to commence the journey and spot more wildlife. We saw an Eagle, or maybe a Hawk, just staying at a single point in the air while flapping its wings. Mr. Kishore told me that the bird is looking for a prey. Soon enough we saw it diving at an awesome speed and it was again gaining altitude, all within a very few seconds. Whether it made a kill or not but watching the predatory bird in action was Amazing!

Just about the time of sunset, we reached the spot where we'd be spending the evening & night. The time was around 5:15 PM and the fog was thickening. Tried to grab a few sunset shots but gave up. The shooting conditions were miserable owing to the growing fog. It was so hazy that the Sun almost disappeared from view.



Spot the sun!

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At 450mm focal length!

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Clicked a few ones of our surroundings and called it a day as far as clicking was concerned.


Around our campsite!

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It was begining to get cold and a light wind was blowing from the east. Mr. Kishore & Co. engrossed themselves in making things comfortable for us. Very nice chaps! Soon a table was laid and chairs put alongside. Hand bowls filled with water were set nearby for us to freshen up for the upcoming evening tea & snacks. I spent sometime with the warming beverages and was soon feeling comfortably warm. I requested the cook to make the food extra spicy as I'd found the lunch too bland for my taste. Now was the time to pitch our tent as it was starting to get dark ...

Pitching the tent!

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And we had a surprise in store for us ...

Last edited by lordofgondor : 7th January 2011 at 16:06.
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Old 7th January 2011, 17:20   #7
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Default Re: Another Xmas in the Great Indian Desert: This time Bikaner!

Quite the rustic Rajasthan on review here!
Relieved that the Kotputli-Sikar route is in good condition for most part.
Any details of the hotel you stayed in Bikaner - looks great!
Which is the most authentic bhujjia wala ion BIkaner? I found everyone selling Bikaner bhujia there! Haldirams?
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Old 7th January 2011, 17:45   #8
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Default Re: Another Xmas in the Great Indian Desert: This time Bikaner!

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Originally Posted by hvkumar View Post
Quite the rustic Rajasthan on review here!
Relieved that the Kotputli-Sikar route is in good condition for most part.
Any details of the hotel you stayed in Bikaner - looks great!
Which is the most authentic bhujjia wala ion BIkaner? I found everyone selling Bikaner bhujia there! Haldirams?
The route should definitely get better in coming days when the repair work completed.

Our stay was more of a guest house sir. Mr. Rathore has converted his huge residence into one. It's called Vijay Guest House. You can find more details at Camel Man is the best safari in Bikaner."A perfect Tourist"

While checking on the net, Mr. Rathore, a.k.a Camel Man, came out to be the most reliable source of a desert safari in Bikaner. Also when we checked the guest house rooms, we found them at par with deluxe rooms in standard hotels. Plus they had a nice courtyard & wonderful terrace. Only that you don't get room service in there and you have no choice to order food. What's cooked for the family will be served if you wanna dine in there. Though you can always ask the cooks to make tea/coffee for you anytime. He & Mrs. Rathore turned out to be a very nice hosts.

If you want authentic Bhujjia, head for smaller shops on the Station Road. We checked out Haldirams and other prominent looking shops (such as Shri Bikanerwala) but all their bhujjias were mostly made of besan with a dash of daal flour thrown in. That kinda stuff is commonly available in our cities. On smaller shops we got to taste the authentic stuff made primarily of moath daal flour. The shop I bought from, I can't remember its name. But it's the second last shop, on your left, before you cross the railway track while going towards Station Road. Will check out the name on the bhujjia packets I got and update. Also if you want to have authentic veg dishes, Laxmi Restaurant is the place to go. Amazing gatte ki sabzi, kadhi, saangri ki sabzi! It is again on the station road. And don't forget to check out Daal ki kachoris, amazing!
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Old 30th January 2011, 21:54   #9
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Default Re: Another Xmas in the Great Indian Desert: This time Bikaner!

Quote:
Originally Posted by lordofgondor View Post
The route should definitely get better in coming days when the repair work completed.

Our stay was more of a guest house sir. Mr. Rathore has converted his huge residence into one. It's called Vijay Guest House. You can find more details at Camel Man is the best safari in Bikaner."A perfect Tourist"

While checking on the net, Mr. Rathore, a.k.a Camel Man, came out to be the most reliable source of a desert safari in Bikaner. Also when we checked the guest house rooms, we found them at par with deluxe rooms in standard hotels. Plus they had a nice courtyard & wonderful terrace. Only that you don't get room service in there and you have no choice to order food. What's cooked for the family will be served if you wanna dine in there. Though you can always ask the cooks to make tea/coffee for you anytime. He & Mrs. Rathore turned out to be a very nice hosts.

If you want authentic Bhujjia, head for smaller shops on the Station Road. We checked out Haldirams and other prominent looking shops (such as Shri Bikanerwala) but all their bhujjias were mostly made of besan with a dash of daal flour thrown in. That kinda stuff is commonly available in our cities. On smaller shops we got to taste the authentic stuff made primarily of moath daal flour. The shop I bought from, I can't remember its name. But it's the second last shop, on your left, before you cross the railway track while going towards Station Road. Will check out the name on the bhujjia packets I got and update. Also if you want to have authentic veg dishes, Laxmi Restaurant is the place to go. Amazing gatte ki sabzi, kadhi, saangri ki sabzi! It is again on the station road. And don't forget to check out Daal ki kachoris, amazing!
for bikaneri bhujia try amber who seals the bhujias in good packs as moisture can get to the bhujia by the time you travel back.

other shops for local delicacies like samosas and kachoris are chotu motu joshi, janta,etc there is a ac dining hall also in the same line.

however the real thrill is to have garam samosas and kachoris across wooden tables.only 1 shop serves tea next to amber. when you enquire they will tell you where you will get tea good camaraderie
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Old 19th October 2011, 12:33   #10
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Default Re: Another Xmas in the Great Indian Desert: This time Bikaner!

Quote:
Originally Posted by hvkumar View Post
Quite the rustic Rajasthan on review here!
Relieved that the Kotputli-Sikar route is in good condition for most part.
Any details of the hotel you stayed in Bikaner - looks great!
Which is the most authentic bhujjia wala ion BIkaner? I found everyone selling Bikaner bhujia there! Haldirams?
The locals in Bikaner have their own favourites. Each shop has a distinct flavour. Each family prefers a certain bhujiawala. In rest of Rajasthan, Bikaji is considered the best. And for outside Rajasthan it is Haldiram. Interestingly, Haldiram is from Nagpur/Kolkata.

You may try Bikaji. It is the Finest bhujia available.

Cheers!

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