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Old 10th April 2022, 16:08   #1
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Default A trip to the Golden City – Jaisalmer!

Prologue:

With the lockdown and eminent work from home set up that followed since March 2020, something that have changed in most of our travelling plans were the mode of transport. Even those who would travel only by air started hitting the road. And I was no different.

While I was always up for road trips, my better half was more than happy taking the flight and reaching the destination quicker, safer (debatable) and in the utmost comfort. But all these preferences and priorities changed overnight for all of us in 2020, and we all know why.

For me though, it was even better. In Dec 2020, I gifted myself a car that had been parked in my wish list from the day it was launched. Ever since, I've been looking for a reason to hit the road. And this trip was also a result of such an ich.

Beautifully laid out long stretches as far as your eyes could see!

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A drive through some of the remotest part of India!

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The majestic Thar desert and the mesmerizing sight of the rising sun!

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The Golden city of Jaisalmer glowing in the twilight shade during the sunset!

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This encompasses my last outing with my latest priced possession!

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Old 10th April 2022, 16:51   #2
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Default A trip to the Golden City – Jaisalmer!

With the work from home scenario, I do not get enough chances to take the car out as much as I would want. And that ich is making me look for reasons to hit the highway at a slightest chance. When I got to know that I had another long weekend in February, all I could think of was hitting the road again! Two destinations were on my mind. Nashik and Jaisalmer. Both had been on my wish list for a while now. After toying between these two for a day, decided to head to Rajasthan before the summer sets in.

With the destination finalized, quickly booked a tent stay in Jaisalmer Sam dunes for two days! This is going to be our base for the trip since my main agenda for heading towards Jaisalmer is to visit Longewala – the Land of Victory and Munabao (one of the designated border crossings between India and Pakistan).

Day 1. Hello Jaisalmer!

Route: Ahmedabad – Sam Sand Dunes, Jaisalmer (573 KMs)

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Ever since I started doing road trips, one thing has always been constant. Hit the road as early as you can. This helps in covering most of the distance before the rest of the population is out on the road. This also helps us in making sure that you can have a leisurely break when you stop for your breakfast or lunch.

ES was tanked up and ready the night before. Another practice that I have been following since I became an ardent reader of this forum.

Plan was to hit the road by 5am. But we all know how well that goes. We were on the road a little past 5:30am which is still considerably good. Google suggested that I should be at my destination by 4:30 pm. I’m okay with that since we have nothing planned for today. I ask my wife to get some sleep while it is still dark, and I cruise listening to my favorite music. After all, we have certainly cut short on our sleep quota to make the early morning start.

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Less than 30 minutes into the drive, I have not even found that perfect track I want to listen to while I drive into the sunrise, two cops flag me down just before the first toll for the day. I’m puzzled. I’m sure we both are wearing seatbelts. No extra lights, no lane changes, no fancy number plate / sticker gimmicks. I was not speeding either. So, curious what on earth is this man looking for at this time of the hour!

I stop. And wait for the cop to come down.
As I roll down the window, he points at the passenger seat and say “Mask”!
I look at my wife and I see that she is wearing one!

Now what!!

He says “Mask not worn correctly “
I’m like, well, she is certainly wearing it correctly. I can see that.
He says it was below the nose and she corrected it when pulled over! You need to pay 1000/- fine!
I turn to my wife and she clarifies that she was sleeping and didn’t realize the mask had come down!
Okay! Now what!
I turn to the cop and explains the situation.
Cop: Talk to the inspector. He asked us to flag you down.

I walk up to the cop and explain the situation. I try to reason with him again. Its 6 in the morning and the one who had the mask below her nose was sleeping.
He don’t budge!
He agrees that I was wearing it correctly. But still want to fine us for the other one.
I’m okay paying a fine but not at this hour for a stupid rule like this (having to wear mask in your car even while sleeping).

While I wait and talk to the top cop there, I can see the other two diligently at work. Stopping only private cars, and the same drama! And I realize, they are having their share of fun too! (pun intended)

A few more minutes of reasoning from both of us, me, and my better half, helps (women can talk sense while we men try to prove the point). He let us go. I’m more pissed about the unexpected interruption to my drive and the 10 minutes we lost than anything else.

Back in the car, lets try to cover the distance before the daybreak! My better half is trying to take pictures in between, or even trying to catch up on the lost sleep. Early morning means not much human population on the road and that ensures that I’m making good progress covering the distance without having to drive too fast.

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Over the years, I have realized that my comfortable pace is between 90-100 KMPH and that lets me coast through the 6 lane highways with much ease. Before even I realized, we were approaching Deesa! And that reminds me that I was hungry too! I look for a good place to stop so that we can freshen up and have the breakfast we packed from home!

This is another habit we have started since last year. Get some food packed from home before hitting the road. This means, we can wrap up our breakfast break in less than 20 mins in most of the cases and be back on the road again!

The stretch between Deesa and Sanchore is daunting! Single carriage ways, broken roads, busy towns and slow-moving trucks! These 80 odd KM stretch tires you down. But the quick refreshment break before this helped us to sail through it without much drama!

Ever since we entered RJ, the progress have been slow. Quite contradictory to what I had expected. With my earlier outings to RJ in 2020 and 2021, I have seen the road infrastructure improving miles ahead and they have some of the best laid out roads in the county. This is what I had promised my wife too when I convinced her for a 10 hr drive yet again. And here we are, driving through broken roads in snail’s pace. I have no answer to her questions about the promised road quality.

Things improve post Dhorimana! Roads are broader and well laid out again. I’m back to cruising in my comfortable 90-100 range. My co passenger is happy. The car is happy. I’m happy too!

Somewhere between Barmer-Jaisalmer Stretch

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We cruise into Barmer in no time. Actually well ahead of our schedule! Initial plan was to stop somewhere in Barmer for Lunch before the last leg. We roll into Barmer town around 12-12:30pm. Quite early for our lunch. We look at each other and try to figure out whether to stop and have lunch as planned or aim for Jaisalmer directly! I warn that Jaisalmer is another 2.5 hrs away! Decide to have lunch and then proceed. But the mistake had been made, in between the discussion, we had already crossed all possible options to stop for a mean in Barmer. We were not in a mood to get inside the town anyway. Much to my partners dismay, I decide to press the pedal and aim for Jaisalmer directly.

Barmer -Jaisalmer stretch is a treat. Well laid out roads. Not much deviation in between the 160 odd KM stretch. We stopped in between to have a quick bio break and have oranges we had packed for snacking. Ever before the trip started, I had already briefed the home minister that the lunch time might be delayed on all three days since our plan was to drive through some of the remotest part of the country. And here we are, having oranges to keep the hunger at bay while we try to cover the remaining 100 odd KMs.

Somewhere between Barmer-Jaisalmer Stretch

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Somewhere between Barmer-Jaisalmer Stretch

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Old 10th April 2022, 17:17   #3
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Default A trip to the Golden City – Jaisalmer!

As I said, this stretch was a treat. And enter Jaisalmer town around 2:30 pm. Much ahead of what google had suggested. Mind you, I was well within the speed limit most of the time. Comfortably cruising in and around 100 KMPH. Stopped for grabbing lunch before heading directly to Sam Dunes where our stay for the next two days are booked.

We had an option to stay in the desert camp for a night and then book some resort in the city for the second night. On a hindsight, this would have been a better option since the creature comfort facilities that we city dwellers are so used to are sparse in these tent camps. But we wanted to be adventurous and since we always stay in these fancy hotels during our vacations, we decided to make these camps our base for both the days!

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As we roll past the city of Jaisalmer into the Sam dunes, the landscape changes. The dry shrubs and one-off buildings that were on the sight until now leave way for the vast expanse of no mans land. Being a Friday, we see a of traffic heading towards the desert. Our stay is booked. So I’m not going to sweat over the traffic that is ahead of us. From the city, our place of stay is another 40 kms. I slowly cruise through the plans, just trying to soak in the view, something that I have never seen before! Barren land as far as your eyes can see, with the well laid out tarmac in what seems like a no mans land! Its as if, someone drew a black line on a broad brown canvas.

Enroute Sam Sand Dunes

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Enroute Sam Sand Dunes

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Soon the views of camps and adventure sport venues started cropping up. A clear indication that we are approaching the Sam sand dunes, the Majestic Thar desert! Then, we were stopped at a checkpost / entry point where we paid 50/- as an entry fee into the desert. Now, not sure how genuine they were or if it was authorized. But the receipt said something about desert conservation or something on the lines.

First view of the resort we stayed!

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Our stay for the next few days! As I mentioned somewhere earlier, our plan was to stay back in the desert on both the nights. Will be coming back to sand dunes again after our trip to Longewala. This came as a shock even for our resort guys too. According to them, most of the travelers come, finish the adventure rides and the likes in the desert (Camel Safari, Dune bashing, Quad bike rides etc) and stay back in these camps just for the night to enjoy the cultural programs.

A flew glimpses of the Thar desert and the activities one can enjoy in the evening!

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Home minister happy to pose in a thar in the Thar desert with the sunset in the background

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Beautiful sunset from the mighty Thar Desert!

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In and around the tent! And the events

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In and around the tent! And the events

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In and around the tent! And the events

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In and around the tent! And the events

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Also, we didn’t want to waste our time with check-in and check-out in between our vacation while we plan to clock another 350 kms next day! Also, we are used to the creature comfort of hotels and resorts all through our travels. So, we had decided to make it a tent stay vacation.
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Old 10th April 2022, 17:27   #4
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Default A trip to the Golden City – Jaisalmer!

Day 2: Lets drive to the land of Victory – Longewala!

Before we begin, a quite note to myself - About last night!

Something about the tent stay that we completely overlooked. We booked an AC tent thinking that we would need it in the desert. But little did we realize that the temperature is going dip at night and the tent walls are not going to protect you from the chills once the night sets in. And the cold wind creeps into the tent from god knows where. So, AC was not used after the initial couple of hours during the day light.

Morning was extremely cold for my standards. Luckily, I had a pair of fleeces packed even though it was late February. And that helped. I’m up early, thanks to the cold. I don’t know whether it is me or if it happens to rest of the folks here as well, during such vacations, I get up quite early without the help of any alarms. I stepped out with my camera to capture the sunrise. I walk around the property and clicked pictures around as I wait for my morning coffee!

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Now, coming back to the actual Day 2 story!

Route Map for the day

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This is going to be an exciting day! I have been looking forward to the much talked about road to Longewala! And it did not disappoint me at all. One of the best roads I have ever driven in India. Network is patchy in most of these places. If you are going to rely heavily on maps, I’d suggest that you download the offline version of your planned route in advance. While you will certainly not be lost even without a map (not much diversion from the main route, still if you are ever stuck, it will help you identify the location on map so share with someone in case of emergency!

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The drive from Jaisalmer to Longewala is uneventful one – for the passenger. They can admire the remote and harsh landscape that is around, and the sand dunes that makes their appearance from time to time. As you cover the distance, you’ll be reminded from time to time how close you are to the border and markings and diversions to reach various BOPs. Of course not for civilians.

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As someone who “live to drive”, you are having fun! You have well laid out tarmac all for yourself. Figuratively, since you wouldn’t find a lot of traffic in this part of the world.
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Old 10th April 2022, 17:48   #5
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Default A trip to the Golden City – Jaisalmer!

Longewala – The land of Victory!

For those who are hearing about this place for the first time, here is a brief about the relevance of this place in our history:

Quote:
Longewala is a border town in the Thar Desert in the western part of Jaisalmer district. The Battle of Longewala was one of the first major engagements in the western sector during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, fought between assaulting Pakistani forces and Indian defenders at the Indian border post of Longewala, in the Thar Desert of Rajasthan state in India.
Source: Wikipedia

When you are here, the aura and the energy in the air is quite different. As you park your car and walk towards the Longewala War Memorial, your heart is filled with pride without even realizing. It is not the pride of your accomplishments, nor for having the capability and resources to make it to this point. It is a feeling of pride, honor, and the privilege of having the opportunity to be in the land of glory, and reading and understanding the war stories from the remains that are collected and preserved.

Entrance to the Longewala War Memorial

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As you walk around the museum and its surroundings, you can read through various notes explaining the significance and relevance of Longewala and the brave soldiers who gave their lives for the nation. The emotions and the feeling is unreal and beyond comprehension. At least for someone as naïve as me.
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Old 10th April 2022, 18:01   #6
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We spend some exploring whatever Longewala had to offer! And it was probably close to lunch time by then. Everything in Longewala (souvenir shops, food stalls, canteen etc.) are manned by the Army. After picking up a few gifts and souvenirs for friends and family, we decided to grab some quick lunch before heading to Tanot, our second destination for the day!

Longewala to Tanot – Another masterpiece by the BRO. As smooth as butter, as straight as an arrow. If I had an auto-pilot option in my car, this is where I’d try and be at peace since the traffic commotion is next to none! Apart from odd sights of livestock crossing the road, or camels gazing around in the desert, you’d hardly find anything throughout the route.

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Image of the Tanot Victory Pillar

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As a reminder, when you are in this part of the world, be mindful of your fuel as well. Once you leave Ramgarh for Longewala or Tanot, the next 160 KM loop wont have fuel pumps. Or at least I don’t remember seeing it.

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Until we meet again! Signing off from the Longewala-Tanot loop!

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With Longewala and Tanot knocked off the bucket list by around 3 in the afternoon, next plan was to explore the Jaisalmer fort and the near by areas. Also hoping to catch a glimpse of Jaisalmer Fort basking the golden light during the sunset!

Jaisalmer fort is another 2 hours away. So off we go! To witness what I would admit as one of the beautiful sunsets that I have experienced until now.
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Old 10th April 2022, 18:24   #7
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Jaisalmer fort and Sunset:

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We are in the Fort premises around 5 PM and before even I could find a spot to park, we have local guides walking towards our car offering their services. While I’m not a fan of these, and like to explore it on our own, we decided to go ahead and hire someone to help us walk through the Fort.

With the limited time we had during the day light, we wanted to explore the fort, the local culture and if time permits do some local shopping we well. And we thought having a guide will make these tasks much easier. These guys can take us to the best locations to take pictures and shopping as well. Also, if this can give someone a quick employment to earn for their living, I’m happy to oblige.

On the hindsight, this was a good decision. Finding a parking spot within the Fort walls is a pain. And the guide helps us in finding a good spot to leave the car while we explore the fort and its surrounding on feet.

First pitstop was Kothari’s Pathwa Haveli and the heritage museum attached to it. Nothing that you wouldn’t see in any such museums around the country, but the walk through the fort exploring the lives of the families living there is a sight to watch. Also, you’d be amazed to see the level of detailing in the architecture that is gone in building such a monument. There are a bunch of Jain temples nested within the fort itself.

Kothari’s Pathwa Haveli

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Kothari’s Pathwa Haveli

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Kothari’s Pathwa Haveli

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Kothari’s Pathwa Haveli

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Kothari’s Pathwa Haveli

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As we walk through the by lanes, we did some street shopping as well.

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All this while, I’m keeping a tab on the watch. Google had suggested that the sunset is around 630-640 and I want to be somewhere on the top of fort to get a better view. I remind the guide the same. After dropping the shopped items in our car, we hop into a rick to take us to the top of the fort. This helps us save time before the sunset and energy to get to the top to witness the sunset.

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That was an eventful 10 minutes of my life! I kept switching between my phone camera, DLSR with the two lenses I had like a confused idiot not knowing what to capture or which gadget to use. All I wanted was to make sure that I’m not missing even a single beat of the twilight scene. And as someone who like to play around with the photos, I knew that each minute the shades of the sky would change giving a different view of the golden city.

In between all of this, our guide obliged to take a few picture of both me and my wife together in a single frame.

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With the Fort and the sunset ticked off, I had pretty much nothing else planned for that day. I look at the guide and ask if there is anything else we could see. I don’t want to be driving around too much again. But still would like to explore if there is anything near by. He suggest that we go to Gadisar lake. Well, nothing much to see here but he says the arti that happens after the sundown is a wonderful sight. Also, there seems to be some light and sound show that he found fascinating. So Gadisar lake it was then. Hardly a couple of kilometers from the Fort.

Gadisar lake all decked up for the evening Aarti:

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Gadisar lake all decked up for the evening Aarti:

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Gadisar lake all decked up for the evening Aarti:

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A glimpse of the light and sound show that followed.

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A glimpse of the light and sound show that followed.

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A glimpse of the light and sound show that followed.

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Our stay is another one hour away from the city. Remember, we are still saying in the desert camp. It has already been a long day under the sun so we decided to call it a day and head back to the camp.

Being a Saturday night, we have a little more activity going around in the camps. I see more footfalls. The regular cultural dance and the activities are on full swing. We sit around, watch the show for some time and decide to hit the bed early. We have a very long day waiting for us tomorrow.
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Old 10th April 2022, 18:38   #8
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Day 3. Abandoned Village and a drive to Munabao.

Route Map:

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If Longewala and Munabao were there on my list, Kuldhara Village was an add on. I was not really planning to visit anything else in Jaisalmer during this trip. But since we were to start the day early, and this would be enroute, decided to spend some time here as well.

Before I flood this post with the pictures from this place, here is a quick back story about the place and its relevance from the internet.

Quote:
Kuldhara is an abandoned village in the Jaisalmer district of Rajasthan, India. Established around the 13th century, it was once a prosperous village inhabited by Paliwal Brahmins. It was abandoned by the early 19th century. The local legend claims that while deserting the village, the Paliwals imposed a curse that no one would be able to re-occupy the village.
Source: Wikipedia

Some pictures from the site for your viewing pleasure:

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The layout of the old settlement

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The remains of the abandoned village.

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The remains of the abandoned village.

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Always happy to pose when given a chance!

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We wrapped up Kuldhara exploration in an hour. I knew that we had a long day ahead! Next destination is 170 and around 650 kms away.
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Old 10th April 2022, 19:02   #9
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Default A trip to the Golden City – Jaisalmer!

And I’m again going to drive through some of the remotest parts of our country. I’d be driving so close to the international border. I’ll be standing stone throw away from the Pakistan’s out post in Munabao. My excitement has no limit.

So, from Jaisalmer, you can get to Munabao through two routes.

One is longer, via Barmer and take the Barmer – Munabao road. The most recommended route. Or you can take NH 11, that connects Munabao and Jaisalmer and takes you through Khoori and Myajlar villages. Some patches on this route are notorious for being covered in sand due to the crosswind and it is easy for us to get stuck. This was confirmed by a friend (our Bhpain abhikb) who had already done this route couple of years back. He reminded me how he got stuck in such a sand crossing and had to wait for help from locals. Here is the link to read about this experience (Drive to the Thar desert : 1340 km, 2 days, Honda BR-V).

But he also suggested that I check with the locals before taking this route as they would have the latest update on the road condition. A quick chat with the locals and taxi drivers confirmed that even though there are bad patches, it is doable. Keeping fingers crossed, I decided to take the shorter route. When you are out on an adventure, why shy away from it when given a chance.

A trip to the Golden City – Jaisalmer!-img_20220220_132004.jpg

Quick tip before you leave the Jaisalmer city limits. Download the offline version of the map. While this might sound stupid, when you are driving through completely deserted roads for hundreds of kilometers, you tend to start getting confused / worried about whether we are on the right track or not. A quick look at the map is quite reassuring.

A trip to the Golden City – Jaisalmer!-longewala.png

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There are some bad patches between Myajlar and Sundra village. From Sundra village, you connect to the road maintained by the BRO. And the locals refer it to as “Bharat Mala” road as it is a part of the Bharat Mala project. After Sundra Village, you are back on beautifully laid out 4 lane highway that takes you all the way till Munabao.

Notice how the sand is overflowing into the road on both sides. This picture was taken right after navigating through a sand filled uphill patch that connects to the 4 lane highway.

A trip to the Golden City – Jaisalmer!-img_20220220_132010.jpg

Earlier, you needed permission to visit the border outpost and the Munabao railway station. But this requirement was scrapped a while back. There was a catch though. Letting you visit the station and the view point was completely at their officer’s discretion. The guards at the Munabao check post take the call after consulting with the CO. We had to wait for 15-20 minutes to get the approval since some other officials were visiting the place during that time and they did not want more than a certain number of people at the viewing gallery at the same time.

No photos allowed after the check post. We were asked to deposit our mobile phones and DSLR at the counter before heading towards the viewing gallery. The DSLR bag and the extra lense I had in the bag raised some curiosity among the guards since they wanted to confirm if we were from any sort of media and all. Gave my office vising card to confirm that I was not.

The most exciting part of visiting Munabao was, getting the opportunity to drive your car all the way to the viewing gallery. The international border is almost a stone throw away and you can see the neighbor’s outpost. We would have spent 10 minutes there, exploring and admiring the landscape. Trying to soak in the fact that we are standing so close to an international border.

With that wrapped up, we stopped by to collect our belongings and thank the friendly guards at the check post before making our way to Barmer. It was already 3 by the time we wrapped up exploring Munabao.

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A trip to the Golden City – Jaisalmer!-img_20220220_144754.jpg

Munabao – Barmer is another 130 KM and it would easily take another 2.5 hours. That’s when I realized that our lunch today is going to be after 5 in the afternoon. I had already taken an anticipatory bail about the late lunches even before the trip. So I was saved for the last time. We stopped by a place after Barmer for a late lunch.

It was close around 6 by the time we finished our bio breaks and lunch. And our home was still another 380 KMs away. During the planning, I was considering breaking the day 3 at Barmer and doing the final stretch the next day. It was kept as a fall back option.

Post lunch, I was feeling fresh and we still had some more daylight left. So decided to take the advantage of it and wrap up the final leg of the journey on the same day. With the evening setting in, the Sanchore – Deesa stretch was again a pain due to single lane roads and traffic.

Rest of the journey was quite uneventful. Stopped around Mehsana for a quick coffee break and reached home around midnight.

One of the most impromptu drive that I have done in a while. Yet, I was able to knock out two items that were on my checklist for a long time. Here is a quick glimpse of the trip stats:

A trip to the Golden City – Jaisalmer!-odo.jpg

I hope you all enjoyed reading through the travelogue as much as I enjoyed writing them. Until I gather enough courage to write about my other drives, keep revving and keep exploring!

And before I go, here is one more picture of my ride!

A trip to the Golden City – Jaisalmer!-road-me.jpg

Drive Safe,
R-Six
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Old 10th April 2022, 20:10   #10
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Thread moved out from the Assembly Line. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 11th April 2022, 10:20   #11
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Every travelogue/road-trip to Rajasthan is incomplete without capturing the pristine and super-smooth asphalt views. And your travelogue has plenty of them, thanks for sharing

The roads are so inviting, I can imagine just cruising on them all day long without breaking a sweat (besides the outside heat).

Also liked the details of your visit to Longewala, invokes a certain spirit of patriotism just by reading & seeing these pics! Must be actually very thought-provoking to visit the place in person.

Thanks again for those pics.
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Old 11th April 2022, 12:14   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JoshMachine View Post
Every travelogue/road-trip to Rajasthan is incomplete without capturing the pristine and super-smooth asphalt views.
Absolutely! This was my 3rd trip to Rajasthan in a span of 6-8 months and every time I'm reminded of how well surfaced these roads now are. Gone are the days when Gujarat roads where the best.

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Originally Posted by JoshMachine View Post
visit to Longewala, invokes a certain spirit of patriotism
Couldn't agree more to this! The aura around such places are beyond comprehension.

Drive Safe,
R-Six
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Old 11th April 2022, 12:21   #13
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Hey Binoy,

That’s a wonderful Tlog, this has brought back the memories of our trip back in 2018.

As you rightly said when adventure kicks in nothing else matters, so is the rewards of taking such risks.

All the best and keep motoring !!!
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Old 11th April 2022, 13:18   #14
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R-Six, a wonderful TLog. Enjoyed it thoroughly. The pictures you have taken were excellent.

The place has its exclusive charm. I remember the feeling of being insignificant in the vastness of the desert and the feeling of pride in how the soldiers live to protect the border. At the same time, I felt the sense of the uselessness of protecting only acres of sand and you ask the question why? Did you get a similar feeling?

Thanks for the excellent write-up
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Old 11th April 2022, 14:45   #15
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As you rightly said when adventure kicks in nothing else matters, so is the rewards of taking such risks.
That's the whole point of getting out and exploring such places. Also your thread was quite handy in setting up the expectations for Munabao right. Also, there is nothing better than stopping and asking locals for road conditions and guidance.

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I felt the sense of the uselessness of protecting only acres of sand and you ask the question why? Did you get a similar feeling?
I'm glad that you enjoyed the write up. Regarding the feeling you had, even if its a peace of marsh land or sand, its our Motherland at the end of the day. I don't see any reason why protecting it should be felt as meaningless or useless.

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R-Six
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