Thursday 2nd November 2017
Udaipur to Jaisalmer via Jodhpur
Up very early this morning (5:30am) for a 6:15am pick up at the hotel. When we went downstairs the staff were asleep on the floor and on the lounge in reception and there was no sign of our promised tuk tuk, so Lynn went to find one for our trip down to where our driver would be waiting at 6:30am. Meanwhile David hailed one down, so when Lynn came back with another one, we had to give one some money to not take us. Although our guide had given the hotel instructions about the tuk tuk and the address to take us, fortunately Lynn asked the guide to also write the address down for her. So luckily we were able to direct the tuk tuk driver ourselves and we met our driver down at the car park and set off for our six hour drive to Jodhpur where we were to catch a short charter flight to Jaisalmer. Through the Indian countryside, very quiet to begin with as it was very early, but the towns became busier as we progressed with children going to school, people going to work etc. we arrived at the airport in Jodhpur at around 12:30pm, in plenty of time for our flight which leaves at 2:45pm. Our flight (a charter with Supreme airlines) was running over 2 hours late as we had to wait at Jodhpur Airport for the Indian Air Force to conduct exercises involving F-18 fighters that are based at this airport on the military side. While we were waiting, we had to have our luggage screened by another airline which cost us over $A55 because the airline we flew with don’t have their own scanner and our bags were too big to go through the official hand luggage scanner. We passed the time by chatting with one of the other 3 passengers, a lady who was travelling with her mother, and a man who appeared to us to be a servant, to visit relatives who owned a hotel in Jaisalmer. Actually, this lady also owned a hotel in the hills outside Jodhpur, the property had been in her family for generations. Even her daughter owned a hotel in Udaipur, a very upmarket hotel we had seen. Eventually we took off in a 9 seater Cessna 208 for our 45 minute flight to Jaisalmer, another military airport where jet fighters are based. The flight was great, flying at 8,000 feet so you could see everything on the ground including thousands of wind turbines. Who thought India had so many? When we arrived, the airport was empty except for our plane, the other three passengers, us and the pilots. We walked out through the terminal and were met by…no one. So we asked a man to phone the representative of the travel company here in Jaisalmer and he said to get a taxi to the hotel. When we arrived at the hotel, it turned out that someone had been there to pick us up but they had no way of knowing when we would arrive, so they had gone back to town. Apparently, the civilian part of this airport has only been open for less than a week, so no one knows much about arranging anything to do with the airport. Anyway, we were dropped at the hotel in town and met the travel rep and all was OK. We checked in, had a drink and a relax and we were so tired we didn’t have any dinner and went to bed fairly early. Today was hot but mostly we were travelling and in air conditioning.
Friday 3rd November 2017
After a lovely breakfast in the rooftop restaurant with a view to Jaisalmer Fort, we were picked up by our guide and driver at 9.00am and taken to the town about 2km away for our morning city walking tour. The tour started with a visit to the artificial lake, Gadhisar Lake which was constructed by the Maharajah Jaisal in the 15th Century to provide water for the city. It filled each year with monsoonal rain, but is in the present day topped up by a nearby pipeline and the water is not now required to be used by the city for drinking water. We then visited the Jaisalmer Fort, the dominant building in the town. It used to be occupied by the Maharajah and his royal family but is now occupied by locals and traders, shops, hotels and businesses. The royal family still live in the town in reasonably good circumstances, we were told. The totality of the fort is quite stunning, but the reality is that because it is full of tourist (mainly) businesses, it is not as interesting as some of the other hill forts we have visited on this trip. There are three walls at different heights and from the first gate you cannot see the second gate and from the second gate you cannot see the third gate (to fool the enemy). The city was conquered twice, but only in the 16th Century and not since. It is interesting to note that most of the major cities in India have old hill forts that were abandoned after they were besieged and the defenders killed, and other cities were built on the plains with hills around them (Jaipur, Jodhpur, Pushkar, Udaipur etc) so they had plenty of warning of enemies approaching with sentries posted on the hills. After the fort, we went to visit two of the most beautiful havelis in Jaisalmer, one of which is UNESCO World Heritage listed. The families still live in them and they are amazing. Back to the hotel for a rest and a beer on the rooftop followed by a snack in our room, before we head out again to see sunset on the sand dunes. We were picked up again at 4:30pm at the hotel and drove 42km to the Sam Sand Dunes. There are hundreds of tents, camels, tourists, all out on the sand dunes to experience the sunset. We walked about 400 metres and sat on top of a quiet rise, quiet until about 25 French tourists rode up on camels to about 30 metres in front of us. We sat there taking photos for about 45 minutes and waiting for the sunset at just after 6pm. It was fun watching all the people get on and off the camels. After sunset, we walked back to our car and were driven back to the hotel, had dinner then to bed. Today was very pleasant, about 28C and sunny.