Of gleaming sand and sunshine

Desert track

hotspot Desert camps offer a taste of desert life. photo by author

There are several desert camps to give city dwellers like me a taste of desert life and we were there in one such camp as Pal Rajah’s guests — paid of course. The camp is on a stretch of land that his ancestors had bought. Pal’s parents grew bajra there once and just across the camp is the sprawling desolate tract.  A French tourist, Pal told us, sold him the idea of converting that piece of land into an overnight camp for tourists. The Frenchman was right. Pal is all smiles as the desert has set his cash register ringing. Urban dwellers are flocking this place to get a feel of desert life.

The Swiss tents, our abode for the night, were spacious and clean. The bathroom was sparkling. The generator purred as it illuminated the desert campus, albeit dimly. But for Pal, meeting the guests’ needs is an ordeal. Nothing is available locally. The water is brackish. So, drinking water is fetched in tankers from Jaisalmer. Vegetables, bread, wheat flour — everything a tourist needs is ‘imported’. Only sand, sunshine and insects were in abundance.

Our date with the Thar began after a cup of hot tea with fake Parle ‘biskoots’ after we checked into the hotel for the evening. Camels were waiting to take us on a ride on the sand dunes with a free sunset view thrown in. Till it is time to ride back, the desert is all yours — you can roll, skate or jump. Our guide kept us busy with his chatter. There was a roll call of Bollywood male stars as the camels are named after them and mine was named after Mithun Chakravarthy.

After our stroll on the sands, we freshened up but the brackish water in the bathroom did not help. Soon, it was time to enjoy a camp fire. Wooden logs were lit and local folk singers took stage with their saathis. Snacks were passed around as we parked ourselves on durries or chairs. To give us a taste of local culture, Pal called in some local artistes, who entertained us with folk music. After a little while, it was time for the desert folk dance. Dressed in traditional attire, a young dancer entertained the audience with her rhythmic steps. Soon, Pal announced that dinner was ready. The pure vegetarian meal was fresh and served hot. It was time to retire. A quiet blanket enveloped the area as we gathered near our tents and looked up to get an uninterrupted view of stars sparkling in the sky — a rare sight for urbanites.

Next morning, we were up early, ready to take a stroll and leave our footprints on the sands of Thar.

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