Tuesday, January 3, 2017

DESERT DIARY

Travel far enough, you meet yourself - Cloud Atlas

This exactly happened to me during my recent road trip to a desert city called Jaisalmer (Rajasthan, India) also known as " Golden City." It took over a week for me and my pals to decide where to head for...It was crazy googling and finally one fine winter foggy morning, we packed our travelling rucks and decided to head for the desert. It was clear then as we hit the road and meet all the mountains, rocks, rivers & flock of sheep by the time we pass through Jaipur, we were meant to take this journey..


My work has taken me to many parts of India but Rajasthan remind unvisited. As we get closer to our destination, we started getting more closer to the ancient history of Kings, kingdoms and most of all ancient civilisation. This "Golden City" of Rajasthan situated in the heart of Thar Desert was once a princely city. This is it. Without further ado, let me unpack and dust off my travelling diary for you... Hope you'll enjoy it 😻

Jaisalmer on a sunny afternoon

Any traveller will find their own space and enjoy their stay in this city as people are generally simple and genuine i must say (well, except for some scammers and over enthusiastic shopkeepers, hotels and camel owners who are always on the prowl to extract few more dollars and cents from the travellers...so watch out for those black spots). 


The Majestic Fort (Quilla) at the heart of the city...

Here's a little intro...

Known as Sonar Quilla (golden fort) was built in 1156 AD by the Rajput ruler Rawal Jaisal, from whom it derives its name. The fort stands amidst the sandy expanse of the great Thar Desert, on Trikuta Hill. Before the days of the British Raj, the fortress city served as a refuge and way-station for caravans and travellers along the Silk Road- wikipedia. 


Sunrise at Thar Desert 

I was so amazed to see how the sun rises in the city at 7:35am. I have never waited so long in my entire life (apart from those sleepless nights once in a while) for the sun to rise (hahaha). 
But as the sun arrives, along with the  group of sunrise watchers, we celebrated and I tell you, it was a pure joy... I was just awestruck by the beauty of the ray that catches the canvas of the sand dunes and most of all, the hope that brought with its warmness in the midst of the windy desert. 


Waited through the twilight together. It was worth it. 



Sam Sand Dunes

To my surprise, the Sam Sand Dunes is located in the outskirts of Jaisalmer city, 2 kms from the main town. 

Once you reach the place, you will find many hawkers thronging towards you and negotiate with their best prices for Jeep Safari and Camel ride. Many of them are the local people. They are genuine. 

However, some crazy ones will come running right in front of your vehicle and stop you in the middle of the road. 

Here's some secret tips~ 
Avoid buying decorated Desert packages from hotels if possible. They charge you like no one's business. We were offered too... However, we took chances and got some of the budget friendly offers and enjoyed to the fullest. So, no difference! Just drive early and you'll catch the worm... 

The riders!!! 


It was told that the local communities have been riding for centuries... 
These great desert ships as famously known(camels) roam through the dunes, sunrise and sunset with its graceful confidence along with their master.  


The uncrown desert KING! 

















Finding the correct balance on top of one of these animals is an exercise of calm, complete surrender and most of all character. 

It was just crazy riding on the running camel. Felt like a Rajput warrior for a moment before I started screaming behind the hump (Lol)... 
Shame on me (sigh). 



The most thrilling activity after the caravan camel safari is the jeep safari. The jeeps used for the safari are 4X4, with an open top. It was so fun as our driver Mr. Raju drove us at 200km per hour. I experienced 'adrenaline rush' as the music gets louder and the speed gets faster. It was a total exhilarating experience and really you have to experience yourself...words are not enough!  

The local folksingers and musician enthralling the desert and the travellers...


Seema ~ The original desert dancer 


Musician in the city gate

Meeting some of the local greats! 
























The city is home to countless artists and story tellers. I just love the fact that they are still in tune with their values, culture and just so happy about it. In a real sense, to me these people are the crown of the golden city who watch over the fort and enchant the city with their music, dance and voices... 




Decorated spices 


Some of the crafted /metal souvenir  

The famous puppet dolls (Kathputali in hindi) of the Rajasthan!
Anthony our great co-backpackers by the Kuldhara (the HAUNTED village) in the background! 
About 200 years ago, Kuldhara was home to the Paliwal Brahmins. It was during this time that Salim Singh, the Diwan of Jaisalmer, known for his debauchery and unscrupulous tax-collecting methods, set his eyes on the beautiful daughter of the village chief. The Diwan was absolutely hell bent on having the girl and he told the villagers if they came in his way he would levy huge taxes on them.
Fearing the wrath of the Diwan, the residents of the entire village fled one dark night, leaving behind their homes and everything within them. Kuldhara was abandoned by its very own people. No one saw the thousand-odd members of the village leave. For generations now, no one knows where the Paliwals have resettled. All that is known is they cursed the town when they left – that no one would ever be able to settle down in Kuldhara again. (Sources: internet). 
PS~ I acted brave but was terribly scared inside as I walk through Kuldhara village.           The story  still intrigued me...


Towards Dusshera Chowk (near Cannon point)! 


Walking down and climbing stairs once the Kings and Queens walked and lived. 




Make way for this "HAPPENING" cars 😍

Limousine?😄



Hello! Please bow to the great inventors !!!  
                                        
                                       

Like the kings and nobles of Jaisalmer, we will also go down to posterity. Our children and their children will walk the same path and make their own trail like us today.  It was a beautiful pre New Year 2017 vacation I took with my mate and co-packers. This journey will go down as one of the most exciting expedition. Thank you 2016 for the great year you are. God is so gracious. 


Am not the same having seen the sun rise and set on the other side of the World

M A Radmacher 


On a great journey of LIFE. Hello 2017! Be good and be kind to one another. 





Tuesday, November 17, 2015

IN THE FACE OF DESPAIR



The oppressors knows that the primary reason we do nothing is because we have lost any hope of making a difference. It is not that we lack power, compassion, courage or knowledge. Rather, we lack a sense of hope that allows us take what we have into the fray. By sheer inertia, therefore, we lend our own weight to the downward cycle of despair. Our lack of hope keeps us from the front lines of engagement.... Gary Haugen. 



Whether Corruption, Intolerance, Racism, Poverty, Injustice, Terrorism etc... we hardly flinch now since we've become so numb. How comfortable it has become to walk down within our own guarded moral cloister and crowd out the discomfort of the pain and suffering happening around us. These cloud of moral ambiguity, inaction & selective empathy are only hoarding our purpose. Its high time we take sides, for action over inaction, for justice against injustice, for love & forgiveness over hatred & revenge, for books over guns, for humility over flexing muscle power/pride, humanity over politics and for hope over despair...

To be continued. 


Monday, June 22, 2015

THE BACKPACKER's DIARY


We are backpackers. We love what we do and we do what we really love. As always, travelling purifies me to behold new experiences and allows me to open my heart and mind to the new things and challenges... 
  
This is the story of a woman who loves hitting the road, swimming across the ocean, climbing the mountains and who loves travelling with her backpacker husband. Am glad we did this together not just because we deserve some break and relaxation but for the love we share and the dreams we dream of…

Completely not knowing what to expect, we finally landed in Colombo on 15th June, 2015. 

"Home Stay" (A bed & breakfast type of guest house . This is where we stayed the arrival night. Owned by a lovely lady called Priyani)

Walking down Mount Lavinia Beach the next morning!

Before boarding local bus in the evening at 7pm for the Eastern part of the Island, we headed for some good food and drinks the next morning. It was a pure fun to walk down the beach and allows the waves to tease us and whisper some few secrets...  



a) Prawn and local veggies fried rice with hot & spicy Lankan chutney
b) BELOW !!! Fresh coconut water and tender coconut scoop out ( its silly...we ate as our starter)



                                 


After all the indulgence, we hop in to one of the local bus (102) that goes to  Colombo fort and from there we boarded the bus for Arugam Bay (Pottuvil). As you can see from the map, it was one weirdest and craziest road journey we've ever taken. We enjoyed the ride to the fullest though. Started from Colombo Fort by 7 pm, we reach Pottuvil the next day at 4 am. 

Map of Sri Lanka


THE MARVELLOUS ARUGAM BAY !  
The lovely Arugam Bay is what I called " the pearl in the crown of Sri Lankan beaches". Post Tsunami, the lovely town is on its way to rebuild its own home and recreate its own magic that enchant travellers & backpackers like us. Arugam Bay is not just the best surfing destination but it also serves as one of the most unspoilt place I must say. I really love the way how this little spot has its own charm.  I believe the sun never set in Arugam Bay...it shines no matter what!!! 
We are grateful to the people and strangers who allowed us to be part of their world and to be happy about it... For me, travelling helps me see beyond what I can see. It is always an inward journey!!!

                   



 

We stayed at THE FOLLY...a lovely rustic and organic resort. The roofless (open sky view) bathroom stood out so out for me (haha)... It was fun. 


                                                                                                                                                                                            


THE OCEAN....THE HIGH POINT OF OUR EXPEDITION!!!

 








His new found unpredictable friend Brownie! Brownie is the most ferocious four footed fur in the Island. Mind you...even the beach patrol police are scared of him (Lol). Yes, you heard me...POLICE..  




FOOD, MORE THAN A FOOD!!! 

I believe food are really more than just a food. They speak to our inner self and are a window to understand the other self who serves the food or share their table. Seeing all the gourmet preparation, I couldn't resist what I saw so I grab my camera and took all these photos to testify that this is what I called food. Thanks to my husband who patiently waited for the crazy photographer to click...I know I know...he was annoyed as we were already famished by then. 
The spices, the flavour and the seasonal favourite fruits and vegetables just got better and much to my realization, it defines the community and their love and respect for one another.    


     WHITE SNIPER 




         Sri Lankan speciality by Ratna (the master chef of The Folly)... 
         "Cooking with love provides food for the soul"...


      ROCK FISH from the FOLLY (an experience of a lifetime)  

    THE FAMOUS SUKSAKA BREAKFAST at Folly 


   THE MESMERISING ARUGAM BAY's SURFERS!!!


    It was breathtaking to see this totally mind-boggling insane surfer...no words!!! 

THE REAL WORLD THE REAL PEOPLE LIVES HERE...

Like its own colourful spices and food, the land is a plater of varied colours of people, mountains, animals, birds, fishermen's colourful boats, rocks, flowers and list goes on... 

                   

 A closer walk with nature and its dwellers!!! 


 
                 
THE BACKPACKER's CONFESSION!!!

Had sunburn, tanned my skin, skinned my knees, emptied my wallet...Well who cares, as long as you know you're born for this journey...this journey of Life... So fall in love again with life, take some risk and pack your bag... Time to hit the road. It makes me alive and kick hard! That's my forte!!! 


Until then, I'll see you again on the other side of the lonely planet. Thank you Sri Lanka for the love and memories!!! Truly a place like no other place". 


 "WE TRAVEL NOT TO ESCAPE LIFE BUT FOR LIFE NOT TO ESCAPE US" anonymous