Monthly Archives: February 2014

Mt.Abu – The Oasis in the Hills

The only hill station in North – Western India, Mount Abu is truly the oasis in the hills. Lush green forests with beautiful granite Guru Shikharpeaks of the Aravalli flaunting a cornucopia of pristine flora and Guru Shikharfauna compliments the cool and soothing ambiance of the hill station. The serene natural beauty and the architecture marvels of the Dilwara Jain Temples make it a must visit place in any tourists itinerary. And if you are coming from the desert, get ready for a pleasant surprise.

10th October 2013

After my visit to Jaisalmer, I arrived in back in Jodhpur to catch the next train to Abu Road. I reached the station just 10 minute before my next train. What I saw in the station really surprised me. There was a passenger train Guru Shikharwhich was so crowded that people where sitting on the roofs. If I had time, I’d have gotten on to the roof of that train and taken a ride to the next station, just for an Guru Shikharexperience. But unfortunately, my train arrived at the next platform. “Some other time”, I sighed as I boarded the Jammu Tawi – Ahmadabad Express. The train departed at 6:30 am and  I could see the sun rise in the backdrop of the rugged Rajasthani terrain. May be I was tired, I could feel my eye lids getting heavier. After a short nap, I reached Abu Road railway station at 10:45 am. I was expecting a big station as it is the closest station to Mt.Abu. Well, I was disappointed to see a small and poorly maintained station. First thing I searched for was a tourist information and I was disheartened yet again. I couldn’t get any information from the Police aid post and they were very hostile. So, I decided to try my Guru Shikharluck outside the station.  I found share taxis calling out for Mt. Abu. Guru ShikharI boarded a jeep and waited till it was full. It was jam-packed and luckily, I got myself a comparatively better seat in the front.

The 1 hour journey was all uphill and the twists and turns provided a really amazing view. I must say, it reminded me of the road to Ooty in Tamil Nadu. The cool breeze was a refreshing change from the hot desert whiffs that I endured for the last 2 days. After some walking around I found a room in Hotel Kapil for Rs.350. It was OK, but not so great. I’ve stayed in better rooms for cheaper rates. I should have searched a little more for a better room. But since it’s just 1 night, I decided to go with it. After talking to the hotel owner I realized that the public transport system is really poor in Mt.Abu and most of the tourist spots are spread around a 20km Guru Shikharradius. So, I decided to hire a motor bike Guru Shikharand I saw a number of bike for hire shops. I rented a Honda Twister for Rs.250 and filled it with Rs.100 worth of petrol. It’s just over a liter, but I’m hoping it should get me at least 60km. After a Gujrati lunch, I set out to explore the Oasis in the Hills.

First stop – the famous Dilwara Jain Temple. I had learned about this place and its architectural grandeur in the History classes in school. But I must say, the text failed to do justice to this marvelous creation.  The intricately carved white marble that adorned the temple walls, the ornate doorways and ceilings would captivate and impress even the cold-hearted.  They are simply majestic and I did spend a lot of time enjoying the hard work and craftsmanship of the temple architects. The onlyAchal Garh issue is that they don’t allow Road to Guru Shikharcamera or mobile into the temple complex. I would’ve taken at least a 100 images if they had permitted me. Nonetheless, I bought a tourist book that contained some good photos of the temple. If you ask me, I’d say its worth visiting Mt.Abu just for the Dilwara Temples.

I next went to Guru Shikar – the highest point in Rajasthan. It’s just 1220m above MSL, but to Rajasthani standards, it’s quite high. However the view it offers is splendid and breathtaking. The most importantly, everything around you looks green and not the sandy yellow of the desert. This place offers a stunning 360 degree view of the valley below and the cool air currents rejuvenated my spirits. By the way, I could see only bikes or taxis at the parking, which means that had I not rented one,I wouldn’t have Achal Garhreached here.  Oh yeah, and there’s a Achal Garhtemple there. On the way down through the poorly maintained road, I saw a few small waterfalls too. And all the way down, I had put my bike in neutral and let gravity do its thing – fuel saving, you know.  On the way down I visited the Peace Park. It’s a beautiful garden that’s surprisingly silent and peaceful. I don’t know whats wrong with the people here – NO photography! Again!!

I then went to Achal Garh. Frankly I had no idea what that was till I got there. It was an old fort and a temple. It had a very deserted feel and on climbing up the stairs, I had an eerie feeling. The background music was some hymns from the temple and all I saw around me were a few villagers moving around with their day-to-day life. It was almost sunset and I could see that it was getting dark under the tree canopy and cute monkeys were jumping round. I went to the temple and even Achal Garhthough it was closed, the security allowed me to go around it.Achal Garh No Photography yet again!! It too was a small but beautiful marble temple. But later I realised that the main temple is still further up – the Achaleshwar Mahadev Temple. It was a small temple and had statue of Nandi and 3 stone buffaloes.

I wanted to visit the sunset point, but I guess I was too late. Half way through I watched the golden sun go behind the pinnacle of a granite peak. It was as good as any sunset point, in my opinion. My last stop on the road was Adhar Devi Temple. Stairs again! I climbed the 360 odd steep steps in less than 10 minutes and I nearly ran out of breath.  It was a small cave temple dedicated to Goddess Durga.


Back in Mt.Abu town, I went to the Nakki Lake in the Nakki Lakemiddle of the town. I should’ve visited it earlier but it doesn’t matter. I could see the silhouette of the famous toad rock to the south of the lake. I just walked around the lake for a while and sat down looking at the dark lake with the reflection of the city lights, recharging myself. Time to call it a day. I returned the bike and then walked into the bazaar. 10 minutes later I realized that I was lost and I was walking in circles. Finally, I figured out the way myself and walked to the hotel after a Punjabi dinner. I had half more day in Mt.Abu, but I decided to cut it short and head to Udaipur the next morning. By 8:30pm I was back in my room and the cool climate made me jump on to the bed.

Tomorrow, I’m going to Udaipur. But how?

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Jaisalmer – The Golden City

Golden City – A name that reverberates the epitome of natural and historic beauty; A citadel of exotic gateways, massive forts and ornate temples, ushering the ethereal charm and hostility of the Great Indian Desert.The golden hue of the fort guarding the city Jaisalmer Fortamidst the golden sands of the Thar desert with the golden hue of the sun Jaisalmer Fort - Cannon Pointshining down makes it a magical and unforgettable experience to any visitor. And unlike most forts you see around the world, the Sonar Quila or the Golden Fort of Jaisalmer is a living fort that caters to a quarter of the inhabitants of Jaisalmer. This is the story of my solo expedition to Jaisalmer – The Golden City.

I arrived at Jaisalmer railway station at 6 am on 9th October 2013 from Jodhpur. As usual, my first thought was to freshen up at the railway Jain Templewaiting room, but its condition was so pathetic that I had to find myself a hotel room. With a little help from the station master, I took a room at Hotel Pushp Mahal Jain Templefor Rs.100 to freshen up and take rest. (I’m sure the hotel gives some kinda commission to the station master). After getting ready, the 1st priority was to get the itinerary planned for Jaisalmer. Yup, I don’t plan such things in advance, but I have done a good background study about the place. In the evening, the plan was to go for a desert Safari. It was one hell of a bargaining. I’ll get back to that shortly. Guess what, being a travel blogger sure has its perks. The hotel owner (Mr.Rathore) offered me a free ride to the fort and told me about the places to see.

Jaisalmer FortSo, here I am standing in front of the massive 850 year old Sonar Quila astounded by its magnificence. I don’t think it’s as big as the Mehrangarh fort I visited Jaisalmer Fortyesterday, but this fort has a charm of its own. It’s a living fort – It has houses, shops and hotels inside the fortified walls apart from the usual palaces and temples. And you can even find auto-rickshaws, bikes and cars negotiating the narrow cobbled roads inside the fort. Whats a great trip without a satisfying breakfast. The cheese  Macaroni from the Little Tibet hotel atop the fort wall offered me a breathtaking view of the city of Jaisalmer. The cannon point also offered a great view of the city below the fort. Making my way through the narrow Patwa Haveliand cramped pathways of the fort, I arrived at the Jain Temples. There a re 5 such temples there and they are over 550 years old. The carvings inside the temples are quite intricate and ornate. And the best part is that there is no restriction for photography, though its chargeable. After spending some time marveling the beauty Patwa Haveliof the Jain temples, I walked across the whole fort. Alive!! That’d summarize the whole thing. I could see children in school uniforms walking through the alleys, grandmothers saying the morning prayers, kitchens bustling with activity – It’s a different feel altogether. A fusion of the past and the present in hopes of a better future.

What is a fort without a museum? Well, Jaisalmer fort too flaunts a museum narrating the storyPatwa Haveli of its rich history. Personal opinion, not as good as the Mehrangarh fort museum and but the entry fee and camera rates are at par. May be because it was Patwa Havelimorning, the museum was kinda deserted except for the guards at every nook and corner. (They are not good photographers as most of the pics they took for me were out of focus). Next stop were the Havelis, or the palaces of the wealthy noblemen. The first one was the well maintained Kothari Patwa Haveli and the entry and camera fee was Rs.50 each. But lemme assure you, its well spent.  Ostentatious and extravagant! Adored with beautiful paintings and glass work, these Haveli’s portray the luxurious lifestyle of the nobles who once lived here. Next to this is another jaisalmer FortHaveli which is maintained by the Government. Deplorable and Pathetic! Very poorly maintained and is scary and stinky due to the thousands of bats that made claimed this Haveli. If you are scared of bats, do not enter this Haveli as it may contain more bats than Batman’s Batcave. And there is nothing to see here except the emptyGadsisar Lake house, but the consolation is that it offers a good view from the roof.

I then walked over a kilometer to the Gadsisar lake which has a number of small temples nearby. It’s a pretty place to spend and evening, but unfortunately, I was there at noon. The scorching sun was taking its toll on me and I decided not to take a boat ride in this Gadsisar Lakelake or explore the farther ends of it. Back in hotel, I took a 3 hour rest and then set out to the Sam Sand Dunes. The 42 km ride took us through the barren wilderness with few shrubs, windmills and occasionally, resorts. From Camel point, I got on a camel named Shah Rukh Khan (seems they are all named after Bollywood stars) with 11-year-old Sanjana from Delhi. The one hour ride (5 km) through the desert offered me a stunning view of the sunset in Sam Sand Dunesthe backdrop of the golden sand dunes of the Thar desert. The camel ride was too shaky and I couldn’t get good pics of the sunset as the camera refused to focus. After playing in the sand dunes for about 40 minutes, I walked Sam Sand Dunesto the desert camp nearby. I had so much sand in my shoes that it felt like some creature crawling under my feet. At the camp resort, I got myself a diwan type bed and welcome drinks. The traditional songs and dances were good but the insects were a nuisance. The stunts performed by the dancers were pretty amazing. After the program, I had dinner in desert cuisine. Frankly, I didn’t understand what each curry was and this sure is not my favorite cuisine.

I got back in the hotel by 10 pm. Now, about the bargaining I said earlier. Desert Camp PerformancesThe amount Sam Sand Dunesstarted from Rs. 3000 plus tip and finally settles at Rs.1900 including tip to the driver Peeru. I was not very happy as I wanted it to come down to Rs.1500. But a Rs.1100 reduction is not bad and a notable part is that my blogger status helped me gain some additional discount. So, I’d like to extend my gratitude to Mr. Rathore, Raju and Peeru of Hotel Pushp Mahal on behalf of me and my blog.

Sam Sand Dunes Desert Camp

At 11:45, I boarded the same train I arrived in the morning back to Jodhpur. Next stop, Mount Abu!!

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