The Desert triangle of Rajasthan consists of Bikaner, Jaisalmer and Jodhpur. Many of the travelogues I have read starts or ends with the line ” There is Nothing to do much in Bikaner”……………..hmmmm………..now when a percentage of the tourists have a notion about a place like this, be sure the place will be less crowded, serene and clean.
Winter is the best time to visit Rajasthan. Bikaner was our best bet because it was just a weekend tour and Bikaner is just 450 kms. from Delhi.
We planned to leave Delhi on 11th December night and come back on 14th.
We started off at 12 midnight on 11th December to avoid the city traffic and reach Bikaner early next morning as soon as possible so that we can enjoy rest of the day exploring the place.
Arnab(my husband), Anushka(my 8 year old daughter), our friend Rohit and our sweetheart Lassy(pet dog and a real travelbuff).
The beginning part of the journey was pretty uneventful (except that near to Manesar seeing the endless queue of truck, we decided to avoid that time while entering Delhi
This is the route we followed Delhi-Manesar-Rewari-Chirawa-Jhunjhunu-Fatehpur-Bikaner
At Rewari , our dear Madam Navigator(i.e. MapMyIndia Navigator…..we love to call it Auntyji) lead us thro’ market places. We thanked our stars that we are driving at night otherwise ………..we all know the consequence…don’t we ???? After crossing Rewari city, the road became deserted. Trees formed a canopy over the road. More the places became secluded….. more the outside temperature dropped…… :)(as shown in our car dashboard panel).
It was a moonlit night, we could see the stars so clearly in the sky, which is a rare sight for people who lives in cities.
In the moonlight, we could see that the vegetation on both the sides of the road was growing denser.We saw wild rabbits hopping on the road to cross it ………….their fur greyish in colour…….and blood red eyes shining in the head light.
Road condition began to deteriorate gradually………..somewhere in between Chirawa and Jhunjhunu we have to stretch our neck to see thro’ the windshield which exactly is the spot from where if we cross will bring minimum damage to our car………….we crossed those stretches without our car suffering any under belly injury. confirming that Ertiga has a good GC.
Finally we reached Fatehpur………and Madam Navigator……..turned us Left & Right and Left & Right &……………..until at 5.30 a.m we suddenly discovered we were sitting inside our car, in a narrow lane surrounded by old Rajasthani Havelis!!!!
Bhulbhulaiya(maze) of Fatehpur(Blueline marks the lane we got stuck)
” Enough is Enough”….we thought……..and decided to take our age old practice to ask Tauji, Bhai sahabs, Annas who will gladly tell you the correct route. But the only problem was it was 5.30 a.m and 0 degree outside…….. why the hell anybody will be out of their cosy bed!!!!!!! All of a sudden we found two men approaching….. and Rohit jumped out of the car and asked for their help……they gladly guided us out of their city :P…………..
Ahhh………..finally we found the NH11 and the road condition improved drastically…….. We were over excited and superbly happy………. we saw the Sun coming out of the horizon………… This special morning needs some special selfies….
At about 7 a.m. we thought of taking a tea break………….it was still 1 degree outside………..
We got off the car………….it was chilling cold , we touched the sand……… got a shock………cold like never experienced before…………..
The kind-hearted bhai sa(meaning brother(tea stall owner)) lit a bonfire for us and what a relief……….
Lassy preferred to stay inside the car……..
Tea stall(Writing on the wall means….Welcome….please be seated)
At about 9.30 we reached the Resort(Balaji Resort) which is situated at a distance of 16 kms. from Bikaner.
Cottage where we stayed
Oasis in the desert-Balaji Resort
After we reached Balaji Resort, we were given a warm welcome by the owner Brig. N.L.Verma. Balaji Resort is owned and managed by Brig. N.L. Verma and his family. They live in the same premises. We were asked to sit and relax in the lawn and were served refreshments. We relaxed under the warm winter Sun and had a chat with the owner and his son. We were really impressed to hear the way they have converted the barren land into an oasis.
We were welcomed into a warm room and ahhhh……….there lies the warm bed. But we resisted the desire of cuddling ourselves under the warm blanket and having a long deep sleep.
After freshning up, we went for a walk to explore the premises. It has a sprawling green lawn. There are only two AC Deluxe rooms and five rural huts. All the cottages are built to give a feel of Rajasthani architecture.
It has a huge parking and play area too. There are two swimming pools but they are not in good shape.
It was 12 midday and our stomach asked for food. We ordered Gatte-ki-Sabzi, dal fry,butter paneer, rice, roti etc etc.
We were served food in an hour. The food was finger licking good………..but Lassy said it was whisker licking good :).
We requested Mr. Verma to arrange for a camel-cart . We set out for the safari at around 2p.m. We opted for 2 1/2 hrs of journey thro’ the desert(charge 1800 rupees).
The safari was an unique experience for us. The sound of the ghungroo tied on the camel’s leg along with the sound of the wind blowing thro’ the desert created a never before experience. It was midday but the wind was chilling cold.The camel moved on the desert track leaving behind its footprint and the mark of tyres. Small shrubs and Acacia plants are the only vegetation to be seen.
We could see herd of cattles roaming about, some deserted huts. We noticed wired boundaries frequently, the owner of the camel said it is to demarcate boundaries. We were surprised to hear that, we never thought that even these arid stretches of barren land can have owners ……………maybe some years from now these huge pristine stretches will be teeming with tourists just as is the case of Sam sand dunes, Jaisalmer.
We were moving deeper inside the desert. Initial excitement of the safari was gradually vanishing and we were bored of viewing the sand, the shrubs…..the thorny Acacia.Suddenly we noticed a Black Buck standing some distance away…. we all sat up straight with excitement…….the Black Buck too stretched its neck in excitement(?????) and then it was a single jump……….she vanished in the thick cloud of dust. Most of us has seen Black Buck in the zoo…….but in the wild………in their home……….they are amazing.
As is obvoius, for the rest of the journey we sat there attentively, though Lassy and Anushka were the most attentive ones. Lassy very often sat straight and started sniffing…… must be getting the scent of all the animals hiding nearby :).
We saw Chinkara(deer) hiding behind a shrub, Vultures sitting on top of trees, Eagles and fox’s den dug up in the sand.
We came back to the resort after thanking the camel and its owner. The evenings were complete mastii time………….chatting, watching movies, singing and all these over hot pakoras and tea and cold drinks………
We had our yummy dinner and slept early as we were extremely tired .
Next morning , I woke up at 8.30a.m. and went out with my camera , just to explore the place.
Some clicks :
Hardwork of the people has turned large stretches of arid desert into green patches of farmland……….they use groundwater (bore upto 300 feet) and use long pipes and sprinklers at regular intervals to water their field.
Using sprinklers and pipes to water their farm
(Bikaner city founded by Rao Bikaji is a moderately large city. The areas we covered were quite clean and not as congested as some old cities like Varanasi. Like Delhi, they have number of gol chakkars and you will go gol and gol about the chakkars if you don’t ask for guidance :P. if travelling in your own vehicle avoid getting into the narrow lanes because those are very congested…….we got stuck up in such a lane and to our amazement the people use middle of the road as parking…. we saw the traffic police standing at a corner of the road looking at the traffic helplessly.
The city has a number of Sati mandirs. The fact that Satis are worshipped as Goddess even in this modern era clearly indicates that even today there are people who support this heinious crime. There are large bill boards placed at public places educating people against female foeticide. These facts points at the darker side of the vibrant state Rajasthan.)
After finishing off our breakfast (hot paranthas served with dahi and achar)………. we went for the city tour.
We planned to cover three places: Devi Kund Sagar(The Royal Cenotaph), National Camel Research Centre and Junagarh fort.
Our first destination was Devi Kund Sagar(The Royal Cenotaph).
“The members of ruling family of Bikaner subsequent to Jet Singh, the great grandson of Rao Bikaji, have been cremated here.On the sides of reservoir of water lie the Royal cenotaphs of rulers of Bikaner dynasty from Rao Kalyan Singhji to last Maharaji Karni Singhji as well as those of their wives and other important members of families.There are cenotaphs (Chhatries) of 22 SATIES of royal family prior to Maharaja Gaj Sigh Ji (1745-1787). There is also one cenotaph of a SATA (male sati) of a ruler.The architecture of the cenotaphs is the prime attraction of this place. Maharaja Surat Singh’s Chhatri is built entirely in white marble with spectacular Rajput paintings on its ceiling. Close by is a Dargah of Rustal Ali Shah Peer which is held in high esteem by muslim community and other people.”
Entry ticket was five rupees. You need to put off your shoes before entering the cenotaph. There are large number of cloth shoes kept at the side and those shoes are really important(as the floor is carpeted with Pigeon guano ), we understood this as soon as we entered the huge premises.
It covers a huge area with numerous chhatries dedicated to the Kings and Queens. Some of the chhatries have beautiful Rajasthani painting done on the ceiling.
Information about the Royal Cenotaph
Chattries made of marble and sandstone
Rajasthani painting done on the ceiling of one of the chattries
From there we moved to the National Camel Reserch Centre. We reached there at 1.30p.m.. On our arrival at the gate of the centre we were informed that it opens at 2p.m.. We were really depressed, especially Anushka…….she was waiting eagerly to meet the Baby Camels.
Because of scarcity of time, we couldnot wait at the centre and moved to our Next destination…… The Junagarh Fort.
The area around the Fort is perfectly congestion free with smooth flow of traffic. The parking was inside the fort premises. It was a great feeling to enter through the huge gates of the fort in your own vehicle(gave actually a royal feel :P).
The ticket rates are: Rs. 50 for adults, Rs. 30 for children and students.The best thing is that the ticket rate includes a Professional Guide who will accompany your group throughout the palace.
It is a huge fort with number of palaces. The Fort is a confluence of Gujrati, Rajasthani, Moghul, European Architecture. All the Mahals are unique with different styles of architecture and history.
Anup Mahal(goldleaf design can be seen)
vegetable colours used to paint the doors
Inside Badal Mahal
Touring thro’ the Fort nearly took one hour. One hour of continous walk left us tired and hungry.
Research work was done on the internet before visiting Bikaner to find the restaurants which serves best Non-veg. food in the city. Getting a Non-Veg restaurant in this area is really difficult. We went to Gallops(ranked number one in our research!!!!), situated just opposite to the fort. The food was served within 20 minutes, and the yumminess of the food will get 3 out of 5. The price was on the higher side.
We reached back at our resort at around 6p.m. Nothing noticeable in the way other than an iron khamba(pillar) was standing right at the centre of the road(i.e NH11)………..सबको सुमती दे भगवान (translation (roughly): God shower everyone with wisdom).
The next day at around 10 a.m. we started our homeward journey………….we were determined not to follow the same route while going back. The owner of the resort informed us about a different route which according to him was superb……….
The second thing yet to be done is to buy sweets and bhujiyas………how can one come to Bikaner and return without gorging on these delicacies???? We were guided not to return to Bikaner city which will be congested at that time of the day …. instead they told us about a place named Dungargarh which is 40 kms.away from Bikaner and is on our way. So, as was decided we halted at Dundargarh and bought lots of sweets and bhujias and gorged on the famous dal kachori of the area. The Kachori was too good……… the sweets are a real treat ……. and that too at a much much lesser price compared to Delhi.
@Dungargarh…to enjoy kachoris and sweets
After filling our tummy we moved on……………
When we were near Ratangarh( Churu, Rajasthan on NH 11) we passed a railway crossing, just next to the Railway crossing we saw a mandir. MAndir is quite a natural sighting in India but what excited us was a big board mentioning about Thar Natural History Fossil Museum.
Fossil museum ???? but where exactly is it??? Suddenly we noticed in very small font it is written that the museum is just under the mandir(temple). Anushka jumped up in excitement at the mention that the museum has fossils of Dinosaur.
These sort of hidden treasures are real treat for those people who travel by road.
Now something about the museum:
Thar Natural History Fossil Museum : –
This is a private museum of Mr. Trilok chand attray which contains collection of Fossils, Minerals ,Rocks and Ores of different types from all over the world.
Fossil Department : contains 2.5 billion years old cynobecteria that is most ancient record of early life on the land of India.Trace fossils of Trilobite,Fossilized bone fragments of Indian Dinosaur ( Rajasaurus Narmadensis ),Theropod Dinosaur, Big Ammonites, Bivalves,Brachiopods,Forminefera, Radiolarians,Corals, Leaf-Impressions ,Petrified Wood, Amber inclusion of Termites etc.
Mineral Department :-
This department contains a lot of minerals from all over the world like Diamond,Corundum,Topaz, Varieties of Quartz,Beryl and Emeralds,Aquamarine,Garnets,Obsidian,Lapis,Malachite,etc.
Rock Department : contains kinds of Rocks specially mother rock of Diamond,Igneous rocks, Metamorphic rocks , Sedimentary rocks etc..
Arnab and Anushka went below the mandir to discover the hidden treasures in the museum, while I went out with my camera as I saw different species of birds flocking the area.
Both of them came out after an hour or so……….with great excitement………….they have seen the fossils of dinosaur apart from the fossils mentioned above. They also saw flexible limestone(!!!!!!). Yes, the museum is a hidden treasure in the Thar which I think few people know about.
Some of my photographs of the birds:
We left Ratangarh at about 1.30. Our next halt was 60kms. away at a place called Laxmangarh and offcourse it was to refuel ourselves.
Just opposite to the Mody Enginnering college on the NH we saw number of shops selling burgers, pizzas etc. etc. They looked yummy and clone of KFC.
We ordered our food from there. We were amazed when we dug into the burgers, chicken popcorn, chicken fry(crusted top KFC style)……..they tasted so good…… yeh log agaar “MAKE IN INDIA” start kare to KFC aur Mc Donalds ki to chhuti……. (rough translation..if these people start their own company then KFC and Mc Donalds will have tough time).
Looks like KFC………tastes soooo yummy at half the price of KFC
We took additional precautions not to return to the route which we followed while going to Bikaner. Whenever any confusion arouse, we cleared it from any Tau jis, Bhai sas………..passing by.
This was our return route:
The road was really smooth . It ran cutting through the Aravalli range of mountains. Smooth road with great scenic beauty……….what more can a traveller ask for… .To add to our excitement we saw a family of Nilgai crossing the road.
A tollplaza near to Neem ka Thana bypass
Rest of the journey was uneventful………….We returned home at 9.15p.m………..
what we did for the rest of the journey????????
…………………Discussing about our next tour……………. 🙂