Out first night at Jaisalmer was a disaster. With little thought, we had booked Club Mahindra resort to use up a free room offer from MakeMyTrip. Loud music till 11 p.m., a room with no privacy (what purpose does windows serve if they open to a common corridor), and finally an enforced buffet dinner (no information on this at the time of check in) left us with a bad taste.
Luckily, the desert camps at the Sam dunes hadn’t piqued our interest, so we hadn’t booked anything there. A friend suggested spending a night at Khuri, in the open desert (and not a camp) and he went ahead and booked it for us. Our guide at Jaipur Fort was skeptical as he hadn’t heard about it. He tried in vain to get us book a night at Sam, at one of his relative’s camps.
About 40-km from Jaislamer, Khuri is a village and is gaining popularity for its sand dunes. Badal Singh was our host. From the main road, people directed us to his house. The dusty, mud road was flanked traditional houses of the desert, some renovated with concrete and bricks. Camels loitered near the houses.
For a man who always lived in the desert, Mr Singh’s English was impeccable. Mild-mannered, he offered a room for us to take a siesta. The desert trip was to start in the evening.
We woke up hearing the voices of some newcomers. Curious, we went out and was surprised to find a family from Mumbai. A little unsure of the desert camp, the Bhujbals decided to give it a try. After a cuppa that cleared our slumber-induced lethargy, we freshened up and set out to the desert. Badal Singh’s comment “there are snakes and scorpions, but nothing has happened till now to our guests” was meant to be comforting. Considering the heat, the only comfort it gave was a chill in the spine. Aditya, the youngest of the Bhujbals, and two of us chose a camel cart while Aditya’s parents chose camel ride.
A few kilometers of bumpy ride, we reached the spot where we were to spend the night. That is, we stopped somewhere in the desert. As the guides went about preparing for the dinner, we did what all people who set foot in a desert for the first time. We frolicked in the sand.
As the sunlight faded, we sat near the fire, watching the cooking in progress. The spread included roti, rice, dal, and mixed vegetable. The rustic setting added to the taste of the hot food.
When the guides too finished their dinner, they spread the mattresses for us. It was a bit scary. With no protection from anything, we lied down on the thick mattress and with a thick quilt to cover ourselves. The sleep was fitful and we woke up with sand sprinkled all over, including our mouth. And laughed as we saw the footprints of a variety of insects. Some would have crawled on top of us, too!
The camels were set free during the night and two of the guides had gone to retrieve them. It took some time, and we got to explore the desert for an hour or so.
Back at Mr Singh’s house, clean bathrooms, hot tea, and warm food awaited us.
An experience of a lifetime!
Khuri is about 40 kms from Jaisalmer. Not many travel/tour agents have heard about Badal House though he has been offering this service since the mid-90s. A large amount of foreign travelers visit Badal house every year.