Happy Deepawali , New Year and Trip report - Nakodaji - Jaisalmer - Khichan - Pushkar

#1 Oct 27th, 2011, 16:21
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Dear Fellow Indiamikers.

A very happy Deepawali 2011 to all of you. I've created a trip report for the trip I have just concluded (22nd-25th October 2011). It was a road trip from Jaipur - Nakodaji (near Balotra, Rajasthan)- Jaisalmer - Khichan - Pushkar and back to Jaipur over a 4 day period.

We enjoyed tremendously as the weather is just turning good and the roads (3 days out of 4) were excellent.

I've posted it on my blog as it allowed for easy editing. The first 4 posts are the trip report.


I'm happy to hear comments and share any other information on places visited, stay options and road conditions should you be looking to travel in these parts.

Have a wonderful year ahead!
Last edited by vaibhav_arora; Oct 28th, 2011 at 18:31..
#2 Oct 28th, 2011, 18:02
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Diwali Break trip - Log of Day 1 - October 22nd - Jaipur to Nakodaji

Posting on IM directly:

This was my much awaited diwali break trip. Here's the trip log for day 1:

Three of us (parents and I) started from home at 7:40 am and reached the ajmer highway in 30 minutes. Highway was the usual well maintained stretch and devoid of much traffic at that hour..Paid first toll and continued. Shortly before kishangarh took the diversion towards nasirabad, etc. Realized quickly that this isn't where we should be heading (road was too good and we had used it in 05 for chittor trip). Stopped, asked for directions and were given conflicting advice by truckers and a shopkeeper. One suggested we should continue till nasirabad and take a right turn from inside the bus stand , continue onto mangliawas and rejoin the NH at beawar.. We chose to follow the safer route of heading back to the kishangarh byepass and onto NH8. This detour cost approx 35 minutes. Kishangarh byepass was really bad - thanks to the thriving marble business and the road widening work currently underway. Trailer after long trailer slowed us down and very soon were 1 hour behind schedule. The highway didn't improve much at ajmer byepass either. From barr, the road was a two lane highway (112) and devoid of heavy traffic which was great for the drive. Gave the car to papa from here onwards till Jodhpur. Missed the dangiawas turn towards balotra which was to prove propitious later.

Entered Jodhpur city and stopped at hotel chadra inn - pavan sagar restaurant for lunch. food good though - cost about 300+ for three.

Met the very helpful driver mr shambhu dutt( retd from air-force and now has two cabs) who intimated that road to balotra and Barmer has been closed since two months by angry villagers at village doli about 100 km from Jodhpur on the Barmer highway. Thanked him profusely but he refused any tip/ offers of cup of tea, etc. He's a good person who has two good cars and knows the entire area very well....... If anyone requires his number to rent a car, I can share. We managed to shape the the rest of the trip more comfortably thanks to his good advice about which roads to take. Left at 3:30 after lunch from Jodhpur via boranada industrial area - onto the village newri - on a single lane road that was often covered only with grit.

We were soon joined by two taxi number innovas and two buses headed to Barmer and to sanchore, respectively. all doubts about the veracity of the information given by mr dutt were laid to rest. The dusty roads join the mega highway running from phalodi to ramji ki gol at thob. V Smooth ride from thob till balotra on the highway. Reached the temple at nakodaji (13 km from balotra) around 5:40. Went straight for darshan. Photography inside the temple is strictly prohibited at all times (outside permitted and some night shots are below).

Missed dinner at bhojanshala as it serves only prior to sunset and we had had reached at closing time....... Wasted about an hour checking out nearby cottages built by a developer as resort. Its called arham kutir by himmada developer - avoidable. Found aircon room inside the temple complex for just rs 500/-. rooms sleep two on the bed and two on floor. Dinner outside was disappointing. Spoke with a few helpful cab drivers on various routes possible to jaisalmer and slept early.
#3 Oct 28th, 2011, 18:07
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Trip log 23rd October - Nakodaji-Jaisalmer

After the shower this morning, we all went for darshan at nakodaji again. Felt that the statue of nakoda bhairav was perhaps modelled after a real person - the eyes are colored and made to look natural giving an added effect. Went for breakfast at the bhojanshala. Its an all you can eat for rs 20- given the quality and service levels would put any restaurant to shame. The spread was fresh khaman, khakhra with peanut chutney(dry), sweet kadhi with upma, gathiya, as much tea or milk as you liked. The hall seats 400. A stranger was distributing fresh milkcake as prasad - ate up quickly as the prayed distributed in the temple precinct cannot be taken outside(folklore). Forgot to take a snap of the kalpvriksha.

On the way out went up the steps of the temple of tirthankar shantinathji. (see pic

Proved to be the best of the lot in terms of carvings so far....... Each pillar shows atleast 40 nayikas none alike and the temple has 24 pillars perhaps more. The past lives of sri santinathji and sri parshvanathji are depicted as a series of 3d paintings. there are close to 50 paintings running along the courtyard walls. Stuff loaded in the car left for jaisalmer via pachpadra and onto the mega highway. The higway is smooth as silk - not too well advertised(thank god) and connects us to Jodhpur jaisalmer highway at dechu. (pic attached)

5 km past village thob on the mega highway, in a field to the left of the road, spotted a flock of 200+ cranes. They were feeding on something in the field that I couldn't identify - perhaps a wild gourd that grows abundantly in the fields in this area - time was 9:45 am.

We left the mega highway at dechu, 130 kms from balotra, having paid toll of rs 45 at kelam kot. Just as we turned narrowly avoided running over a medium sized desert lizard. At 11:30 we were in lava gaon, about 14 km before Pokaran. On the right side was a waterbody that was the rest stop for a flock of about 150 demoiselle cranes or kurja as the birds are called locally. Got a snap of the cormorants on the tree (attached)

From there a fairly uneventful drive to jaisalmer except for my father who had the time of his life by driving at 120 kmph. Entered jaisalmer at 1:00 pm.

Now the hunt for a good hotel began. The first call was to the rtdc hotel moomal. Not only had their charges gone higher than the published rate on the web, they didn't have any availability for the next night.......another hotelier seemed more promising, he sent a guy on a bike to lead us to his hotel that promised lcd tv, tub bath and other needless mod-cons just half km from where we were!. So, short of a place to stay and already weary from the half day drive, we followed him.

He took us past the bus stand and continued to take us further till about a km and a half. The road got narrower and dusty till we decided his hotel's location wasn't going to be as good and stopped to turn back. To our surprise he not only followed us but kept circling our car on his bike asking us to come back. Finally he got quite loud and overly insistent. We were happy to get rid of him. Then I just called manoj of desert boys only to learn there's no one by that name - his real name was Mehrab - and met him at his restaurant. Leaving our car there, our luggage was taken in an auto to the museum area and then by hand through couple of really narrow lanes to the hotel thatís located in Vyas Para in the fort area (pic of the guest house)

The fort is definitely overgrown and reeling under population pressure, roads are choked and in several parts and people are constructing extensions to the houses and guest houses. The first look at the fort as one enters left me a bit undewhelemed compared to the grand entry of gwalior or mehrangarh, Jodhpur

In this time that had elapsed checking out the other hotel - the first room I had seen was gone - it turned out to be for the better - It was very nicely decorated with Rajasthani mirror work and the bedcovers and curtains were all made of traditional sarees. There was a charkha too .

The room was located under the burj and had a beautiful view of the city from the windows.

The owner arvind vyas is quite knowledgeable about the jaisalmer area and could make several suggestions about what to visit and what to avoid. Hence after some rest first stop was at the havelis. The Patwa havelis has to be seen to be believed - see the stunning facade.

The rooms are very well preserved, properly labeled and described. The ladies' dressing room, Kitchen (Seen below) and the munim's room are especially interesting and give us peep into the objects used one hundred years ago by a rich indian family while the drawing rooms (below) are testimony to the regal standard of living of the patwas.

Some of the most interesting artifacts are weights and measures (including one ser and a chatank), an opium measure and a video camera. Nathmal havelis facade is the only place left now and one can visit upto the atrium. Spent some more time taking shots of streets and the main fort gate before moving to gadisar lake for the sunset.

The lake is pleasant and quiet from a distance though on closer inspection is full of very aggressive looking catfish and a bit dirty so didn't feel like boating.

Went back to the city past sunset via lakshminarayan temple in the city. Dinner was at the burj that gets wonderfully pleasant and afforded a nice view of the city. City was well lit though diwali decorations not a patch on jaipur.
#4 Oct 28th, 2011, 18:12
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Trip log 24th October - Jaisalmer- Phalodi

Woke up around 5:45 and felt like going out and taking sunrise shots - don't get to do that too often in the city. Rushed out at 6:00 and met the guest house owner. He advised to walk across couple streets to a guest house on the opposite wall of the fort (facing east). The owner of that g.h. was quite happy to let me upstairs to the roof after I gave reference of my guest house's owner. It was quite cold there but the view was spectacular. in the east one could see gadisar lake and the old city expanse and windmills in the far horizon.

In the west from the roof higher than this was the main entrance of the fort and the palace buildings (now the museum) with hundreds of pigeons resting overnight. (see pic)

I was a bit early for the sunrise and a couple photo enthusiasts also showed up on the same roof in sometime and we all waited and got some shots though the haze made it far from ideal to take great sunrise photos (see pic)

Got back to the guest house and the prevailing mood in the room was of general disenchantment with the room and the touristy nature of the city. So the decision was to visit the jain temples and then lodruva/amar sagar and leave.

First stop was the chandraprabh temple at fort that was a few hundred metres from the guest house. The temple houses 108 statues of parswanathji and is impressively carved.

The neighboring temple of parswanathji has a beautiful ornate gate that I couldnt stop clicking (see below).

Other details in the temple were no less impressive (Given its age)

It also has few smaller temples within its compound and a statue of bhomiyaji (the protector of the mool-nayak : the principal deity).

The moolnayak (main statue) is made of sandstone and mother of pearl paste is applied once every 8 years to make it totally white. I wouldn't have known this if I hadn't asked the priest ! The pearly glow is unmistakable.

The nearby temple of shantinathji had a colony of small and very evil looking bats.

Overall, a great set of temples though not matching khajuraho in detail or variety yet some nayika statues were very beautiful.

Checked out of hotel and drove to Lohdruva on sam road. The two statues of parswanathji - one in the main temple and another in the smaller annexe temple are made of kasauti stone. The gatekeeper informed me that the principal sculptor of the statue could carve only one statue in his lifetime (due to hardness of the material) and that statue is in the main temple. The sculptor's son finished the other statue in the annexe temple. The main gate is ornate and imposing - bears marked similarity to the gate of parswanathji temple in the fort. Further, was told that the artisans working on this temple moved to patan after this temple was concluded. Now I know where I'm heading next

The temple was originally built around 900 ad, destroyed by muhammad of ghor and reconcstituted in 17th century. Signs of vandalizing by blunt objects very evident in the main temple thus lending credence to the story.

Next stop was Amarsagar - an adinath shrine that was renovated in 1997 by the current trust. The temple is devoid of any charm and I spent about ten minutes looking around - didn't take a single snap. Left for phalodi via Pokaran - beautiful empty road. Lunch stop at RTDC motel located strategically at the bifurcation of bikaner bound NH14 from NH112 bound from Jodhpur. Food surprisingly good for a motel where we were the only guests in a restaurant that could seat about 30.

Onwards to phalodi and Khichan - the wintering spot of the demoiselle cranes. Pulled into Khichan around 4:30 pm and started enquiring about crane habits.

We had to backtrack to Phalodi - about 8 kms away to get an acceptable room. Given that it's not a major tourist spot, the rooms were not bad value - 900/- for a double Aircon with cable and european style w.c.s The restaurant was named 'Charli' for some reason!

#5 Oct 28th, 2011, 18:17
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Trip Log 25 October - Khichan - Pushkar - Jaipur

Last day of the trip - I woke up at 4:45 (with great expectations for the day ahead) but somehow kept lazing around. Finally ready @ 6:45 and left phalodi. reached Khichan at 7:05 at the bird feeding shelter. At that hour the only inhabitants of the shelter were a small grey bird and a cat eyeing it hungrily. There was a peacock around though !!

Were promptly greeted by sewakram (the person who coordinates on behalf of the village to feed the birds) who offered that we wait at the roof of his house while the birds arrive. Suddenly we heard a call (its a very characteristic call that the Demoiselle crane has) and I looked up to take this shot:

My father showed me that across the dry river bed behind the houses the cranes had started arriving and the number exceeded 1000 easily. Per the wildlife warden on duty at the chugggaghar, this year at present there are 4000 birds in the Khichan area and still arriving. Then suddenly like a swarm, more than 20 flew from across the river and came to the open field behind the feeding area.

This was followed by another batch and then yet another till over 200, all crowing and whistling their own unique calls were behind the fence.

They started flying in small groups to survey the chuggaghar but didn't land. This continued for over half hour.

The number across the river and near the feeding area was close to 2000 by then as the birds kept arriving from the nearby fields.

Then at 8:15 am, some diwali enthusiasts burst a rather loud cracker and suddenly they were all off!!!! what an anticlimax. Exchanged numbers with sewakram (his take on the situation was the birds should return within the hour) so as to get a tip when they return - and we could eat a bit in the meantime. Started driving only to stop 50 meters from the 'chugga ghar' as on the right side, the field was full of cranes - flock was Atleast 500 strong maybe more. Managed several shots and a video.

Then they started flying and landing in an empty school compound and about 50 assembled by the time we left.

Was very happy and left Khichan at 09:30 am towards Nagaur. Entered Nagaur at 11:30 am - spotted 4 chinkaras that eluded my camera en route. Achintgarh fort is large and devoid of buildings - drove through nakash darwaja, kutchehry pol and one more. Didn't feel like stopping.

Left Nagaur at 11:58 for ajmer - NH89 surface good to very good.....Pulled into merta city shy of an hour but couldnt find any decent place to eat. Arrived at pushkar around 2:15 pm....immediately greeted by unwanted guide who deliberately misled us into some alley claiming road ahead is closed and then suggesting he could 'show us around' as he's a brahmin's son. Stopped for lunch at aroma restaurant close to mela ground and brahma temple. Pleasant garden setting (and the walls are decorated with some paintings as seen below) and good food esp great chhach.

First stop at brahma temple - could sense people must feel strongly about this temple.

Plenty of stones at temple and at ghats bear names of the donors and several are in urdu - noticed one in devnagri donated by a family from mirpur khas, sind. Later walked to brahma ghat repeatedly avoiding guides/pandits. Everyone in Pushkar seems to be trying to sell something to you - some stuff is good - Gulkand for example, others simply try to act as guides for a town that finishes before you can pronounce its name. Touristy kitsch abounds (see below):

The ghat weren't too crowded and they do have an air about them and a remarkably unhurried ambience.

The shoe-minder mentioned a total of 52 ghat though I couldn't count more than dozen.

Many pigeons on the ghats and few geese and ducks as well.

Noticed a gleaming gurudwara amongst other buildings (it was built by the sikhs after Guru Gobind Singh visited the area) ....... left pushkar at 4:45 pm.. Took us a while to get to the Kishangarh highway (NH8) but very smooth sailing after that. Found a good highway motel for dinner and back home by 9:15 pm in Jaipur. (as they say on irctc tours - tour ends with pleasant memories!!

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