After undergoing a dental implant surgery, in order to ensure its success I needed an adequate supply of vitamin D to absorb calcium for bone formation around the implant. Since sunlight is the best source of vitamin D, what better way to obtain it than to ride through the Thar Desert in the month of December ? So on December 21st, after my surgery, I hopped into two buses to reach Ahmedabad and then Bhuj in the Rann of Kutch in Gujarat.
Day at the White Desert
I left Bhuj at 8:00 am and reached the White Desert entry point at noon. One had to travel a few kilometers from the entrance point to the white expanse which was truly spectacular. There was also a viewing platform in the shape of a Salt Crystal from which one could view Pakistani territory in the distance without a sign of anything human – almost like being on the surface of the moon. Other visitors also viewed the desert on the back of camels. I walked, rode my bike a bit and even tasted the salt! The name of the place was Dhordo right on the Pakistani border.
I left at 2:00 pm and reached Bhuj at 8:00 pm.
Between Bhuj and Samakhiali
At lunch time, two men asked me a few questions about my ride. They were from Mumbai and were doing a tour by car of Gujarat. They ride mountain bikes and had done a maximum of 80 km. They were thinking of upgrading to road bikes.
Between Samakhiali and Sidhada on the highway
I left Samakhiali early in the morning and found a place to stay on the highway in Sidhada in the afternoon.
Between Sidhada and Tharad
Before reaching Tharad, I rode for quite a long stretch along the Narmada dam.
Between Tharad and Banta in the Barmer District in Rajasthan
I had initially thought of going to Bikaner via Jaisalmer but at the 90 km point, there was a sign pointing to a road to Bikaner without going through Jaisalmer and thus 100 km shorter. I thus opted to take this route and dropped the idea of going through Jaisalmer (and subsequently, even to Bikaner in favour of Jodhpur). A few kilometers away, I found a hotel in the middle of the Desert and stopped there for the night. In the afternoon, I went to a Dhaba on the opposite side of the road and lay down on a Charpai. I heard a broadcast about a current issue and assumed it was a radio broadcast but soon discovered that it was a tv broadcast on Zee News of the Triple Talaq bill in the Lok Sabha. There were three men who were watching the broadcast with their eyes glued to the television and were having intermittent intense discussions about it during the broadcast. I asked one of the gentlemen (a hospital worker) if he thought that Modi would be re-elected to which he said that it would be difficult. I also asked him if he had voted for Congress during the latest Assembly elections. He said that he had not voted at all. When I pointed out to him that in Rajasthan, Congress had won, he attributed the victory mainly to anti-incumbency. It was fascinating to notice how there could be such a passionate interest and discussion of politics right in the middle of nowhere.
Between Banta and Balotra
It was an exhausting ride and I was feeling more drained than on other days. Towards Balotra, there were some rocky hills. In the evening, I went for a stroll on the road away from the hotel, and pulled a chair to join a few people around a bonfire which they had lit with tree branches. The idioms being spoken were Marwari and Mewari.
Between Balotra and Jodhpur
As I was getting out of Balotra, a man stopped his scooter and offered me a Samosa and subsequently, a Kachori. He said that he was carrying these items to his store. Then, as I proceeded along, he offered me a cup of coffee at a stall. After that, he rode along to show me his store. He then wanted me to see his second store which I politely declined as that would have taken me more time to get to Jodhpur.
A little after 9:00 am, I arrived at the Mehrangarh Fort and visited its premises. It was interesting to get a glimpse of the history of Marwar with its very rich and impressive culture. I then headed to the Ghanta Ghar or clock tower and the Sardar Market where I also had some Makhaniya lassi, pakoras and tea. At the tea stall, the owner suggested that I visit the Umaid Bhawan Palace which I did after that. It was truly impressive as its symmetrical structure was reminiscent of palaces in Europe. After that, I headed towards the Mandore Gardens at another end of town. Again, there was some impressive display of architecture there similar to the Lodi Gardens in Delhi.
Second day in Jodhpur
I left early in the morning to go to the Kaylana Lake. I overheard a visitor asking a local person where to get a good Jodhpur-style breakfast to which he said to go to Jalori gate. I followed suit and after arriving there, when I asked the owner of a restaurant the same question, he suggested that I have Mawe ki Kachori and Mirchi Vada at Janata Sweets, Sai samosa and some Mewa mix in Surya Namkeen at Jalori Gate and said that the best Gulab Jamuns (which he said were guaranteed not to be spoilt for four days if kept outside the refrigerator) in Jodhpur would be available in
Chaturbhuj Sweet Shop in Pungalpara. It is a very small shop but almost everyone I asked seemed to be aware of it and seems to be the best shop in Jodhpur for Gulab Jamuns.