In continuation of my previous trip, I decided to explore parts of Rajasthan where I had not cycled before : Jaipur, the capital city, and Bikaner and Jaisalmer, two iconic towns of the Thar Desert.
Between Noida in Uttar Pradesh and Bawal in Haryana
I went through parts of Delhi where I had not cycled before such as Dhaula Kuan and the airport. Gurgaon looked very high-tech. When I was walking on the road briefly, a gentleman slowed down his car to ask me if I needed any assistance. It was an act of kindness which was taken note of. Otherwise, there was the highway with shops and the like on both sides but not very scenic.
Between Bawal and Shahpura in Rajasthan
The highway continued to be uninteresting until 30 km or so from my destination when hills of the Aravalli Range came into sight. 10 km or so from my destination, Samir, a 26-year-old doctor-cum-medical student slowed down his scooter to have a conversation. He had studied for six years in China and wanted to study and practice medicine further in some other foreign country. His father was about to retire from a government hospital.
Between Shahpura and Jaipur
I reached the Amer Fort entrance located on a hill a few kilometers before Jaipur and which constitutes its principal touristic attraction. I also viewed the imposing structure of the Jaigarh Fort from outside. I then cycled to Jaipur and saw the Jal Mahal from outside. I also saw the Hawa Mahal from outside and later in the afternoon, from inside which was very impressive as also the view of the city from there. After that, I visited the Jantar Mantar, the prototype of the one in Delhi.
Between Jaipur and Sikar
Before leaving, the person on night duty at the reception desk of the hotel said that he had completed the Mumbai marathon in January of this year in a time of eight hours or so. He mentioned an interest in participating in the Ironman contest : a forty-two km run, a hundred and eighty km cycle ride within eight and a half hours and a four km swim all within a period of two days or so. The road to Sikar was very developed and smooth.
Between Sikar and Rajaldesar
After fifteen minutes or so, I noticed a puncture in the front tyre which I got fixed not too long after that by a mechanic and was back on the road by 9:00 am or so. Halfway through the ride, there was a transition from the ordinary fields to sand and tree shrubs and then to sand dunes which made the scenery interesting. The heat was also stronger due to the location in the desert.
Between Rajaldesar and Bikaner
I had to stop at various places due to intermittent drizzles which made for cool weather nevertheless. At one place, I was offered tea for free. The scenery alternated between vegetation and sand dunes. After arriving in Bikaner in the afternoon, I headed to the Junagarh Fort where a guide was provided with the ticket for the visit.
Between Bikaner and a Baba Ramdev Dhaba on the highway
There was a puncture again in the front tyre at 11:15 am or so. I tried at first to hitch a ride to find the nearest mechanic in the isolated Thar Desert to get it fixed but no trucks were willing to stop. I thus installed myself outside a small house behind and changed the tube myself with the assistance of YouTube (no pun intended!) on my mobile phone. I felt relieved and elated after completing the task which took me quite a while. Fortunately, I was offered some water and tea by the people in the settlement consisting of fifteen inhabitants. Since I was tired and was not sure where I would find a place to stay, I stopped at a Baba Ramdev Dhaba and hotel located 81 km from Bikaner. I gathered that four cyclists from France had stayed there a couple of days ago.
Between the Baba Ramdev Dhaba and Pokaran
I stopped for the night at a point located on the highway four kilometers before Pokaran – more famous now as a nuclear testing site rather than for its Fort. It was foggy in the morning. While having breakfast in the morning, I had a conversation with a man from Bathinda who with two others was on his way to a solar power plant further down the road. That is where he worked and makes regular visits there from Bathinda. He asked me questions about my cycling trip. Towards Pokaran, I could see the reappearance of vegetation.
Between Pokaran and Jaisalmer
It was a difficult ride due to fatigue. At a small Dhaba, the server mentioned that during the peak touristic season in the winter months, it earned 30 to 40 000 rupees a day. When I reached Jaisalmer, I visited the Fort which is also its hub. Just outside the Fort, there was a tea stall with good tea and interesting conversations.
A day in Jaisalmer
In the morning, after reaching the Hanuman Chowk, I hopped onto a jeep going to the Sam sand dunes located forty-five km west of Jaisalmer. There I rented a camel for a half-hour ride which really was a ten-minute ride to and from the Sunset Point with a twenty-minute stroll in the sand dunes.
It was quite a unique experience which was also necessary in order to get the full flavour of Jaisalmer as seen in photos and videos. Thereafter, I took a jeep back to Jaisalmer and visited the Gadsisar Lake and the Patwa Havelis. I then boarded the Jaisalmer Delhi express train back to Delhi. Two Spaniards shared the 1st AC cabin with me. They had visited Delhi and Jaisalmer and were heading towards Jodhpur, Udaipur, Jaipur, Agra and Varanasi. They secluded themselves on the upper berths and conversed at length in Spanish.