Delhi , showers 29°– Jaipur cloudy / clearing 30°– Jaisalmer, fine, dry 37°
50R = NZ$1
So lets start this blog with a bit of background as to why we wound up having to spend all day getting from Delhi to Jaisalmer. When were planning this trip back in April we decided on the places we wanted to visit, looked at them on a map and decided the best plan was to start in Delhi, as this was the easiest to get to, go as far west as we were planning to go ( to Jaisalmer ) and then work our way back to Delhi via Jodhpur, Jaipur and Agra.
So we looked at options to get to Jaisalmer and other than the 18 hour train there was a direct flight run by SpiceJet, which ran daily in the middle of the day. So we thought that was a good plan to get us to Jaisalmer as fast as possible and then come back to Delhi by car / train to see the countryside on the way. So we booked 2 tickets on that flight and then booked the rest of the trip round that. Because of what we had heard about trying arrange transport / accommodation from within India we decided to book everything in advance ( trains, hotels and cars), except our last trip back to Delhi. So everything was locked in.
About a month ago we received an email to say that the Delhi - Jaisalmer direct flight had been cancelled, and that we could rebook for the same price on a flight from Delhi to Jaipur and then a seperate flight from Jaipur to Jaisalmer. On the plus side the price for the new flights was a lot more than the direct flight we had booked but SpiceJet would let us book the new flights for the same price, but on the downside the Delhi - Jaipur leg was a 6:05am flight and the Jaipur - Jaisalmer flight wasn't until 3:15pm.
So we would have some time to kill during the day in Jaipur ( which we are going back to later ) and it would be a long day of travel again.
So we were up at 3am, packed and ready, and grabbed a taxi at 3:30am. The traffic was a bit quieter at this time of the morning so it was a pleasant 30 minute drive to the airport ( Terminal 2 ) for 700R.
We checked in, were given priority seating in the front rows for our flights, our bags were checked through to Jaisalmer ( another act of faith in the airline ), we went through security and had some breakfast from the little food court in Terminal 2. It was quite busy even at 5am but not too bad.
We went to our gate at 5:30am, jumped on the bus and out to the plane somewhere out in the morning mist of Delhi airport. The plane left on time at 6:05am, in the air at 6:15am and after a quick coffee / tea service we landed in Jaipur at 6:45am.
Off the plane and into the terminal which was pretty sparse at the best of times, and was very unappealing at 7am in the morning. We had a quick look around, and after being told that we couldn't go into the departures area we decided to get a taxi and head to find something to do for the day.
So after a quick google map search it looked like there was a shopping mall about 15 minutes away in Mansarovar, so we got a prepaid taxi voucher for 350R and off we went. Well the mall was closed until 10am, the area was pretty rough and there were no cafes or another places open this early, so after a wander along the street we grabbed an AR ( auto rickshaw ) for 100R to the Mansarover metro station ( Jaipur has 1 metro line currently, and for some reason it does not go near the airport ) to get a metro into town.
We bought our 2 tickets ( 34R for the 2 of us one way to the other end of the line at Chandapole ) and jumped on a train at 8:15am. Just like the Delhi metro the train was spotlessly clean. We jumped off at the Railway Station stop and walked towards a cafe that I had read about in the Lonely Planet ( Anohki Cafe ), that had internet access and opened at 9am. It was now about 8:45am and the walk to the cafe took about 30 minutes, but when we arrived we found that it was shut until 10am. Luckily the cafe was in an open area so we sat down anyway ( after we asked the owner who was cleaning and getting setup to open if we could ). Oh, and it also turned out there was no internet. Thanks Lonely Planet, wrong on both counts.
At about 9:45am the owner felt sorry for us and asked if we wanted to order some coffee / tea and cake, so we did. The food was particularly nice and the coffee was good too. While were sitting the we saw and heard an Indian family come in and order drinks and food, and what we noticed was that they were speaking English to each other, but with clearly Indian accents. Anyway we made comment to them as they passed by our table about it being hard to choose what to order, and the daughter stopped and chatted for a bit. Her name was Rai and she had been to New Zealand, and was in the process of planning her next trip there. So we talked for a bit more and then it turns out she teaches photography and wants to photograph weddings in NZ with a friend that is already living there. The family run a clothing factory / shop in Delhi and they were just in Jaipur for the day to buy some fabrics, but always made a point of stopping at that cafe whenever they were in Jaipur.
We left the cafe at abut 10:45am and grabbed an AR to Ajmer Gate in the old town area ( "the Pink City"), and walked along the streets just inside of the old city walls which were markets / shopping streets, again selling everything from motorbikes to underwear. We eventually found ourselves near New Gate which is where our hotel is located when we come back to Jaipur ( Sweet Dream Hotel ) and I knew that they had a rooftop restaurant so decided that we could relax up there for a while.
On the way up to the rooftop ( in the old concertina door lift ) we met the hotel owner and when we told him we had a booking for about a weeks time he was most helpful. We had a beer on the rooftop and then stayed for some snacks for lunch ( pakora and corn balls ), did some computer time with the free wifi and just relaxed. The bill for our 3 hour stay including food and beer was 834R ( NZ$17 )
We left at 1:15pm, after the owner had showed us a couple of the rooms in the hotel and ordered a car to get us to the airport for 250R. The taxi took about 25 minutes, we walked through into the departure lounge ( we already had departure cards ) and sat and waited for our flight. Again the departure area of Jaipur airport was pretty sparse, with a couple of shops and no ATM or real food places. We got onto our plane at 3pm, after a bus ride , and took off on time at 3:15pm. Another short but good flight and after coming in over the city we landed at Jaisalmer Air Force Base ( which doubles as the civilian airport ) at 4:30pm. We taxied off the end of the massive runway and had to wait for someone to open the gate in the Airbase wall so the plane could taxi to the terminal which was outside the airbase. We had to walk across the tarmac once we were off the plane and this is when we felt the dry desert heat and wind hit us. We grabbed our bags ( first on the conveyor belt ) and out the front of the terminal, and got a 'taxi' for 500R to town.
The hotel we were staying in is located inside the city Fort, and is actually built into the walls of the fort itself. Normal cars can't drive into the fort so after our 20 minute taxi ride the owner of the hotel met us at the First Gate, loaded our bags into an AR which took us up to the main courtyard of the fort just inside the Forth Gate. From there we had to walk the 200m to the hotel ( Desert Boys Guest House, 6,500R for 3 nights ). We checked in and chatted to another couple who were checking in at the same time who were from New Caledonia. We went up to our room just off the courtyard of the guesthouse and dumped our bags. The room was spacious, clean and had a massive bathroom.
The power was out at that time but the hotel had a battery that drove the fans and lights, but not the air conditioning. The power soon came back on so we could cool down. We had a look around, and up, the guesthouse which had a rooftop restaurant and balcony which looks out over the city below.
We went for a walk at 6pm to find an ATM ( there were none inside the fort ) so we headed down into the town, and managed to get a little lost so grabbed an AR and he took us to the nearest one, and back to the fort for 100R. When drawing money out of ATM's in India most of them have a limit of 10,000R ( about $216 ) so this is normally what we get out.
We bumped into the other guests at the Guest house who were a group of 22 18-25 year olds from France, who were there as part of a 'holiday camp' in India. They are pretty much covering the same route as us so we might see them again.
We booked a Camel Safari for the next day, but we decided to do the short version ( not the overnight stay in the desert ) which would leave at 2pm and have us back about 10-11pm. We were warned that the French group was on the same safari but that they were staying out overnight. We thought that would be fun so signed up for it ( 1800R each for jeep ride, village tour, wildlife spotting, camel ride, dinner and jeep back to town ).
We relaxed for a bit, watched the sunset from the balcony and then headed up to the restaurant and sat on the roof with beers and curries ( 995R ) until 9pm.
A long day again, but nice to be in Jaisalmer where the weather is less humid, and the fort has a nice relaxed feel to it.