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The Vaishnodevi Experience 2023

My first trip to Vaishnodevi was unimpressive. Climbing was hard, and it only served to highlight how badly out of shape I was, while my in-laws managed to cope so much better. Further, I hadn’t quite realized that the cave experience wouldn’t be the same as I had imagined, since the original cave was only opened at certain times a year, and that we only entered a newly created tunnel, one far easier to access, and hence more manageable with the crowds that thronged the mountain shrine. The resulting experience at the shrine, for barely a fraction of a second, hardly compared to what I had expected / imagined / heard about. So, for me, Vaishnodevi was like any other temple, nothing to write home about, something that was reflected (though not explicitly mentioned) in the blog post I wrote then.

Re-discovering the Thar at Jaisalmer

The first time I visited Jaisalmer, the sand dunes stretched before me, fascinating me with their contours, making me fall in love with the desert and its myriad patterns. The second time, it showed me a different side. It told me of the many stories that lay hidden beneath the sands, of times long gone, and the people who lived here. Earlier this year, as I set out for Jaisalmer once again, I wondered what the desert would show me this time.

If there is anything I have learnt from these three trips to Jaisalmer, and the Thar, it is that the desert isn’t just an expanse of sand. It is an ever-changing landscape, the summers as different as possible from the winters, with the monsoons adding their own inimitable touch.

If we had expected to see the wide expanse of sand we had seen on our first visit, we would have been disappointed. For this time, the predominant colour wasn’t brown, but a beautiful green – the result of heavy rains. Shrubs had sprouted everywhere, and we marvelled at these tough plants, taking root in what we believed was dry sand. We had to remind ourselves that this was, once upon a time, a riverbed, and though the river had disappeared, the water still flowed somewhere far beneath the surface.

As we drove across Jaisalmer, the extent of greenery visible was stunning. Our drivers themselves exclaimed at the change in the landscape within a few weeks, due to unusually heavy rains this year.

These roads are usually covered with sand, with the dunes constantly moving. Even our drivers were surprised to see this much greenery which had appeared within just a few weeks of the rain! 

The greenery also ensured that we saw more of the animals which made the wilderness their home. 

A peacock... somewhere along the road

Camels of course, are part of the landscape, but seeing them graze in the verdant greenery which covered the sand, was a new experience!

Camels and Cows - grazing... 

A camel and its young one.... and see the lush greenery around them.
Doesn't look like the desert, does it? Though I assure you, it is :)

But more surprising were the Nilgai, which appeared out of seemingly nowhere, when we were on our way towards the border.

And Samhith was delighted when we spotted a gazelle, while passing the Desert National Park on our way to the temples of Kiradu!

Then, there were the birds, of which we saw many, but clicked only a few, such as these vultures….

Egyptian Vultures

A juvenile Egyptian Vulture

Then there were the ponds, where water had collected….

And where there is water, there are birds!

I would have never imagined that I would see water birds, in the desert! 

However, the best memory of all, is looking out for a shady tree on the dunes, and settling down under it, for a nice picnic lunch, packed for us by our wonderful hosts at Suryagarh.

What fun it was, to drive around, selecting a tree to sit under, and finally settling down on a rug. It took me back to my school days, which was the last time I actually went on a picnic! As for Samhith, picnics are no longer the same, so this was a completely new experience for him. We had expected a hamper, but as course after course appeared from the trunk of our car, our eyes widened, and we realised that there was no way we could eat it all!

Our picnic lunch began with this... fresh watermelon juice, Chaas (buttermilk) and lassi.
Course after course followed, but my camera was forgotten after this, so no pics at all! 

We didn’t, of course, eat it all, our appetites being what they are. And neither did I click many photos, choosing instead to enjoy the experience.

We sat peacefully, oblivious to time passing by. We were literally all alone out there in the desert, for hardly any vehicles, or people came along the road.

relaxing in the shade.... in the desert

But we weren’t really alone, and nor was it silent, for there were birds chirping, and flying around, probably wondering who was intruding into their idyllic life. Bulbuls twittered in the Ker bushes all around us, parakeets flew over, shrieking shrilly, a Long-tailed Shrike perched on a bush a little away from us, and a bird of prey swooped down in the distance, sighting, and probably capturing, a mouse.
And for once, we simply sat, enjoying the silence, the solitude, the seclusion, feeling no need to talk, or, even more important, to click. My camera lay by my side, forgotten, as we reveled in the moment.

It didn’t matter that the afternoon sun blazed over us, for we sat in the shade of the trees. It didn’t matter that time was passing by, for we had all day, and, for a change, no fixed itinerary. It didn’t feel like the desert, and yet, the sand stretched out in front of our eyes. It felt like we were, for the moment, suspended in time and space, completely at peace. Such moments never last very long, but their effect stays on, far longer. And that is what I have carried back home from my third trip to Jaisalmer. 


I visited Jaisalmer in September 2016, at the invitation of Suryagarh, who very graciously hosted me and my family, planning trips for us so that we could visit places that we wanted to, since we had already visited Jaisalmer earlier.  They added to the sites, their signature experiences, such as the picnic I have described in this post, which turned out to be the highlights of our trip. Needless to say, my husband and son are now big fans of Suryagarh! Meanwhile, while the experiences are courtesy Suryagarh, these words are entirely my own!


  1. It does not look as if these pictures were taken in Thar desert! During our visit the entire landscape was different! Beautiful captures of wildlife and birds!

    1. Thank you so much, Tales of Travelling Sisters. That is just what I wanted to convey.... the desert is such an amazing place, and so different in every season! I myself have seen it as bare and dry, so seeing it like this was such a surprise and pleasure!

  2. Like you, I have visited Jaisalmer thrice - one in winter, one at the end of summer and one at the beginning of the monsoons. Two of them have been courtesy Suryagarh. Each time I have seen a different side to the Thar and I know that if I were to visit the Thar again (and I hope that I do) I will see other sides as well. It is the nature of shifting sands after all :)

    Wonderful post, Anu. Thank you for bringing back some wonderful memories.

    1. Thank you Sudha. It would be so wonderful to visit the desert with you someday. That joint trip seems to be eluding us, even when our destinations are the same!

  3. Enjoyed reading about your jaisalmer trip. Brought back fond memories. We visited it around eleven years back. Can never forget the sunset in the sand dunes


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