A 2000km road trip to Rajasthan
It's been a while since I last made a road trip to the mountains. I'd been planning another one, but I didn't want to endure the weekend traffic in Himachal/Uttarakhand, so I decided to travel elsewhere. Coincidentally I stumbled upon a video by evo India and got mesmerized by the beauty of the epic Bharatmala Road in Longewala, Rajasthan. It sure looked like a pleasurable driving experience in the middle of the desert, so I planned this trip.
For all long drives, I prefer starting early in the AM. Who likes to be stuck in city traffic after all? Although I wasn't so lucky this time because NH48 had pretty bad traffic even at 8 AM, and I was progressing at a snail's pace stuck in a jam.
After a customary breakfast break at Haldiram in Neemrana on Delhi - Jaipur expressway, I continued my journey to Jodhpur. NH48 is full of trucks driving on the rightmost lane at slow speeds, so you must constantly change lanes to overtake - which means constant upshifts/downshifts. However, the roads became incredibly better after reaching Ajmer. The condition of roads in Rajasthan is impeccable, and there is very light traffic throughout the journey to Jodhpur. The roads have many twists and turns, so it doesn't get boring either.
I took a well-rested nap during my stay in Jodhpur and wandered around to eat at some local eateries in Jodhpur. After trying out some Mirchi Vadas, Kachoris and Samosa, I explored the local markets. However, the Saturday evening traffic reminded me of Bangalore, so I decided to head to the hotel early and call it a day.
The following day, after a scrumptious buffet, I was excited to head to Jaisalmer. There are several routes to Jaisalmer; however, I chose to stay along NH125, which goes via Pokhran. Around Pokhran, the route diverges to NH11 for the rest of the journey. While roads are excellent, stray cattle in Rajasthan are a problem. You have to be extra cautious because they can appear in the middle of the road from anywhere.
Once I reached my hostel in Jaisalmer, I decided to have lunch at a nearby restaurant. Jaisalmer is a small town, and most things to explore/eat are within 5km of the Jaisalmer fort located at the heart of the city. I didn't enjoy the food as much, primarily because I am a spice wuss, and Rajasthani food is too hot for my taste buds.
After finishing lunch, I visited Gadisar Lake and Jaisalmer fort for a quick stroll after lunch. By the evening time, it was pretty much a silent place. There's nothing to do here during the evening except visit the local markets for more food.
The following day I woke up early, around 6 AM. I'd talked to the manager about my plans to visit the India-Pak border (BP 609), and he suggested I leave early. There are chances that I may not get the permit if I reach later in the day. Since this was the core part of why I'd planned this trip, I decided not to take any chances and left around 6:30 from Jaisalmer. I headed towards Tanot while stopping at a few places for pretty sunrise photos. This area is indeed "deserted" (pun intended), and there are no food/fuel options after crossing Ramgarh. I stopped for a fuel break before crossing Ramgarh but missed eating the famous Mirchi Vadas of Ramgarh because it was so early that no shops were open.
After reaching Tanot, I headed toward the BSF office next to the temple. Due to Navratri, I saw a massive queue of people lining up to get border permits. The BSF officials informed us that this crowd was unusual for a Monday morning. After waiting for an hour or so, I finally got the permit which would allow me to drive till about International Border Pillar No. 609.
From here, visuals of the electric fencing at the border are visible. The place was eerily silent, with a few wildlife gazing at the fellow travellers disturbing their privacy. On the way back, I just thought about how lonely it must get here for the BSF jawans to live here, far away from civilization.
I head to Longewala via the Bharatmala Road. I've complimented enough about the roads of Rajasthan, but this right here is a marvel in itself. It's a 50km stretch in the deserts, parallel to the border. The tarmac is just butter smooth and is probably one of the most fun to drive roads in India. Every driving enthusiast should add this destination to their bucket lists.
I had a light breakfast at a cafe near Longewala. I headed to Jaisalmer to do other touristy things before finally returning to the hostel and packing my bags.
It was Day 4, and time to return home. The return journey looked too long and would be my first attempt to drive almost 800 km in a single day. There were several route options that Google showed. I took the one via NH 11, which joins Rajasthan and Haryana. It was predominantly a single-lane highway, and Google Maps will put you on the spot by taking you into these towns' extremely cramped and narrow roads. There are very few good dhabas/eateries, so that is one consideration to keep in mind if you decide to take NH11 instead of coming via NH48 in Jaipur. I managed to finish this long, arduous journey in less than 12 hours, thanks to almost no traffic until I entered Haryana.
Overall, I had plenty of fun driving in Rajasthan, and it was also my first time seeing the Thar desert. I'm happy to check one item off the bucket list.
Here's a short timelapse that I recorded while driving here: