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Throughout our stay at Suryagah, Jaisalmer, I heard my father tell us, multiple times, that things had change. The Jaisalmer landscape had changed. We saw wheat fields. Where there used to be sand dunes till as far as the eye could see, now there was land that was being tilled. Or there were wind turbines. And hotels. The pros and cons for each were discussed as much as our heat-induced brains could handle. Conversation changed as soon as we embarked on another much-awaited, curated experience trail, that Suryagarh had planned for us.

After the Dinner On The Dunes, as part of their Thar Trail, Surayagarh had planned a “Lunch at an Oasis” on our third day in Jaisalmer. I did a bunch of other things in the courtyard and in the garden, but more on that later. ( Editing images and video is taking a whole lot longer than I’d planned – I’m still recovering from that godawful throat infection, which has now moved to my sinuses and I know it’s going to move to my chest next. Feels like the exact same thing that hit me when I was in Dubai last year too. Bleh. )

We started off on a trail to a local fort (Khaba Fort) that overlooks one of the villages (Kuldhara) that is rumoured to have been emptied overnight. A number of versions of the story exist but all of them lead to an abandoned village. Some structures still stand, some are being renovated but most of them are in ruins. All residential structures were built without using mortar – just stones stacked on top of each other without as much as a crack to allow a thread to pass through. I’m terrible at recalling details of a trip if I don’t immediately blog about it, so, in this case, I guess you’ll have to go to Suryagarh yourself and ask Siddharth or Nakul. All I recall is being completely mesmerized and nodding my head at every little detail they relayed about each spot we stopped at. There are stories EVERYWHERE. I love it that a hotel would take interest in the local landscape and tie it in with their brand’s story too. It’s a great way to promote local tourism and provide more bang for the customer’s buck.

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Always look up when you’re in Rajasthan. The forts and heritage spots aren’t going anywhere for the most part, but if you catch a spectacular sky, your photographs can look way better than what’s already been shown previously. A simple shot with a plain blue sky can look a whole lot more interesting where there’s a smattering of clouds in it.

Above, a “meeting” of sheep. I’m never going to forget this one any time soon. Just a random set of sheep, huddled in the middle of the road, nary a twitch as our vehicles crossed them. We had to get off the road to drive past them. We saw this not once but twice – two different sets of sheep at two different spots. No clue what’s up!

Below – I couldn’t believe my eyes. That is Jaisalmer! Looks a lot like a bit of Italian landscape.

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After a quick break where we were served cool drinks after our walk around the fort and the abandoned village, we also stopped at a site where the disgusting practice of Sati used to be carried out. As a photographer, I’m fascinated by such morbid stuff and want to photograph everything. But as a human being, I’m revolted beyond words. This was the first time I’ve seen such a site in real life. Some beautiful intricate stone work and attention to detail. Very confusing feelings!

Then we were driven to this small “pond”, which never dries up. That was our oasis for lunch and it helped that there were a few trees and some cool breeze apart from the Suryagarh “bandobast” that I can’t get enough of. Even now, I’m sitting at my desk in Gurgaon and I can’t believe such an experience actually exists in India – for anyone to partake! A round of drinks, music and lunch and we all wanted to go back to our beds and crash. I had other plans – I needed to digest all the amazing food I’d been eating and spent more time photographing in the garden.

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I love this photograph of my Dad. He’s sitting away from the rest of us in a corner because that was the only spot he could fit his legs in. Tall people problems!

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Caught the sunset. The yellow sandstone hotel positively GLOWS when the setting Sun shines on it. Dinner was in the hotel grounds – the lighting and the setting were amazing. I don’t know what other adjectives to use. I know this is lazy writing but I communicate better with photographs and if my photographs of these experiences do not convey how they felt, then no amount of writing can make up for it.

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