Have you ever looked at the sky at night? No, I am not talking about the cursory glances we city folks throw at the inky black sky. I am talking about actually staring at it and staring at it for long, observing each detail of the vast Universe. So long that the stars and the planets look closer. That you can see patterns and human faces and imagine aliens and starships. I am fascinated by the moon. On a full moon day, the moon luminous and large hypnotizes the onlooker. It is an effort to tear your eyes away from the spectacle. At least for me it is. But the city sky looks rather dull mostly. Immersed as we are in bright light, the contrast is not enough to appreciate the beauty.
Last year, I had visited Rajasthan. Jaisalmer was one of the places on the itinerary. A small town in the western part of Rajasthan, the Golden City beckons those who love the desert. And I wanted to visit for that very reason. I was looking forward to a desert safari in the dunes and a camel ride. The ride from Bikaner to Jaisalmer in our rented car was spectacular. Devoid of traffic for miles and desert landscape on both sides, I could drink in the scenery for hours on end. The scene broken by stray farms. Yes, there is farming in the desert now.
The vibrant people wear beautiful, bright colours. And camels are omnipresent. The flora is scanty comprising cacti, bushes and desert shrubs.
The sky is clear and blue – no clouds at all. In the evening, we make the journey from the city to the dunes. It is a journey of about 45 minutes and we are mostly alone except for a few jeeps of the villagers. We do stop to take a closer look at the large windmills that dot the landscape, the desert looking harsh and impenetrable.
We finally reach the camp site as from where I enjoy a fun camel ride in the dunes.
The kids scamper around enjoying the sand in the dunes.
Followed by a folk dance, songs and dinner, we head back to our hotel.
It is quite late at night and our car headlights is the only light in the desert. It is eerily dark, a kind of pitch black that I have never experienced in the city. Yes, the desert has snakes, scorpions and all the things you remember when you are alone at night and it is as dark as it can be. Our driver points to a dead snake on the road as he stops the car. The husband jumps out to see it. “No thank you,” I mutter to myself as I stay put in the car. And then I look up. The sky is beautiful. Brilliant stars twinkling on the firmament, a sight as mesmerizing I had never seen before.
We ask the driver to kill the headlights extinguishing the only lights for kilometers both ways. We all step out of the car and gaze in wonder. It feels scary because we are so totally secluded aware that there are no people around. And the sky is gorgeous pulsating with life I have never imagined. It was a truly extraordinary experience. Something that words can never articulate adequately.
I wish we had actually camped out in the night at that camp site but since there were no other tourists, I wasn’t sure how safe that would have been. But spellbinding sure!
After a few minutes, we headed back to civilization. Nature can grip you in unexpected ways. The vast expanse and immense power of it makes you feel humbled and blessed in certain ways.
Have you ever experienced a sight like this? Do share your experience.