India - Rajasthan, Thar Desert

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Rajasthan and the Thar Desert

Rajasthan, in India’s north-west corner, was once home to the Rajput Kings. Now visitors marvel at its forts, temples, palaces and havelis; the magical cities full of the wonders of ancient times and bustling with the energy of today. Jaipur, the vibrant capital, is home to the Palace of the Winds and in the hills nearby, the Amber Fort. Jodhpur, the Blue City, leads to the vast Desert of Thar, where we will transport you to a land of simple charms. Scattered across the undulating semi-desert are tiny villages, small millet fields and flocks of goats, cows and camels. Hospitable residents, with men in brightly coloured turbans, picturesque villages with thatched huts and the sand dunes, camels, birds and gazelles, create a very special ambience. Hacra, with a population of some 30 households, is one of many small hamlets that lie in a largely untouched area of the semi-desert region of Rajasthan, some 70 km NW of Jodhpur. A huge voyage of discovery awaits in this region of such historical and cultural richness and diversity.

Desert Charms

Such is the warm welcome and the happy smiles of the people living in Hacra village that it could be easy to forget that life in this small village in the Thar Desert is full of challenges. Village Ways is working closely with these communities to support their lives by providing a new source of income through responsible tourism. 

Family compounds are spread out within the village, each with traditional-style neat, circular, stone-built jhumpas with thatch roof of twigs and straw, bound by local fibre rope. Circular mud-faced grain storage stores, a guest hut and stacks of straw for winter feeding of livestock form part of the compound. The villagers are poor but farming is surprisingly diverse, with millet, lentils, sesame, moong bean, cluster beam (guar) and water melons during the brief monsoon season, as well as keeping goats, sheep and camels, a few cows and water buffalo. There are two main cropping seasons: the Kharif (rainy season) and Rabi (winter season). Many villagers supplement their income by hiring camels or seeking labouring work in towns during the winter. Water is scarce and supplies are brought in by camel-drawn tanker carts and stored in underground masonry tanks. A few wealthier families have boreholes to irrigate crops. There is a small primary school in Hacra and the village has recently been connected to the electricity supply grid.

Traditions

The different hamlets (dhanni) around Hacra are based on caste or beliefs. These include the Bhil, who were originally bowmen and are famed musicians; the Chowdhuri (Jats) are farmers; the Bhishnoi of Kawa dhanni believe in protecting wildlife - they believe that their ancestors came in the form of a gazelle. Hacra is a Rajput community which concentrate on camel-rearing and cropping- traditionally a warrior caste, known for being brave and proud and are noted for their hospitality. Your hosts are kind and gentle and keen to involve you in their way of life. The people speak Marwari language and Rajasthani (a dialect of Hindi) but most also understand Hindi.

Your own Jhumpa

You will stay in your own twin-bedded traditional-style thatched Jhumpa cottage. These roundhouses have been purpose-built and carefully crafted and furnished in traditional style. There is a separate, shared, shower and toilet building and an open-sided dining hall, where you will enjoy meals prepared by the village women using local ingredients such as lentils, onions, chillies and wild fruits.

Camel trek and camp

The camel safari provides a gentle excursion through the scattered villages towards the main sand dunes. Local villagers provide the camels and escort the guests, who can travel in a traditional camel cart, stopping for a leisurely picnic lunch half way, in the shade of the trees. At Kuntallay Nadi, just below the steeply sloping dunes, your escort will prepare dinner while guests can ascend the dunes, which rise up some 300 m, and obtain a sense of real desert and witness the impressive sunsets. A night in the tented camp among the dunes is an unforgettable experience.

Wildlife

The villagers have a deep respect for nature: you will see black buck, gazelle and peacock wander through the villages without concern. Birdlife abounds and there are interesting plant species, such as the ‘Burning Bush’, as described in the Bible. Scattered indigenous trees are used for fuel, fodder and fruits. The endemic/ endangered Rohida tree has valuable hardwood timber and beautiful flowers post-monsoon. 

Temple Town of Osiyan

From Hacra, it is a 30 minute drive along a rural road and sand track to the small market town of Osiyan, a major Jain pilgrim center. The famous temples: the Jain Mahavira Temple and the Hindu temple dedicated to Sutchiyay Meta (Mother of Truth); are worth a visit, as is the four day camel fair in late October.

Travelling to Hacra

Your Village Ways holiday includes return transfer from Delhi airport: taxi transfer to Old Delhi station; overnight train to Jodhpur and onward road transfer to Hacr, and return travel via Jodhpur or Jaipur depending on your itinerary. We can arrange to meet you at Delhi Airport, to fit in with your flight arrival and departure times, or if you are already in India we can arrange for you to be met in Delhi, at the place of your choosing, to start on your journey with Village Ways. You can relax on the overnight sleeper train, the Mandor Express, to Jodhpur, the Blue City. From Jodhpur a road transfer takes you to Hacra (2 hours), where you will meet your guide to discuss the days ahead.

We ask our guests to make their own arrangements for international travel to India. We offer some general advice and useful links regarding travel, visas, insurance, health requirements.

Information on travel in India 

Climate and Seasons

Rajasthan has a tropical semi-arid desert climate. Its weather can be divided into four main seasons: autumn, winter, summer and monsoon. The autumn and winter seasons are in many ways the best time to visit. Visitors usually avoid the summer months where temperatures particularly in western Rajastan in May and June can rise to 45C and above.

Autumn: October-November

The autumn season has a pleasant climate for visiting with day time temperatures not exceeding 30C. Vegetation is still green and nights become cooler over the season.

Winter: December-March

This is a good time to the visit the region with temperatures ranging between 8-28C, and with low humidity and little rainfall.

Summer: April-June

Daytime temperatures rise over this period, reaching uncomfortable levels in May and June particularly with increasing risks of dust storms.

Monsoon: July-September

The monsoon provide a welcome respite from the summer heat. 90 percent of the rainfall occurs in this season. There is a dramatic greening of the landscape. Temperatures normally reach a maximum of 32C in this season, but humidity remain quite high. Nights get progressively cooler.