Escape: YHAI Desert Trekking Expedition

12:19 PM

Every year during winters YHAI organizes Desert Trekking Expedition in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan. We had an eye on this trek from beginning of the year. The slots were opened around May and soon after we booked 8 slots for the trek on 29th of December 2013. The trek date was booked such that we would get to spend the New year eve at Sam Sand Dunes at Jaisalmer, Rajasthan.

Brief introduction about YHAI:

Hostelling International (HI), formerly known as International Youth Hostel Federation (IYHF), is the federation of more than 70 National Youth Hostel Associations in more than 80 countries which have over 4,000 affiliated hostels around the world. Hostelling International is a non-governmental, not-for-profit organisation working closely with United National Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation UNESCO and the World Tourism Organisation UNWTO. HI has also been identified as the sixth largest provider of travel accommodation in the world.

Youth Hostel Association of India (YHAI) is their Indian arm famously known for Sarpass and Saurkundi Pass trek. They also organize various trekking, family camping and biking expeditions. Please visit their site below for more information:

Preparation of the Trek:

Since it was winter in the desert we had to pick a lot of warm wear. Apparently the temperature goes to 2-3 degrees at night in the desert. As for most of us, we were visiting Rajasthan for the first time so we decided to roam around a little bit before the trek. Flight was booked from Bangalore to Ahmedabad and from their Train to Jodhpur(Cheaper this way :P). While coming back we had direct flight from Jaipur.

Beginning of the trek:

Camp at Jaisalmer
After roaming in Jodhpur for 2 days ( I will write separate blog for our Rajasthan adventures, keeping this one touched only for the desert trek), we arrived at the Jaisalmer bus stand by 4:00PM. The YHAI camp is around 2 kms from here. After bargaining with the autowalas for cheaper fair we finally reached the camp.  We were given 2 tents, one for the guys and one for the girls. Tents were big enough to fit 6-8 people. Food was served outside and the bathroom and toilets were at the corners again separate for guys and girls.  A quick tea helped. We were told  dinner will be served by 7 PM and after that there will be a gathering (YHAI calls it campfire even though there is no fire). After dinner we were addressed by the YHAI  local branch leaders. Then some of us introduced ourselves and some performed cultural activities. Amazing part was out of 70 participants more than 45 were from Bangalore. So, basically Kannada ruled at Rajasthan :D We were given sleeping bags for the night. The next day first half was free for us and we had it for ourselves.

Trek Day 1 [Jaisalmer to Khaba]:

Sunset at Khaba
We were given early wake up calls for the 30 minutes of warm up exercise. After breakfast we left for the Jaisalmer city sightseeing. We had to be back to the camps by 12 as we had to leave for the next camp in bus by 3. After lunch at the camp we deposited extra luggage. Basically you can keep your extra luggage which you dont require for the trek in a bag and keep it at the base camp.  No its not a locker,they keep it in a tent at your own risk but its pretty much safe I guess. The bus had arrived and we left for our next camp at Khaba which is about 30 Kms from Jaisalmer in a short 45 minutes journey.
Camp at Khaba

As we reached we were given tea and biscuits. The camp leader briefed us about the camp and dos and dont dos. Girls were given area behind the girls tent for the toilet and guys were given area behind guys tents with a promise that both will not try to intersect :D There are no toilet facilities after Jaisalmer camp, so keep it in mind before booking for the expedition. All camp has electricity but enough only to light up one bulb. All major mobile networks are available at all the camps, so if you have any Nokia basic cell it would be great for this trek. The camp had 6 tents, 2 for girls and 4 for guys. We cleaned our tent and left for a walk around the camp. After some photography and watching sunset we returned to our camp. 
Khaba sunset

Before the dinner we had campfire and some performed cultural activities. Dinner was Rajasthani cuisine and was decent. 
Campfire at Khaba

Trek Day 2 [Khaba to Sam Sand dunes]:

Sam Sand Dunes

We were again given wake up calls early in the morning. We had breakfast, packed food for lunch and started the trek by 8 AM. Weather was sunny but it was still so cold that everyone was wearing gloves. 
Trek from Khaba to Sam sand dunes

Today's trek was for 14Kms from Khaba to Sam Sand dunes. As you have imagined this trek would be about walking in the sand, it was totally contrary. We were walking on the flat hard surface for a long time with somewhere here and there trekking over small sand dunes. The walk wasnt difficult and even during the noon it was cold enough to wear jackets. There was no shade at any places so be sure to carry scarfs, hats and cooling glasses.

We stopped for lunch below some tree shades after a trek of 8 kms. Packed lunch was Puri chole and it was good. After lunch we trekked again to Sam Sand dunes and reached there by 4 PM. We were served tea and biscuits and after cleaning up the tents we went to the sand dunes. Since it was New Year Eve the dunes were crowded. Camp leader had given us proper directions so that we dont get lost while coming back. 

New year eve with some Rajasthani folk music

At night we had campfire and music for the new year celebrations. Some danced, some clapped and some laughed. As night was getting cold we went back to our tents. 

Trek Day 3 [ Sam to Sudasari]:

Camel Safari
Today we  had Camel safari of 10kms and then a trek of 5 kms. Camels had arrived at the camp early in the morning. Breakfast was onion pakoda. Most of us didn't eat that expecting there will be something else for the breakfast but there wasn't so regretted it later. 2 people were given a camel and our luggage was tied to the camel. After short ride some people started camel racing, singing and Antakshari. After some time our backs started aching, so some got down and preferred walking :D 

Sudasari Sand dunes

After we got down from the camel, we had to walk 5kms inside from the main road. The Sudasari camp is in the protected area and nobody is given permission to camp there except YHAI. After daily duties at the camp we walked to Sudasari sand dunes which is about 2 kms but can be seen from the camp. This sand dune was far better than Sam sand dunes mostly because it was uncrowded. There were exactly 25-30 people at this sand dunes and all were from our group.   We spent an hour at the sand dunes taking photographs and watching sunset. We went back to the camp before it got dark. 
Joy at Sudasari Sand dunes
Star trails at Sudasari sand dunes.

Being at the center of the desert the night sky was clear. So I tried capturing the stars. The sky wasnt clear for the milkyway but I sure was able to get star trail shots. 

Trek Day 4 [Sudasari to Barana]: 

Egyptian vulture 
Trekking all the way

Our trek for the day was about 10kms. As this was the final day of the trek we wanted to enjoy it the most. As soon as we left the camp we saw many wildlifes including stags, blackbucks, vultures and wild camels. 

We had to walk east towards the rising sun for our next camp at Barana. The entire expedition trek was on the flat surface hence the it wasnt difficult for us. 
We also encountered a sand storm on the way. Visibility was reduced and sand was everywhere in our body :D. 

Blackbucks at sand dunes

We walked 10kms pretty fast and reached our camp by 3PM. This camp also hosts sanddunes around 1km away from it. After freshen up we left to the sand dunes. We were lucky enough to see herd of blackbucks. Males were fighting to impress female bucks. It was a great view. We returned to our camp before it got dark. Dinner was served, today being the last day it was a special dinner. 

Jump of joy

Trek Day 5[Barana to Jaisalmer]:

Our bus was ready outside to take us to Jaisalmer. Our camp leader gave us good bye speech and after cheers we left to Jaisalmer.

Most happy thing for everyone at the Jaisalmer camp was seeing toilets and bathrooms. Everyone freshened up and collected their luggage. We had lunch at the camp, vacated the tents and left to Jaipur.

Here is the link to our Rajasthan tour video :)

                                                             TREK ENDS :)

Important things:

Electricity: Only Jaisalmer camp has electricity and charging point for mobiles.
Mobile network: Mobile network is available at all the camps. Its better to carry any basic cell which gives maximum battery life.
Toilets: Only Jaisalmer camp has toilet facilities. At all other camps open area is the place where you show your skills.
Water: Water is available only at Jaisalmer camp. At all other places one drum will be kept which you use for washing hands and face nothing else. Another drum of water for toilet purpose. But you cannot use that water since it will be very cold. So better carry tissue roles. 
Drinking water: It better to carry mineral water bottles enough for 2 days. The water at the camp is not clean even though its drinkable. You can buy water bottles at Sam sand dunes and on the way to Barana camp. 

Things to carry:

Clothing & Accessories
Thermal Underwear – long sleeve/long johns – 1 set
Sweatshirts – 2
T-shirts – 5
Jeans – 2
Track pants – 2
Chappals/ Quickdry Floaters – 1
Y-Briefs or Trunks – 2
Nylon Belt – 1
Cotton Socks – 5 
Woolen Socks – 2
Woolen Cap/Beanie – 1
Woolen Inner Gloves – 1
Wide Brimmed hat or Baseball cap – 1
Micro-fiber Wind cheater or lightweight Fleece jacket – 1
Towel – 1
Handkerchief – 2

Trek wear:

Backpack: 30L
Shoes: Any good shoes will do.
Plastic plate, mug, spoon - 1
Tissue role - 1
Wet tissues - 1
Aluminium foil - 1 [Helps to pack food]
Lunch box - 1

                                                           HAPPY TREKKING :)

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  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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