ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Posts tagged “desert

DAY 4 (4/5): DESERT HERITAGE, Hotel Nachana Haveli and Thar Heritage Museum, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India, 2018.11.27

From our guidebook we picked Saffron Restaurant for lunch.  Situated on the leafy rooftop of Nachna Haveli Hotel, Saffron Restaurant offers an atmospheric venue away from the busy lanes of Jaisalmer.  The building complex is owned by the Nachna family.  They are direct descendants of Maharawal Jaisal, the founder of Jaisalmer.  The Nachna Haveli was partially converted into a heritage hotel in 1996.

IMG_9869We entered the Nachna Haveli Hotel through a elegant gateway.

IMG_9865Beyond the gate, we arrived at a sleepy and lush green courtyard.

IMG_9863Comfortable seating adjacent to the courtyard offers visitors and guests a great place to escape from the afternoon heat.

IMG_9859We were told to go upstairs to the roof for the Saffron Restaurant.

IMG_9860Compared to the dusty and often busy street outside, the leafy and tranquil rooftop of Saffron Restaurant felt like a paradise to us.

IMG_9856At Saffron, it was a big surprise to find that film shooting was going on at part of the rooftop.  It was a scene of causal talk between a mother and daughter while hanging the laundry.

IMG_9877After lunch, we went to check out the guidebook recommended handicraft shop Desert Handicrafts Emporium.

IMG_9881Desert Handicrafts Emporium is owned by LN Khatri, a knowledgeable historian and folklorist of the Thar region.

IMG_9882After purchasing two embroidered pieces, Mr. Khatri led us to his Thar Heritage Museum.  With a decent collection of artefacts and antiques from various desert villages.

IMG_9883One of the most interesting display was a Gyan Chaupar (meaning ‘Game of Knowledge) game, which sometimes can be referred as the Snake and Ladder game.  The game has been around in India since the 2nd century.  It is a game that involves educating people about religious vice and virtue.

IMG_9888Displays at the Thar Heritage Museum are grouped in such a way that visitors can easily learn about the specific life and work of various kinds of people in the Thar Desert.

IMG_9896Opium was popular in Rajasthan in the old days.  Khatri’s museum designates a corner to display the artefacts used for opium smoking.

IMG_9892Mr. Khatri’s father was actually a ghee collector in the Thar Desert.  A number of old ghee containers are on display.

IMG_2245The displayed items in the museum reflect a bygone era of the Thar Desert.

IMG_2250Embroideries with gold and silver threads are popular in villages of the Thar Desert.

IMG_9897Vintage black and white photographs in the museum convey a romantic sense of the bygone Rajasthan.

IMG_9889Mr. Khatri was kind to show us around and talked about the highlights of his collection.  The visit offered us a thorough glimpse of what life was like back in old Rajasthan.

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DAY 3 (4/4): FORT PALACE, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India, 2018.11.26

While surveying the area near Trikuta Hill, outcast prince of the Bhati kingdom Rawal Jaisal met a sage named Eesul, who mentioned a prophesy of Jaisal’s Yaduvanshi clan would one day establish a kingdom here.  Inspired by the encounter, Rawal Jaisal established his kingdom and capital city at the Trikuta Hill and called it Jaisalmer based on his own name.  Built by Rawal Jaisal in 1156, the 7-storey Fort Palace was the former royal residence of the rulers.  We got an official audio guide for our visit.  Though there were a number of rooms under renovations when we were there.  Perhaps the time was a little late, not too many tourists were around in the palace.  Not as monumental as its counterpart in Jodhpur, the Palace was nonetheless a unique element of Jaisalmer Fort that no tourist coming this far into the Thar Desert should miss.

DSC_0937The sati handprints mark the entrance of Jaisalmer Fort Palace.  Sati handprints were made by widows of the king who committed self-immolation when their husband passed away in ancient times.

DSC_0941The ornate balcony was the focus of the first courtyard we entered in the palace complex.

DSC_0957From a window on the upper level, we could have a close look at the exquisite detail of the balcony and palace facade.

DSC_0972The Rajasthani heritage of elaborated carvings can be seen all over the palace.

DSC_0985Some of these amazing stone carvings were gifts to the maharaja.  This one is placed in the king’s bedroom as an interior decoration.

DSC_0989Stained glass is commonly used in Rajasthani palaces.

DSC_0992From a roof terrace, we enjoyed a “maharaja”‘s view of the fort’s bastions and the yellow sandstone city of Jaisalmer below Trikuta Hill.

DSC_1001The yellow tone of the city presents the perfect scenery of what a picturesque desert oasis.

DSC_1009Not all rooms were completely restored, but even without the original furniture, the wall tiles and wooden carvings were delights for the eye.

IMG_9318Some original furniture were on display behind protective glass.

IMG_9329The king’s bedroom opens to a beautiful courtyard where musicians and dancers would provide pleasant entertainment.

IMG_9338The king’s entertainment courtyard was intimate in scale and finished in beautiful floor and wall tiles.

DSC_1012Some palace balconies offer magnificent views of the city below.

DSC_1014Towards the end of our tour, we passed by a physical model of Jaisalmer Fort, offering us a good opportunity to have a better understanding of the fort layout and places that we had visited throughout the day.

DSC_1017It was late in the afternoon and there were hardly any tourists left in the fort.

DSC_1020Without audio guide and map handout, touring the Jaisalmer Fort Palace would be like walking in a maze.

DSC_1023Near the end of the walk, we passed by quite a few empty chambers.

IMG_9347The detailed ornaments of the palace offered us a glimpse of the beautiful sandstone carving of Jaisalmer.  In the following day, we would continue to explore the ancient city for other amazing works of local stone craftsmen.


DAY 55 (1 OF 4) – WATER FINALLY, CHILOE ISLAND, CHILE

Two flights, 4 hours of bus ride, 15 minutes of ferry, some 2100km due south.  From the Atacama to Chiloe Island, it was as if we had gone to another planet, from Mars back to the Earth.  The airport at Castro, the biggest city on Chiloe Island, has recently opened.  A guide told us that some visitors from the Atacama would now fly to Chiloe for a weekend just to experience the rain, which is such a rarity in the desert.  And if one comes to Chiloe looking for rain, one should never be disappointed, as it rains almost everyday on this Pacific archipelago.
Once isolated from the rest of Chile, Chiloe has maintained unique characteristics distinct from the rest of the nation.  On this land, legends and mystic beliefs pass down from one generation to another and still exist as part of the daily life. After the Spanish conquered the island, Catholic priests spent 8 months in a year boating to all corners of Chiloe and other outlying islands, staying 3 days at each community to perform services.  Throughout the archipelago, more than 160 churches were built, 14 of which are now enlisted on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.  Earthquakes and tsunamis destroyed many communities on Chiloe multiple times, and over and over again houses and churches were rebuilt. What’s more? Master boat building techniques renowned throughout Chile; tons of seafood variety including king crabs, locos (abalone-like), oysters, clams, and many many mussels.  A unique island with culture and traditions deeply rooted to this isolated land and the open Pacific. That’s Chiloe.

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Atacama Desert

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Chiloe Island

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Previous Destination – San Pedro de Atacama, beginning from post Day 49

Read more on Chiloe and Puerto Varas  in 2013 South America
Day 55.1 – Water Finally, Chiloe
Day 55.2 – Chacao Channel, Chiloe
Day 55.3 – Tide, Castro, Chiloe
Day 55.4 – Iglesia San Francisco, Castro, Chiloe
Day 56.1 – Palfitos, Castro, Chiloe
Day 56.2 – Wooden Tequilas Houses, Chiloe
Day 56.3 – Achao, Isla Quinchao
Day 57.1 – Parque Nacional Chiloe
Day 57.2 – Chanquin and Playa Cucao, Chiloe
Day 58.1 – Isla Aucar, Colo, Tenaun San Juan, Chiloe
Day 58.2 – Boat Building, San Juan, Chiloe
Day 58.3 – Seafood, Chiloe
Day 59.1 – Palafito 1326, Castro, Chiloe
Day 59.2 – Chacao Channel Again, Chiloe
Day 59.3 – City, Lago Llanquihue & Volcan Osorno, Puerto Varas
Day 60 – Parque Nacional Vicente Perez Rosales, Petrohue
Day 61.1 – Latitude 51-41’28”, Puerto Natales
Day 61.2 – Afrigonia, Puerto Natales

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South America 2013 – Our Destinations
Buenos Aires (Argentina), Iguazu Falls (Argentina/Brazil), Pantanal (Brazil), Brasilia (Brazil), Belo Horizonte & Inhotim (Brazil), Ouro Preto (Brazil), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Paraty (Brazil), Sao Paulo (Brazil), Samaipata & Santa Cruz (Bolivia), Sucre (Bolivia), Potosi (Bolivia), Southwest Circuit (Bolivia), Tilcara, Purmamarca, Salta (Argentina), Cafayate (Argentina), San Pedro de Atacama (Chile), Antofagasta & Paranal Observatory (Chile), Chiloe (Chile), Puerto Varas (Chile), Torres del Paine (Chile), Ushuaia (Argentina), El Chalten (Argentina), El Calafate (Argentina), Isla Magdalena (Argentina), Santiago (Chile), Valparaiso (Chile), Afterthought


DAY 54 (2 OF 2) – PARANAL OBSERVATORY, ATACAMA DESERT, CHILE

Directed by Patricio Guzman, documentary Nostalgia de la Luz (Nostalgia for the Light) introduced us to the Very Large Telescope at Paranal in the Atacama Desert a few years ago.  In the film, Guzman on one hand depicts how scientists at Paranal Observatory search for the origin of the universe by looking up to the sky, and on the other hand, how a group of local women search for the remains of their loved ones who were executed under the Pinochet’s regime by looking down into the gravel of the Atacama desert near the Paranal Observatory.  Owned by European Southern Observatory (ESO), Paranal Observatory contains the most advanced telescopes in the world, allowing scientists to obtain HD images of the universe, and study in details the black hole at the very centre of our Milky Way Galaxy.  Name the Very Large Telescope (VLT), the four telescopes at Paranal are the biggest optical telescopes in the world, each with a lens of 8.2m in diameter.  Situated at 2600m above sea level atop Cerro Paranal, the thin air and dry weather allow scientists at Paranal to observe the night sky almost every night of the year.
From online research, we were glad to find out that the ESO offers free-guided tours of the Paranal Observatory every Saturday.  All we needed to consider was to find our own transportation to get there.  With a hired car from Antofagasta, we were able to reach the observatory half an hour before our appointment at 10:00.  Located 120km south of Antofagasta, the journey took us about 2 hours of driving in the Atacama Desert.  The drive was pleasant in early morning.  By the time we stepped out of the car at Paranal, we could immediately feel the heat and strong UV of the sun.  The tour lasted for about 2.5 hours.  We were led by the guide to visit the visitor centre, the interior of one of the four Very Large Telescopes, the central control centre, and the residence for the scientists and engineers.  The guide, who was an astronomer, explained to us in details about the functioning and maintenance of the telescopes.  Inside the telescope, we were fortunate to watch the engineer to test the rotation of the telescope.  The control centre was quite empty while we were there, because most of the staff was asleep in the residence during the day.  Winning numerous design awards a few years ago, the residence building was also interesting to check out.  Inside the building, the swimming pool and greenhouse create a desert oasis in the Atacama.  The building was also featured in one of the James Bond movie a few years ago.
The inspiring visit to the Paranal was definitely a highlight of our journey.  It further opened up our curiosity about the universe and the night sky.  This experience also concluded our journey in the Atacama, and to a larger extent, the Andean highlands of Bolivia, Northern Argentina and Chile.  Tomorrow, we would arrive at Chiloe Island in the Lake District, some 2,100km south of Antofagasta, where Martian landscapes would give way to Alpine scenery.
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Read more on San Pedro de Atacama, 2013 South America
Day 49 – Arrival, San Pedro de Atacama
Day 50.1 – Geyser del Tatio, Atacama Dessert
Day 50.2 – Altiplano Wetland, near El Tatio
Day 50.3 – Machuca Village, Atacama
Day 50.4 – Stargazing, Atacama Dessert
Day 51.1 – Town, San Pedro de Atacama
Day 51.2 – Valle de la Muerte & Cordillera de la Sal, San Pedro de Atacama
Day 51.3 – Valle de la Luna, San Pedro de Atacama
Day 52.1 – Laguna Chaxa, Atacama
Day 52.2 – Lagunas Altiplanicas, Atacama
Day 52.3 – Tropic de Capricorn, Atacama
Day 53.1 – Pacific Ocean, Antofagasta
Day 53.2 – Nan King Restaurant, Antofagasta
Day 54.1 – On the Road, Atacama Desert
Day 54.2 – Paranal Observatory, Atacama Desert

Next Destination – Chiloe Island, Chile
Continuing on our journey from post Day 55.1

 

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South America 2013 – Our Destinations
Buenos Aires (Argentina), Iguazu Falls (Argentina/Brazil), Pantanal (Brazil), Brasilia (Brazil), Belo Horizonte & Inhotim (Brazil), Ouro Preto (Brazil), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Paraty (Brazil), Sao Paulo (Brazil), Samaipata & Santa Cruz (Bolivia), Sucre (Bolivia), Potosi (Bolivia), Southwest Circuit (Bolivia), Tilcara, Purmamarca, Salta (Argentina), Cafayate (Argentina), San Pedro de Atacama (Chile), Antofagasta & Paranal Observatory (Chile), Chiloe (Chile), Puerto Varas (Chile), Torres del Paine (Chile), Ushuaia (Argentina), El Chalten (Argentina), El Calafate (Argentina), Isla Magdalena (Argentina), Santiago (Chile), Valparaiso (Chile), Afterthought


DAY 54 (1 OF 2) – ON THE ROAD, ATACAMA DESERT, CHILE

The drive from Antofagasta to ESO’s (European Southern Observatory) Observatory at Paranal took about 2 hours.  Driving in the Atacama Desert was not as adventurous as one might imagine.  The roads, as least the ones that we took, were well paved and signed.  For the first half hour we were driving on the Pan-American Highway (Route 5), where the road was frequented with trucks and long distant buses.  Once we got off Pan-American Highway and ventured into the regional highways, we were pretty much on our own in the seemingly lifeless desert.  Not a single tree or a patch of grass, only occasionally the roadside shrines that would stood out from the red earth, grey stones, and black asphalt.  When we reached the entry road of the observatory, and not long after saw the four majestic Very Large Telescopes (VLT) on a distant hilltop, we were so relief to arrive safely and on time for our scheduled visit without getting lost in the Atacama.
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Read more on San Pedro de Atacama, 2013 South America
Day 49 – Arrival, San Pedro de Atacama
Day 50.1 – Geyser del Tatio, Atacama Dessert
Day 50.2 – Altiplano Wetland, near El Tatio
Day 50.3 – Machuca Village, Atacama
Day 50.4 – Stargazing, Atacama Dessert
Day 51.1 – Town, San Pedro de Atacama
Day 51.2 – Valle de la Muerte & Cordillera de la Sal, San Pedro de Atacama
Day 51.3 – Valle de la Luna, San Pedro de Atacama
Day 52.1 – Laguna Chaxa, Atacama
Day 52.2 – Lagunas Altiplanicas, Atacama
Day 52.3 – Tropic de Capricorn, Atacama
Day 53.1 – Pacific Ocean, Antofagasta
Day 53.2 – Nan King Restaurant, Antofagasta
Day 54.1 – On the Road, Atacama Desert
Day 54.2 – Paranal Observatory, Atacama Desert

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South America 2013 – Our Destinations
Buenos Aires (Argentina), Iguazu Falls (Argentina/Brazil), Pantanal (Brazil), Brasilia (Brazil), Belo Horizonte & Inhotim (Brazil), Ouro Preto (Brazil), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Paraty (Brazil), Sao Paulo (Brazil), Samaipata & Santa Cruz (Bolivia), Sucre (Bolivia), Potosi (Bolivia), Southwest Circuit (Bolivia), Tilcara, Purmamarca, Salta (Argentina), Cafayate (Argentina), San Pedro de Atacama (Chile), Antofagasta & Paranal Observatory (Chile), Chiloe (Chile), Puerto Varas (Chile), Torres del Paine (Chile), Ushuaia (Argentina), El Chalten (Argentina), El Calafate (Argentina), Isla Magdalena (Argentina), Santiago (Chile), Valparaiso (Chile), Afterthought


DAY 51 (3 OF 3) – VALLE DE LA LUNA, SAN PEDRO DE ATACAMA, CHILE

Just before sunset, we climbed up to the ridge of a giant sand dune in Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon). Seeing the sunset at Valle de la Luna was a surreal experience. We watched the colour of the sky and distant mountains slowly changed from orange to pale violet.
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Read more on San Pedro de Atacama, 2013 South America
Day 49 – Arrival, San Pedro de Atacama
Day 50.1 – Geyser del Tatio, Atacama Dessert
Day 50.2 – Altiplano Wetland, near El Tatio
Day 50.3 – Machuca Village, Atacama
Day 50.4 – Stargazing, Atacama Dessert
Day 51.1 – Town, San Pedro de Atacama
Day 51.2 – Valle de la Muerte & Cordillera de la Sal, San Pedro de Atacama
Day 51.3 – Valle de la Luna, San Pedro de Atacama
Day 52.1 – Laguna Chaxa, Atacama
Day 52.2 – Lagunas Altiplanicas, Atacama
Day 52.3 – Tropic de Capricorn, Atacama
Day 53.1 – Pacific Ocean, Antofagasta
Day 53.2 – Nan King Restaurant, Antofagasta
Day 54.1 – On the Road, Atacama Desert
Day 54.2 – Paranal Observatory, Atacama Desert

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South America 2013 – Our Destinations
Buenos Aires (Argentina), Iguazu Falls (Argentina/Brazil), Pantanal (Brazil), Brasilia (Brazil), Belo Horizonte & Inhotim (Brazil), Ouro Preto (Brazil), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Paraty (Brazil), Sao Paulo (Brazil), Samaipata & Santa Cruz (Bolivia), Sucre (Bolivia), Potosi (Bolivia), Southwest Circuit (Bolivia), Tilcara, Purmamarca, Salta (Argentina), Cafayate (Argentina), San Pedro de Atacama (Chile), Antofagasta & Paranal Observatory (Chile), Chiloe (Chile), Puerto Varas (Chile), Torres del Paine (Chile), Ushuaia (Argentina), El Chalten (Argentina), El Calafate (Argentina), Isla Magdalena (Argentina), Santiago (Chile), Valparaiso (Chile), Afterthought


DAY 51 (2 OF 3) – VALLE DE LA MUERTE & CORDILLERA DE LA SAL, SAN PEDRO DE ATACAMA, CHILE

At 16:00, our Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon) tour departed from the town centre of San Pedro de Atacama. Leaving the oasis town behind, our tour bus drove for 10 minutes to reach the Valle de la Muerte (Death Valley). Once we got outside of San Pedro, we could immediately see the real side of Atacama Desert: dry and almost lifeless. We had a short hike in Valle de la Muerte and walked pass a number of dried riverbeds with salt residues. We then went to the lookout of Cordillera de la Sal (Salt Mountain). From the lookout, we could see the distant Andes, sand dunes and rocks formed by volcanic actions and erosion. The landscape of this part of Atacama is stunning but hostile.
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Read more on San Pedro de Atacama, 2013 South America
Day 49 – Arrival, San Pedro de Atacama
Day 50.1 – Geyser del Tatio, Atacama Dessert
Day 50.2 – Altiplano Wetland, near El Tatio
Day 50.3 – Machuca Village, Atacama
Day 50.4 – Stargazing, Atacama Dessert
Day 51.1 – Town, San Pedro de Atacama
Day 51.2 – Valle de la Muerte & Cordillera de la Sal, San Pedro de Atacama
Day 51.3 – Valle de la Luna, San Pedro de Atacama
Day 52.1 – Laguna Chaxa, Atacama
Day 52.2 – Lagunas Altiplanicas, Atacama
Day 52.3 – Tropic de Capricorn, Atacama
Day 53.1 – Pacific Ocean, Antofagasta
Day 53.2 – Nan King Restaurant, Antofagasta
Day 54.1 – On the Road, Atacama Desert
Day 54.2 – Paranal Observatory, Atacama Desert

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South America 2013 – Our Destinations
Buenos Aires (Argentina), Iguazu Falls (Argentina/Brazil), Pantanal (Brazil), Brasilia (Brazil), Belo Horizonte & Inhotim (Brazil), Ouro Preto (Brazil), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Paraty (Brazil), Sao Paulo (Brazil), Samaipata & Santa Cruz (Bolivia), Sucre (Bolivia), Potosi (Bolivia), Southwest Circuit (Bolivia), Tilcara, Purmamarca, Salta (Argentina), Cafayate (Argentina), San Pedro de Atacama (Chile), Antofagasta & Paranal Observatory (Chile), Chiloe (Chile), Puerto Varas (Chile), Torres del Paine (Chile), Ushuaia (Argentina), El Chalten (Argentina), El Calafate (Argentina), Isla Magdalena (Argentina), Santiago (Chile), Valparaiso (Chile), Afterthought