When I went on that trip to Sam Sand Dunes, I only heard that they are a over-rated much hyped tourist destination. Everybody advises to go beyond Sam dunes to explore some virgin and more majestic sand dunes in Thar Desert. So, I also decided to move beyond Sam Dunes towards Phuliya and then Sundra to get some more beautiful views from the Great Desert of Thar. There is a direct road available from Jaisalmer to Sundra via Phuliya, but I wanted to take the road via Sam, because I couldn’t suppress the desire to visit the most shouted sand dunes in Jaisalmer. I did not have any idea of Khuri Dunes that time, so that never came in the picture.
Leaving Jaisalmer: It was supposed to be a long ride from Jaisalmer to Sundra, so there was no question of returning back by the night. Actually, if you can start from Jaisalmer early in the morning, you can return back by the night from Sundra, but I was already delayed in Jaisalmer. I packed all my stuffs and moved towards the next destination. My plan was to visit the dunes around Sundra and then make a night halt wherever was possible in the nearby town, preferably around Satto. Once, I also thought to cover Munnabao, but since it was already late, I dropped that idea. There were lot of confusion on the next destination, I was totally blind about the night halt. Only good thing was that I was with all my stuffs and on my own motorcycle. So, I could keep moving easily as far as I could. But, then after leaving all the fuel pumps of Jaisalmer city, I realised that I could move only upto maximum 150 more kilometres with that fuel, However, it was still a good distance and I knew that a fuel pump is available around Satto.
Jaisalmer to Sam Sand Dunes: I only kept moving and soon the golden city left behind and I was in the middle of another golden landscape. It was an unending road to nowhere. It was my first encounter with the vast sandy terrain. The experience of Thar was completely different from my imagination. There were no sand and sand dunes, but only the sandy terrain, covered with the green shrubs and occasionally appeared small trees. However, the entire terrain without a human settlement was indicating that I was somewhere in a desert.
I reached to a road sign indication the road towards the ruined village of Kuldhara, but I was already short of time, so moved onwards. Passing through the magnificent Suryagarh Hotel, I reached near the famous Sam Sand Dunes. Lot of tented as well as mud huts are lined up along the road near the Sam Sand Dunes. It was the day of Eid-al-Fitr, so many people were roaming on the road in brand new white clothes. They were basically the tour operators and camel owners, who operate tourist activities at the Sam Dunes. My mind was pre-occupied with the beautiful sand dunes in Sundra, so stopped for a while at Sam and clicked some pictures. There was no tourists at all near the sand dunes. Most of the tourists arrive there only in the evening to avoid the intense heat during the daytime and all the tourist packages are designed like that. But on that cloudy day of monsoon season, when sun rays was not so intense, it was a very good experience to be there at Sam without the much-hyped tourist crowd.
As I was about to move ahead, a gentleman came to me and asked about my destination and about my solo ride. He was also a tour operator and offered me a package including camel safari, dinner, cultural programme and night stay. He insisted to visit their mud huts to have a look. I was in no mood to waste more time at that place, but he insisted, so I went ahead to visit the place. Again bargaining started and he kept lowering the package rate. At last, I assured him that if, because of any reason, I had to be back to Sam in the evening, I would surely accept his package.
From Sam Sand Dunes towards Sudasari:I moved ahead again and passed through the Sam village. Sam village is 3 kms after the sand dunes and many tourist also arrive there, just to see the village. However, it is just like another village of the Thar Desert. I moved on the paved road, specified as Major District Road MDR 53 on the Google maps, towards the village of Sudasari. 2-3 kms, after the village of Sam, it is a true wilderness. As far as you can see, there is only a vast expanse of sand along the road. Not a single human was visible anywhere. Except some scattered shrubs and trees, there was no sign of life anywhere. The only sound was the sound of my bike’s engine and passing wind. I was completely enjoying that solitude.
10 kms after the Sam, I reached at a place, where the road was completely covered under the sand blew from the adjacent areas. Before that, I encountered small patches of sand on the road and easily passed through them. But, it was a thick layer of sand for about 200 meters on the road. I thought that it would be also easy to negotiate with that layer of sand, and I moved ahead. Soon, I realised my mistake, but it was too late. The front and rear tyres of the bike were stucked in the sand and it did not move forward. I tried full accelerator, first gear and everything that came in my mind, but it did not move forward for next 15 minutes. There was nobody around to help me. At last, I decided to removed the bags from the bike and to drag it behind from the sand. With all my muscles power, I dragged the tyres one by one from the sand and then pulled the bike on the road.
I lost the courage to move forward. There were high chances of such types of sand layer on the road again and I could have trapped anywhere in that sand. I was in a dilemma, but then, decided to returned back towards Sam. There was still lot of things left to do in Sam Dunes. I took a U-turn and moved back towards the Sam. While retuning back, I met a local man, who was going to Sudasari on his bike. He said that I could pass that sand patch with him. But, I thought, Sundra is still 107 kms away and after reaching Sudasari with that man, there would be another 97 kms of journey left, that I had to complete alone. It was not a wise idea, so I thanked him and returned back to Sam village.
Return Back to Sam Village: The entire village of Sam was in festive mood on the day of Eid-al-Fitr. I was feeling hungry by that time, so stopped at a dhaba for the lunch. During the lunch, I also booked a hotel for night stay in Jaisalmer. By the time, I finished my lunch, it was about 0330 PM. Since most of the tourists arrive at Sam Sand Dunes in the evening, it became a tourist hotspot by that time.
At Sam Sand Dunes: I also moved towards the sand dunes and again met to the same tour agent, who stopped me in the morning. We again bargained and in Rs. 1000, he offered me a package including jeep safari, camel safari, cultural show and dinner. Since, I already booked the night stay in Jaisalmer, I was unwilling to stay there in the night. He assured me that 38-kms ride from Sam to Jaisalmer in the night would be quiet safe without any worry. At last, I accepted his offered package.
Jeep Safari: As the part of the package, I had to go for a jeep safari first. I boarded a Mahindra Thar with three more people and went for a heavy ride in another sand dunes, about 5 kms away from Sam Dunes. We had our moment of adrenaline rush in the desert, when the driver accelerated the Thar on the dunes like a drunk man, and it rapidly descended on the dunes sideways. He did the similar activities 3-4 times and we were only struggling to hold our seats.
Our jeep stopped there for half an hour and we stepped down to enjoy the beauty of those dunes. It was away from the touristic Sam, so very few people were there. We walked on the sands, run on the dunes, slipped on the dunes slopes and had all the fun. There was a movie shoot going on. As the part of the scene, they were filming an airplane crash near the border area of India and Pakistan. The border area was also marked there in the sand dunes with wired fences. We also enjoyed the movie shoot and returned back to our desert camp.
Camel Safari: After the jeep safari, it was the turn for the camel safari. I was not excited about a camel ride. They offered me a choice of long ride for 3-kms or short ride for 500 meters. I chose the short ride. A bike guy left me near the dunes and introduced me to a camel owner. As the part of that package, I rode camel for about 500 meters on the dunes. Camel owner wanted to go for a long ride across the Sam dunes after getting extra money, but I wanted to walk alone on that dunes. So, I told him to leave me there and return back. Many people had already arrived there. A wide range of activities are offered by the tour operators at Sam Dunes.Those who do not wish to enjoy camel ride, they also have the choice of a camel cart. Some camel owners also offer the choice of camel race. Many people were enjoying different type of activities there.
I moved forward on the dunes, away from the crowd. Initially, the first few dunes were littered with the garbage including plastic bottles, wrappers, alcohol bottles etc. Lot of broken peaces of glass are scattered around and if you wish to walk barefoot on the sand, always be very careful at Sam dunes. It was very sad to see the Sam Dunes in that state. That was where, I decided to do something in the future, so that our tourist places could look neat and clean to its visitors. We have to be more sensitive and sensible towards this, because, these places offer the first image of India. I am still working on this and hope to start a project soon.
After a walk of about one km, I was away from the crowd. I sat on the dunes and enjoyed the beauty all around. I clicked many pictures there. Since it was a cloudy day, there was no chance to witness a spectacular sunset.
It was getting dark, so retuned back to the desert camp. Now, it was turn for the cultural programmes.
Cultural Programmes: It included some music programmes and folk dances. Overall, it was not so exciting. There are lot of places to enjoy these types of cultural programmes, especially, if you visit Udaipur, you can enjoy very good cultural programmes at Bharatiya Lok Kala Mandal and Bagore ki Haveli at very nominal prices in the evening.
Dinner: A very simple traditional Rajasthani dinner was offered by them. It included Dal, Bati, Churma, Rice and a local vegetable.
Back to Jaisalmer: I was determined from the beginning, that I would never ride the motorcycle in the dark during the entire trip , because that was the main reason behind an accident during my first trip to Rajasthan. However, I did not want to stay back at Sam in that night, because, the next day, I planned another ride to Tanot and my hotel was also booked in Jaisalmer. After the dinner, I had to return back to Jaisalmer, after riding for 38-kms in that darkness. I returned back carefully at slow speed and reached Jaisalmer around 10.30 PM in the night.
Is Sam really a good choice? I don’t see Sam as a great destination to enjoy the sand dunes. The small area of Sam dunes that is about 3 kms long and 1 km wide is too small to handle the tourist crowd. Dunes are there, but don’t look as majestic as I imagined. If you dream to spend your night in the wilderness, then again its like a small touristic town, where tents and concrete huts are popped up all around. Since its only 38 kms from the city of Jaisalmer, it also doesn’t offer a great choice to enjoy the Great Desert of Thar. However, the positive things are that it has some sand dunes; if you walk away from the crowd, you can get some good landscape as well as sunset views; and it is very close to Jaisalmer (Taxi costs about INR 1200 for the return trip from Jaisalmer). If you are a budget traveller, then again its a good choice.
Alternate Options to Sam Dunes: I couldn’t explore the region to answer this. I heard that Sundra has some majestic sand dunes. As I mentioned earlier, I tried, but couldn’t reach there. However, there is another major road, directly going from Jaisalmer to Sundra, so you may able to reach there easily. Also, that direct road passes through the dunes of Khuri village (just 50-kms from Jaisalmer), which I heard, is more beautiful and less touristic than Sam. And, if you are driving on your own, you can try your luck via Jaisalmer-Sam-Sudasari-Khuri-Jaisalmer route for a day excursion, the route I tried. During my trip, I was not aware that the road where I got trapped in the sand, also goes to Khuri, otherwise, I would have tried to move forward anyhow on that day.
Later, on the next day, I rode all the way on Jaisalmer- Ramgarh- Tanot- Longewala- Ramgarh- Jaisalmer route. It is a very nice route to enjoy the vastness of a real desert and you come across some beautiful small hamlets. It also gives a true idea of wilderness. There are some beautiful sand dunes along the road between Tanot and Longewala, but again, they were not so big and vast as I thought. But overall, this route seems the best choice to enjoy the Great Desert of Thar.
At last, if you have your own vehicle or cost is not a factor to hire a vehicle, I suggest you to proceed towards Sundra (never went, only heard) /Tanot (I visited personally) (Both are different routes), but if you want to enjoy the desert in budget and having less time, then Sam/Khuri is the best choice. If you have to choose between Sam and Khuri, go to Khuri. I personally never visited Khuri, but heard that its ambience is more beautiful than Sam.