Thunderstorm, Google, and Darkness in the Indian Thar Desert

In my 10-day Bikepacking expedition to the Indian Thar desert; I stayed close to humans – Inside a Gurudwara, House, Panchayat bhavan and Temple. However, there is an exception – Wild Camping!

In this article, I shared my experience of wild camping in the Indian Thar desert. A wild camping night that I will remember forever because I was all alone and awake in a thunderstorm night.

My way of doing bikepacking expedition is the one in which I am fully self-supported regarding:

In my expedition to the Indian Thar desert, I carried all the necessary gears for a self-supported bikepacking expedition but did not use them to their full extent. Reason – Generous and kind-hearted people of Rajasthan who supported me during my expedition including voluntarily hosting me during nights.

When I started, I had a wish list to wild camp in the desert and it was the 8th day of my expedition that I decided to go fully self-supported regarding my accommodation needs for the night. I was mentally prepared for a wild camping night in the desert – All Alone!

It was the evening of 29th March, 2023. I was in Sadolia village on a village walk experiencing its culture, traditions, water management practices and meeting people in the village. I was observing a peacock when suddenly the sky started getting dark and in few minutes a sand storm hit the village.

I was experiencing this for the first time in my life – high speed desert winds, sudden darkness, and low visibility. Perhaps this was an early indication of what was coming next. I quickly made my way to a village house for a temporary shelter – stayed there for some time and left the village. It was late evening already and I had to wild camp, pitch in my tent, prepare food and sleep.

Away from any human settlement and after a couple of Kms of bike ride, I arrived at a wild camping spot. It was a plain ground around 200 meters away from the road, 15 meters away from a tree and 30 meters away from a rainwater harvesting structure. It was a rainfed agricultural field – though completely barren and deserted.

It was getting darker by the minute. I quickly switched on my camping lights and started setting up my tent. The winds were strong enough to make a parachute out of my bare tent. Luckily, I stabilized my tent by quickly dismounting all my bikepacking bags from my bike and shooting them inside my tent.

The process of settling was ongoing when it started raining … thunderstorm started too. I was hearing thunder every 5 mins or even lesser. I dropped my plan for preparing food and started resting in my tent. I received a message from NDMAEW, it says:

“In the next 3 hours, there is a possibility of surface winds and thunderstorm in Bikaner, Shri Ganganagar and Jaisalmer district”

I was unable to guess the acronym. I googled it and got to know that it stands for

NDMA – National Disaster Management Authority, Government of India

EW – Early Warning System

I was now serious. Thoughts started popping in my head – What is a likelihood of getting struck by lightning in a desert? What can I do to minimize the risk? I wanted to read a first-hand experience shared by people who have been in similar situations or refer to a comprehensive guide. I opened Google and here is a summary of prevention steps relevant to my situation:

I also read on google about the 5 sec rule of lightning:

If you count the number of seconds between the flash of lightning and the sound of thunder, and then divide by 5, you will get the distance in miles to the lightning: 5 seconds = 1 mile, 15 seconds = 3 miles

I got outside my tent and the closest thunderstorm was less than 2 miles from me. I was surrounded by different thunderstorms from 3 directions. The time was for an action.

I can’t change the fact that I was caught in an open desert field during a thunderstorm and the only shelter I can take is my tent. But I had control over other factors. Here is a list of actions I took to minimize the risk

I was wet, shivering and in the squat position was listening to the sound of nature. The thunder, the rains and the winds were going on and off but they were there the whole night – so was an unusual company that I did not expect that night.

It was mid night (around 1 a.m.) and I was resting in a pin drop silence of the desert. The thunderstorm was not active for more than 15 minutes and has taken a temporary pause. It was in these moments that I started feeling someone’s presence outside and close to my tent – My heart started beating faster – Is it terminator!!

With some courage and whistle around my neck, I stepped outside my tent only to find a black dog just behind my tent. It was a big relief to me. I treated myself and the dog with some sweets and petted her as well.

I sat outside my tent for sometime with the dog and felt so lucky to have her company. I am a dog lover. The rain started again …. thunderstorm too. I treated the dog with bits of sweets closer and closer to my tent and tried to lift and bring her inside my tent but she would not come.

Rest of my night went like a rewind loop of a movie scene.

  1. Thunderstorm, Rains
  2. Peeking from my tent
  3. Sweets to the dog
  4. Squatting inside my tent
  5. Petting the dog
  6. Sitting with the dog
  7. Lifting the dog
  8. Resting inside my tent
  9. Thunderstorm, Rains ……

It was around 5 a.m. in the morning when I started listening the sound of birds. I decided to pack up and move. With a very heavy heart I also said goodbye to the dog. This time she was with her puppies. She was love. I will remember the night of 29th March forever and have learnt lessons from this incidence.

The next day – 30th March was a severe thunderstorm too. I was again in the open but inside a temple premise. I shifted my tent inside a temple room with the help of Veeru who lives in Motigarh village. We talked inside a room with the background sound of rain, thunderstorm, and high-speed winds. I am so grateful that I was not alone this time – I had a great company of Veeru and Jetha ram. I told him that if he is Veeru then I am Jay.

I want to share the articles that I read during a thunderstorm night of 29th March. I believe that these will be important reference for adventure folks like me


  • I am grateful to Travel Unity and Hospitalented for providing me scholarship under “Discover Your World Travel Scholarship” programme for this expedition. The scholarship amount was USD 100 which partially covered my expenditure during the expedition

  • I do not recommend a planned camping in an open field on a thunderstorm night. The story in this article is based out of my own real experience and was a result of a situation where I was stuck in an open field with my tent as the only shelter option for me during the night

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