Rajasthan is by far my favourite destination for Motorcycling (yes more than Himalayas too!) for its ever so hospitable people, lip-smacking food, smooth roads, rich history & stories of valour, the majestic forts and economical yet very comfortable accommodation options! My first ever motorcycle ride in March 2008 was to Rajasthan – to the ghost fort town of Bhangarh and since then I have been on 10 rides to various destinations and almost 7000 kms of riding across this mystical state of India!
The destinations have ranged from Chittorgarh to Bhangarh to Mandawa to Bundi to Pushkar to Bikaner to Tijara but the Big 4 were missing! Jaipur, Jodhpur, Udaipur & Jaisalmer and I badly wanted to visit these cities on The Mighty One and complete (well almost) my tryst with Rajasthan once and for all. With these thoughts in mind I started planning the Rambunctious Rajasthan Ride for February 2015.
I contacted my comrade Sunder Sankararaman (with whom I have done my 2 longest rides together – Ladakh and West Coast) to join me for this ride but he politely declined as he had no leaves remaining in balance which was really sad as we had promised each other to do this ride together way back in 2009. I then contacted my Kuwait Paaaaaaaai George Varghese and he was super enthusiastic about this ride as he was very interested in doing a ride with me! He also made a valuable suggestion for the route which I gladly changed as it made much more sense planning wise! No wonder I respect & trust his opinion always and every time! But I had also some role to play in the itinerary planning you see; I had planned the ride so that we had 1 day each to explore and spend in each of the 3 cities plus I had kept only the Day 1 and Day 7 very strenuous in terms of total kms to ride and the ones in the middle much easier so that we remain fresh and not get burnt out early!
The next steps were to research about the places to stay and I finalized the 3 properties – Panorama Guest House in Udaipur, Hem Guest House (Homestay) in Jodhpur and Mystic Jaisalmer Guest House in Jaisalmer; 3 budget options, perfect for us 2 comrades and were super comfortable too. I also did the research on all the street food options at the 3 cities for us plus some restaurants too! As always Trip Advisor was my partner-in-planning! I also visited multiple blogs to complete my research before the ride began. I am a planning freak no doubt and rarely want to leave anything to chance. Some of you might disagree with this organized approach of mine but it has always worked for me so no way I am leaving it anytime soon!
Rajasthan also holds a special place for my motorcycling club BoP (Bulls on Parade) as we have always planned our Anniversary Rides at a destination in this state; Pushkar in 2008, Ranthambore in 2009, Chittorgarh in 2010, Bundi in 2011 and Mandawa in 2012. And then Rajasthan has the Bullet Baba Shrine at Pali near Jodhpur which I was finally going to visit as part of this ride. It is a must-visit place for every Royal Enfield rider worth his/her salt and I was definitely going to pay my respects with a bottle of whiskey as the tradition goes!
This was going to be our ride route: Gurgaon – Udaipur – Haldighati – Kumbhalgarh Fort – Bullet Baba – Jodhpur – Jaisalmer – Sam Dunes – Jaipur – Gurgaon. Some 2018 kms as per Google Maps. Lots of fun & strenuous riding was on the cards!
I was armed with all the bookings, planning, route maps, packing and finally an opportunity to meet George after December 2012 so I was expectedly very excited! On the top of that it was going to be an end of the riding drought, so to speak as I was riding after November 2012! With all the excitement and anticipation I started the Rambunctious Rajasthan Ride with a loud chant of Jai BoP on a cold February morning from my home in Gurgaon, this time with a brand new comrade!
Day 1 |||Saturday 21st February 2015 ||| Gurgaon to Udaipur ||| 722 kms
George came from his home in Ghaziabad at 10:30 PM a night earlier; we were meeting after a long time so there was a lot to talk about but our first agenda was to have a good sleep of 4 hours so that we wake up relatively fresh the next morning. We woke up at 3 AM and after finishing all preparations left my home at exact 3:45 AM to get a decent head start and avoid the manic morning traffic on NH-8. Unexpectedly it was quite chilly and soon after crossing Neemrana, a thick bout of fog hit us; we tried our best riding in almost zero visibility for some 40-odd kms but I just could not ride and was really getting scared with all the trucks & tractors on that road. I almost hit a stack of bricks and that was the final warning we needed! With safety on our mind we stopped at a Highway Dhaba for some much needed hot tea and I got the Jam Sandwiches out which I had packed. We started again after a 30 minutes break but the fog kept getting worse so we stopped again, this time at a restaurant which had not opened and waited for the sunrise so that we had some natural light to our rescue. After a slow & painful wait of 1 hour, the fog somewhat cleared and we started again. We were already delayed by 90 minutes as per our plan so we decided to stop only after crossing Jaipur.
And that is what we did. After riding for 220 kms we stopped at a small dhaba for a heavy & much deserved breakfast of Paranthas and piping hot tea. We caught up on the happenings of Kuwait and the plan forward. My BoP Comrade & incidentally my marriage witness, Vikas Garg called me as he was also in Jaipur after completing a cycle ride, unfortunately I could not meet him as we were already delayed.
The roads kept getting better, the mercury was rising and we were following the self-imposed rule of stopping only after riding for 100 kms! We stopped at another Highway restaurant where I had Red Bull to ward off the sleep demons and we had a 30-minutes odd butt break.
After riding for 419 kms we stopped at Beawer for our lunch break at 1:30 PM and had a wonderful Rajasthani Meal; Gatte ka Saag, Sev Tamatar, Daal Baati Churma and Laccha Parantha with tonnes of hospitality from the Dhaba staff! This was all we needed. We had loads of time on our hands as Udaipur was only 200 kms away, all thanks to the wonderful roads & our dependable bikes so we decided to have an hour long break and just relax.
So far the roads had been way too awesome, so the law of averages had to catch up! The bad roads hit us really hard all thanks to the construction of I don’t know how many flyovers. We rode in painfully awful roads for some 75 kms during our last stretch before hitting Udaipur and our plans to reach our guest house before 7 PM were busted! We took another butt break for some sutta and chai before hitting the city roads.
And then we reached Udaipur and were greeted to a huge mess of city traffic and meandering set of bylanes. Thanks to a Good Samaritan (as expected on a motorcycle) who led us to our guest house without even asking him for help we reached safely and without getting lost in that mess! We checked in and had the first and the last bad experience of our ride! The guy at the reception told us that our booking was valid only for that night and not for our full stay; this inspite of me booking directly and not through a 3rd party website plus having paid the requisite advance. I got really mad as we were on the road for 15 long hours and my patience finally gave in when he said “this is the reason I don’t take bookings of Indians” and he had it from me! He heard the choicest of abuses from me and I told him we are checking into our room and won’t leave before 2 nights and he won’t be able to do anything! Thankfully he didn’t trouble us anymore and also got a good hearing from the owner with whom I had interacted for the bookings!
Finally after 15 hours and 720 kms on the road we got to our room, all dirty & ragged and then quickly freshened up. Surprisingly I wasn’t exhausted even single bit which was a good shock for me as I was expecting the worst having been off the roads for more than 2 years! Maybe all the excitement and anticipation did the trick! Plus the gorgeous Lake Pichola view from our room window! And then there was more. We went to the rooftop restaurant and were welcomed by the beautiful and surreal 360 degree view of Udaipur old town! This was what we needed! George had his Black Label and I had my red Bull plus Sutta for company!
We chatted with a European couple (Lady from Slovakia and Guy from Czech Republic); they were settled in London and were on a short 14-days India Trip. We had lots & lots of discussions with them and shared a fun conversation with them long our dinner had finished! We had to finally call it a night as the sleep demons had lost their patience and were in no mood to relent!
Surprisingly we woke up at 6 AM fresh as daisy; maybe were too excited or maybe the bed was really comfortable and gave us a good sleep! We decided to hit the city while it was gingerly getting up and went to enjoy the sunrise view at the other side of the lake where the pigeons were enjoying their breakfast and gave us lots of photo opportunities! George was all excited shooting the slow-motion videos of the flying pigeons on his new iPhone!
Next we went to enjoy the Fateh Sagar Lake view which was gorgeous as well and while coming back saw a Poha shop just opening up and as all of you know it was impossible for me to let this opportunity go! I had 2 plates of fresh poha which was absolutely delicious and 2 cups of piping hot tea to wash it all down! It was the best possible start indeed to our Udaipur fiesta. We had lots to see on that day so we got to the guest house and got ready to hit Udaipur with full fury!
The next agenda was to somehow reach Sukhadiya Circle and attack the Bhairon Nath Nashta Center with another round of Poha and Chaai! We did the needful and gobbled up Part 2 of our breakfast! Part 3 was a round of Pyaaz Kachodi, Imarti and Dhokla at the famous Jayesh Mishthan Bhandar which was followed by the last & final Part 4 of Samose at Ayad Samosa Bhandar! I know you must be thinking “pet hai ki nagarkot”, believe me I was thinking the same thing but I somehow ate everything without bursting myself up! You see we had to walk a lot that day so it was all a preparation for the day ahead!
After satisfying our tummies we went to the City Palace for a tour to acquaint ourselves with the rich history of Udaipur and its royalty. It is a mesmerizing palace with a brilliant collection of artefacts and lots of history lessons with some beautiful city views to boot. City Palace was built over a period of nearly 400 years being contributed by several kings of the dynasty, starting by the Maharana Udai Singh II as the capital of the Sisodia Rajput clan in 1559, after he moved from Chittor. Udaipur was the historic capital of the former kingdom of Mewar in the Rajputana Agency and its last capital. The palace was built in a flamboyant style and is considered the largest of its type in Rajasthan. (Text from Wikipedia) The panoramic view of the Lake Palace is simply gorgeous and the viewpoint was swarmed with tourists!
Afterwards, we went to the Sajjangarh Palace to enjoy the Udaipur city view from the top but it was getting very hot so we could not stay very long and decided to come back in the evening to enjoy the sunset view which is supposedly the best in Udaipur!
While going back to our guest house we watched the India-South Africa Cricket World Cup at a roadside chai shop where quite a crowd had built up as Ajinkya Rahane was inching towards his century. We left after the Indian innings ended and decided to enjoy an afternoon siesta to get ourselves rejuvenated!
We could not sleep much as India was getting closer to a victory and watched the match till the end in our room before getting ready and hitting the streets again. We went to the Maharana Pratap Memorial and the museum to know more about the tales of his bravery & valour; he is by far the most revered and respected kings of Rajasthan without doubt and his history is awe-inspiring indeed. And you would be glad to know that I was born and brought up in a locality named Rana Pratap Bagh in North Delhi.
We went to the Sajjangarh Fort top and ran to the viewpoint as we had got a bit late but luckily got a vantage seat to enjoy the mesmerizing sunset view; and what a view it was. We sat glued enjoying the sun going down with the sky gaining beautiful hues. The first sunset of our ride was truly one of the most memorable ones! We got out of the fort after the official time ended and parked our bike downhill to enjoy the sun setting down completely and the artificial lights taking over the city of Udaipur from the top of the fort! Simply magical is the phrase which comes to my mind; we had a long conversation here and clicked loads of pics too!
We were there till 7:30 PM and enroute we visited the chai shop once again to celebrate India’s victory with another round of Chai and Biskoot! The ever so gracious shop owner made special tea for us even when he had closed his shop and was downing the shutters; Rajasthani hospitality at its very best!
We reached our guest house, finished our packing and went to the rooftop for another long session of food and conversations with the European couple! We had pre-ordered special Laal Maans – the Rajasthani specialty which was scrumptious indeed! We shared our tales of travel from all over the world and had a real nice time with them. The guy wasn’t feeling too well and had caught the Delhi Belly so I got some medicines from him so that he could feel better. I also made him talk to my wife so that he could explain his symptoms to him and she could prescribe effective medicines! Thankfully he felt much better within 30 minutes of taking the dose and gulped 6 bottles of beer while talking to us!
At 11 PM we bid them goodbye as we had to sleep to wake up fresh the next day for our ride to Jodhpur while traversing Haldighati, Kumbhalgarh Fort and the Bullet Baba Temple. We had a wonderful time in Udaipur even with a rough start and I would love to go back again with my family to enjoy it in more detail!
Day 3 ||| Monday 23rd February 2015 ||| Udaipur – Haldighati – Kumbhalgarh Fort – Bullet Baba – Jodhpur ||| 308 kms
This was going to be a start-stop-start day for us as we had to visit multiple locations before reaching our final destination Jodhpur in the evening. We woke up to a gorgeous early morning view of the Lake from our room window; this is what we needed to kick-start the day!
The teashop owner had told us about a Maharana Pratap Museum on the Udaipur-Kumbhalgarh route and were pretty excited about visiting it but this was not our first stop after checking out and starting from the guest house! Before we left Udaipur, I wanted to have the Poha one last time and luckily we found a Thela very close to the bypass so we had to stop! Had another round with tea and started the long day’s ride!
The roads were simply brilliant and it was the perfect time for The Mighty One posing for some pics…
The Maharana Pratap Museum is located very close to Haldighati and is impossible to miss as it is bang on the main highway! It is a very well made museum and surprisingly designed & funded by a local teacher named Mohan Lal Shrimali who wanted to pay his tribute this brave warrior king without any outside help; although later he got multiple grants from Private and Government institutions but he started the project on his own. There are a lot of artefacts, photographs, paintings, a shopping area and even a mini theatre which plays a short movie about the king! We had a wonderful experience and even bought some stuff from the shop. It is a very well-maintained zone created with a lot of passion which one can feel while exploring around and the entry fees is not too expensive either! It is a must watch for everybody visiting Udaipur. More details here: http://www.haldighatimuseum.com/home.html
For us the best part about this museum was the Sugarcane Juice process which was totally electricity-free and operated with the help of a huge Ox! I had never even heard or read about such a machine and we were visibly excited! We had 2 glasses each of the delicious Ganne ka Ras and bid farewell to this magnificent museum.
Our next stop was the Chetak Memorial; Chetak was the personal horse of Maharana Pratap who gave his life during the Battle of Haldighati while fighting along with his owner and is revered with equal importance! For me the name Chetak holds special memories as this was the first mechanized 2-wheeler I rode! My father’s 1989 model Bajaj Chetak Scooter is stuff legends are made of; I rode it for 5 years in Delhi and 2 years in Goa before selling it off there! Unfortunately I don’t have a single pic of that magnificent machine. After paying obeisance to one of the most revered & respected horses of India we moved on.
And then we reached Haldighati! It is basically a mountain pass in the Aravali Mountain Range and connects the Rajsamand and Pali districts, 40 kms from Udaipur. The name is believed to have come from the turmeric-coloured yellow soil (Turmeric is haldi in Hindi). It is historically significant as the location of the historic Battle of Haldighati, which took place in 1576 between Maharana Pratap of Mewar and Raja Man Singh of Amber, general of the Mughal emperor Akbar. The famous Hindi poet Shri Shyam Narayan Pandey wrote an epic poem about this battle; those interested can read it here: http://www.geeta-kavita.com/hindi_sahitya.asp?id=170
It was a very inspiring moment for me as I had read so much about this place since childhood this and was a definite must-visit place for me! So much blood was shed at this place and so many stories of valor were engrained in our history forever!
Even after multiple stops we still had lots of time on our hands, all thanks to the early start from Udaipur so we wanted to have a long Breakfast cum Lunch break and thankfully we found a wonderful property on the main highway (I have forgotten the name but have its business card at my home in Gurgaon) which was an absolutely beautiful place to stay and chill! We ordered Cold Coffee and stuffed paranthas and the hotel team took their own sweet time in preparing them but we were least bothered while we lounged in the lush green garden overlooking a valley and a lake in the middle of Rajasthan! This state never fails to pleasantly surprise me! We chillaxed and had conversations with the staff before leaving this place but with a promise that one day we would definitely come back to stay here!
The next stop was the mighty Kumbhalgarh Fort situated at a height of 3600 feet; it was built during the course of the 15th century by Rana Kumbha and enlarged through the 19th century and is also the birthplace of Maharana Pratap. The walls of the fort of Kumbhalgarh extend over 38 km, claimed to be the second-longest continuous wall after the Great Wall of China. It is a magnificent piece of architecture and the massive Ram Pole or gate welcomed us! We negotiated with the security team to keep our stuff in their room while we explored the fort; the earnest requests and promise of a “gratuity” ensured that they agreed! We hiked to the highest point of the fort overlooking the Aravallis to enjoy the gorgeous view. It was 1:30 PM and very hot so we didn’t stay there for very long and decided to head down. Another “to visit” item was ticked off my list with this visit!
And then the first and only misnavigation adventure of the ride! Though not technically misnavigation as both of us reached our destination without any mishap. We left the fort and took the road towards Pali but a bus got between us; as expected I overtook the bus, saw a board showing Pali and took the right turn while George followed the bus and took the left turn! After riding for some 20-25 odd kms I realized something was amiss, decided to stop near a toll gate and called George but he didn’t pick up so I assumed he had taken another route. I had a Red Bull and started the “solo” ride towards Pali! I stopped sometime later and checked an SMS from him which mentioned that we would meet at Pali.
Luckily the route I took was shorter and had much better roads so I reached Bullet Baba Temple some 20-odd minutes before George and chatted with a guy from Bikaner while waiting for George and also clicked the much-awaited pics of The Mighty One with the shrine! This was a dream come true moment for me as I had been waiting to visit this shrine for almost 7 years! And then George came and we shared our story of separation. I then bought the customary bottle of whiskey (Royal Stag ka addha) which is offered to the deity of Om Bana!
It is a legend which some might call it not real but for a lot of people this is a very pious place of religious interest! You can read more about Om Bana and his history at http://spiritdesertcamp.in/om-banna-baba-temple-story/
I clicked some pics and gave the bottle of Royal Stag to a man singing hymns and seeking his blessings for safe rides forever! We then had a late evening snack of Pao Bhaji and Tea with the guy from Bikaner at a restaurant aptly named “Om Bana Highway Corner” across the road. He shared his reason of coming to the shrine every month for the last 12 years and what this place means for him! It is always a pleasure talking to locals and sharing fun tales with them.
Our Guest House was still some 60-odd kms away so we bid goodbye to Bullet Baba and starting the last leg of that day’s ride with a lot of traffic till we reached Jodhpur. Once again we reached the messy bylanes and another Good Samaritan helped us in locating our guest house which is simply impossible to locate for an outsider and only a 2-wheeler can reach!
Hem Guest House was the first Homestay I was staying in ever and we were welcomed personally by one of the 2 brothers who own this place. They have converted their home into a GH and have 6 rooms for guests; our room was on the 1st floor bang opposite the kitchen (what else can one ask for!). We were served tea and cookies when we checked in which was a very kind & homely gesture indeed. We freshened up and went up straight to the rooftop to enjoy the Mahrangarh Fort view which was one of the main reasons I had booked this property. We ordered Dal-Roti-Sabzi-Rice for dinner which was cooked by the 2 ladies of the house; we loved our homely meal and enjoyed the fort view before going to the room and dozing off!
Day 4 ||| Tuesday 24th February 2015 ||| A relaxed day in Jodhpur
We had a straightforward agenda on our minds for the morning – Breakfast Attack! We were up & running at 7:30 AM to explore the streets of Jodhpur and enjoy the breakfast delicacies! And boy what a time we had.
We went to the Janta Sweet Home shop which was very close to our GH and enjoyed desserts which were being cooked infront of us! Dhokla, Khandvi, Rasmalai, Kachodi, Jalebi and Imarti; yes we had all of them! We then went towards the Clock Tower which is a famous landmark in the Old City. It was constructed by Maharaja Sardar Singh during his tenure between 1880 and 1911. People were waking up gingerly so we could enjoy a peaceful time there as this tower is situated in the middle of a very busy market area known as Sardar market housing over 700 shops and expectedly gets crazy in the daytime. We had a strong cup of tea to wash down everything we had and get ready for the next POA!
We got back to the GH, freshened up and got ready to check out what Jodhpur had to offer apart from food! First place we visited were Mandore Gardens. Belonging to the 6th century, Mandore was Marwar’s capital before Jodhpur was established and it houses a government museum, a ‘Hall of Heroes’ and a temple to 33 crore Gods. It was quite a peaceful place and had lots of interesting places to check out; we also visited the small museum and had lots of fun moments with some fellow visitors from Haryana about some particular artefacts on display! (Discussion is classified information).
We then went to the most popular and breathtaking experience of Jodhpur – Umaid Bhawan Palace Museum. The 347-roomed massive palace is named one of the largest private residences in the world. The palace boasts of a combination of Indian and European style of architecture. A part of the palace still serves as a residence to the former royal family, while other two parts of the palace are converted into Taj Palace Hotel and museum. I had heard so much about the beauty of this place and I wasn’t disappointed one single bit; it is worth all the hype. We hired a guide to get a better view about such a large museum and it was a real good decision as we learnt a lot about the history & background of the museum and the royal family as well. All the artefacts are beautifully preserved and tell a lot about the rich & glorious history of the family of Maharaja Gaj Singh. Our guide was quite an affable gentleman and we had some real fun discussions with him! We finished our visit with the famous Kesar Pista Kulfi which is served at a palace shop!
By this time we had walked a lot and had digested the “heavy” breakfast completely so you can imagine what our next POA was! Yes, you are right it was another session of food and our destination was recommended by my brother and as you all know I never go against any of his recommendations; as always he had referred me a gem!
We enjoyed authentic local Jodhpuri cuisine at Pokhar Misthan Bhandar and one just can’t afford to miss eating at this small 6X6 shop located at Sanichar Ji Ka Than, Chopasni Road, Sardarpura. It serves some unheard delicacies which are not served at many other places – Shahi Chakki, Gulabjamun (not the sweet), Kabuli and Haldi Matar among the other local favourites – Besan Gatta, Lahsun ki Chutney and Mirchi ka Kuta! We ordered everything available and once again overate! Now it is a well-known fact that George overeats every time he eats and it was heartening to know that his old habits haven’t ended with passing time!
After this heavy desi-ghee induced meal we wanted to digest everything so we went to visit one the most glorious forts of them all – Mehrangarh Fort which stands magnificently 400 feet above the city. Rao Jodha constructed the fort in 1459 AD. The museum here is one of the most well-stocked museums in Rajasthan. It was also one of the filming locations for the wildly popular movie “The Dark Knight Rises”.’
We were quite late when we reached the fort and had only 90 minutes with us before the fort was supposed to close for public. We hired a guide so that we could get maximum information in the limited time we had. Our guide once again was very experienced gentleman and compared to the Umaid Bhavan guide quite serious and to the point! I finally got a good quality magnet at the official museum shop, I must say our Tourism Ministry really needs to work on producing high quality magnets and other memorabilia items which would generate a lot of revenue. Everywhere we had travelled, we have bought some good magnets but the quality of magnets sold at such historical places in India has always disappointed me.
We got some real beautiful views of the city attractions from the top of the fort!
We left the fort bidding goodbye to our Guide and then waited at the sunset point to enjoy another beautiful evening! The colour of the sky in the backdrop of the signature blue houses of Jodhpur was a gorgeous sight indeed!
After a long & hectic day, George wanted some relaxation so we went to a “saloon” for his spa therapy! He had a face and head massage and I had just a head massage! The 2 brothers manning the shop were great fun talking to!
We wanted a light dinner (for a change) so George had his meal at Mcdonalds and I had a Thali Meal at a restaurant close to our GH. We enjoyed one last view of the well-lit Mehrangarh Fort from the terrace before calling it a day. It was another well-spent and hectic day in which we enjoyed both the lip-smacking food and the rich history of this famous city!
Before we crashed I went to the Rooftop to get one last night view of the majestic Mehrangarh Fort…
Day 5 ||| Wednesday 25th February 2015 ||| Jodhpur – Jaisalmer – Sam Dunes ||| 331 kms
This was going to be a relatively easy day of riding with just 300 odd kms as per the plan so we had planned to start riding at around 8:30 AM but before that we had to finish the first agenda of the day; the all-important & nutritious breakfast! We had pre-ordered Poha (How could I let go) and Upma and got them both piping hot cooked by the ladies of the house served on the rooftop on a serene morning with the fort view adding more magic to the delicious breakfast served! We could not have asked for a better start to our day! I had 2 servings each to do justice to the food!
We bid goodbye to our gracious and hospitable hosts, wished them luck in their new business venture and started the next leg of our ride.
Our first stop was at a small highway dhaba for a Chai-Sutta-Parle G break where we met a group of villagers who asked us innumerable questions about us & our ride! Some of them hadn’t even ventured out of their village ever and were shocked to know that we were on our way to Jaisalmer from Delhi that too on our bikes! I have had many such conversations with similar villagers in different parts of our country during my bike rides and it is always interesting to know more about the lives of such people directly from the horse’s mouth! And then they asked a question which I have encountered on many of our Motorcycle Rides “Do you know Ram Prasad? He is from this village & stays in Delhi”. I was lost for words!
And then the highly anticipated first Open Dump Break of the ride which was much needed after the heavy breakfast and the Parle G biscuits! Another tradition was duly followed this time amidst the sandy terrain and thorny bushes while George waited for me and wondering “how the hell somebody can do this”! I came back to him highly satisfied and extremely delighted! My Motorcycling comrades know facial expressions at such moments very well!
After riding for some 175 kms we crossed another important milestone of the ride – a small & quaint town named Pokhran which holds a lot of strategic importance for our country as it served as the test site for India’s first & second underground nuclear weapon detonation in 1974 and 1998. Surrounded by rocks, sand and five salt ranges, its Hindi name Pokaran means “place of five mirages”. Since my childhood I had heard about this place and it was a real pleasure finally crossing it that too on The Mighty One!
We had an early lunch break at a Highway Joint named “Hotel Satyam”; we were the first customers of the day so we got some special treatment from the staff! It was a hot afternoon so we really wanted a relaxed and shaded break with good food and this is exactly what we got! We had a chilled out time at the place and recommend this restaurant to everybody travelling on this route. It is located just before a railway crossing on the right side of the road.
We started the Jaisalmer stretch where the Guesthouse folks were waiting for us to begin the Desert Safari and luckily we found the place without getting lost and reached on our own which was quite a welcome change compared to our experiences in Udaipur and Jodhpur!
We reached the GH, freshened up and rode our bikes to the Kuldhara, a haunted village near Jaisalmer and also saved 1200 bucks as we didn’t use the GH vehicle in which other guests travelled! More than the money saved we were delighted to ride on that wonderful desert road in almost zero traffic! Kuldhara was quite a boring & dull experience and we were more than happy to leave that place and reach our desert camp near Sam Dunes.
You can know more about the legend behind Kuldhara at http://www.happytrips.com/destinations/kuldharathe-ghost-village/as37241961.cms
Memories of our Bikaner Boomerangs ride came gushing on my mind while riding to Sam Dunes as we had some a real awesome desert ride then and I just could not resist the temptation to stop and take some pics of The Mighty One in that dreary yet surreal backdrop! I was riding at my own pace sometimes really sprinting to enjoy the high speed and sometime real slow to enjoy the 360 degrees view of the scenery!
And when we were just about to reach our camp site I vroomed & zoomed without waiting for the GH Vehicle or George and raced almost 5-6 kms ahead of them! And then I realized that nobody was behind me! A pretty routine predicament for me basis my past experiences. I came back on the same road but didn’t find anybody so raced ahead but then thankfully George called me and explained me the exact location so I got back and we were given a royal welcome at the entrance of the camp!
We were given a brief tour about the camp facilities by a guy named Fateh Khan who seemed the go-to man of the site, no wonder we became friends in no time and he offered all his support & special attention with a wink (read: on payment of some gratuity). My obvious question to him was “How is the food served and what the menu is?”, and then got the horror reply “Sir, only pure Vegetarian dinner”! The next few minutes were quite traumatic as I was in no mood to settle with pure veg dinner so we asked Fateh for help! And he was more than gracious in offering to get a “desi murgha” which was to be cooked “discreetly” by the camp chef exclusively for us but to be served directly in our tent and not in public view! Needless to say we were more than delighted to hear this and gave him 500 Bucks for the Chicken including his “fees”.
And soon we went in a camp vehicle to the Sand Dunes zone for our camel safari. And we met 2 wonderful kids – Anwar and Arbab plus their camels – Hrithik and Raja; while Anwar was all bubbly & effervescent, Arbab was the reserved kinds, didn’t talk much but had such a warm smile! I had a whale of a time riding Raja and was racing all the way up and down on those majestic dunes. But sadly George wasn’t feeling too well so he got off Hrithik after a very short time. I went ahead with Anwar to do some camel sand dune bashing which was awesome fun! Once again I missed our Boomerangs ride when we had such a wonderful time racing the camels!
We bid goodbye to Anwar and Arbab both the kids, wished them the best of luck for their future and sat on the dunes to wait for the sunset and the colours to change! And the colours got really dramatic, both of the sky and the sand surface! We enjoyed another beautiful sunset and didn’t want to leave the dunes, if wishes were horses!
We reached the camp site where it was getting ready for a traditional Rajasthani dance performance known as Kalbeliya with lots of people running helter-skelter all over the camp site. We went to our camp and relaxed for a bit before the hoopla started!
The stage was set for the performances to begin; the air was getting quite chilly so we were served some soup and snake items to get ourselves warm. The dance performances were pretty boring to say the least and I was in no mood to sit through that pain that too in the open battling the chill but then had no other option. Some crazy locals were dancing with the females with full rigour, trying their best to get intimate with them and showering endless amount of currency notes on them! George got his whiskey out and I went and sat with 2 vehicle drivers who were enjoying their drinks as well and started talking about random things!
By this time we had got really hungry, both as it got late plus in the anticipation of the desi murgha deal! And what a treat it was! Almost 2.5 kgs of meat cooked in special Rajasthani spices exclusively for us! What else can 2 hungry motorcyclists ask for I say! We had our tummies full to the brim by the time we somehow finished that large quantity of meat polished with piping hot tawa rotis and steamed rice being supplied by Fateh! He was a very gracious host indeed! We paid him a hefty tip and crashed on our beds after another satisfying day!
Day 6 ||| Thursday 26th February 2015 ||| A relaxed day in Jaisalmer
This day was also going to be a light & easy day for us so we gingerly woke up finally after we had nowhere to hide from the sunlight hitting our tent and had our breakfast of delicious Poori-Aloo-Chhole. We bid goodbye to the camp site & Fateh to start our ride towards our GH. Clicked the first & only formation pics of the ride with both of us and our bikes featuring in the auto click shots! This, as you all know is my customary shot of each ride! (The Cover Image of this travelogue)
We reached our GH, freshened up and went towards the Jaisalmer Fort also known as Golden Fort or Sonar Kella thanks to its massive yellow sandstone walls which are a tawny lion colour during the day, fading to honey-gold as the sun sets, thereby camouflaging the fort in the yellow desert. It is one of the largest fortifications in the world and was built in 1156 AD by the Rajput ruler Rawal Jaisal, from whom the city and the fort derive its name.
We once again hired a guide to better understand the massive fort, the other complexes around it and the history behind them. It always makes sense to hire a guide at all such historical places of interest to get a better idea about the place and it also provides much needed income to the guides for whom it is the only source of earning livelihood. And the fact that you hear some real fun stories of them; some of them are real characters too like the Guide we hired at the Bundi Fort during our Bundi Bandidos Ride in 2011! What a fun man he was!
He started with a tour of the huge complex of Jain Temples dating back 12th and 15th centuries and are dedicated to various Jain Tirthankars (Hermits). On the walls of the temples we saw various animal & human figures, carved in famous Dilwara style with ornate carvings which are really exquisite in nature and we had a fun times hearing the stories about these temples. We then went to the fort area and got to know that the famous film director Satyajit Ray wrote the Sonar Kella (The Golden Fortress), a detective novel, based on the fort and he later filmed it here. The film became a classic and a large number of tourists from Bengal and around the world visit the fort annually to experience for themselves the world that Ray portrayed in the movie. Another lesson in history! We also saw the actual film shooting locations in the fort.
I had read lots of positive reviews about this restaurant named Cafe the Kaku, it is part of a 853 years old bastion which has been restored & converted and provides a splendid city and fort view from the top of a hill named Sulidungar. We ordered Chicken Kadhai and Laal Maans, both of which were real delicious and we enjoyed the beautiful view of the fort along with conversations with one of the owners about the history of this place and some of the insider stories about the city.
Next up was a tour to the Patwon-Ki-Haveli which was built by a famous trader named Guman Chand and his sons. This massive five-storied construction has five intricately decorated huge suites. The large corridors and the decorated walls are excellent representations of the art form that prevailed. And also provides insights into how these families enjoyed their lavish & hectic lives with multiple exhibits about their clothes, festivals, food and traditions. Out of the five havelis, one is converted into a museum.
We then visited Bada Bagh which was constructed during Maharawal Jait Singh’s period the beginning of 16th century. His son Lunakaran completed the construction after the death of his father. The garden served as a memorial where the nobles and their families were cremated. We met some young kids who stayed close to this garden and they served as free of cost guides for us! And we returned the favour when a group of British Tourists came visiting and we shared the stories we had heard from the kids! They were visibly excited to have encountered some really courteous & knowledgeable motorcyclists!
The time was getting ripe for another sunset and we had heard from locals that the best sunset view in Jaisalmer was from a place called Vyas Chhatri which as the name suggests, is dedicated to sage Vyaas, the writer of the epic Mahabharata. This local version of a cenotaph, is made up of delicate carvings that are a sight to behold. A big crowd had built up to enjoy the sunset view and luckily we got the perfect possible seating location! We enjoyed the gorgeous hues, talked to some fellow tourists about their Rajasthan experiences and went back to our GH to end the day.
Unfortunately George’s health went down very rapidly and he had very high fever which was quite alarming as we had to ride almost 550 kms the next day to reach Jaipur and on the top of that he was feeling completely sapped out. The GH Staff was most courteous in getting medicines for him and I got him some light dinner packed so that he could sleep peacefully. I had a solo dinner on the rooftop dinner which was quite boring to say the least! I was also a little concerned about not to catch the fever from George as I had a long plan waiting for me when I was to reach Jaipur. George’s fever was rising rapidly and reached 102 degrees by the time he slept after taking a heavy dose of medicines.
Day 7 ||| Friday 27th February 2015 ||| Jaisalmer – Nagaur – Jaipur ||| 558 kms
We woke up at 5 AM and the first thing I checked with him was whether he was feeling physically fit to ride the whole day long and he was quite gung-ho about it so we decided to start the penultimate leg of our ride to reach Khatipura Cantonment in Jaipur. And this was quite a mistake we committed!
We never knew it was going to be so chilly early in the morning and were not prepared either with the clothing. By the time we left the city limits and hit the highway it got so damn cold with the icy winds hitting us plus the light fog was affecting our riding comfort as well. And I had also made a blunder by not filling up petrol a day earlier! My bike hit reserve just 10-15 kms after starting and there was no petrol pump open either so I was getting quite worried about my tank drying up and getting stalled! So I had to ride really fast to stay close to George in case a breakdown happened. And that did – after some 70 odd kms, luckily George was right behind me so we stopped and I transferred petrol from his bike to mine and started again. The weather was getting somewhat better but still it was quite cold and George was feeling very groggy so we decided to take a long break at a highway motel while George took medicines and took a short nap to get the fever down. I helped the Motel Attendant in setting up his new iBall mobile phone which he had bought a few days back and saved him 200 bucks which he would have paid to get this done. I had 4 cups of tea to ward off the cold and pass my time while George slept with the medicines taking over!
We crossed the Nagaur Fort and took 2-3 short chai-sutta-butt-Kachodi breaks on the way before stopping for lunch where we had an hour-long break with some lip-smacking heavy food! It was a well-deserved meal as we had rode non-stop 135 kms in a shade below 2 hours – by far my longest non-stop stretch in my riding history! Both our bikes also wanted a break to cool the engine down. We ordered Dal Fry, Paneer Butter Masala, Zeera Rice and rotis to fill ourselves up. I also had a Kwality Walls Cassata after ages and enjoyed it thoroughly reliving my childhood days when it used to be the most exclusive ice-cream available in the market till Cornetto was launched and overthrew Cassata from the pole position!
Jaipur was still 240 kms away, we still had loads of time on our hands but we still followed the “taking a break only after 100 kms” policy which had served us so well throughout the ride! We took a Tea Break close to around 6 PM and it was the perfect time for another open dump break and I did the honours once again; my eyes are by now trained perfectly in spotting a secluded spot, reaching it stealthily, finishing the duties and coming out victorious without any visible signs except the look of satisfaction on my face! George was once again shocked to find about my little adventure but my happiness knew no bounds.
We started our last leg and reached Khatipura at 7:30 PM after finding our way through the city traffic and Narender Bhaiya from Bhai’s unit helped us with the directions! I met my family after a 7-days break and was delighted to meet the 2 loves of my life – Nandini and Samyukta after a long time; both of us freshened up and had our dinner with the entire family sharing the highlights of our ride and reminiscing the fun moments! Abhay was on top of the moon seeing me after 7 days and played unabashed with me till I had no strength left and crashed on the bed!
Saturday 28th February 2015 to Tuesday 3rd March 2015
These blissful days were spent with my family enjoying Jaipur, its popular eateries and spending some much-needed moments with my nieces. Abhay also had his Mundan ceremony and went completely bald! I was also lucky enough to meet Puneet Batra, my Kulachi Comrade after a long time as he now works in Jaipur.
Day 8 ||| Wednesday 4th March 2015 ||| Jaipur – Gurgaon ||| 243 kms
Sadly this was the last day of my ride and on the top of that it was going to be a solo ride, one which I just don’t like! I bid farewell to my Brother’s family and started the last leg of my rambunctious ride! My parents, wife and son also started for Gurgaon at the same time in their car. I had decided to complete this leg non-stop and stopped for only 1 sutta break before having my lunch at the Manesar Mcdonalds; this place holds special memories of my early riding days way back in 2008 and 2009 when I used to frequent this place with my comrades quite often.
And finally it was over….
I reached my home in the afternoon safe and sound after a boring solo stretch. The final odometer count was 2163 kms in the 8 days of the soul-satisfying ride.
Paaaaaaaaai and I have promised each other of doing a long North East Ride together whenever I come back to India for good; hope we can fulfill this promise with another majestic ride. He was a great comrade during this ride and we had so much fun together.
A special mention to Zaheer Bhai for his excellent skills for keeping The Mighty One in such perfect shape; I had no breakdown throughout the ride, all thanks to him. My bike was parked idle for almost 2.5 years since my trip in November 2012 but it started in just 4 kicks after installing a new battery and filling the tank with 2 litres of petrol! That’s simply incredible considering the horror stories we keep hearing about the maintenance of Royal Enfield Bikes. Helmets off to my bike and to Zaheer Bhai!
I miss being on the roads like the way I used to during my heydays and keep missing those fun days of my life; this ride was all I needed to get back to my passion and get the adrenaline rush of being on the roads…Hope I would back on the roads very soon…
So till the time we meet again…
Cheers to life…
Till then ride safe and have safe sex…
Hasta la Victoria Siempre…