Day 37 – A Day at the Music Haven of Mukesh
This morning, Ramon had organised a shoot to cover a music party that he described to be fascinating, one-of-a-kind, rare and glorified. I was all set and ready at 10.30 am with my equipment packed. I met Ramon at Café Coffee Day and we set off riding towards Ram Jhula. After crossing the market near Ram Jhula, a small lane led us to an under construction wooden structure.
The place looked very interesting from the outside. It was an open chamber partly covered with bamboos from all sides. I thought it would be some band that we were going to cover for a story. But it was not just a band….!!
Taking a glance into this little music haven, I saw an assortment of people from coming from various countries from all over the globe, deeply engrossed enjoyed working with some strange looking tools. A man carved something like a long wooden bamboo, another person made a flute and yet another worked on an African Djambe, and some one was making a didgeridoo. This was a workshop making sorts of musical instruments.
I was wondering what they were doing, my curiosity was on the rise. I wanted to know more about what this place was all about as all present there were engrossed and engaged in a work of heart, it was evident that they loved what they were doing and were surely passionate about it. I could not resist it anymore so I asked someone about what this place was about and what were so many people doing there? He guided me to Mukesh. This was a little music haven of Mukesh. If I had to describe him, I would say, he had a simplistic persona and positive aura was in his mid-fifties having a calm and composed mindset. Very humble and loving at heart was this man. The vibes he and this place had were so positive. There was something so magical about it. Talking to Frankie I found out that he was there for almost six years, and in these years he reconnected with his inner being, by making music and these amazing musical instruments – The didgeridoos. He directed me to Mukesh to know more about this enchanting place. I could say that Mukesh is a true household Yogi who is so passionate about his work.
Mukesh makes a living by selling didgeridoos. He offers his expertise for free to those who want to learn this art of making musical instruments. He says India will be glorified when these people from other countries go back home and play music and talk about their experiences. He lives in his own dream-world that sounds surreal to me. He talks about angels and fairies watching over him and listening to the enchanting music. This passion for music and selfless love for humans connects him to his higher reality and he is very happy about doing what he does.
Soon the entire group started to play their own instruments. It was the sounds of music strung in the universality of the musical notes. It was exhilarating. I was lost in the sound of music, it was thrilling to see people from different countries, castes, cultures and personas bound together as one group talking the language of music. They were simply fantastic!!! It was a global fusion. Countries like Italy, Spain, Germany, Austria, Canada, Israel, Hungary and more all playing music on different instruments all together was an inexpressible incredible experience. My feet were tapping to their tunes. Had I not been video shooting this I’m sure I’d be dancing there like a maniac. A Canadian girl played the trumpet. I was lost in the music I felt a spiritual connection in the sound of music that connected me to the higher reality.
After global music was the time for some global meal. It was such a pleasant site to see people from all parts of the world together cooking a meal. It was a global recipe of a pot full of rice, with vegetables cut using the tools to make instruments, everyone helped in making that meal and cooked it on a fire that was burning to keep them warm!! I was spellbound in the energy and aura of this place and its people.
A thought crossed my mind…. This man is a true Yogi, better than the ones I met at the Kumbh Mela.
We all had global fusion rice at 3.00. that followed the round two of fusion music which extended till evening. By now I was in a trance, high on the music and the vigour of this enthralling unique place. Thinking about Mukesh and his passion for work I was altogether on another level of thoughts. His world surely seemed like a dream in a fairytale!!
Day 36 – Meeting with the Spanish T.V Crew
This morning I awoke as the phone bell rang. It was Ramon, saying that a Spanish TV crew was in Rishikesh and wanted to meet us to cover a story on the two of us as bikers in India. We were to meet them at Café Coffee Day that morning. I thought the meeting would be very interesting, unlike the venue that sounded very UNinteresting to me. The whole thing sounded exciting so I immediately agreed to go because I was eager to get an opportunity to see how this crew work.
After initial discussions and exchanging information on my work, they were very impressed with it and offered to cover an entire show of eight episodes on me in a TV show about India that would be aired on a popular Spanish channel. This sounded good, but giving it a thought, I may not be of much help to them because of the language barrier. The areas I could help them in was in making their videos and give assistance biking around the country. Besides that, I was not sure if I could make any other substantial contribution to their plan. Anyways, I decided to go with the flow and take one step at a time. I was happy to understand how they work.
It was nearing afternoon and we were on the way to the Kumbh Mela. The situation was hilarious. They wanted to interview the sadhus and get footage of them talking and explaining spiritual concepts. Now the irony was that the sadhus spoke only in Hindi and the TV crew only spoke Spanish. I understand Hindi and could manage to translate it in English. Ramon knew English and could speak broken Spanish. So the situation was something like this… I had to hear what the sadhus were saying for fifteen minutes in high-fi-terms of Hindi and memorize it all, then recalling it I had to translate it into English. Then Ramon would hear and repeat what I said and translate it in broken Spanish to the crew members I can’t imagine what the meaning was by the time the Spanish guys finally heard it!! It was Chinese whispers in three languages by four different people!! This whole process was repeated back and forth. This whole exercise of translations gave me some insight on how trading and conversations must have taken place during colonial times.
The hilarity of multilingual translations and interviews went on till evening. There were frequent roars of laughter as the linguistic manipulations took place through the day.
In the evening, we were invited over for dinner by the Spanish crew to a particular restaurant. As we all had dinner and the bill arrived, they asked to pay for what we had eaten. This was amusing enough for me!! Invitees are asked to pay the bill!! I have worked with Indian crews for various channels and the least they do is provide meals for anyone who has worked hard with them the whole day and certainly they do not ask guests to pay for what they have eaten. I was a bit taken aback with their attitude.
Post dinner, the photographer from their team came to get some footage I had covered for them with my helmet camera. He then saw the footage of the Shahi Snaan of the Kumbh Mela. He had not been able to get any footage like that so he wanted it. I would have given him a few clips just like that, but I was pissed with their attitude over dinner, so I said that they would have to pay for it if they wanted it. Their bosses will come back to me as they are the deciding factors for the channel.
With this, I mark the end of day thirty-six.
Day 35 – Rafting Expedition
Awaiting the excitement this day would bring, I woke up early, looking forward to raiding the white waters of Hrishikesh. Riding to Ramesh’s office, we met our rafting guide, Dale. He is a hilarious, friendly and fun-loving New Zealander, who is in his second month of being in India. After working for a while in Switzerland as an adventure guide, he chose to have a few Himalayan adventures by working with DE-N-ASCENT Expeditions. I was sure in his entertaining company this would be an amusing and fun expedition.
Walking along to the storeroom, we could not stop laughing listening to his funny tales of travelling in India. Being relatively new to the country he seemed totally traumatized by the traffic; he kept talking about how petrified he was to commute around. Dale humbly assured us that rafting was surely safer than driving around in India. 😉 We laughed at his hilarity and plight. He was still getting used to all the incredible amusement happening on the streets of our country!!
As we reached the storeroom, I was amazed to see the advanced rafting equipment this company uses. It is by far the best I have seen in so many years of rafting experience with a number of different adventure companies. Each of us was given a wetsuit, a waterproof jacket, an excellent quality life jacket and a helmet. Attired in our rafting suits, we reached Marine Drive, the starting point of our trip.
Instructors gave us a briefing about the terminology and commands to be followed, emphasizing the importance of strictly following the instructions without fail. The commands on paddling were repeated and practised until we all thoroughly memorized them. Dale explained to the group how important it was to follow the instructions, further adding a warning… other rafts had flipped over in the rapids because the rafters missed the instructions.
Excited about the thrills of white-water rafting we were ready to go! Rafting through the rapids was FUN!!! What a high to triumph over the harshness of wild and wicked nature!!! The rapids at Hrishikesh are grade 3 +.
Some interesting names given the rapids of Hrishikesh are: Black Money, Golf Course, Tea Club House, Roller Coaster, The Three Mice and many others. Any person who does a first ascent up a mountain or descent down a river has the privilege to name the rapid or route to climb. Dale further explained that all these were named by Sir Edmund Hillary, who was the first to climb to the highest point of Mt Everest. He was super excited about sharing all this information with us, as Sir Edmund Hillary was a New Zealander and that surely made him proud. Apparently, Hillary also cruised in speedboats to raise money for his favourite cause, supporting the Nepalese Sherpas.
By getting a little adventurous in risking the use of a camera, I was lucky enough to get excellent video footage of certain rapids we crossed during this expedition without wetting my equipment.
For safety reasons, two kayakers followed us all the way. Luckily our raft did not topple over. After all the thrills of white water rafting, we were back and hit base by 3.00 pm at the Laxman Jhula, having covered 26 km in six hours. Making just one halt, at a virgin beach from where we jumped into the Ganga from a height of twenty feet above ground level, we completed the expedition!!!
Returning to our hotel, energized with the thrills of this adventurous experience, we marked the end of day thirty-five with a good nights sleep!! Yawwnn…
Day 34 – Laxman Jhula
The exhausting previous day had its effects, showing up on me this morning. My need for a hot cuppa ginger-lemon-honey and a vegetable sandwich took me to the German Bakery. Sitting under the sun, watching the world go by, the playful mischief of the agile monkeys grabbing food from passersby at the Laxman Jhula was a sight I enjoyed over breakfast.
Wandering about, I walked to the Laxman Jhula after breakfast. This was the most entertaining walk I had. I kept an ear open to eavesdropping on some of the conversations I was overhearing among the crowds and was amused at the conversations they had. All sorts of people from various parts of the world, discussing their own theories and thoughts about the Laxman Jhula, in different languages and accents… it was entertainment enough to keep my ears engaged. I would have loved to record it all and make a half-hour documentary on it. Two ladies conversing: “What happens if we fall down from the bridge?” The second replied, “Nothing will happen… it is the Ganga river.” I wondered what they meant, that nothing will happen to them, or to the river? I was not sure…! Another overheard snippet: “You know Himalaya begins from this bridge if you walk till the end!”
Walking down this bridge, listening to conversations and stories of people is a good pass time, every day I can cover a unique and innovatively interesting fact of the Laxman Jhula. In our culture, story-telling such an important element of our lives. Every day begins a new story, no wonder, you too are glued to reading this thread and I am here trying to look for new stories to cover for you! So the interactions go on!
I’m amused at the adaptability of this place and its people. It caters to the needs of visitors from all over the world. Locals here sell western clothes. In an attempt to please the foreigners they have modified their own style of dressing. Cloning them sometimes can prove to be a hilarious attempt. A man selling western clothes, himself attired in the most colourful clothing, wearing funny sunglasses looked like a clown straight out from the circus was on the streets… he looked Rangeela in the literal sense!
Before I knew it, walking in this amusingly entertaining place, I reached the Ram Jhula. Chotiwala is a very famous eatery near the Ram Jhula. Here a man with a rangoli painted on his face, with a big belly, had Choti on his head. It resembled a dried up twig. Sitting on a chair outside the restaurant, with a watermelon-like face, this man is supposedly the mascot to attract customers. I was amused at this unique attempt to entice customers. Two brothers each owning individual restaurants by the name of Chotiwala, next to each other, had their own mascots sitting outside on a chair. One has a happy-faced Chotiwala, always smiling with a pleasant expression and the other just was the opposite glum, sad and depressing, without a smile. It was so demotivating to go into the restaurant who had such a sad person at the entrance.
In the evening I went to the famous Arti of Hrishikesh. On the way I met up with Ramesh who is running a rafting agency in Hrishikesh and we passed a few hours discussing the course of action for the following day, which marked the end of day thirty-four.
Day 33 – Kumbh Mela
- Damage for the day- Chai Rs 5; Samosa Rs 10; Dinner Rs 50
Today was a big day in terms of video coverage. I woke up early morning and started for “Har Ki Paudi” in Haridwar. I wanted a particular spot on the podium so decided to be an early bird to get the best location. It was a chilly morning; I decided to go without any jacket, riding gear and helmet as I knew I had to be out the entire day. Later on in the day managing them would mean to carry additional baggage. My hands, legs and entire body was rattling of shivers because of the cold. I packed the essential equipment, secured it with a bungee cord and hit the road to Haridwar.
Riding slowly in that freezing hour of dawn for 26 km, I reached Haridwar in forty minutes. Parking the bike in the allotted lot, I hurried towards the podium which was a 3.5 km walk from where I parked. Having some tea to warm up, I began walking. Bamboo barricades were made in U pin curves to control the human traffic. There were more than thirty such bends covering the entire ground. Pitiful it was, for senior citizens waiting in the queue. It was so inhuman to put them thru this agony of walking so much. It could have been better planned to keep in mind their age and feeble bodies it was not fair to them. I felt sorry for them.
Walking down, I reached the photographer’s platform. The security was alert and vigilant in checking the identification of photographers. I was not permitted to go up without a media card. All the convincing charms and ability I had did not work on them. I was asked to go to a small tower a few meters away to try my luck. I had to make some arrangement, could not miss this opportunity. Reaching there the same story repeated itself. This time, when asked for the media pass I said, “Wait a minute it is in the bag” I was allowed to go in to keep the bag and look for it, later on, the security guy forgot about it and I emerged lucky to get an entry on the podium.
It was chillier than I thought, at that height. Magnificent to see so many people from varied age, sex, sect, caste, economic strata in the same place at one time I was absorbed at the moment. One common thread of religious belief and faith strung them all together in this one place at one time. The highlight of the event – The Naga Baba’s( Nude sadhus) was going to arrive at 8.00 in the morning, but their first group came in sight at 10.30. after which they were visible in thousands and more. The entire Har Ki Paudi was full of them. They were nude and covered with ashes, carrying spears, tridents and swords! Doing some rituals they all jumped into the river too for the holy dip ( Shahi Snaan) It was an indescribable sight, I am short of words to justify the truth of that mesmerizing and amazing moment. You have to witness it believe it!!!
The second group was going to be there by 2.00 p.m. If I left the podium chances of re-entering there were bleak. I was hungry and thirsty not a morsel of food in the day! Letting go of that spot to get some water or food was out of the question for me. So I decided to hang on till the second group of Naga Baba arrived. Waiting for them it was almost 3.00 in the afternoon, I decided to move out from the podium and quench my thirst and grab a bite. I had made up my mind to take video coverage from the ground level.
Grabbed a quick bite and back to work getting good footage I was exhausted and dehydrated, so I decided to head back to Hrishikesh. I moved on walking back to the parking lot crossing the barricades and walk another 3.5 Km to get to the bike. It seemed like a tough walk. I was going to get my self a rickshaw ride after crossing the ground. I changed my mind when I saw exhausted old men drawing the overloaded rickshaw stacked with the number of people. If I was exhausted, weren’t they?? My conscience did not permit me to let them draw my weight. I was tired and certainly not an old helpless man so I decided to walk my way carrying my equipment. Singing ‘Kadam Kadam Badhaye Chal…’ I walked for 2 km and then took a rickshaw that dropped me at a parking area. I asked a policeman if this was the only parking area he affirmed it was. Surprised to know that I was unable to spot my motorcycle even after covering the area three times!!! In my mind, there was an explosion of thoughts.
Thinking about Indi Motorcycle diary, was it going to be the end of the diary? Should I return home? Should I borrow my friend’s bike and move on in the journey? Should I go to the police station? I was calm and yet busy in the mind thinking about the next plan of action. Just then, I saw a small boy selling imitation jewellery, asking him, I got to know that there was another parking ground a couple of hundred meters ahead. Walking further for a few minutes I reached there…finally the suspense ended!!!! I was happy to find my bike there!!!! It was a moment where I thought of a situational filmy dialogue “Kumbh-ke-mele mein bichade hue… aaj phir ek ho gaye!!! LOL!!!”
Happily, I went to the bike but this time not finding the bungee cord I had wound on it. Damn!! Why would someone want that?? How will I carry my equipment back without the cord?? I was frustrated!! On giving it a second thought I was happy to find my bike losing the cord did not seem like a big deal anymore!! I would surely have given up something more than that bungee cord to find my bike. With this thought, I smiled and was all set to take the challenge of riding back with a laptop camera and tripod, without any help or a bungee cord to tie the equipment to the bike. I tucked the laptop between my thigh and the tank bag, put the camera on my back in a bag and lugged the tripod on my shoulder riding in this unique way till Hrishikesh I realised impossible also spells “I M POSSIBLE”. It’s your attitude towards life and situations that make up for everything!!!
I was ready to crash after dinner. Exhausted and Fatigued!!! At the end of this remarkable day thirty-three, I slept like a log!
Day 32 – Kumbh Mela Preparatory
A good night’s rest with an empty stomach got me up and about early in the morning. Finding my way to get some breakfast, I landed at the German Bakery, close to the guest house. I ordered my favourite – a cuppa ginger lemon honey and vegetable sandwiches. As I was waiting for the order, my friend arrived. He looked a bit shaken up, so I went to the guest house and settled him there with the luggage. On returning to the bakery after dropping off the luggage, we had breakfast together. From his conversations, it looked like something that happened on the way had shaken him up a bit. My guess was right. When he stopped over for tea on the way to Haridwar, he was stopped by a couple of men who asked him what was in the bag. Feeling insecure and jittery from the vibes he was getting and unsure of their intent, he hightailed it out of there, zipping away as fast as he could.
Tired after the previous day’s stressful ride, we decided to rest and recuperate. Tomorrow is the big Snan (bath) at the “Har Ki Paudi” in Haridwar where thousands of Naga Baba’s (Naked Sadhu’s) will come for the holy dip in the Ganga on occasion of Mahashivaratri. I needed to survey the locations where I could get the best video coverage. After getting a good rest I set off to do the preparatory work for the next day’s shoot and rode to Haridwar. They had specially arranged a podium for photographers at the main location for the holy bath. I was happy seeing the location and excited for the next day’s shoot. It would surely get me the best view for good footage.
Wandering about in Haridwar after the groundwork was done, I was craving for some chaat. Looking for a chat centre was like going on a treasure hunt, as all the shops were shut due to the Kumbh Mela. Yes!! Finally, I spotted one! All excited to have got gaps, I parked the bike near his stall. He had puris with two colours of sauce, one red and the other green. The green water was greener than grass but totally tasteless and the red one was sweeter than sugar. He ran out of potatoes and another masala so I had to make do with just the puri and paani. I had two and was done!!! No thank you!! No more of this coloured water in the name of gol gappa’s for me!! Not worth risking my system. I was out of there now convinced that this was the worse chat I have ever had! Finding my way to another eatery I chose to have hot rotis and dal. Looking over into the streets was a sheer pleasure to see the festive mood set in. The hustle and bustle of excitement and enthusiasm amongst people was an appealing sight.
Talking to the locals I found out that the security was in high alert. Some terrorists had been caught there with some kind of explosives, which is why the military had been called in and the security was tightened under strict vigilance. Riding back to the guest house at Hrishikesh, retiring at the end of day thirty-two, I was eager to see the dawn of the next morning… awaiting a big day for covering the event and hoping to get good footage!
Day 31 – Pushkar – Hrishikesh – A Ride I won’t Forget!
- Distance travelled- 670km
- Route took – Pushkar – Jaipur – Delhi – Ghaziabad – Rurki – Haridwar – Hrishikesh
- Damages for the day- Rs 1100 Petrol; Rs 15 Paratha; Rs 12 Tea; Rs 35 Dal-roti
Waking up at 6.00 am on a chilly morning, we packed up our luggage and set off for Hrishikesh after having a cup of hot chai at the tea stall down the road. Riding on this frigid morning was extremely difficult. Despite having riding gear on, our hands froze, a burning sensation prevailed due to the harshness of the bitter cold. Fueling up the tanks at Ajmer, my friend an I both discussed the same feeling of numbness due to the chill in the air. We were unable to touch high speeds, so to distract myself from the cold I was singing away to myself. I knew once the sun came up things would change for the better. Hoping to see sunrise soon, I kept riding. But, even when the sun came up, the situation wasn’t any better till about 9.00.
We reached Jaipur at about 10.00 am. It took longer than I expected, probably because of traffic and the poor weather conditions, we were unable to go beyond 70-80 km/ph. Making our first halt here, we had alu parathas for breakfast. The roads from Jaipur to Delhi are four-lane and great for riding at high speeds. I had to meet one of my friends in Delhi, so I zipped thru and decided to meet up with my riding partner directly at the Laxman Jhula in Hrishikesh. Now we were on our own till Hrishikesh.
Steady cruising on four lanes gave me the thrills of touching high speeds of 100-110. Riding from 11.00 to 2.00 I almost reached Delhi. I had to cross Delhi to reach Ghaziabad Road as I had to meet my friend near Noida. The traffic was terrible. Crossing the toll point, I saw a board saying bikes are not allowed. I saw some bikers going, so I followed them. The signs kept repeating after short intervals but still, I kept going despite being of two minds. Crossing the next toll point I was in Delhi Dhola Kua. There was horrible traffic again asking directions on the way I reached Noida and managed to meet my friend briefly.
I knew that the road to Hrishikesh was via Ghaziabad, but I took a wrong road at some damn road diversion. That was it!! The detour took me to a longer route to reach my destination. I reached Ghaziabad at 4.30 in the evening, left with just one hour of riding time in the daylight. I wanted to make the most of it, so I tried hard to move on. The weather wasn’t good, resulting in low visibility. Post sunset, the chills began to worsen. I still had 150 km of riding to reach Haridwar. The roads were being constructed, this made riding a living hell; manoeuvring the bike from side to side I was beginning to get a bit frustrated. In this living nightmare, I kept pushing my throttle, trying hard to be as patient as I could and kept riding. Reaching Hrishikesh at 9.30 I was happy I made it to my destination!! I was exhausted from the extensive riding, due to the gruesome road conditions. This was my worse day of riding so far on this trip!!! Glad its over.
Feeling tired, exhausted, cold and hungry, now looking for a hotel was a task. There was no availability of accommodations due to the Kumbh Mela. Meanwhile, I kept calling my friend, to find out where he was, but we kept missing calls because both of us were riding. Somehow, I managed to get through him, found out that he could not make it further than Muzaffar Nagar. My hunt for a boarding place was still on, with no sign of success yet. I had already looked at fifteen guest houses and hotels. Finally, I managed to get accommodation in a small guest house at Rs. 250 a night.
I was famished, as I survived through the day only on half a paratha. I was so hungry that I was ready to eat anything edible that I could lay my hands on. Sadly, I did not find a single shop selling food at that late hour. Coming back to the hotel, they served me a rather nasty roti, with a texture close to chewing gum, with some dal. I spent the whole day on half an alu paratha and one rubbery chapatti. I hit the bed slept like a log at the end of day 31!!! Glad this day is over finally… and hoping it’s the last one I see like it on this trip!
Day 30 – Global Fusion on a Pizza Pie
PUSHKAR – AJMER
Making a to-do list post breakfast, I hailed out of the guest house to get it all done. First on the list was to bathe my baby 😉 off I rode to the service salon along with her. It has been a month since she was groomed to be sparkling clean.
Leaving her at the service station to get a body wash, I went to the music store to pick up some music. My preference in music is new age or fusion. Here in Pushkar, awesome new age music CD’s are available for sale at the music stores. My computer was cleared of music because I needed disk space. I had no music to listen to, depriving myself of it is something I can’t do. So I went into a music store and bought some amazing new age, fusion and world music CDs. Happy!!
Third on the list was to pick up my licence, which I successfully did. My licence was deposited at the mobile-phone store, to complete some formalities of getting a new-SIM card.
The fourth task on the checklist was to get my friend’s punctured bike tyre repaired. This was being done while the love of my life was in the spa. Next, I headed towards Ajmer to do some odd jobs of banking, like payment of bills and loan EMI. Riding on my sparklingly clean, all groomed Karizma was a pleasure and absolute thrill for me!!
With the creative juices flowing I was in a mood to dress up the bike and all set to decorate it with stickers, I got a bit too carried away. Sticking on it sorts of stickers in an assortment of shapes, sizes and colours, I was having fun!!
Having fed my creativity, now I also had to feed my empty stomach, growling for some food! We decided to venture into a pizza parlour in the city of Ajmer. This I know, was getting a little adventurous. Checking on the menu, I saw weird combinations. It seemed like a global fusion happening on a pizza pie. It had pizza originating from Italy, but having travelled the globe through America, Mexico, China, Punjab and where all!! The menu had Chinese pizza, American pizza, Mexican pizza and the list was endless!
We settled for a mushroom garlic cheese pizza and some Chinese pizza with schezwan sauce! It looked like the pizza parlour hosted a world cultural meet on the menu card. Now that’s what I call Globalization in a pizza parlour!! I wouldn’t be surprised to hear if we as Indians also start selling Italian jalebies topped with cheese and add it to the already existing menu of American sev puris, Mexican dosas, Chinese bhel and end up in the soup of GLOBAL GADBAD!
Having the Desi Global Pizzas I headed back to Pushkar and retired at the end of Day 30! ZZZZ!!
Day 29 – An Artist’s struggle for his Passion of Art!
This morning I went to an artist, Naresh’s place, before which I struggled looking for a “GOOD QUALITY” T-Shirt all in vain. I found only bad quality T-Shirts all around, so we decided to invest the artist’s efforts into something more lasting. We chose to paint the windscreen of the bike instead of the T-Shirt. Brainstorming on the design Naresh thought painting a tiger is a good option to reflect and reinforce the personality of the other tiger riding it. Smiling at him I agreed in affirmation. While he was working on the windscreen painting, I went to the cyber café to email some pictures needed for the upcoming E-magazine of Motoroids where an article on Horn Ok Plz will be featured in the latest edition of this month. Hopefully, it will be up on the 10th of February. This took me a good two hours!! Thanks to the slow speed of the internet.
Coming back to the artist after completing the task at hand, I wanted to gain an insight into Naresh’s life. He was always inclined towards painting ever since he was a child. During Diwali, just for the fun of expressing himself through art, he would paint the walls outside their house with everything from his imagination. His family did not appreciate his talent and failed to understand his passion. They would paint over it, white-washing all the efforts of this budding genius. In particular, his father was against the idea of painting and thought it to be a cheap act. He did not miss a single opportunity to discourage Naresh. In grade ten, Naresh got an opportunity to study oil painting for a month in a course offered at the school. This probably was the only training this talented artist received at that age. Doing his Bachelor in Arts, a teacher encouraged him to hone his talent and study further, doing an MA in fine arts. Standing up for something he believed in and loved doing, he had to battle against his father’s will, who wanted him to study CA or MBA. Fighting it for a while, he finally gave up against the power of family pressures and jumped back to doing CA. Both attempts made to live up to this forced decision proved to be unsuccessful. He could not clear the CA entrance test in two attempts. He lost a chance of doing what he really is good at, yet was unsuccessful at doing what he was not good at and had only done to please his family. Was it worth it??
In Rajasthan child marriage still prevails. Naresh was married off to a girl at the tender age of fifteen years. His wife continued living with her parents until they were both mature and are ready to start a life together. When he was twenty-two years old, his wife was brought home for them to start living together. It was the first time he saw her that he realised she was not who he wanted to spend a lifetime with. It was a forced decision again. Deciding to not give in this time, he stood up against his father and decided to leave the place, living his life in his own way. Coming to Pushkar he started painting again. Against all odds, he honed his skills to be what he was good at – an artist.
Here I am, so touched by this story of a struggling artist trying to keep up with his passion, exploring his potential to the fullest despite all odds. All this conversation had me emotionally carried away, while his hands steadily kept moving with the strokes his brushes working on painting the windscreen. In appreciation of art and the artist, I bought two paintings from this outstanding personality. Offering for him to come over to Mumbai, I suggested he can paint and I can help him get his worth from selling his art in the right places. I was disheartened to know that his talent earns him a measly sum of Rs. 4000 at the end of the month. Was this worth all the talent he had within?
We had a lovely dinner together a before we retired at the end of Day 29! I will do the best I can to help him get his worth as an artist.
Day 28 – The Killer Potion of A & A
I forgot to mention a hilarious episode in yesterday’s blog, that left us laughing for hours. LOL!!! Last evening while we were shopping in the market, my friend’s eyes fell on an interesting ayurvedic potion that was concocted somewhere in Ghaziabad. It was a combination of Awla and Aloe vera! All excited, he wanted to buy it. Sure, it did not seem very appealing to me so I warned my super-excited friend against buying it, while he tried hard to convince me how good he thinks the combination is. He made his choice and tried it out, spending Rs 250 on it…. I’m still trying to figure out why. He insisted it was very good for health… I did not want to try to argue the point any further, as he had made up his mind. Going home he dumped the cardboard box in the bin and had about two spoonsful of the killer potion before going to bed at night. I was tired so went to sleep too. I was fast asleep, passed out, unaffected and unaware about all that was going on. But the whole night, he ran up and down frequenting the restroom, as you may have guessed for what. LOL!!
The next morning, as I awoke,I will never forget the funny face he made holding his stomach like, he said, “Something is happening to me!” Still wondering what it was that he would say next, I tried to keep listening without reacting… I tried hard not to laugh…then he said in a meek tone “I think its dysentery.” By now, I could not control myself from laughing… I was in splits, laughing out loud at this hilarious turn of events! He too was laughing with me, still holding his stomach that was now also hurting because of all the belly laughter. I knew it was the killer combo hailing from Ghaziabad that proved devastating for him! He was so uncomfortable. Feeling sorry for him, I wish he had listened to me. It would have saved him from all the agony.
We had to do something to undo the catastrophe. Went into the market and we had some Masala Soda after which he rested in the hotel room, while I ventured out to the Pushkar Mela Grounds. The place looked so lifeless without the Mela crowd. It was barren and dusty, nothing but an empty piece of land. I realise that it is the enthusiasm of people and festivity that keeps us going! Probably that is the reason India has so many festivals and celebrations right round the year.
This evening we met an interesting artist, Naresh whose paintings I highly appreciated during my last visit. Tracing my steps to his shop, I aked him to paint me a T-Shirt with the Horn Ok Plz logo. I wanted to know more about him and thought this was a good way to break the ice. He was more than happy to do the artwork. Yes, painting is his passion! I offered to shoot a video and do cover a story on him, to which he more than happily agreed. After having an interesting conversation with him, and building a comfortable rapport, I was on my way to the hotel.
Later in the evening, my friend and I stepped out for a meal. He was still in a condition, unsure of his digestive system’s stability and reaction. I gobbled down some chaat, teasingly annoying him as he was not going to get any of that. All because of the killer potion he insisted on having the previous night. He sipped on some liquid diet while I ate all the goodies from the chaat wala. All in all, we had a lot of fun at the end of the 28th day!!
Day 27 – Seeking the True Story of Om Banna
- Route Travelled- Sojat to Pushkar
- Distance travelled- 220 km
- Damages for the day- Rs 250 – Room charges; Rs 15 – Tea; Rs 600–Petrol; Rs 50 – Falafel; Rs 35 – Juice; Rs 100 – Gillette body wash n shampoo ( Awesome)
Today we plan to go to Sojat Resort, a heritage property now converted to a resort. The rooms are priced at twelve to fifteen thousand per night. Madonna was here for New Years. The layout of the rooms are very interesting, many famous authors have spent their time writing books here. One of the rooms I thought was interestingly done where the open window looked over the stable, the walls were decorated with paintings of horses. The door of the room opened into the stable area. The owner wanted me to see another property in Rohet and video shoot it, but I was more inclined towards visiting the Om Banna temple again hoping to meet his father who lives in a village near to the temple site.
Soon enough we were on the way to Sojat — Om Banna temple. I was thinking to myself how can a bike come there to the temple site on its own? I wanted to get to know more about the facts and reality. Amusing stories can go around like Chinese Whispers until the facts totally distorted and lost. Luckily it worked well for me that one of Chandu’s friend is a relative of Om Banna. Through his reference, I got a chance to visit the village where Om Banna lived.
On arrival to the village riding towards his haveli, we saw that his father lived a life of a hermit in a small house made opposite the huge haveli. He chose simplistic life over the luxurious amenities of a haveli. I was touched. Entering in, I saw the experienced old man surrounded by people, smilingly he welcomed me. Making myself comfortable in a seat close to him, I followed what he spoke in Marwadi. Unable to reply back in the local dialect, people sitting there willingly helped in translating what I had to say. He asked me if I was married or not, knowing I was still single, he tried explaining to me why I should marry. He said that I was here because my father got married; this gave me a chance to come into being and to do what I wanted to. In that way, I should also have an offspring and do my duties towards bringing life to being, or so to say do my bit to keep the family name going. I patiently heard the advice he gave me. Meanwhile, a Rajput came and sat in front of me offering me Opium, locally called Afeem. In this region, it is a ritual to offer Opium to guests. He insisted I had some; I was firm enough to refrain from the offer.
Enquiring about what happened to Om Banna I struck a conversation with his father. This is what he said…. “ It was election time, Om banna with his bike had gone to Pali for some meeting of all Thakurs, he was drunk on the way back. His bike tyre was punctured, repairing it he was riding homewards when he fell into a fifteen feet ditch banging his head on the branch of a tree along with the pillion and the bike. The man sitting behind somehow managed to crawl up from the ditch in that drunk state and was taken to the hospital by the locals. In that state of mind, he was unable to answer what happened to Om Banna. Somehow he was rescued and Om Banna was left behind in the ditch, where he lost his life. Next morning his body was found next to the bike. Doing all the rituals, the family was in deep grief dealing with the loss of his life. Soon Om Banna’s made an appearance in his grandmother’s dreams asking for two bhiga (yards of land) to make a temple. This was the reason they made the temple there.
Further probing into it, I enquired about the stories that went around—bike starting on its own making way to the temple site from the police station… he concluded the conversation saying just one line “ People have mouths and they will tell stories.” His statement said it all. We had a cup of tea, as Om Banna’s son came into the room, he is a student of T.Y.BA studying in Pali. Having found out the reality I was seeking, I rode my way back to the temple, watching over all the offerings people made, it was dhoop, agarbatti, flower garlands and alcohol. I smiled looking at all the love, belief, and faith people have for a biker, what I did not like is the fact that people made an offering of alcohol to him, which was the very reason he lost his life. Just like many others everyday lay their lives due to this very living liquid that time and again proves fatal.
With this thought in mind, we began riding towards Pushkar. It was a smooth safe ride with a couple of tea halts on the way. After having tea at Beavar, I took the highway while my friend probably rode into the village taking the inner route. I lost sight of him. Despite making a couple of halts of fifteen minutes each I had no trace of him. Thinking he had probably gone ahead leaving me behind I zipped my way to Ajmer, with no trace of him still. I was about to leave from there when behind a truck faraway I got a glimpse of a helmet that looked like his, luckily it was him. Riding together by sunset we were in Pushkar staying at a place named Payal Guest House.
Day 26 – Part II – Om Banna- The Bike Temple
On arrival at the hotel, we were stopped at the reception and not permitted to go to our room. The luggage from our room was left unattended in the corridor without our consent. All this was to please another customer who wanted a room here. It was a nightmare, we were furious at this ridiculous arrangement of the convenience of earning money. How could they do this??!!! Maintaining sanity was important as we were going to ride a distance. Settling the accounts we left from there without losing our heads or creating a scene. The only reason for this was, a fit of rage would ruin our calm and in turn reflect on our riding, putting our safety in jeopardy.
We now were riding to Om Banna –The Bike Temple in Sojat, at a distance of 150 km from Sirohi. For the first time, I found myself constantly looking for my friend in the rear view mirror. I needed to gain understanding of his riding style and speed. We went easy speeding at 80-90 km. This happened to be the top speed for his bike. Covering good ground we reached the one of its kind bike temple in Sojat. While waiting for Chandu to come, we absorbed the culture and feel of the place observing traditions, rituals and faith of people making offerings of gifts and garlands, incense and alcohol to this unique bike temple.
The story goes like this… some years ago a Rajput biker, by the name Om Banna (brother) met with an accident and lost his life at the place where the temple now exists. According to beliefs and stories we heard, Om banna’s bike miraculously made its way to the location of the accident at night from the police station. This incident repeatedly occurred a couple of times. Ever since then, just to please his soul, people say the bike has not been moved from here. They believe that Om Banna’s love for his bike was immense. So he wanted it to be left where he lost his life. Over a period of time, popularity of this place grew and now it has become a major place of worship. As a biker it was wonderful to see people bowing down to a bike and praying with so much faith and love. It is a moment of pride and sheer joy for every biker to witness such great devotion for a biker. Personally I feel alcohol and biking are a bad combination, wish this offering of alcohol to a biker stopped. Apart from that all the other things I experienced at the Bike Mandir have left me absolutely elated!
Day 26 – Part I – Education in Rural India…???
Excitedly I rode my way to the school; zooming along as fast as I could. Packed in the backpack was my camera Kit and CD’s Kalpesh had sent for the school. Eager I was, to be with the kids and see the progress they had shown in learning that took place over a period of three months.
Entering the school gates by 10.20 a.m. I saw a familar scene — smiling faces clad in blue uniforms, the hustle and bustle of mischief as they gaily played amongst themselves. I was happy to be acknowledged and generously being showered with their splendid smiles. As the school bell rang the children suddenly organised themselves in queues. Within minutes the place was silent, the noisy chirpiness was replaced with the serenity of group chantings of two hundred students, followed by a maun ( noble silence) for a few minutes! Perfect calmness prevailed on the school premises!
The setup of the school did not fail to surprise me! Three teachers for two hundred students. What a ratio!! How do they function with three teachers and so many students. To be more descriptive, the school is divided into four groups of classes, of which rotationally one group at any given time is left unattended as there are only three teachers here. Standards 1-3 is group one, Std 4-6 is group two, Std 7-8 is group three and std 9-10 is group four. What are the students learning? Im unable to say anything!! Dumbstruck at the quality of education imparted to such diverse age groups! This is the bitter truth of the educational senario in rural India! Where is the path to development leading rural India? Sorry is the state of affairs here, the very foundations of education are questionable!Wondering about all this and more I was out of the school, thinking about ways these situations can be addressed to the authorities to improve the very structure of prevailing educational system.Riding homewards the flow of thoughts continued, until the aromas of home made grandma’s recipes distracted my mind. It was a fantastic mouth watering meal lovingly cooked by Kalpesh’s grandma, I relished it to my heart’s content till I was full and unable to get up. After a heavy meal like that all I needed was some sleep! Somehow I managed to pack my bags and leave for Sirohi to pick up my friend’s luggage from the hotel room. On arrival at the hotel, we had a shocking surprise awaiting us!
To be continued……in part II
Day 25 – Chit- Chat and Chai with Aakash
Damage for the day: Samosa Rs 10; Chai with love free!
This morning I visited the village school at Falvadi to check on the progress of students computer education and gave them the some CD’s Kalpesh had sent. Three months ago in our last visit, we had installed two computers here and trained the kids to use them for educational purpose. Unfortunately due to Panchayat Elections the school was closed. I decided to wait in Kalindri for my friend.
I stopped at the snack shop where a kid named Aakash, about twelve or thirteen years of age worked. Waving his hand he offered us a seat. As we sat down he went out of the shop to get some tea from the neighbouring shop. This was amazing to us, we thought if he had to get the tea from another shop why did he have to call us here? We would have very well gone there and had it. Anyways.. we smiled at this and started chatting with him. Having the warm masala chai, we asked him the amount to be paid. He humbly replied, ” I called you in to have tea, it is from me!” I was touched by his humble reply and warm smile. I wanted to click his picture, to which he shyly refused. Now I gave him two choices, either money or picture! He smilingly chose to be clicked as he did not want the money! Got a lovely picture of this sweet little boy.
Coming home from we had an early dinner. Both of us put up at Kalpesh’s house. Now I have a room mate! Next morning was an early wakeup as we had to go to school, be with the kids, and leave for Sojat 30 kilometres from Pali.
Day 24 – I’ve Got Company!
Damage for the day: Tea Rs 10; Samosa Rs 10; Lunch Rs 50
The phone bell rang this morning. On answering the call, one of my friend expressed his interest in joining me on this trip. He was riding long distances for the first time, on India’s number one touring bike Enfield, this got me a bit concerned. No disregards, I myself own and use two Enfield bikes back in Mumbai ! I have extensively toured on them all over India. I love the feel and the sound of the engine. But, for some strange reason, I don’t know…. every time I see someone riding an Enfield the only song that automatically plays in my mind is… Chal Chal Chal mere haathi…!! O mere saathi…!! Chal le chal khataara kheech ke…chal yaar dhakka maar bandh hai motor car !!! ;)) I think it is just too demanding in terms of maintenance. In my opinion it is a great bike for riding in the city.
Anyways…reaching Sirohi riding on his Enfield took him two days, I was very happy to know the progress in the past couple of days. The announcement of his safe arrival to Sirohi was an absolute relief for me. Speaking to him I realised he wanted to ride a long distance with me. I had two options either say Yes or No to this. Giving the situation a profound thought, leaving him alone was not a wise thing to do, as he is new to long distance biking. His safety was an issue of concern to me. I thought to myself, God forbid if something goes wrong I won’t be able to forgive myself for a lifetime, regretting letting him go alone. Taking him along on the trip would mean slowing down the pace I’m used to. This I thought was a better choice as compared to the previous one. I know he will be of help to me in creating the documentary I’m working on. I made a choice of taking him along for the trip until a time we are both comfortable.
Clearly discussing things through the day, having two meals together, I put him up at a hotel and left for Falvadi at the end of day twenty-four!
Day 23 – Jaisalmer- Jodhpur- Sirohi
Damage for the day: Petrol Rs 1350; lunch Rs 60; Tea Rs 7
The morning was full of emotional and sentimental moments. I was about to leave from the camp when the staff and owners of Prince desert camp greeted me, showing concern, love, & affection, they wanted me to stay there longer. Despite being in the flow of emotions, I had to move on… life is a journey!
With a heavy heart, I started there at 10.00 in the morning. Handing over the video CD of the camp site, as a token of gratitude and appreciation I was on my way to Sirohi. After riding for about 45 km I stopped for fuel. The roads were fantastic. I loved the pick up the bike had after servicing. Cruising at speeds of 100-110, I was enjoying every bit of the ride. Occasionally stopping at milestones for gathering footage, I reached Jodhpur early enough covering a distance of 300 km since I left Jaisalmer. Riding from Jodhpur to Pali was a nightmare. The poor road conditions and oncoming traffic made riding a very challenging experience. Dodging the bike from oncoming vehicles and the lack of traffic sense amongst motorists, needed me to be extra alert to be safe. I found myself flashing back in the past when riding was a challenge on narrow roads that were full of bumps and potholes, with traffic moving hap-hazard in both directions. At such times being extra cautious is of utmost importance. I realised I faced the same situation as in yester years. Riding on for 15 km I stopped for lunch- Chana masala and roti Yummy!! It was a delicious lunch and my first meal for the day!
Regaining energy from a scrumptious meal I moved further on towards Sirohi en route Pali. The poor conditions of riding still continued….it was now getting worse! The traffic was horrendous!! People had no sense of traffic rules and certainly no respect for two-wheelers. I think small vehicles earn no respect for Indian roads. They are absolutely insignificant due to their small size. Trucks are the dangerous monsters on roads in the literal sense. They overtake another heavy vehicle from the wrong side on a single road despite seeing the two-wheelers passing by, and the only way to save yourself is to offroad. It was, numerous times in a short duration that the same situation repeated itself. Just a little before Sirohi, I had a narrow escape, nearly losing balance, I offloaded.. avoiding a moment that could have turned fatal.
After reaching Sirohi, I was now heading towards Kalindri to meet my friend Kalpesh’s cousin, Chandu. He then guided me to the village of Falvadi. It was 6.00 in the evening when we reached there. The warm welcome of his family members will always be a special moment for me. It was a pleasure to see them again after three months. Our last visit here was during the Pushkar fair. Having yummy simple home made food was an absolute treat for a vagabond like me! I relished every bit of it. This time I had a room to myself! I did not have to share it with anyone. Im happy 🙂 Kalpesh was not there!!! Otherwise I would have a room partner!
Resting in a home, away from home, was indeed special at the end of day twenty-three!
Day 22 – Rest Day
Today is a rest day for me!! No blogging, no work, no touring, no riding! Only sleep and more sleep!! 🙂
Day 21 – Prince Desert Camp
Today, I worked on filming to create a documentary on the Prince Desert Camp. The hard work and long hours put in, showed its worth when the eyes who saw it twinkled with joy. It was loved by all, at the camp. They highly appreciated the outcome. It was well worth all the efforts!
Day 20 – Kalodra – The Abandoned Village
The desert festival of Jaisalmer hosting the Mela is cancelled due to an Ex-cabinet Ministers death. It is ridiculous to know that the event was called off at the last minute. The man who passed away was over ninety years of age. People from all over the world have come here to attend this occasion. It’s a natural death, was it really necessary to cancel the entire event; disappointing so many tourists at the last minute?
This turn off event resulted in a change of venue for me, I was now heading to a deserted village of Kalodra. Wondering how this place is left vacant for several hundred years… found that the story goes like this…
The minister, to the King who then was only eleven years of age, was an extremely powerful man. The prevailing caste system was very rigid during those times. Falling in love with a man or woman belonging to another caste was unacceptable in society. The minister fell in love with a brahmin girl residing in this village of Kalodra. As it is seen, this was objectionable and unacceptable to the community, resulting in a tussle between the Minister and the villagers. The solution was shocking, the villagers were asked to vacate the place and migrate to some other faraway place. Ever since then, the raw homes made of mud and cow dung in this village remains abandoned.
Gathering the outline to the story of Kalodra, I was all set to explore it. Describing the scene around…. the entrance was a BIG gate, watched over by an old bearded man selling tickets, collecting entry fees. A few kids having fun riding a donkey and My bike riding through the dirt roads, with me watching the abandoned mud structures on both sides of the path.
The tourism department has restored two homes for the tourists. The sand stone structures, carvings, and the intact structure of Shiva temple give a fair idea of the prevailing culture and lifestyle of the historic times. Almost eight hundred abandoned homes lay here, untouched for several hundred years. The only people seen here now are the tourist guides with groups of visitors to the place.
A typical home interior would consist of an entrance door, open area, terrace, kitchen, verandah, sleeping chamber, a courtyard, grain storage area and a visitors room mostly at the entrance, this was probably made to maintain the privacy of the home. I also visited a dried up step well with stone carvings, locally it is known as a bawdi.
Having visited this abandoned village, I was on my way back to Jaisalmer. Seven kilometres before Jaisalmer the rear tyre was flat. Gajendra, the desert camp owner had accompanied me. We rode six out of the seven kilometres with a flat tyre heading to the same tyre repair shop I visited the last time. Riding on full load with a flat tyre, in the last kilometre it gave up completely and I requested Gajendra to taxi on 11 (walk down) to the tyre shop. He walked down the road carrying my tripod. The puncture shop was closed, so we called for a car from the camp, transferred the luggage in it. I rode to Jaisalmer sitting on the tank this time to keep minimum weight on the punctured rear tyre.
To avoid this situation over and over again, I changed the tyres at a cost of Rs.1500. It was a good choice, as I am offroading on the dunes. I also decided to prepare the bike for another long ride, it needed servicing. I was not happy with the speed the bike gave, thought the filter must be choked. I use a K & N filter, once cleaned the pick up shot up after the servicing was done. The synthetic oil needed to be topped up by 400 ml. This place did not have the oil I use for the bike, so we made topped it up with the regular oil. The bike was gliding with servicing done, and a pleasure to ride with new tyres.
Day 19 – Tanot Temple
Spending the morning on data transfer, I decided to leave for Tanot temple located at a distance of 160 km from Sam, and 140 Km from Jaisalmer. Enjoying the ride on the desert land, for about 25 km, I saw the most amazing landscape. The colours I saw all around left me spell-bound. The sand appeared to glow in multiple shades of magenta. It was a captivating sight seeing such an astoundingly and mesmerizing palette of colour painted across the desert sands. I was tempted to explore more of this treasured gift of nature and decided to offroad on the sandy terrain. This ride was a true pleasure. The landscape — rolling hillocks of vividly coloured sands — was a picturesque sight indeed.
Moving farther on I offroading on the way to Tanot, I came to some Chattris (monuments built on tombs of the Maharajas). Riding on the roads was thrilling, touching high speeds of 100 plus on free roads was a sheer pleasure. Forty kilometres before Tanot was a dazzling landscape of dunes. This is a marvellous place where I saw nothing but sand as far as my vision could extend.
Twenty kilometres before Tanot is the village of Ranau. The village has raw homes made of locally available indigenous materials, constructed without the use of any modern materials. All the people here are shepherds, and rearing sheep is their sole means of earning a living. This was a glimpse into the unexplored facet of life in rural India.
On the way to Ranau, I passed an Indo-Pak war memorial. Back in 1965-71, the war with Pakistan took place here. In 1971 Pakistan launched missiles at India. The entire company around the temple survived, as the missiles remained unexploded. The photographs of the scenes from that time are on display all over this place. The belief of people in the power of the temple strengthened even more after this event. Now, this is a huge temple attracting quite a number of devotees.
On the way back I met some army personnel, riding all the way from Poonch in the north heading towards Devlali. They were twelve men on six bikes accompanied by one army truck. Travelling every five years over the same route, they visited all the war memorials en route, paying tributes to the martyrs who laid their lives for our motherland. Having conversations with other bikers is always a pleasure. It was fun chatting with them, not over tea or coffee, but gol-gappa and bananas and made the experience more interesting.
Riding in a group has its own pros and cons. I rode with them as a group for a while, realizing why they were unable to cover greater distances in a given number of riding hours, simply because if one of the group members has to make a halt, then the entire group must wait. The equation is basic… the greater the number of bikers, the greater number of halts, and so more time are taken to cover any targeted distance.
I decided to keep up to the pace I am used to, saying goodbye I moved my way, zipping past the army men. Riding 320 kilometres I was as fresh as ever, not tired at all!! I enjoyed riding back. In that hour of the evening, the sun was setting down for the day, while the moon made its appearance on the opposite horizon. It was nice seeing both these sharing the skies in an unusual sky scape, albeit for a limited time. After the sun had made its exit, I enjoyed the moonlit ambience of the desert on the way back to the camp site.
My calm and composed mood continued as I connected to a higher reality, hearing the soothing soulful Sufi music played by Savan Khan at the Prince Desert Camp.
This was day nineteen, reported to you, from the Indi Motorcycle Diary!
P.S- I see that you are awaiting more pictures, but I’m afraid I’m unable to load any just now as the internet connectivity is very slow. I promise to do so as soon as I have better connectivity. Cheers !!
Day 18 – Desert Delights (Part 2)
In the evening I camped at the dunes. The bike was loaded with all the essentials for the night stay. Packed in were a sleeping bag, a tent, utensils, clothes, food packets – Maggi, soup and a carry mat. Pitching the tent securely, I chose a location that was safe from winds, surrounded by dunes to protect it from being directly hit by the gusty desert winds. I went for a fascinating solitary walk in the sun-kissed desert on a dusky evening enjoying the blissful sight in the orange skies.
Walking down a little further, I met a group of touring Koreans camping in the desert. Inviting me over for a cup of tea they showed a friendly gesture. Having a cup of tea I continued to walk by my self. This solitary walk got me into a philosophical mood. I pondered over many things of higher reality, What is it that bonds me with the people I meet that they are willing to provide things for free? What is the common link that connects the human race? Wondering about all this and more I returned to the camp site where the Koreans pithed tents for the night. This time the camel guides invited me over for dinner. I have a frenzy for village food. So, I decided to share a meal with them. Choosing to eat rice chapati and potato vegetable than the roasted potatoes cooked over a campfire. They were curious about knowing why I was without any woman. Bombarding me with personal questions of sorts, they seemed more like a liability than good company.
Maintaining patience I continued to feed their curiosity. They thought I was like a fakir going on a bike from place to place without a woman with me. They showed concern worrying about my bike being stolen at night. I assured them that even if it was stolen, nothing would stop me from travelling. The simplicity and affection showed by these desert dwellers deeply touched me. Post dinner all the camel guides, except one left for their respected homes. On asking the reason of him being left behind, Romi humbly replied that he was unmarried and did not have a reason to go back. I was like him too 🙂 no reason to go back home! I am happy travelling and sleeping in the desert just as he is with nothing to worry about! Talking to him for a while got me interested in knowing more about his lifestyle. I found out he was the oldest of five siblings, supporting his ageing parents, he was the sole bread winner earning a measly sum of fifteen hundred rupees a month by walking camels being a guide to many tourists. In twenty-one years he had not been to Jaisalmer. The forty-kilometre surrounding area was the world for him.
A lady from the UK was travelling alone and Rumi accompanied her as a guide, she fell in love with him and offered to take him along to the U.K. promising to give him a lot of money. He rejected the offer despite liking her, saying he wanted to be the care giver to the family. He said no to MADAM — what use is money when I cant help my brothers, sisters and old parents. No thank you! Wondering why he did not go to Jaisalmer for work, I asked him. The answer was a bitter truth. The employer threatened him of taking away the camel from him forever, depriving him of the only opportunity he had to work and earn his living. In fear of this threat, he chose not to dare leave the vicinity of forty kilometres. Disheartened listening to this sad story, I was left wondering how helpless innocent people are exploited. With a sad heart, I left from there, facing the harsh reality of life I retired for the day in my tent at the end of day eighteen.
Day 18 – Desert Delights (Part 1)
Aladdin, a hell of a driver, insisted we go on a jeep safari. I was in for this suggestion and happily agreed seeking adventure of a different sort. This man drives his jeep like a stallion in the desert. It was an incredible display of driving skills on the land of sands. One after the other going over the dunes felt nothing less than the thrills of taking a roller coaster ride. Absolutely worth it! We saw a black buck on the way, to the non-touristy sand dunes.
A desert yoga class
Hilarity strikes again! Being taught the most bizarre exercises by our dear Aladdin, I could not stop being amused this one of its kind, desert yoga class. Claiming to exercise good for the back and lungs, I was asked to slide down from the biggest slope in the dunes followed by a crawl up the same slope, this time sliding head down to reach the base of the slope. At first, I thought it was some genuine exercise I was going to learn, but after hearing it all I decided changing my mind was a better option. I chose to be an amused spectator watching a hilarious demo of back and lung desert therapies. If not the exercises, the resulting amusement surely cured me!
Tips for a night stay at the desert-
Tonight I plan to camp in the desert. Making conversations with the locals, I gathered some tips for the night stay.
How to keep yourself warm in the desert?
Look for a fire plant, dig near it and burry yourself a bit in the sand.
Apparently, heat from the fire plant leaves the sand warm during the nights. An interesting piece of information I thought this was.
How to find water?
To find water in the desert, look for fresh animal pugmarks on the sand, following these will lead to a water source.
How to find your way if lost at night?
Option one is to observe the stars, this comes only with practice. The second option I thought was a better one, sitting on the camel and allowing it to lead the way to the camp site. Animals have a great sense of direction here. Mostly people rely on them to find the way out when lost.
A Kabila that I visited today is a huge community in itself. Here, descendants from the same fore fathers live together as one big happy family in a village having numerous homes. Each family unit has 6-8 kids. I’m sure of one thing; the genetic constitution of the ancestors was of a very superior quality the results are seen even now. Not having seen any modes of transports, other than camels, the kids were super excited seeing the jeep. They were all over it, doing strange things in a bout of excitement.
I thought this was beauty in the desert. A fantastic sense of aesthetics the villagers have in this village of Sam. Two ladies creatively designed the flooring by applying layers of cow-dung, working patterns with their finger tips. Another woman I observed was painting her home, colourfully decorating it. Each one did their own little thing to add persona to their way of life. It was the vibrancy, warmth, intricacy and creativity of the residents that added to the beauty of this place. Lovingly, one of the villagers invited us over for a wholesome breakfast of Bajra Roti, Tindi subzi and fresh Makhan( butter) Being here is a wonderful experience. Taking a tour into their little well-decorated mud homes, I see a storage area for grains, a temple and a courtyard as a distinct feature in every household.
The sweet water well
I was now on my way to see a well, sweetened by the blessings of a fakir. In a surrounding area of forty kilometres the bore wells all have sweet water. The story goes like this, a fakir travelled through a village, on asking for water for himself and his animals, his request was turned down. Cursing the well to dry out, he left the place. The villagers followed him repenting for what they had done and begged him to take back the curse. Mercifully the fakir granted them the wish asking them never again to deny water to any thirsty being. He gave them a packet of sugar asking them to drop it in the well, blessing it to provide sweet water quenching the thirst of many. Six wells in the nearby area of forty kilometres have sweet water ever since. Beyond that again the wells give out salty hard water. They use a pail to fetch water out of these holy wells. An attempt to draw water using electric pumps resulted in drying one of the six wells probably indicating that the water is holy.
I returned to the campsite, spent the remaining part of the morning downloading the footage, after a heavy breakfast. I havent been uploading pictures or videos on the blog as it takes a lot of time due to low connectivity.
The story continues… in part two of this eventful day.
Day 17 – Riding on the Dunes
This morning, I was getting ready for the day when the guesthouse owner’s behaviour unpleasantly shocked me. I was stunned when — suddenly — I was asked to vacate the room booked for a five days stay. Literally being thrown out of the hotel to please another customer willing to pay more money was most unexpected and obnoxious!!! The man has no integrity or a sense of commitment! On the other hand, despite having a friend offering to host a free stay at his camp site, I lived up to my commitment made to the guesthouse owner, so he is not at a loss. I continued staying there because I had promised him five days worth of business. Facing harsh realities of the world around, feeling bitter inside, I packed my bags and left from there, now wondering where to go.
To a tourist, factors like integrity, service and commitment are of utmost importance. Thinking to myself, as I rode away from there, it is such experiences that leave tourists feeling bitter towards people in places they visit. Telling such tales back home may prevent potential visitors from leaving the security of their homes, probably hampering tourism to some extent. But biking works like a healing therapy for me. To recuperate from this negative experience, I headed out for a long ride on the sand dunes accompanied by a local who knew the desert landscape like the back of his hand.
Riding on the golden sands of the Thar desert has been my best moment so far in this trip. After facing initial challenges with the tyres sinking in the sands, I realised standing on the foot rest made riding easy. Feeling triumphant, mastering the ride over sandy dunes, I learned to efficiently manoeuvre the bike on such terrain. The bike once again proved itself reliable and sturdy. Gliding over the desert sands at sunset was an experience that will ever remain deeply engraved in my mind. It was a killer combination! The immensity of the desert + Sand dunes + Sunset + Me with the love of my life — my bike… What more do I need to be the happiest person around?
To sum it all, I never imagined riding on the dunes would be possible, but I was glad to dare prove my preconceived notions wrong. It was a pleasant reminder to a fact that “Impossible also spells I M possible!” The evening was fantastic in terms of being amidst nature, riding, photography, and adventure unlimited. Happily returning to the camp, I met a Brit biker, riding an Enfield. He too had bonded with his bike spiritualy. Sharing tales and experiences, he explained to me how biking was holy for him. He expressed interest in doing a biking trip together with me, we exchanged phone numbers, and went our seperate ways. Retiring for the day post dinner, I had a good night’s sleep at the end of day seventeen.
Day 16 – Unmusical Night?
Biking to me is nothing less than a religion. The rider’s seat is the holy place of worship! Riding is an obsessive offering of passion to the religion of biking! Riding back to Jaisalmer after a scrumptious breakfast with Gajendra at the dunes, it was nearing noon when I reached the hotel room. Without wasting any time, I relentlessly spent the afternoon on securely transferring and backing up the data to the computer and hard disk. As quick and simple as it sounds, this over and over again proves to be a demanding task. It nearly took over four hours of time today.
This evening I looked forward to riding back to the desert camp site as Gajendra had invited me over for a musical night being hosted by one of his clients. Honestly, the excitement was more for the ride to the desert than the musical night. His client had invited a music group over from Jodhpur to sing traditional folk songs of Rajasthani origin. It always is a pleasure to be a part of the culture and traditions seen in the musical land of the Maharaja’s. I eagerly rode my way to the campsite enjoying the cool breeze and high speeds. Behind me, my high speed left trails of displaced sand and clouds of dust. On arrival at the camp, I immediately felt disappointed. I heard noisy loudspeakers, playing something that they called “music” at the loudest they could. Everything in the name of music seemed to sound so unmusical. My ears tried very hard to get accustomed to the blaring noise of the poor quality music system. It seemed more of a ruckus than anything else.
Realizing the importance of having good technical knowledge to effectively handle sound devices, I felt helpless knowing that the opposite was true for this operator. It was a locally hired music system, the mixer was quite bad, resulting in a poor output. One or two instruments dominated the mix, while the levels for other instruments were so low they could not be heard. It was quite an unimpressive and unprofessional attempt, I thought to myself. The forcefully thrown reverberation from the music system somehow didn’t match the mood and silence of a soft ambient evening on the sand dunes. Can’t seem to decide if I should call it a musical or an unmusical night?
A preferred choice for me surely was the traditional folk songs by local musicians, the chords of their acoustic instruments, accompanied by the sinuous movements of fascinating folk dancers from this culturally rich land vs the noisy blaring of loudspeakers at ear-piercing decibels. What would you prefer?
With this wishful thinking in mind, but enjoying the ride back, I happily returned to the hotel room, retiring at the end of day sixteen!
Day 15 – Arabian Night
Having breakfast, after a late wake up in the morning, I was in a relaxed mood. Today’s agenda had a number of pending jobs on the to-do list. Replacing the tyre being the first, I headed out looking for a tyre shop. I had the bike repaired, bailing it out from the previous day’s mishap, by changing the tyre.
The first thing on my to-do list was done. I went on, to pay my phone bills. I realized the day and date only when I arrived a shop with its shutters down. I’m totally lost on days and dates, not knowing it was a Sunday and shops would be closed. I moved out of there, roaming around in the fort, making my way through the narrow lanes.
The day was quite relaxed, doing a lot of back-end work at the hotel room, data transfer, blogging and the usual bit.
In the evening I headed on to the campsite at Sam sand dunes for an Arabian-themed party organized by a friend – Gajendra. He is one of the co-partners of the Prince Desert Camp. A number of campfires lit up at the campsite added a warm glow to the prevailing traditional ambiance of the evening.
In high spirits, I was thrilled to get a glimpse of the most sensuous dance forms of Rajasthan, performed by the kalbelia “snake – charmer” community.
The kalbelia dancers wear long black skirts embroidered with silver ribbons. As they spin in circles, their bodies sway acrobatically. Swaying sinuously to the accompaniment of pungi, dufli and melancholic notes of the “been”, the wooden instrument of the snake charmers, the dancers performed gracefully. The vigorous and zestful display of their perfect movements to the enchanting tune of musical instruments is a treat to the eyes.
Contrasting a pleasant coolness of the desert breeze, I felt the warmth of the campfire. The enchanting chords of folk music merging with the desert winds, the refined dance performances by women clad in ethnic jewelery and colourful costumes swaying gracefully to the rhythm… this was a sight worth seeing! Good food and folk art, all of this in the desert sands, had me absorbed in its indescribable beauty. An absolutely delightful evening! This was an undoubtedly invigorating experience to be part of such an incredible evening amidst the sand dunes of the desert.
Absorbed in pondering over the events of an amazing cultural evening, and chatting with Gajendra, it was 1.30 in the night by the time I fell asleep in my campsite tent.
Day 14 – A Narrow Escape
Damages for the day – Rs 150 Accommodation charges; Rs 60 Breakfast; Rs 5 Samosa; Rs 120 Dinner; Rs 200 Puncture – tube change
Feeling fatigued and exhausted from the long ride, I slept until late in the morning. My body was sore with an aching back. The morning sun was gleaming through the Jhrokha of my hotel room welcoming me to see the beauty of the land of Maharajas. I spent some time taking pictures and videos of the passers by capturing the essence of a typical morning in the Golden fort.
After having a cup of tea, I was all set to go out for a walk in the fort exploring its beauty and liveliness in its true element. The locals welcomingly greeted me, thinking I was a foreigner, all the way I heard calls of good morning and hello hi’s. With a camera, I walked down the narrow lanes admiring the stone architecture, absorbing the culture and feel of the place. Experiencing a myriad of colours around me, colourful paintings, and musicians singing folk songs strumming the cords of local musical instruments like sarod and sarangi I enjoyed walking in this colourful land. The vibrant clothing of men and women added to the liveliness of the fort.
The hustle bustle of tourists and locals in the fort distinctly brought out the popularity of the Golden fort. This probably is the only live fort with people still residing in it, as it was in historic times. Not much has changed in terms of architecture, culture and traditions since the olden times.
After resting for a while in the afternoon I head on to visit the Sam sand dunes. It is located at a distance of 45 kilometres. The straight roads leading to the dunes were a treat to any rider. A Tavera ahead of me was speeding at about 100 km just. I was riding fifteen feet behind it almost at the same speed, when it suddenly dodged the vehicle preventing it from going over a rock that lay right in the middle of the road. Being a four wheeler it could easily manoeuvre it saving itself from crashing onto it.
Unlike me who was left with no time at that high speed to be able to save myself from crashing into the rock. Despite of trying hard, the front wheel crashed into the rock with a huge thud. I was in for trouble. The bike now lost control wobbling its way at high speeds. I was determined to not let go of the bike, and save my self so I continued riding it, without falling somehow managed to control it from losing balance. It was a tough choice to make either control or crash. I chose the first without any doubt. I continued riding until such a time that the bike slowed down on its own and stopped. The front tyre was now flat it had a cut of about two and half inches. To get to the nearest village I had to go on like this for another seven kilometres. Sitting on rear tyre that is the pillion seat, I put my weight on rear tyre so that maximum weight would be on the rear tyre. Two and a half inches of the tyre was cut, and the tube had burst. Soon I changed a tube at a tyre shop. I was thankful to my stars, almost survived a fatal accident. It was probably the good wishes and prayers of family friends and loved ones that saved my life this time.
Having fixed the problem I decided to ride back into the desert to attend a cultural program at a campsite owned by a dear friend. It was a pleasure to spend an evening in a camp full of entertainment with folk dancers performing in vibrant costumes and songs sung by groups of local musicians, wine and dine. Sitting here I planned the next five days of which the first will be spent at the camp in covering an Arabian night theme, the following two days I plan to visit the desert and go for a solo camel safari, the remaining two days I intend to go riding into the desert by myself. Being in the desert would mean living without electricity away from gadgets and gizmos, cant say if I will be able to update the blogs. None the less would keep you posted about the experience once I’m back.
Having spent the evening in such an entertaining environment I decided to head back to the hotel in Jaisalmer. I was hungry, went to this restaurant – July Six it has a fine homely environment and is run by a couple. The lady (owner) hails from Mumbai while her husband shuffles between India and Australia. Dinner was with them and another foreigner couple coming from somewhere in Europe. If I were to explain the conversations I had with them I don’t know what to say it made no sense at all but it kept us entertained all along, we were out in splits of laughter. Some things are just so hilarious, that you don’t need a reason to laugh.
It was amazing that the couple guessed looking at me, asked if I was a mountaineer. I wonder how she guessed that. She had no idea about the mountains in India and the richness of the Himalayan mountain range. Indulging in interesting conversations over dinner, having a full doze of laughter and entertainment over a fantastic meal we said good bye and I was on the way to the hotel room. The drainage system in fort is not up to the mark. The walls of the fort are weakened and falling. Recently Lonely planet conducted a research over this issue, attributing it to the visit of a number of tourists. On researching over the matter a hotelier gave piece of information to them without any evidences. The team of lonely planet wanted to research and find out the truth of the matter from the right sources. Apparently the hotelier had his way by giving them bakshish to say its true. This was printed in media and in lonely planet as a result the tourism of this beautiful suffered seeing a downfall in the number of tourists.
I don’t know if I should believe this version of it or not. Is it true or false? Or simply a tell tale from many mouths. This was day fourteen of the dream trip!
Day 13 – Chills N Thrills
Gir Forest to Jaisalmer
Damages for the day: 1400 fuel; Rs 25 tea; Rs 150 night stay at Jaisalmer; Rs 500 for the last five days of stay at Sasan Gir.
- Km travelled – 895
- Riding time – 12.30 hours
- Route taken – Gir – Junagadh- Rajkot – Morbi – Radhanpur – Sanchur – Barmer – Jaisalmer
As the alarm rang at about five a.m., I tried waking up to get going. It was a very cold morning and I decided to sleep some more, for another ten minutes, not knowing that my greed for sleep would last so long and cause delay. The clock showed 7.00 am. when I woke up with a start. Without further delay, I worked on the pictures for the blog for an hour. Packing the bags, I was ready to leave at about 9.30. am. No sooner than I was 200 meters away from the resort, the owner’s vehicle stopped me and we returned back. Over a cup of tea we discussed the purchase of new tents and marketing strategies for the resort. I paid an amount of Rs.3000 for the stay and food for the past five days. When the owner learned about this, he did not want to charge me a penny. After much insisting, he returned Rs 2500 to me and only took a sum of Rs.500 for a stay of five days. Not bad at all!
I decided to ride out from there towards Jaisalmer, my next destination. The time then was 10.30.am Losing four hours of riding time, I was unsure I would be able to reach Jaisalmer by night, as the distance was approximately 900 kilometers from Sasan Gir. The first 90 kilometres of the route was a single road with a lot of speed breakers that prevented me from just speeding my way through. On counting, I realised that there were 20 speed breakers in a mere 5 kilometres. A day prior to my visit, a teacher lost her life due to negligence, by not meeting the simple safety standard of wearing a helmet. She lost her balance on one of the speed breakers and flipped over the bike. I thought to myself, a helmet that costs just a thousand rupees is a worthwhile investment, compared to a loss of life. Here in India, we do not adhere to safety rules seriously, and as a result there are so many lives lost in road accidents.
Soon I was on a four lane road cruising at a steady speed. The bike needed refuelling, after riding 123 kilometres. I refilled the tank zooming at 110-115 km on the expressway. I carried on at this speed for 238 kilometres, before halting for a kathiawadi meal just before Morbi at 1.45 pm.
A short while after leaving Morbi, my helmet was completely covered with splattered bugs. The number of bugs that died violently on helmet’s visor during the ride had left it stained with guts. It was only when I stopped to take some pictures, I noticed the condition of the visor.
Moving further I came to a familiar route, where I saw windmills again. This time spinning at an easy pace it looked very different from when I saw them last. I stopped here to get some pictures of the madness in traffic. This time I saw the most absurd road sign saying ” Savdhan wrong side traffic se bachiye” meaning “save your self from the traffic coming from the wrong side of the road”. What was this, I wondered! I had to stop and get some picture proof of the madness I was in. Today, the bike cruised along steadily thanks to non windy conditions. I was now riding my way to Santanpur. On reaching Radhanpur, the road became a single lane. I cruised a distance of 200 kilometres in two hours. I thought I could achieve a lot more at this pace.
Maintaining the speed, I rode a distance of 430 kilometres without any break. Continuing further, covering 600 kilometres non-stop I reached Sanchur at 6.40 in the evening. Riding was a challenge as it was getting dark. The trucks and other heavy motor vehicles had powerful lights that were cut down on the visibility of the road ahead. And the roads were not too wide, either. The weather was very cold post sunset, and my body was tired and achey. I began to feel the chills. My body was begining to get numb from the riding position. My butt hurt from the long riding hours. Barmer was still 140 kilometres away. I decided to continue riding from Sanchur to Barmer. The temperatures dipped down still further rapidly. I now felt the chills even more. The roads had less traffic as local panchayat elections were on, and it tempted me to ride at high speeds.
Twenty km before Barmer, a black buck came on the road as I was riding at high speed. It just halted in the middle of the road, standing right there. I somehow managed to control the bike and manouver it around the animal, narrowly averting an accident that would have killed both of us. As I reached Barmer, I thought perhaps of spending the night here. The time was now 9.45 pm. Wanting to take a tea break I stopped at Charoli.
As I removed my gloves and helmet, I felt the cold. I was now freezing. I asked the tea stall person what there was to see in Barmer, but I was not very interested in what I heard, so decided to ride on to Jaisalmer and spend the night there instead. The air was frigid. So far, my meter showed a distance of 750 kilometres covered during the day, but I decided to press on. Even after drinking two cups of tea, the chill was still rattling down my spine. I decided to gird my courage and move on. This was a tougher ride than I thought it would be. The low temperature had me feeling numb. I tried hard to remain focussed and not be distracted or let my riding get compromised by the coldness of the desert winds. Encouraging myself to go on, and reassuring myself that everything would be fine, I sang songs in every genre and language, from Indian Ocean to Head Out on the Highway Looking for Adventure to Manoj Kumar hits and everything in between. I tried hard to keep myself entertained and distracted from the freeze that took over my senses.
As I rode along the straight roads to Jaisalmer, a couple of wildboars decided to cross the road in front of me. We were in a dillema of who should cross the road first. I was going at high speed, and again faced some difficulty controling the bike, but managed to avoid hitting them and sped on. Riding for about another 70 kilometres, feeling like a hairy kulfi, I looked for a tea stall to warm up a bit. 38 kilometres before Jaisalmer I found one and stopped for chai. My bladder was full, demanding attention to answer a call of nature. I wanted to get off the bike but could not get myself to move at all. My body was frozen stiff. It took me almost three to four minutes to get off the bike. As I went to answer natures call, I felt a strange numbness all over my body; I could not feel a thing except the bitter coldness of the desert. It’s grave situation when a man cannot locate his penis to pee, due to frozen hands and other frozen body parts. I was struggling, as my body was totally numb. It took a while before I succeeded coaxing the relevant organs to perform their duties, but eventually the plumbing woke up from its hypothermic coma. Pheewww!! Relief at last! This eased out the situation a bit. Feeling dehydrated and parched in the throat, I drank a lot of water and chai to rehydrate my system. Now a bit more settled, I just bit the bullet and rode out the last 38 kilometres to Jaisalmer, my night’s stay. Knowing I was so close, I felt more comfortable and the cold seemed more bearable.
Reaching Jaisalmer, the beauty of an illuminated fort was now a part of the landscape. I halted to take some pictures and proceeded to the fort to look for a hotel. I found myself an accommodation at Ishar Guest House, a renovated old haveli, and checked into a room. The owner was very kind man to have cooked food for me at that late an hour. Having hot dal and rice was an absolute treat. With a stomach full of this scrumptious meal, I was ready to crash and call it a day! A very long ride full of chills and thrills had me so tired I slept like a log. No sooner than I hit the bed, was I out cold, snoring away peacefully.
Day 12 – The Moon Rock Ride
- Location – Sasan Gir to Bhojde Fall ( Gujarat)
- Distance traveled: 102 kilometres by bike
- Damages for the day: Rs 6 for tea
The day began with a bit of a suspense, awaiting one call that would decide the course of this trip. Either I would be moving on further to the next destination or backtracking to Mumbai for a week, to work on an assignment. When I got the phone call, I took the decision to continue with the trip. No going back.
I was feeling bored, not having ridden in the past day and a half, so decided to feed my passion and take off on a little adventure. My destination this time was Bhojde Falls, located about 50 km from Sasan Gir. Hearing this, Damji bhai’s brother expressed his interest in accompanying me for a ride to the falls. On our way, after covering about seventy-five percent of the route, I learned that he too was visiting the falls for the first time. All Ijjjj Well!! We lost our way four times in all, of which twice was on off-road tracks. The sand was soft and riding was tough. Soon enough, success followed struggle and we managed to find the right route to the falls. A narrow rocky path opposite an ashram leads to the falls.
The rocky terrain ahead of me looked like the surface of the moon. If felt like riding on the moon’s surface, right on Earth. Somehow, I was feeling a little over-adventurous, with a strong desire for challenge. To satisfy the need, I decided to ride all the way to the falls. It was just as I expected, totally challenging. The way was slippery, rocky, slushy, and full of ditches and potholes. Some parts of the path had long patches of stagnant water. My tyres kept losing their grip, but despite this I managed to save myself and the bike from falling at several instances. At some point I had to ask the owner’s brother to walk on foot, due to the difficulty I was having the bike on the slippery rocks.
This was good fun; I felt super-elated and totally satisfied with the ride! The locals here thought I was crazy to ride a bike to the falls. It probably is the only bike that has made it to the falls so far, commented one local man. I got the weirdest looks of astonishment from people. I think only another biker would understand the thrill of it though. I felt excited and thrilled, was happy and high from the adventure. On returning back, we had dinner together at Damji bhai’s brother’s place.
Even after so many years of riding experience, I foolishly left the visor of my helmet open, allowing a bug to hit my eye, leaving it red as an apple. It was a stingy reminder of a forgotten lesson!
The twelfth day was indeed memorable with the enchanted experience of biking to the Bhojde Falls!
Day 11 – Barter in the Modern Time
Location – Damji bhai’s farm – Sasan Gir
The entire morning was spent making the video for the blog. It took a long time to process a high definition video on a small laptop with a USB drive attached. The combination had its own nightmarish limitations. I wanted to edit the blog video well with transitions and effects, but due to the above-mentioned limitations, could not do so. Long hours of extensive work finally showed its results in a successfully uploaded video clipping.
Later in the day, I worked on still photographs and a video coverage of the resort I stayed at – Damji bhai’s Farm (Contact number – 9825538295 Damji bhai is the resort owner.) This was more like a barter arrangement. I shot the video and photographs for the resort and while he hosted my stay and food at the resort. The equation was – VIDEO FOOTAGE + STILLS = STAY + FOOD
In the evening I was invited over for dinner at a farm house by Damji bhai’s brother. Amazed by the work I was doing, they showered me with a lot of love and respect. It was a gesture of heartfelt appreciation. I was pleasantly surprised with the way I was being treated, with so much dignity and helpfulness. I was very happy to have something different for dinner, other than my routine diet – the famous aubergines (brinjal). It was corn roasted on a campfire that I really enjoyed.
The eleventh day was quiet and spent doing back end work.
Day 10 – Magnificent Sighting
- Damages for the day- Rs 750 for the safari; Rs 32 Mazzaala chai
- Distance traveled- 12 km by bike; 80 km by jeep
Arriving at the counter in the Gir forest, I met an interesting man, touring India on twice the number of wheels as I was. Upon striking a conversation with him, I found out Vinit had an American accent. He had toured cross-country on four wheels in a Maruti 800 through eight states, over a period of three months. This was his first vacation in six years. We had common interests and lots to talk about. We mutually decided to venture into the forest in the 800. I was excited to drive into the forest, now having the freedom of stopping at places at our own free will, without being at the mercy of the commercial drivers’ time-bound expeditions. It was a challenge driving in the forest and it seemed exciting to us.
It did not take long before we were in for some more adventure… It took only a distance of 500 meters into the forest before our vehicle was breathless, with a flat in the tyre. We had work to do! Looking at the brighter side of it, I was happy I wasn’t on the bike. It would be a bad situation with no spare tyre! I would have been on the fast food menu of the wild. Saying our prayers we changed the tyre, but now it was as good as riding on my bike – with no spare tyres to change.
I can not understand why most travelers use an old tyre as a spare. We were in a similar state of affairs running on an old tyre replacement. To be safe and sure we kept our drive slow, staying at a speed of 20 km. No complaints; it was a blessing in disguise. We got to see many birds and animals at this slow speed. We had a choice of stopping at places interesting enough and stopping as long as we liked.
After a drive of about half a kilometre, we came to the most serene sight! A lake shimmering with a million diamonds on the water’s surface, reflected by the sunlight… what beauty! It was a divine interaction between the elements of nature — sunlight, water and the wind in perfect harmony!! I was blissfully spellbound, absorbed in nature’s gifts!!
As we started to venture to another location, Vinit thought it was a replay of the situation we just handled a while ago. Yes, another tyre puncture according to our guide! We were now in a situation we did not want to imagine, but the only option we had was to keep going, driving our way out of the park even if it meant losing the tyre. This was a better choice than being in jeopardy. We successfully hailed out of the park, cutting down on 12 km of the safari drive only to realize that it was a false alarm. The tyre was only low in air pressure and not flat. Filling air in the tyre, we decided to continue our safari drive.
Love is all around us, this time in the jungle we got lucky to have sightings of a lion-lioness mating. I immediately inquired from the guide “Is this the mating season?” to this he humorously replied “lions are learning from the humans race, now mating season is on all through the year for them, just like humans. There is no particular season.” We burst out in a roar of laughter! I thought to myself, “what am I doing here? These animals seem more privileged than I am.” Of course he was the true king of the jungle! With this realization and thought, I decided to leave the park. It was afternoon already; I went back to the hotel and got on to transferring the data. As is usually the case, I lost all track of time, being engrossed in work.
Soon it was time for the evening safari with Vinit, this time leaving the Maruti 800 behind, we opted for a jeep safari. We had a very good driver and a guide. Enjoying the beauty of the place we spotted deer, antelopes, foxes, sambar and some variety of birds in their natural habitat. Ater halting briefly at the half way stop, we decided to move on. At a distance of about a kilometre we heard a sambar call. The alert driver immediately looked into the direction of the call, and figured out where the wild animal would be. His judgment was different from that of the guide. The driver went along with his own judgment out of experience, letting the vehicle run down the slope in neutral gear, leading into a ravine. What a magnificent sight – it was a leopard!!! It was nothing less than a Jackpot for us!! Leopard sightings are rare, we were lucky to have a six minute sighting of the big cat sitting in the ravine. What a beauty it was!!
As we moved on, we got news of having missed a lion sighting just by five minutes. Looking at the brighter side of it, I thought I’m glad it was the lions we missed and not the leopard! Happy at the end of day ten, I returned to the hotel and decided to work on a video for the blog. I’m sure you are eagerly awaiting to see it all.
Day 9 – Siddi
Last night I worked until very late. It was difficult to open my eyes and get started for the day at 5.00 am. Somehow after struggling for a while I managed to get out of the hotel by 5.45 am for the sunrise safari. On reaching the forest office, I looked for a partner to share costs for the jeep safari, that were 700 for the jeep, 400 for the entry fee to the park and 100 for the guide. Sharing a jeep ride with another person would allow me to cut a few costs. This morning an SBI banker from Agra and I shared the vehicle. Enthusiastically sharing his experiences, he had tales to tell from his past travels and being an active listener I patiently listened to what he had to say.
I wasn’t sure what to say to him, should I also share my stories of wildlife sightings and travel tales or tell him how many different places I visited in India and abroad? Being unsure about what to say, I thought it was best to not say anything at all and allowed him to continue talking. As we reached the entrance to forest area, an officer instructed our guide to take a particular route, to ensure good sightings. He was aware that I am a wildlife photographer; I have visited here several times in the past. On hearing this, the banker felt a bit awkward and did not know what to say. Maintaining silence, I observed the change of expression on his face. It was an extremely quiet morning only in terms of animal sightings.
I observed from the past three days of safari that the quality of knowledge the guides had was way below average and very unimpressive. The only thing they are aware about was the forest routes. They are disengaged and have no interest in striking up conversations with the tourist. All they did was sit in the front seat with the driver, not making any efforts to locate wildlife.
Soon enough the guide received a phone call indicating sightings of a lioness and her grown cub. We headed in the direction of the sighting. On our way we saw some deer, foxes, neel gaai, owls, sambars and an eagle.
An odd incident that took place on Christmas night was narrated by our guide. A lion had killed itself, leaping from a bridge that rose almost 40 feet above the ground level. On probing further I was told two vehicles came from either sides of the bridge, and the lion tried to escape the situation, probably paranoid with the lights and sound late at night. As an reflex, it jumped over the edge of the bridge, panicked, and lack of judgment resulted in the accidental death. What an sad waste of life! One animal from the endangered species was lost forever for reasons so unacceptable. I was left wondering what those vehicles were doing in a restricted area at that hour of the night!! Something that should be looked into by the forest authority and the government!
Returning to the hotel, with a flow of random thoughts and unanswered questions, reliving the experience over my staple diet of aubergines, I mulled over the happenings of the morning. My jeep partner and I decided to go on an evening safari, but he then did not turn up for it, without informing me and despite having my phone number, leaving me stuck without a partner. At the last minute this resulted in a change of plan. Now I was heading towards the Siddi village. It was steep to pay 1300 for a single person, without having anyone to share the ride. In waiting for him, I had lost the chance of finding another partner.
Siddis are descendants of African migrants that arrived here over 600 years ago. They are natives of Gujarat, but they continue living the African way speaking the local dialect. Most of them have taken to Islam. Their dress and lifestyles are Indianised over the years, but their looks and hairstyles remain African in origin. A truly unique community by itself , they did not stop amusing me. They indulge in a variety of activities to earn a living, from selling vegetables to being a conductor in a local bus, to working as a guide in the forest. It was a worthwhile experience to visit to this unusual place. I was also a somewhat scared as they seemed a bit aggressive, demanding money for the pictures I had taken, more so as it is in Africa with the Masai and in some parts of Sri Lanka where pole fishing is done.
This marks the end of day nine.
Day 8 – Sasan Gir Forest
- Distance traveled- 40 Km by Jeep, 12 Km by Motor bike
- Damages for the day- Rs. 950 – Fees for camera & guide and entry charges to visit the park; Hotel Bill – Yet to pay.
Wake-up time was at five am. I was to meet the driver at a predecided location by 6.00 am. Waking up fresh, I rode to the place, feeling the chill of the wee hours before dawn. The jacket protected my upper body from the cold breeze, but my hands had no protection of gloves. This left them freezing numb in the biting cold. This is the same old story that makes you laugh as always, about the goofy situations I find myself into. I’m just being very generous and entertaining you, see. Yes! Yes! You are absolutely correct, I did forget something, and this time it was money. I decided to move on and not retrace my steps back to the hotel. I did not want to miss the sunrise timing to trace the animals in the forest. On arrival at the decided location, I acquainted the driver to the situation I was in. Being very cooperative and understanding as he was, he generously offered me a cup of tea as his treat.
We drove our way into the forest in a jeep. I was set with my gadgets to capture every moment of being with nature at its most wild. The morning was cold yet serene. The sunrise added its golden glow to illuminate the forest land to the waking of a new day. Chirping sounds of birds and squirrel calls made a fine background score, enhancing the mood of the early morning hour in the forest of Sasan-Gir.
Soon after, we spotted our fist sightings of the day. It was eight lions together walking on the mud paths of the forest. Of the eight, three were lioness and five cubs playfully followed them. The cubs, as their nature suggests, gaily played among themselves, while being closely watched over by the lionesses. My view of this sight was absolutely clear and uninterrupted by the forest thickets. Later on we spotted some owls, deers and Neel Gaai. It was a fine morning spent amidst nature. We heard alarm calls from monkeys and peacocks. This is a kind of natural signaling alerted other animals about the presence of a lion in close proximity.
I returned to the hotel and worked on uploading pictures for the blog. How the time flew by, I did not realize, as I was deeply engrossed in work. It was past the lunch hour, time to for the evening safari. I did not want to miss a moment of that, so I decided to miss out on lunch instead. I hailed into the forest again, this time taking the money and everything I needed.
On returning from the safari, I was starved, and guess what I had for dinner – Yes bengan-bharta and bread!!! Will I get to eat something else soon enough, besides this over popular diet of aubergines in every preparation of food? This is the story of day eight into my dream trip. Now lights out and good night!!
Day 7 – Brinjal Overload
- Distance Travelled- 55 km Junagadh to Sasan Gir
- Damages for the day- Rs. 10 Chai
It was a fine chilly morning, breakfast laid on the table. It was not just chai and something to eat, it was a chappan bhog. All possible things I could have had for breakfast lay there in front of me. I was wondering how I am I going to stomach so much. Somehow, I managed to eat a little bit from the huge variety, enough to be well handled by my digestive system. Bharat bhai’s wife was very kind and generous, she offered to pack up some thepla and achar with snacks for me. I thanked her for being kind but decided to go without a parcel. Bharat bhai lead my way to the road going towards Sasan Gir. Soon enough, I was on a ride to the Gir forest. The roads were smooth enough for me to enjoy riding, there was greenery was all around as far as my eyes could see. This got me into a more more filmy mood. I felt like Manoj Kumar – happily humming some song, — Mere desh ki dharti sona ugle.. ugle here moti… mere desh ki dharti.. followed by a lot of other hits from his times. The crops were lush green and a treat to the eye, before I knew I had reached closer to the destination Gir Forest.
It was time to stop for a cuppa mazzaaala Chai. As I halted at a nearby tea stall, with curious eyes, people around observed my unusual looking helmet with a tail or antenna, they were not sure! They were wondering what it was. I decided to play the prankster. I had anticipated what was coming, so was ready to have fun. Soon enough we got into a conversation and sure enough up popped the question I expected. What is that on your helmet? Is it an antenna? I got the chance I waited for. “ It is a high technology balancing system, that helps me balance my mind while riding the bike at high speeds. It helps in staying focused” It actually is a mount for a camera, but it looks like a tail to the helmet, so I continued my explanation, giving them logic about how a tail helps animals to balance themselves. I could not believe that they bought all the lies in the story. Three forest officers and a teacher together believed in my confidently made-up story.
The teacher kindly guided me to the hotel at Gir. Here lunch was awaiting my arrival, but the teacher insisted I have lunch at their home. I could not turn down the invitation. So I went along with him, hoping to have something interesting for a meal. For lunch there was roti, dal, rice, chatni and most expected vegetable in these parts, BRINJAL!! “Again!?!” I thought to myself. I have been eating brinjal in all its forms since I’ve been in this region. Five out of the seven days spent here, I’ve had brinjal almost twice a day. Everywhere I go there is only ‘Ringna no Odo’ (A traditional preparation made from roasted brinjals) Are there no other vegetables available here or do people have a surplus of brinjals? Not any more for me, please. I will forget what any other vegetable tastes like. Anyhow, I had lunch with them and moved on with hope that dinner will be anything but brinjals!
Post lunch I returned to the hotel, downloading stuff, transferring it to the computer and backing it up on the external hard disk. Work in progress was slow as I had just one USB cable. Before I knew, it was nearing time to go out into the forest area. In the evening I went for a walk into the periphery of the forest. Here I saw a seven day old kill made by the lions. We had some deer sightings. Nearby there was a sugarcane field, I could not resist plucking out a fresh juicy cane. I relished it, fresh straight from the field!
I returned to the hotel and yes, you are absolutely right in guessing what I had for dinner… It was more baingan ka bharta and bread. This marks the end of day seven!!!
Day 6 – Rann of Kutch to Junagadh
- Distance travelled: 400 km
- Route Taken: Palaswa – Lakadia – Maliya – morbi – bamanbore – Rajkot – Gondal – Jetpur Junagadh
- Damages for the day: Rs 600 – Fuel; Rs 40 – Lunch; Rs 10 – Tea; Temple Donation (X amount not to be mentioned)
The night was spent at the dormitory of cows, with special sound effects as a bonus. Early in the morning, as I lay there on the charpoy, I woke up feeling a huge thud on my legs and I was tossed around to an angle, the result of being butted by a cow. Not to worry, that was a cow style Good Morning!! It was a cow looking straight into my face, demanding to be petted. Happily, I responded to the demand and obliged. Soon there was another calf pulling my blanket out. Now I was wondering, did I look like another cow or something like that? I wasn’t allowed to stop petting them… every time I did I was butted as a reminder — hey, get busy, you have work to do! Luckily it was time for grazing, so all the cows happily left the shed and I was spared the work assigned.
I enjoyed the warm shower at the sulfur spring with no audience today. It was time to pack up and get going. People at the mandir showed so much affection, wanted me to stay back and did not want me to leave the place. I thought of a perfect situational song, Musaafir hoon yaaron, naa ghar hai naa thikana, mujhe chalte jaana hai Ok, now today I am in a filmy mood. I had to move on and so I gratefully thanked them for all the support, love, affection and care they offered during my stay, making it truly memorable, and started for the journey ahead to my next destination, Meduk mountain. I reunited with my bike and set off again enjoying the ride on the desert land, this time losing my way to Palaswa. The salt makers guided my way to the right direction.
I moved on, but after riding a distance of eight kilometres there was no visible road ahead, as it had rained about a fortnight ago. Due to this, the soil had loosened up. The tractors using the path had left grooves on the sand making it difficult to ride on. I decided to ride on the desert leaving the path. For a bit, I did think of turning back but somehow decided to keep going. The ride got worse, tyres now sank in the sand making it difficult to balance. Another problem was, I was off road with road tyres on the bike, the weight of the luggage had the rear tyre spinning in circles. After riding like this for about twenty five kilometres, it got a little better. Now at a crossroad junction with not a soul visible till the horizon I was left wondering where to go. Guided by instinct, I decided to move straight ahead. The desert is full of illusion. I was seeing things that seemed to be there but that did not exist in reality. Mirages and delusions took me by surprise. I saw water way ahead of me, and something that appeared like an animal on the road turned out to be a stone in reality. I was looking for the mountains, hoping they were not another illusion. Finally after riding on for a bit finally I got a glimpse of the Meduk Mountain!! It was only trust in the universe and my instincts that guided my way to the mountain.
Here on the Meduk Mountain, I know only one person lives in the Vanu dada temple. I wanted to spend one more night here, being one with the vastness of the desert. So I decided to put up at the temple. There were three men in the temple, each greeting me in a different language. One of them spoke English, the other in Hindi and the third in Gujarati. Before I knew it, I was forced into taking a multi-linguistic crash course in philosophy. In a twenty minute conversation I made the journey of several eras. They told me tales and quotes of Swami Vivekananda to Socrates and Narsi Metha to Kabir. Did I even ask for it? By now, I was developing an allergy to this disconnected philosophy class conducted in three different languages. I wanted to run out of there, and I was on the bike and on my way to the next destination. I had just saved myself from insanity!
I had two options now. One was to head to Venu Village and option two was Palaswa. I decided to go with the second one. Reaching the village was a task too tough. Due to the road conditions, riding on the sand with so much weight on the bike was getting more and more difficult. It was hard to balance, so I stood up on the foot raise. I somehow managed to go on and saved myself from falling, keeping the focus on the front wheel I kept riding till I reached the highway to Rajkot.
The four lane roads were good for a ride. The speedometer showed 110 kmph. I was enjoying both the breeze and speed. While riding, I saw windmills spinning at high speeds due to strong winds. But these same strong winds weren’t favourable with the aerodynamics of the bike and this left the bike swinging from left to right. The bike was cruising at a constant speed of 90-100 km/ph covering a distance of 40 km. The wind had calmed down, yet another problem arose. This time it was nature’s biggest mistake, left at the mercy of making judgments on basis of a faulty brain. It was a newly opened road. The people here had an unclear concept of a four lane highway. We had vehicles coming from all directions in all the lanes turning anywhere at anytime. Were they thinking that the government generously made two roads for them both to be used simultaneously? I was paranoid seeing speeding trucks and vehicles coming from the opposite direction in the same lane I was going in, that too at such high speeds. What happened to the traffic sense and rules? There were people turning up at their own free will in any direction of their choice. I was hoping I’d get out of there soon, preferably alive. This was a challenge for me. It became extremely important to be absolutely focused if I had to be safe and alive.
I reached Rajkot and rode to Junagadh. Fortunately with a reference from my friend Kalpesh, I put up with Bharat bhai for the night. We had a good time conversing over dinner. I am very thankful to Bharatbhai and his family for being such wonderful hosts. On reaching Junagadh, I was caught by five men in uniforms for the Xenon lights. It took time for them to understand why I had them on. I had to get down to explaining them about me touring India and riding on highways at night. They were convinced by the given explanation and soon let me go. This was an eventfully action packed day six!
Day 5 – Happy Birthday
- Little Rann of Kutchh
- Distance traveled: 40 km
- Damages for the day: Still remains undamaged!!
It was a cold night, and one of the two blankets I covered myself with was down, leaving me frozen like a kulfi.It’s my birthday!! Any guesses who was among the first ones to wish me? I’m sure it’s not who you could have ever guessed. A DOG!! Yes, a dog sniffed and woke me up licking my face as though I was a cake made for him. It kissed my face leaving it sparkling with saliva. This surely was the first birthday wish of its kind!!
I term them to be the most memorable birthday kisses I have ever got!!! I went to the open-air, hot water bathroom with hope to feel clean again. It was a sulfur spring, I believe. To my surprise I wasn’t the only one using this natural open-air bathroom. Buses full of people visiting from Surat, a nearby town, were already here before me. Generously leaving back layers of shampoo froth and soapy foam. Disgusting!!!! I made up my mind — I was not going to bathe here and get myself into any hygiene related troubles. So tracing the source of the water, I filled bottles and bathed at a cleaner spot outside the mess. Finally feeling fresh and clean I was ready to begin a happy day!!
I decided to spend my birthday with an unusual audience — 500 cows — but did not cut many cakes. I enjoyed myself feeding them fresh grass, cleaning up the cowshed, playing with calves… I was having fun! It was like having an animal party specially hosted for meBeing Makar Sankranti, the temple attracted a huge crowd of devotees. Soon enough it was lunch time. The kitchen hosted meals for more than 500 people. Everyone that came here did their little bit helping to prepare the meals. Some making chapattis, cutting vegetables, washing utensils… I could see team work in totality.
Post lunch I went back to the animal jamboree and saw a cow giving birth to a new born calf. It was an amazing experience to see how a new life came into being, bonding with its link to the world. The cow licked the calf, cleaning it up with so much affection. This is a part of the initial mother-child bonding, where the calf identifies the mother with all its five senses. The wobbly-legged calf took its first steps into the world for survival and independence. I was totally consumed by this experience.
There were too many people here, being a festive day. Most of them saw me with curiosity and were wondering what I was doing here with my bike and camera. So many questions and conversations they had with me in the course of the day. I was missing some quiet time by now, so I decided to ride away into the desert to gain some peace and tranquility. I was one with the silence, breeze and vast openness of the desert enjoying the chemistry I had with my bike.
Soon I came to the salt pans, here I saw three lady workers colourfully clad in their traditional clothes. Striking up simple conversations with them over a dish (adari) of black tea, I realised that there was so much ignorance and innocence amongst people in such remote areas. They had no clue about where Mumbai was located; they thought it was some nearby village and I chose not to disrupt their beliefs. I wonder if they know there is a whole wide world outside of where they dwell. Soon I was out of there. Happily I reunited with my bike, enjoying the ride back lost in the silence of the desert at the sunset hour. I was now feeling the chills in the breeze!! Dinner was done and I was ready to mark the end of day five under the dome of stars, laying there on the charpoy, warm under the blankets.
Day 4 – Bovine Intervention
- Nalsarovar to Little Rann of Kutch via Ahmedabad
- Distance travelled: 211.2 km.
- Damages for the day- Rs 600 fuel; Rs 35 Gujju Thali; Rs 5 ChaiStay. No money, no hotel so I am living in a temple –Vasada Dada amidst the Desert of Little Rann of Kutch!! (Considering becoming a permanent resident here.)
Most of the morning I spent on editing pictures for the blog. This took me a good two hours, as I had to create pictures from the videos I shot. I did not to carry a still camera. Before you jump to conclusions, let me clarify… this is surely not a result of the onset of dementia; I intentionally did not carry one. Every time it can’t be as goofy as it sounds!It was almost 11.am when I started for Ahmedabad, the nearest city, to find the data cable I was looking for. The city was at a distance of 65 kms from where I was in Nalsarovar. Definitely a detour, but I was sure to find the gadget there. On arrival to city, I felt like Detective Karamchand at work solving some mystery of locating the right cord, at computer stores… of-course Kitty and the carrot were missing.The hunt was on. To my surprise I found not a soul who had any clue. No one was able to guide me to a store or the market that sold computer related goods. Was I in a remote village or what? I needed help. No, actually someone who understands what I was saying. The USB data cable almost sounded like words out of Greek and Latin dictionaries to them!!!
Like a smart idiot, I thought the next best option was to look for a computer institute to get the right info. Soon enough I successfully located one. My first clue for the day, guided me to Bodak Road a computer market area.There goes Karamchand again looking for the Bow-Duck area. What luck!! Just then my eagle eyes spotted a familiar sign board – CROMA!!! Case was solved successfully and sooner than I thought! I parked my bike right outside the store. I was still in the detective mode, keeping an eye on my bike and belongings! I tried to coax the watchman to look after the bike while I shopped. After an initial hesitation he eventually agreed to watch over it. I was physically in the store but my mind and eyes did not leave the bike even for a minute! My buy from CROMA was an external Hard disk drive and a USB data cable. Yes!! Mission accomplished! This one is the latest addition to the existing army of almost 16 USB cables sitting back at home.
After all this, it was time to get rolling. I looked into figuring out the route I would take to arrive at my next destination – The little Rann of Kutch.The route I planned was Viramgam- Dasada – Jenabad – Jinjwada. From Jinjwada then go off-road 20 km to Vasada dada Temple — my night halt amidst the desert. I had visited this place about two years ago. Having great memories of feeding fresh grass to a zillion cows, I could not wait to get back there and relive all of it.
I was on track, cruising at a steady speed, enjoying the ride. It was past the lunchtime and I was hungry. Just before Dasada, I took a lunch break. Treated myself to Gujju delicacies in a so-called famous (THALI) with bhajia, methi na fulavda and the usual roti, daal, bhaat, shaak. Proud of being an unusual Gujju Dhokla! This adequately fueled my energy levels to get going again.On the way to the Little Rann of Kutch I had to off-road a distance of about 20 km from Dasada. The landscape I saw was all about dry lands, not much vegetation and with only a few hutments of the renowned salt-makers of the Rann. As I moved further on, following the flags that guided me to the way, I came across a sign saying “ROAD CLOSED” and I saw no flags after that point. It was instinct and past experience that guided me in determining where to go. I was successful and accurate enough in my judgement to ride to the destination.
I arrived at the Vasda Dada temple at about 5.00 pm. Here, I was warmly greeted and welcomed by Patel Bhai. I met him about two years ago on an expedition to the Little Rann of Kutch. We had tea and snacks together, indulged in exchanging stories and tales that made conversations interesting enough to last for over an hour or so. Being a small remote place with not many people and no electricity, I sort of felt disconnected from gadgets and gizmos, but one with nature. It gave me time for some relaxation, introspection and thinking under a dome of stars. Laying in the open on a charpai (a traditional bed made of a frame woven with choir ropes) was freezing cold, and I tucked myself under two blankets trying to keep myself warm! A night I spent in silence watching the stars above on a chilly winter night. This marks the end of day four!
Day 3 – Ramazan’s Kingdom
- Damages for the day:
- Rs 20 puncture repair charges
- Rs 5 chai
- Rs 100 lunch
- Rs 200 boat
- Distances travelled:
- 4 km walk
- 8 km on the bike
- 12 km by boat
Wake up time — 6.30 am. First action for the day, (most important) made myself a hot cup of Earl Gray tea. This was breakfast enough for me to pack my bags and get rolling for the day. My day began with a surprise… any guess what it could be? Yes, it’s a flat tyre! The adventure for the day had already begun and so had the hunt for a puncture repairer. Luckily, I found one at the end of the road, just around the corner. But I was up early – it was just 7:30 a.m. — and no one else seemed to be about, so I had to wait for someone to arrive at the shop. I made waiting worthwhile by having another cuppa tea to pass the time. As soon as the mechanic showed up, I fixed the punctured tyre and decided to get going for the day. I rode the distance of two kilometres and reached the lake.
As I reached, a now -familiar sinking feeling hit me, as I realized (for the fourth time in just a few days) that I had left something important behind. It was my tripod this time that was sitting back at the hotel room. So once again, I found myself retracing my steps, rode back to the hotel, this time getting my tripod along with me. Really, I think I’m getting a little bit of early-onset dementia! Arriving at the lake I looked for Ramazan, my trusted guide for Nalsarovar, but could not find him anywhere. Today he had taken the Deputy Forest Officer for a boat ride. But Ramazan’s father assured me he would join us soon, and requested his brother to take me on the boat instead. I was not very comfortable with the temporary arrangement, being with a new guide, but was not left with much choice. So I decided to go along with the flow of events. I began getting busy with my cameras and gadgets. It wasn’t long before Ramazan joined us while I was taking pictures of kingfishers. I was happy to have my friend back on board. We went further into the lake for about 6 km and here was a site worth seeing, a multitude of feathery flamingos. A treat from natures reserves, what a gorgeous sight! I soaked it all in, enjoying every moment of the vision through the lens, capturing that moment forever in time.
Further on, we ventured onto a fishing island, where I saw fishermen throwing out their nets and catching fish in numbers unimaginable. A thought came to my mind, and lingered, bothering me… how can the government allow this kind of extensive fishing in a place that’s a natural habitat for migratory and inland birds? Can we not leave this sacred space just for them? With this disturbance weighing on my mind, I left the fishing island and a lingering question on my mind to which I have no answer. Who is to be blamed? It was nearing lunchtime and our stomachs were rumbling. It was time to get to Ramazan’s home for another round of their staple diet: bajra ki roti, baingan ka bharta, lasun ki chatni and some fresh onions and buttermilk… sound familiar? We had been on the lake for more than three hours and decided now to head homeward.
As we got off the boats heading towards the hutment and the community, my eyes wandered about, soaking in the culture and feel of the little village. I felt engulfed by the aura of the place, warm as sunshine. It was the warmth of love and togetherness in the community. People here had something so special about them. A realization dawned upon me, looking at their uncorrupted, simple world… A shed covered in blue plastic sheets from above and sides was something they identified as a home. Mother Earth lay there as the ground to protect them and cuddle them in comfort, when tired. An earthen oven on the ground with some firewood burning was enough of a kitchen for them. Not much they owned in the way of possessions, and probably it was this that made them the happy people they really are, with nothing to worry about losing, just living each day as it comes.
We reached Ramazan’s home, and when his mother wasn’t around to make us a meal, a helpful neighbour and his wife did the cooking, preparing a delicious meal. This was most exciting for a foody like me. I saw how they roasted the brinjal (aubergines) on the clay oven and a pile of firewood. The aromas filled the air, ever increasing my appetite. The garlic chutney was freshly ground between two stones with a pinch of salt and red chilli. A mouth-watering combination indeed, just right to go with the handmade bajra rotis (a sort of bread made from millet). As we began eating the yummy food freshly cooked for us, Ramazan’s mother arrived. She wore the warmest smile I have ever seen, so full of love. The food I ate today will ever remain deeply engraved in my mental journal. It is not just the food, more so it’s the culture, the warmth, the love and affection I was fed the meal. So very Indian in tradition and culture. It was time for some play with the family. I refer to Ramazan and his six year old boy, learning to fly kites from daddy. It took me down memory lane and reminded me of my own childhood days. Kite flying was my favourite too. Coincidently, I was born on the 14th of January and it happens to be Uttrayan, the kite flying day. Is that why I love to fly and be one with the breeeze?
For the first time, I witnessed and Egret catching a frog and managed to capture the moment on my camera!
Day 2 On the Lake
- Damages for the day are:
- Rs110 for lunch tea and mineral water
- Rs150 for guide
- Rs50 tip
- Rs300 hotel
- Rs165 for two days dinner and tea
Day two of my dream journey commenced at 7.30 a.m. with my teeth rattling in the biting cold, and just the thing I needed most — a hot steaming cup of masala tea — to keep me warm. Today I planned to go bird-watching at the Nalsarovar lake. Gaining warmth from the hot cup of chai, I started my bike, riding a distance of 2 km from my hotel down to the lake’s edge. In just a jersey and 3/4 length pants, the cold bit in deep.
As I parked the bike I was mobbed by a herd of boatmen haggling for my business. The rates ranged from 50 – 150 Rs for the boat ride. I finally made my choice, going with the cheapest one at Rs50. He agreed to take me deep inside the lake, covering a distance of 7 km, where I could see lots of migratory birds like Pelicans, King Fishers, Flamingos, etc…
Of course, cheaper is not always better. My fine choice of boatman turned out to be a conman who tried to hike up the rates to 1500 from just Rs 50 as soon as the boat had taken off and we were mid-lake. Bastard! Let this be a warning, you get what you pay for! It got a little heated and I demanded to be dropped back ashore. Either that or I was going to toss him into the lake! Back on dry land, I entered into the super-haggle to end all haggle with the crowd of boatmen, all eager for my money, not only looking for a good rate and but also — now the wiser — looking to find someone with integrity. This time, I selected a boatman named Ramazan and agreed upon a price of 150Rs.
What a prince this one turned out to be… We started our day with a warm cup of tea at his little hut, but I think it was the warmth of his family members that moved me, more than just the cup of tea. I was invited for a lovely lunch at their little home where big-hearted souls dwelled in simplicity. The purity of our Indian culture and true love for guests is what I experienced, in abundance. We were all set to go onto the lake and there I witnessed the beauty of the so many winged species from faraway lands. After a good boat ride, witnessing the incredible variety of nature in its untouched form, we returned to our base for a scrumptious delicious Indian meal of bajreki roti, baingan ka bharta, lasun chatni, onion and buttermilk. I could not ask for more than just that! A real treat for my appetite, it was!
When I returned to the hotel, the realization of my third screw-up of the trip was awaiting me. This time, now some seven hundred kilo meters away from home and too far to return, I realized the USB data cable I need to upload my pictures was sitting back on my bed, left behind in the hectic chaos of my departure. How many things have I discovered left behind in just two days! And what else have I forgotten? It just reconfirmed the fact that I am (as many have commented) ever-so-slightly absent-minded. After searching practically every house in Nalsarovar to no avail, I decided I would have to go to Viramgam, about 35 km away, to search for a data cable.
It was then I was in for part two of the surprise… as I tried to kick start the bike, there was no response, just a sickly, unhappy little noise. This disheartening noise only thing I could hear. I was left with no other option but to open the panel of my bike to realise there was a problem with my relay switch. I dug in, removing the carbon form every lead, and finally after an hour and a half, three rounds of serious cleaning, my bike decided to start. Success at last! But by this time it was now almost dark and useless to set off for Viramgam.
Back at the hotel, I saw another biker come storming in. He had a UK number plate on a Suzuki make machine. I couldn’t resist striking up a conversation with someone who obviously shares the same passion as I do. I found out his name was Alex and he had ridden from the UK to India following almost the same route as I had back in 2006. It was like finding a brother in someone I had just met. Sharing stories and comparing travel tales, we had lots to talk about and continued the conversation for about an hour or so. We not only bonded over our mutual love of biking, but he proved to be a real saviour, as he carried with him the very USB cable for transfering data that I had left behind! Trust in the Universe; it has its own way of providing things at the right time in the right place!
Data transfer successfully!! This marks the end of Day 2.
Meet Mr. Pankaj Trivedi, a passionate biker from Mumbai suffering from wanderlust. To satiate his addiction this time around, Pankaj has rolled on an yet another Biking trip in which he will travel extensively through 12 states in the country and bring us back 36 intriguing stories to talk about. And that’s not it. He’s pursuing this all by himself, with no back up of any kind or crew to assist him. It’s just the Rider, the Bike and the road. Motoroids brings you the daily whereabouts, pictures and adventures of this nomad. Feel free to catch him as he passes through your town!
Day 1 – Leaving Mumbai
- Mumbai to Nalsarovar (Gujarat)
- Km: 620
- Hours of riding: 9 with breaks
- Money spent today:
- Petrol: Rs 650
- Bike repairs: Rs 20
- Food in dhaba: Rs 55
- Tea: Rs 15
- Hotel Nalsarovar: Rs 300, single occupancy
- Dinner: haven’t paid yet
After lots of planning and preparation, I started rolling for my biking trip this morning. It was difficult to get up early because I couldn’t sleep all night thinking about the big trip ahead. Somehow I managed to haul myself up at 6 a.m. As I did my final packing in the morning, I decided not to take my big camera bag and threw my camera in my tank bag. It’s always good to have one less bag.
Left at around 8 a.m., but nothing went smoothly. My early morning start was full of fumbles and my initial excitement was short lived. After about two km, my first big realization — I had left my money on the kitchen table! Nothing else to do but take a u-turn and head back home. I never imagined I’d have to see my own door again quite so soon, but there I was. Started off again and after a half kilo meter, my second realization — this time I’d left my driving license behind! Again, I retraced my steps back home. The security guard looked puzzled and asked, “Sir, wapas aa gaye?” (You came back?). I just nodded my head and said yes, I forgot my wallet. It was a bit of an embarrassing situation.
As I headed down the road across the domestic airport bridge, my mind wondered to the possibilities of making a sleek, aerodynamic saddlebag, thinking of how I could make that a reality… Ahead in the fast lane, one taxi was chugging along very slowly. People were honking from behind and everybody was overtaking from the left. I was thinking about traffic sense (or lack thereof) and wanted to give a piece of my mind to the taxi driver, but as I overtook him I realized the driver was just an old sardar uncle. I smiled, kept quiet, and kept going.
I was able to do around 80 to 90 k in the morning crossing Mumbai, going easy and just trying to get the feel of the bike, trying to sense how it handles with luggage and to understand how it balances and brakes with load. I was happy with my choice of bike. The Karizma is a very good touring bike for India. I have used this bike in the past for my Kanyakumari to Leh Limca Book record run, for Raid the Himalaya, and for a Northeast India trip. As soon as I crossed out of the city, I was able to open the throttle and the bike went smoothly at 100 and 110. It felt stable, and I started enjoying the ride.
Soon I forgot everything else, and just became one with my bike. Forgot to drink, to eat… just pure passion for riding overtook me. The road condition is great from Mumbai to Vadodara, a four-lane road. Just as I reached close to Surat, the first rider of the day tried to overtake me. I think my ego got a little dented. He was on an Apache RTR 180 with his girlfriend, and as he overtook me he turned his head to look back, laughing at me. I couldn’t control myself, started giving more gas, overtook him and continued going at my pace. He again overtook, cutting in front of me where I could have fallen and been hurt. I couldn’t resist now… no looking back… opened the full throttle, zoomed past him and was gone with the wind. After ten minutes, when he was nowhere to be seen, I began to worry for him, hoped he was fine and hadn’t had a crash. Both of them were not wearing any proper gear, not even a helmet, only glasses.