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    Exploring Rajasthan is always an amazing experience, but doing the same on a motorcycle amplifies the fun even more. Abhishek nigam reports from the saddle
    It was a usual evening post work, as I sunk into one of the cozy bean bags at the local coffee shop. The point of conversation was a much needed break and plan a really long ride which was really needed to unwind from the daily pressures of life. After debating over a lot of places we finally took a decision to head to Rajasthan. With its famed heritage, culture, safaris, sand dunes, lush forests and wildlife, it made for a destination nonpareil. With the destination decided, we left the planning for later.

    The next day at work, as I am working on my budget for the ride, which seemed to be going overboard, someone up there suddenly decides to shower his affection on me. I am asked to cover the Tour of Rajasthan ride on a Royal Enfield. With my happiness knowing no bounds, all I could think is that I could not get any luckier than this.

    With curses galore coming from friends who I had originally planned the trip with, I was off to the Pink City, which was going to be the origin of this fantastic journey.

    Painting the town pink – Jaipur to Mahansar Fort

    Bikes chosen, every nut-bolt checked and we finally commence our operation desert storm with the SP of Jaipur flagging all us 20 riders off in an orderly formation. With 500 cc and 26 horses between my legs, it was getting a little difficult to rein in all those horses, but the moment we got out of the city, the limiters were hit and the throttle pinned. But the ‘throttle wide open’ moment didn’t last too long as the roads began to deteriorate and were bouncing around like pogo sticks all the way towards Mansar. To add to our misery, there were a lot of close calls thanks to errant oncoming drivers who wanted to play ‘chicken’. Since everyone was riding at their own pace, we were pretty much scattered with the throttle happy way up ahead, the cruisers chilling in between and the newbie’s bring up the rear. As a result some did manage to lose their way. However, all the riders did manage to make it to the appropriate re-grouping points.

    Passing Navalgarh, Dundlod and Mandawa we finally hit Mahansar, but since we arrived a little ahead of schedule we decided to check out an old temple. Post that, a select few got their first taste of riding in the sand. Dune bashing might appear to be a piece of cake when seen on television, however it is anything but that. But what it definitely is, is loads of fun as you spin yourself deep into the sand and have no control whatsoever over the front. After almost exhausting my self to death, trying to make the heavy Classic simply move we decided to call it a day and decided to head back. And what a place to head back it was. We were put up at Narayan Niwas Castle, an eighteenth century castle that has now been converted into a small heritage hotel and is run by Thakur Maheshwar Singh and his family. A cultural evening made it a fitting end after a 200 plus km ride.
    Bikaner – In the land of Namkeen and Mithai

    Day 2 began nice and early with the riders checking out the nearby forts. Post a nice traditional breakfast it was time to hit the roads again. It was going to be a 230 plus km ride and we were told that these km would be gobbled up pretty fast. Once past the narrow unpaved village roads it was paradise uncovered. Perfectly paved arrow straight roads sprinkled with extremely sparse traffic, meant it was time to stretch the Classic 500’s legs. The throttle was wrung to a stop and the speedo was showing well over a 130 km/h with the Classic roaring past the other mortals, rather ‘mortalcycles’. We had to be careful though since we were riding pretty close t a sanctuary and were asked to look out for deer’s. But I’m sure the thump of twenty odd bullets must have sent the Bambi’s running for cover. Certain sections of the land are so barren and uninhabited that there are signboards literally saying “Do not screw up here or you are dead meat”. Four odd hours and quite a few pit stops later we finally arrive in the land of ‘Bhujia’, Bikaner.

    Jamba – Through rural Rajasthan

    Glancing through the itinerary, the next destination, Jamba made for quite a relieving sight. Total distance to be covered said just a 160 km and considering the previous distances, most of us assumed the day’s ride to be a cakewalk but we couldn’t have been more wrong. What lay ahead of us was probably the toughest section we would encounter. The initial part of the journey was the usual well paved roads and us paying a visit to the Karni Mata Temple. The temple is dedicated to a 15th century local saint who is believed to be an incarnation of Goddess Durga. You'll be astonished to see that thousands of rats swarm all over the temple floors. Strangely enough these rats do not bite the barefooted pilgrims who enter the temple.

    As we thumped on, we were hit by sand pits galore. People were simply all over the place and literally fighting to keep the bike straight. And once stuck, most of us just managed to dig ourselves deeper. We were made to reduce tyre pressure to increase the contact patch but that did not help much either. The sand pits really took a lot of time to get out of with almost everyone getting stuck. By the time we managed to haul ourselves and the bike out of the sand it had already become dark. The last five km really took a toll on us since negotiating deep sand in the dark was almost impossible. Finally after a lot of struggle we finally hit the campsite.
    Jaisalmer – The City of Gold

    Getting barely any sleep in that diminutive tent, the gang was up nice and early the next day. Since we were in the middle of the desert, we decided to climb the sand dunes on foot. After multiple efforts and sand on our faces we decided tackling them on bikes is definitely a more viable option. Post a good breakfast, we were ready to roll again. The destination for the day was ‘The Golden City’, Jaisalmer. I was quite keyed up since I had always wanted to visit this beautiful city. And not without a reason. Jaisalmer with its opulent Havelis, picturesque sand dunes and famous forts & palaces exemplifies Rajasthan in all its glory.

    But before taking off, we decided to get a group shot of all the thumpers atop a sand dune and that was going to be quite a challenge. With soft sand everywhere and no run-up area whatsoever it was absolute chaos. Wheels digging in and just spinning away to glory, riders tasting sand and the whole area layered with the aroma of burning clutches. Some finally managed to conquer the dune on their own while the others did so with a little assistance, but we were finally over the top. Some quick but brilliant clicks later we were finally on our way. Hitting NH-15, we took a quick detour towards Kheechan. It’s a small village that in recent years has established a tradition of feeding wild birds, including Demoiselle Cranes that winter here every year. And we were lucky to find a huge flock of these beautiful birds hovering and feeding. Back on track and soon another hoarding invited yet another detour. It read ‘Hawai Patti’ and we just had to check it out. On reaching the spot, we were just glad we took that detour. It was atleast six km of the best tarmac that I have ever laid wheels on. An abandoned airstrip meant lots and lots of drags, top speed runs and stunts. We literally had to stop or we would have simply blown our engines.

    Post all the airstrip rush, the roads were getting pretty boring and after a good lunch the straight never ending roads almost doubled up as cozy beds. With our eyelids getting heavy, we were either gunning the bikes hard or stopping every other often to splash water on our faces. But every km less on the hoardings egged us further till we finally entered the City of Gold after a good 250 plus km.
    Tanot and Sam – Battle scars and more

    Another long day of riding lay ahead and we would be covering close to 300 km this time. Since the normal route was unexciting we decided to take a longer route via Ramgarh. Riding through loose sand and narrow patches we were finally stopped since the roads were blocked and how. There was water everywhere and the roads were flooded as long as the eyes could see. We finally had to backtrack our way and managed to follow a local who led us through ‘kacha’ roads onto the right track. Long bumpy roads, tons of dust, a lot of sore butts and the harsh sun was really getting to us. We finally hit Tanot late afternoon. While the others arrived, the early birds paid a visit to the famous Tanot Mata temple. There is quite a history behind the temple and it is said that during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, Pakistani Army dropped several bombs targeting the temple but none of the bombs could fall on the temple and large number of the bombs in the vicinity of the temple did not explode.

    Moving on we had the opportunity to pay homage to the soldiers at Longewala and also managed to climb aboard a battered Pakistani tank which was stopped dead in its track by the Indian soldiers. We finally bid adieu to Longewala and via Ghotaru finally reached Sam.

    Jodhpur – Painting the town Blue

    With our butts still a little sore, we were off to the Blue city. About 250 km of good roads to traverse, there wasn’t too much action enroute. The first breather was at the Famous Akal Fossil Park which I almost missed since I was too busy maxing out my 500. We also passed an extremely scenic Suzlon site. Post an extremely satisfying lunch at a dhaba it was throttle pinned all along the NH 114 till our surroundings turned Blue.

    The next day was a day of rest and a much needed one at that. After a satisfying sleep and finally getting to know how it feels getting up post 10 am, it was time for some sightseeing. The day began by visiting the Umaid Bhavan Palace. Perched high above the desert capital of Jodhpur, Umaid Bhawan Palace is the last of the great palaces of India and one of the largest residences in the world, set amidst 26 acres of lush gardens. Once done it was off to the local flea market where we gobbled up the yummiest samosas ever. Apparently we were told that this was the place where great grandfather of the samosas was born.
    A quick regroup back at the hotel and we off to the Mehrangarh Fort. Instead of the highway we traveled through the heart of the city. The ride was absolutely surreal as we traveled through the narrowest of lanes. It was almost like these places just haven’t moved ahead with the times with the shops and buildings all harking back to the vintage era. We finally arrived at Mehrangarh where we managed to experience the RIFF (Rajasthan International Folk Festival) festival, some great music and not to mention some adventure sports as well. All in all a day well spent getting replenished and refreshed.

    Kumbalgarh – The Oasis in the desert

    This was going to be the place where we had been asked to carry warm clothes for. It was going to be a welcome break after the terrific heat we had encountered all along. Our first halt came at the beautiful Sardar Samand palace which was built by Maharaja Umaid Singh who also had the Umaid Bhavan we spoke about earlier constructed. But the highlight of the day was paying a visit to the ‘Bullet Baba Temple’ also called the Om Banna temple. As the name suggests it is dedicated to a Royal Enfield Motorcycle deity. The story goes that about 21 years ago, on a fateful summer night, Om Bana was returning from Pali to his native Chotila on his bike when it skidded and hit a tree, killing him on the spot. Villagers say after Om Bana's death, the motorbike was taken to a local police station. But next day morning, it was found at the accident spot. There was also the ritual of offering the traditional Prasad of Bullet beer to the deity.

    A quick lunch at the nearest dhaba and we were off again. The next regroup was at the famous Ranakpur Jain Temple. Thanks to confusing roads, a lot of riders had wandered off in different directions but finally managed to reach the regroup point. Moving on from the Jain temple we hit the snakiest section encountered on the ride yet. Passing through dense foliage, the roads were plain brilliant with some amazing corners thrown it. Serious lean angles and a lot of peg scraping followed with me almost over cooking it in one of the bends. We rode into the night and finally hit one of the most beautiful and not to mention chilly campsites. Kumbalgarh was indeed one of the best places in the itinerary.

    Ajmer – The Invincible Hill

    The ride to Ajmer was the ride of discovering new routes. After a series of beautiful endless tarmac we were hit by the worst roads yet. Infact no roads at all is a better way to describe what we were riding on. We were literally riding on rocks and boulders and mostly on the pegs since our backs could not handle the beatings anymore. I didn’t think I would make it through without a bent rim or a puncture, but surprisingly I did. And when we did finally make it onto the tarmac, it was well into the night. Wasn’t the best environment to ride in since the highways weren’t lit and to add to our woes the roads were full of truckers with high beams staring into our faces. Lot of construction and diversions which meant we had to be even more careful. The original plan was to halt at Pushkar but since it was already pretty late we decided to crash at Ajmer.
    Pushkar & Jaipur – Bramha Temple and back
    It had been ten days into one of the most exhilarating rides I have ever been on. And today was going to be the last day I would be riding Sparky. Sparky who you ask? That’s what I christened the beloved Classic 500 I was riding. Downshifting from a higher gear my bike would emit a blue flame from the exhaust coupled with a loud backfire and hence the name. The day began by heading to Pushkar and visiting the famed Bramha temple. Quick blessings taken and we were off again. Riding further we encountered the amazing Sambhar Lake which is India’s largest inland salt lake. Since it was in a dry state, there was no stopping us and before one knew it, all of us were slippy-sliding on the sun-baked surface.

    Finally we got onto the NH8 and from then on it was brilliant roads all the way back to Jaipur. As we entered the hotel, it was getting difficult to swallow the fact that the ride had finally come to an end. Riding through thick and thin, making new friends, the camaraderie, all those brilliant sights, this tour of Rajasthan was indeed special. But then seeing places aboard two wheels is always an extraordinary experience and thanks to Sparky, Rajasthan was indeed seen in an all new light. But for now its time for redemption and proceed with the original plans that I made with my friends!
    credit : zigwheels .com

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