Riding on the dunes

Travel tales

Riding on the dunes

It takes decades to unravel the mysteries of India, but as travel bugs, my husband and I like that challenge. Also, our hectic software jobs give us reason enough to get away from the City. We aim to explore one state every year on our bike. A bike trip to the monument-dotted Rajasthan last year remains evergreen in my memory.

We flew to Jaipur and collected our bike, a Thunderbird Bullet, 350 cc, from a friend’s place. Our first stop was ‘Jantar Mantar’. The collection of architectural wonders, built a century ago for astronomical purposes, made me think about the advancement of our civilisation. We covered 70 km the next day travelling to Amber Fort, Jaigarh Fort, ‘Hawa Mahal’ and Nahargarh Fort — all in Jaipur.

Located in Amer, Amber Fort’s cobbled paths took us to ‘Diwaan-e-Khaas’ and ‘Sheesh Mahal’, known for its exquisite glass work. ‘Jaigarh Palace’ was another treasure house for it has the world’s largest wheeled canon with barrel measuring about 20 feet.

After a hearty lunch, we left for the ‘Hawa Mahal’. Though intricate and beautiful from outside, we didn’t find anything really impressive about the interiors. The sunset at Nahargarh Fort, a fort which scales through the old town of Jaipur and up the hill, was like a bride dancing in the pink sky. I feel sunsets bring out the artist in every person and this holds true for the Pink City.

We also witnessed an evening procession at ‘Moti Dungari Ganesh Mandir’ and strolled through the markets of Jaipur. From there, we went to Jodhpur via Ajmer and Pushkar. We also visited a famous ‘dargah’, explored a Brahma temple and stopped at the holy ghats in Jodhpur after which we rode to Pokhran and gorged on ‘mirchi vada’ and ‘chai’ – the most loved breakfast of Rajasthanis. Mehrangarh Fort, which sits majestically above the blue city of Jodhpur, is also a sight to behold. It is surrounded by a sizable number of houses in blue and the Fort has artefacts of a bygone era.

A Rajasthan trip cannot end without visiting Jaisalmer. So from Pokhran, we paid a visit to the war memorial, about 25 km ahead of Jaisalmer. The memorial commemorated the Indo-Pak War of 1971 and there, we saw war artefacts too. Interestingly, we experienced our first rain in a desert as well.

The Jaisalmer Fort is a splendid structure and the only live-in fort in Rajasthan. It houses guest houses, restaurants, shops and the palace.  We also visited the glorious ‘Pathwon Ki Haweli’ and had a glimpse of how the Pathwon community celebrated life. We were already drunk on historical stories but were ready for more. So we went to Tanot. Legend has it that during the Indo-Pak War, several bombs were dropped over the area but the bomb which fell on the ‘mandir’ didn’t explode. The Indian Army, it is said, believes in the supernatural powers of the Goddess. In Jaisalmer, we went on a ‘desert’ safari and visited the abandoned Kuldhara village and a natural lake which never goes dry! A camel took us deep into the dunes and after a nice sunset. We slept here with no fear, listening to Rajasthani folk songs rendered by caretakers. Next morning, I woke up to the silence and again got ready to explore the place. We had an authentic Rajasthani ‘thali’ and visited ‘Bada Bagh’, the royal cemetery. Our day ended with a wonderful puppet show at the Desert Cultural Center and Museum. From Jaisalmer, we rode to Kumbalgarh. It was our longest ride wherein we covered 460 km in a single day! Since the route from Jodhpur to Jaisalmer was in a good condition, we decided to ride back on the same path to reach Kumbalgarh. About 100 km after Jodhpur, we saw a change in vegetation. Lush green fields with flowering plants and streams were everywhere! On our way, we also saw many people in pink. It seemed like they had played ‘Holi’. Later, we understood that it was the annual procession of ‘Charbhujnathji’. We took a detour to experience it. After that, we rode out to Kumbalgarh and had to stay in a damp dormitory but enjoyed being in the thick Aravalli Hill ranges. Next morning, we visited Kumbalgarh Fort. Although none of the royal artefacts are available for public viewing, the views of the hill ranges around is reason enough for people to pay a visit. Our final destination was Udaipur. After some ‘khakras’, ‘pakodas’ and ginger tea at our friend’s place (where we stayed), we set out to explore Udaipur. True to its name, you had to be a royalty to enjoy all the places. It was a costly place. The City Palace had the most royal artefacts than any other fort we had visited and the paintings were worth the price. In the morning, we visited the ‘Fateh Sagar Lake’, a tranquil locale, and headed to the Monsoon Palace on the hill top. We had a taste of some splendid folk performances at ‘Shilpa Gram’.

The most memorable event in Udaipur was the folk show at ‘Bagore Ki Haveli’. Ever since we were in Rajasthan, we had heard the refrain – ‘Garh-on mein garh – Chittorgarh!’ So we were curious to see the fort in Chittorgarh. It has more stories and legends than any other place in Rajasthan. The stories of Queen Padmini, Meera Bai, Panna Dai and Jauhar made us imagine how courageous the dynasty of Chittor was. On our way back to Bengaluru, we rode through Baroda, Lonavala and Belagavi and brought with us a bag full of memories and some souvenirs. It was magical how a part of history still lives on in a corner despite the progress it has made.

How to get there

* We took an IndiGo flight from Bengaluru to Jaipur. The fare was Rs 3,750 per person. The rest of the trip was on bike. We approximately covered 3800 km.

Where to stay

* Umaid Bhavan Hotel, a four-star hotel in Jaipur. The tariff per night was Rs 5,000 for two people.
* Surya Guest House in Jaisalmer. The tariff was Rs 500 for two for three nights.

(For details, email ashwini.ganapathibhat@gmail.com)

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