It was a very interesting Saturday (22.10.2005). Must be about 0030 hours in the night and I was contemplating to hit the road. Its been a while since I got a full weekend off. I started packing. One bag, two Ts, one denim jacket, toiletries, bike spares bag. Went to my sis’s room and whispered, I am off to Pushkar tomorrow. She didn’t give me that blank look this time, a perfect sis of a riding bulleteer. At 4.30am, I got up, got ready and tiptoed to the balcony. It was horribly cold for October! I was back under the quilt. At 0615 hours I was out again and I knew it’s now or never. Picked up my bag, woke up my sis and gave her a hug and asked her to lock the door behind me. 0630 hrs: Odometer Reading: 13912. I was cruising slowly and NH-8 was so enticing. It told me what ‘Freedom to Speed’ is applicable here. The result was a surprise. I was at my Pushkar Hotel, had taken my bath, enroute scouted for a suitable haveli type guest house, got my bike kick repaired (the kick spring had broken!!) and it was only 11.50am when Manas called to enquire about my well being. From my Challenge point of view of doing Delhi-Mumbai in record time on my Royal Enfield Electra 2004 – which I propose to do in less than 20 hours (subject to some corporate sponsorship though) without any modifications on my bike. I sat down by the Pushkar Lake and the soothing kirtan of ‘Hare Rama, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare’ pacified my mind. After spending an hour, I went around the great Pushkar Market, colorful, full of energy and vitality, choking me with the aroma of its famous mithais – and a bong can’t resist them you know – and innumerable Royal Enfields of various shapes and designs and thumps ferrying mostly Israeli and Swedish hunks and honeys, the ghats of the lake, each had its own story to tell. But I missed the greatest show, which the newspapers in Delhi carried that week – of a Finnish lady walking naked in the streets of Pushkar!! (Awww.. now that’s a missed scoop for a travelogue-writer-cum-photojournalist in the making.. the pic could have been my clubz wallpaper of the decade !!). Thankfully again, since that didn’t happen, I headed for Dargah Sharif, and paid my tributes there with complete peace of mind. I felt so calm and relaxed there, and it was my lucky day – ‘Kheer’ was prepared in the smaller of the two huge cauldrons there and I got to partake that, thanks to my friend and Khadim at the Holy Shrine – Kamli Bhai. The food is prepared in the two cauldrons only on important occasions like Ids, the annual Urs, and during the holy month of Ramadan. I wished him well too, its the auspicious month of Ramadan, and took leave and headed back to my Pushkar hotel. I missed the sunset at Pushkar, which they say is quite a sight. But there is always a next time for a biker… The evening serenity of the lake was amazing. As darkness enveloped the lake, reflections of the night-lights dancing slowly in the water, in harmony with the kirtan that was on, the pleasant breeze kissed the soul and the mortal body remained glued to the cemented stairs of the ghats oblivious of the worldly transactions around. I headed for the market for some snacks, mingled with some of the foreigners and locals, had Kashmiri biriyani, enjoyed the night of high pitched kirtan, traditional style, and it was indeed mesmerizing, not just for me but for each passerby, and then called Pritam in Jaipur to reconfirm the ride to the Great Sambhar Lake – Asia’s largest Salt Water Lake. He was Game, a true 60kphr! The Sunday morning chill prevented me to start early. Pritam laughed at me, and said, I have weathered the Ladakh’s inhospitable cold on a bike and I am shivering in Pushkar. Guess that was the joke of the day but a biker knows better, prevention is always better than ‘cold’. Thankfully, the joke was applicable on Pritam too, since he too was shocked to feel the chill outside, he confessed. At 7am I was ripping the Ajmer Highway and driving towards Dudu from where the road leads to Sambhar Lake. The trucks carrying tonnes of uncut marble rocks slowed the traffic down and then there were those usual accidents. Pritam reached early, almost by 25 minutes. I missed the cut and went over the flyover at Dudu, but that wasn’t my mistake. The Jaipur – Kishangarh expressway is anytime a biker’s delight and my bike touched an unbelievable 108kmph … for me that was like Mach3… I came back to the Bharat Petroleum pump at Dudu under that flyover where my travelmate and good buddy Pritam was waiting so very patiently and we had a great ‘jaduu ki jhappi’, it had to be; we were meeting after almost two months. Soon, we were on the move, stopping and taking pics, joking, our bikes rollicking and frolicking through the vast arid landscape – habited though – and suddenly there was this vast white expanse of space-the dry salt lake bed, and where there was water in the lake bed, there were flamingos – white and pink, dancing and prancing – they made an awesome site. I clicked on and on unceasingly, then I zipped my bike across the salt bed, it was rock solid, and what a pleasure it was. Unfortunately we had very less time and to see the entire lake – its huge and unending coving hundreds of square miles – we need at least a week’s time. So I guess I have to go back there, again…. We headed towards Jaipur for a quick lunch. Then, I bade goodbye to Pritam at the NH-8 dhaba where we had lunch and soon was cruising towards Delhi. Each time I have passed this NH, it had been a different experience altogether. The bike and the rider on it, that’s me, gets transformed into something rebellious, something unwarrantingly macho, the result is just one – the highway burns and people, whether pedestrians, dhaba-walas, truck-walas, car-walas, tempo-walas, all heads turns in appreciation of the majesty of the Royal Beast. Though I drove real slow, but still was at my garage at 7.30pm. The Odometer reading at my garage was 14842.2. Total distance covered in two days was 930 kms. A weekend trip that I will remember for the years to come.