Mystical, Magical Mukteshwar – by Hirak Dutta

“A paradise for bird watchers, Mukteshwar is a sanctuary to over 400 species of birds.”
Delhi’s sweltering heat is devil’s curse. Blame it on anyone, but believe me, the term ‘global warming’ is a passé in so far as North India (barring the hills) is concerned. I just coined this new terminology, it’s ‘Global Boiling’. Somewhere down the line, we all are to be blamed for this phenomenon. But we all have shortcuts to skip the ‘boiling’ – air-conditioned offices, cars, and homes and if not that, for bikers like us, a short weekend trip to nestle in the laps of the mighty Himalayas. This weekend ride came after a long, long while and in the best of company of Shekhar Patil, Pravin Rao, Saurav Singh and myself. After a long while I felt that zest (thank God for the time!) to break free from the chaos of the cubicle at work and the ennui of family melodramas. Thank God, for freedom. Thank God, again, for making me a biker! On 6th May 2006, Saturday, I was at the rendezvous at the appointed hour. At 3.30am, NH-24 IBP petrol bunk near Akshardham Bridge was abuzz with activities. I saw a morning walker, a Sikh gentleman, about 60 plus – walking erect in a tee and a short and a red sneaker with a short stick (looked like a baton). I saw Sahara Channel reporters sipping a cup of tea there. And I saw four guys snoring their time away on a single bedsheet on the footpath; their cycle-rickshaws parked besides them narrated to me their pain. It is just the beginning of another hard day before them, and here I was, escaping ‘Global Boiling’ syndrome. What a pity, but I guess, that’s what life is all about. Couple of phone calls to and fro and at about 4.15 am arrived Sobby aka Saurabh and Pravo aka Praveen Rao. They filled their tanks at the pump and we headed towards Gajraula’s most famous Giani selling paranthas. Shekhar joined us at Ghaziabad. And we were on our way to Mukteshwar. The ride to Mukteshwar was practically eventless; no hold on one second, it was actually. We took nearly 13 hours to complete the journey which should have been done in 6-7 hours. But slow and steady wins the race, right! You bet! Let me tell you some things about Mukteshwar before I tell you what we all did there. Mukteshwar gained prominence by the establishment of the Indian Veterinary Research Institute in 1898, which owns much of the land around the little town, including acres of dense virgin forest. We were told by the local PWD caretaker that the forests are home to tiger, leopard, Himalayan black bear, wild boar, langur, rhesus monkeys, deer, and a host of bird species. We doubted the authenticity of this guy’s statement but for the birds. The morning raga of so many mellifluous voices had put the local rooster at shame. Well maybe not, I guess we ate him up the night before! Didn’t we, guys? From the PWD guesthouse, one can get a direct glimpse of the range of peaks including Neelkantha (Blue-throated Shiva, 6596 m), Nandaghunti (the Veil of the Goddess, 6310 m), Trishul (the Trident of Shiva, 7120 m), Nandadevi (Goddess of Bliss, 7817 m), and the majestic Panchhuli peaks provided the skies are clear. We weren’t lucky. Situated at an altitude of 2286 meters on Bhowali Devidhura Road, Mukteshwar is a small hill station covered with a thick wooded forest and offers a majestic view of the Himalayas. Still a virgin hill station by many counts, tourists seldom venture here but unfortunately, those who do have literally turned some good forest parts into a garbage dump. I trekked inside the forest early in the morning and was welcomed by the singing birds nesting on treetops, soothing misty air which kissed my body and the litter of mineral water bottles, tetra packs, beer and whisky bottles, and plastic glasses which lay scattered almost everywhere. Near Mukteshwar is a stone hole of Chauli Ki Jali, dedicated to Lord Shiva. The legend has it that, if a woman who is unable to conceive passes through this tiny hole on the rocks, she will definitely gain pregnancy. But hey, hold on, don’t take it on face value, for on the other side of the hole is a freefall of more than 1200 feet! The Chauli Ki Jali, from a distance looked like a remarkable sperm head though. Some esoteric significance (or should I say coincidence) here! The other places to see at Mukteshwar are the Mukteshwar Mahadev temple, a quaint little British bungalow now converted into a post office, some very old and well maintained cottages now converted into tourist hotels, but its not what you get to see here. The abundance of freedom, indolence, respite and peace Mukteshwar offers is a non-peril. It was in Mukteshwar that Jim Corbett came to kill a man-eating ‘bagh’ but fell in love with the hill station instead. Mesmerizing, right? Rabindranath Tagore composed his Geetanjali here which also won him the Nobel Prize for Literature. This was the first Nobel Prize to be given to an Asian! Inspiring and well worth visiting now, I guess! A paradise for bird watchers, Mukteshwar is a sanctuary to over 400 species of birds. Unfortunately, we had just 16 hours to pitch the tents, cook food, have drinks while enjoying the romantic whiffs of fresh air before hitting the NH and be back in 44.5 degrees Celsius from a mere 15 degrees Celsius. I could only see some variants of the hill sparrows, the differently textured babblers, heard the ‘Koyal’ sing and spotted just one unmistakable crow! Inside the forest floor, there was a fancy dress competition amongst butterflies. There was a riot of colors as they draped the green; this mesmerizing moment couldn’t be captured by me on camera. As I left the forest floor, I knew soon there would be many more of them, for their season has just commenced. I never felt so good after a long time and wished I had more time at hand. The gilded cages of our office spaces beckoned and we slowly bade adieu to Mukteshwar. I know, like many other places that I have visited, I would be back here again. The next time will be for sloth and pure relaxation and no hurrying at all. Everyone did their bit to make these 16 hours their most memorable – no please deduct 6 hours of sleep – Sobby continued his filming saga, never saw Praveen perform antics before like he did it here at Mukteshwar and Shekhar was mesmerized by his adopted child – a doggy – which was later chased off by two other doggies as Shekhar rushed to beat their behinds. Oh emotion, where in the grey cells is thy residence? (Sorry Vijayaji, this breaking news was to happen sometimes, it just came early). En route home, two more doggies dropped by to say hello to him – one looked like the ‘adopted child’s’ mama (maternal uncle) and another a distant cousin! Only the biker community understands the ‘fun-is-a-stress-reliever’ concept on long rides. Leaving what you love is always painful and pained we all were as we sped down towards Delhi. We took a shortcut to Bhimtal, taking a village dirt track, saved about 15 kms and the ride was well worth it. We drove down the Himalayas and the weather God told us what to expect in Delhi. At 1am on Monday the 9th of May 2006, we reached home, tired and broken, but not shaken. God, when will it be a four-day office week?

The 1000 KMs Ride – By Gaurav Jani

Day –1 Bombay to Baroda I started at 11pm from house to cover 370-380 Kms। To Baroda from where the next day I was to the 1,000 Km ride। I had wrote to many people, all techies to advice me about the do’s and don’ts about this ride and no one had the time to answer, what was most surprising and annoying was some of them were people from Royal Enfield। I decided to do the ride regardless। After crossing the Bombay traffic and reaching the highway, I kept a constant speed of 85 Kms। In hot weather just to see how the bike would react to it in a longer run। The bike ran fine for 45 minutes and than gurrrrr, it lost power and died. I touched the crank for heat and it was not that hot for the bike to stop. Same problem occurred when I was doing high speeds while doing test runs in night for this ride. The problem was petrol filter, it was not sending enough petrol to the carb. I had removed that filter and put a huge maruti esteem petrol filter which used to get so heavy when filled with petrol that it had to be tied to the chassis. Not so technically sound with bullets I waited for sometime and started the bike, it came to life but was not performing well, nevertheless I started riding it but had to reduce the speed. After riding 40 odd kms. The bike was again running well, I entered Gujarat from where the roads get pathetic so you got to be a moron to speed on this roads. Bombay- Ahmedabad being the busiest highway in whole Asia traffic is endless. I took the first stop at Vapi from where I had to call Mandeep, our first member from Gujarat who was meeting me at Valsad. Valsad was another 25 Kms. so started ahead to take rest while chatting up with Mandep. The traffic was bad and the road conditions a shame. Reached Valsad and waited for Mandeep to come and he arrived a few minutes after on his 500 c.c. Chatted him for a while when I noticed major scars on his right elbow. He had multiple fractures when he had a flat in his front wheel while riding to give his exams, he lost one and half year to get the whole thing rectified and still has metal plates in his elbows. It was perfect, the next day I was to do 1,000 Kms. and this was the perfect time to see what carelessness can do to you. Bid goodbye to Mandeep and moved ahead, moved slowly and steadily when after a few hours the same problem occurred and it was getting dark. I started the bike and again after a few kilometers the bike died. I pulled up to a dhaba and cleaned the spark plug and carb but the problem kept on occurring. To rectify the problem I entered Bharuch City and went to P.U & Co. Enfield’s dealers there but they had closed their workshop as it was already past eight. The dealers recognized me from my picture in RE’s dealer magazine The Beat. He told me about kalubhai, a bullet mechanic who loved working in night. I made my way through the city traffic and finally reached Kaubhai’s garage and indeed he was working on a bullet under tong lights in his big workshop. He immediately knew what the problem was, actually two. The battery was overcharged so the bike would loose ignition on high speed, the second dirt had blocked the flow of petrol in the carb. Kalubhai also modify bullets, he took me to a bullet which he modified and told me to start it, upon doing so, it made one of the sweetest sounds, he makes mufflers which have an incredible sound. You have to listen to it to believe me. He didn’t charge me anything, very nice guy and I left for Baroda. Reached Baroda at 10.30 and checked in Royal guesthouse just opposite to the station for Rs. 65 for a single room. Called Vivek and Subbu, told them I would start at 4 a.m in the morning when the owner told me he will not wake me up and I would have to wake up on my own at 3 a.m. I decided to change the place when he told me he would give me an alarm clock, which will wake me up. Went out to a stall and had some eggs and hit the bed at 11 p.m. after 12 hours of riding .
Day-2 Baroda to Delhi The alarm rang, it seemed like I had just fallen off to sleep, checked the time in my watch and it was 2 a।m. and it was showing 4 a.m in the alarm clock, I trusted my watch and went back to sleep. By miracle I woke up again and looked at my watch, it was 4 a.m sharp. Once I sleep than it is history, it was definitely a miracle. I hastily packed everything and wore lots of warm clothing and woke the owner up. He opened the shutters of the hotel, while I called up Vivek and Subbu at 4.45 and woke the poor guys up to inform them that I was about to start. Packed up all my bags and hope that the bike would co-operate with me this day and started at 5 a.m.Speedo reading – 29,470 Sped on the empty street of Baroda and was on NH- 8 after 12 Kms. from there another 36 Kms to Vasad toll point from where I had to take left for Delhi via Modasa. I missed the left turn and went ahead a few kilometers towards Ahmedabad, returned back and saw no signboard, asked some tuck drivers and they showed me the way. The roads were fairly good with very less traffic, which meant that I could ride with my visor down in that chilling cold weather. The route doesn’t have any sign boards. So on every intersection I had to turn back and ask for directions. I was not riding above 80-85 kph as there were two options to complete this ride. Either ride very fast and take longer and frequent breaks for the bike to cool down or ride at 70-80 and take less breaks with lesser time. I choose the second option as I found it more safer for the bike, I didn’t want anything going wrong with my bike, I love this bike, seen a lot of places from it’s saddle and 1,000 Kms was not the priority, my bike was. Riding for long periods on good speeds was only possible in the morning as the bike wouldn’t heat up. I was maintaining 80-85, got some very bad patches of road, trucks coming on high beam would blind me as the visor and my glasses would scatter the light. The clod came to more tolerable limits after sunrise but nevertheless it was still very cold. Took the first fuel stop after 210 Kms. at Shamlaji, topped up 2T and engine oil and moved ahead. Shamlaji is on the Gujarat- Rajasthan border. After a few kilometers I entered Rajasthan from here the intensity of the traffic increased. Road widening work is also going on, that meant edges of the tar road don’t have a small strip of dirt track but a four feet deep trench which is dug up to lay the foundation for the new road. Lot of trucks carrying stones and other building material were moving at very slow speeds and there was no way to overtake them so my speed reduced drastically here and the bike was also heating up as it was moving on lower gears and the ghats didn’t help the cause either. After crossing the ghats at 9 a.m after four hours and 240 Kms I took my first stop. It was a village Bijhwada I think, called up Subbu and Vivek, subbu’s mobile kept on ringing, thankfully Vivek answered the call and I registered my status to him. Had a light breakfast of poha and tea and after a 15-minute break was riding again. The sun was out but the air was still very cold so gloves and warm clothing was still on and the cold from the morning was till in the bones, it is still giving me Goosebumps while writing about it . The traffic was much less from here onwards, I reduced the speed o 70- 75kph to avoid overheating. After riding continuously for two hours, bike started to how signs of fatigue, it had to it had done a run of 6 hours with only a 15 minute break. I stopped immediately before Udaipur s I didn’t want to aggravate the situation as there was another 600 odd kilometers to be done. Another 15 minutes break an the bike was running fine, crossed Nathdwara, Udaipur where I got some traffic and finally made it to Bhim, covering 500 Kms in 8 and half hours. where I took a fuel stop. Called up Subbu and Vivek, this time did finally mange to talk to Subbu. During the 20 minute stop I would hardly get time to relax as most of he time would go in filling up gas topping 2T checking the bike, topping Engine Oil, cleaning the visor, glasses. It was strange how difficult it was to cross 20 minutes on the bike and they flew by in one second once you are off the bike. After doing 50 Kms. from Bhim, my concentration was not there. I didn’t feel like speeding, it took me around one hour to finally realize that I had to put a rush on things otherwise I would not be able to complete the 1,000 Kms. My speed drastically fell here, I only did 50 Kms. in that hour. Once I started speeding Ajmer happened and suddenly from nowhere hundreds of trucks came, being a two lane road there was no way to overtake and the dirt track besides the road had sand so steering the bike was a problem. It was getting irritating, was following the trucks at 40-45kph, had no other choice and a train junction took another 10 minutes. Here I had totally lost it, I didn’t know where I was, what I was doing. Jut to get out of the groove I started speeding and had couple of close calls here. The sense of judgment was not there, overlooking that I speed more and than the bike gave up, gurrrrrrrr happened and I had to pull over, immediately cleaned the spark plug and left the lights and indicator on for the battery to decharge. Rode for a few kilometers and stopped at a dhaba to wash my face and recompose my self as there was another 300 Kms to be done. Here I fell into a cot and five minutes went past in a zip, was feeling fresh after a tea and started again. Bike was not running well, but decided to have a look after I would cross the traffic in Jaipur. After Jaipur I just removed the petrol filter and pulled another pipe straight from the tank to the carb. I had banked upon the four-lane road from Jaipur to Delhi where I would do the maximum speed, but the bike and me were not in a good shape by than an more 250 Kms to go. But the bypass before the four-lane expressway had a flip side to it, the 38-km bypass to reach it was the worst patch of road I had got until now. The road was beyond worse or it seemed like in that state. The tar had melted and taken the form of vertical speed breakers, trucks were countless and tons of dust. It took me more than one hour to complete the stretch, but it helped me in one way, my concentration was back and all the fatigue was gone after seeing all those trucks with high beams coming towards u. Now I was determined to complete the ride no matter what. Reached the highway and tanked up for the last time, 210 Kms from Delhi. Here I opened up the throttle again to 80-85, it was again getting chilly but not as much as mornings, I guess the dew factor must be responsible for that. After one hour and 140 Kms from Delhi I called up Vivek and Subbu, where I got words of encouragement from both to complete the ride safely. That helped, thanks guys. The straight road has its advantages and disadvantages. You can speed but continuously siting on the bike and doing nothing gets u in a trance. Here I felt a very funny feeling that the seat of the bike was shifting right and was about to fall off, I kept checking the seat and it was fixed to the bike, I guess it was the mind playing games. It looks funny now but it wasn’t when there was no concentration and I was riding at 80kph. Around 60kms before Delhi, called up Vivek again and told him not to come and pick me up, Vivek told me where I could find hotels. From there I started riding slowly for the last leg of the trip, traffic increased as Delhi was coming near. After 40 Kms. I entered Delhi and saw the hotels Vivek told me about. Now a funny thing happened, I had entered Delhi but was short by 17 Kms. So I rode around in Delhi for the rest of the distance, went to Vasant Vihar I think, now Delhi has a lot to learn regarding traffic rules. So after riding for 18 and half-hours the magic figure of 1,000 Kms was attained. All the fatigue went on seeing the Speedo on 30,470. All the credit goes to the bike, I don’t know how much time Rajdhani takes from Baroda to Delhi, but it doesn’t get trucks coming from opposite end and three motormen are changed for the entire journey, so I think I can take little credit in that. I have to thank all of you for all the support you have given, THANK YOU GUYS. More to come in second part, that is after reaching Delhi, but I am tired now of typing this and I guess you all are also tired after reading this. Thanks & Regards Gaurav

My Trip to LeH – by Gaurav Dhupar

Rides or no rides a Royal Enfield a.k.a BULLET is the best friend one can ever have on the lonely roads, in the crowded streets. It makes you feel that you are always with a buddy with whom you can share your pains, your agony, your distress, and your happiness. It never lets you be gloomy, with a simple twist of the throttle it takes you to the wondrous world of speed and pumps in the adrenal.

What do you want from a friend, a shoulder to lean on, and the promise of the world where you are who you are, no inhibitions, no dilutions. “Bull” gets you more than that; it gives you the experience that takes care of the mundane hap hazards of the lay world. It makes you the king of the moment. You have no pain , no quality scores , no targets, nothing to beat, just your own craving for adventure, your desire for action and your spirit to do what you really want to do .

My discovery started one year ago when I met my friend a 2005 thunderbird now rechristened to Dirty (like me…). It was just love at first sight, no other machine promised me so much…I had been with this dream of traveling to places on a two wheeler what best then to do it on the legend Royal Enfield. I wanted some this good looking and some thing legendry and I zeroed down to a thunderbird.

This story begins with my ride to LEH on my BULL two months ago in July. Finding the date and fixing it was a pain in the A@@ as everyone had different days offs and now one wanted to sacrifice on the bonus with missing on one or two days. So we selected July 21, 2006.

Beasts (bullets) were mended and prepared for the LONG journey to the Himalayan kingdom Little Tibet (LEH). We were four with three Beasts. Saurabh and Probir were on there second ride to LEH(so we had experience riders) having said that we were pretty new riders me and Frank.

However we were hell raisers as know by our fellow bikers and we wanted to stamp it by gliding our ways to Manali in one day…..oh! Boy it was an easy task for a regular rider but for novice like us it was tough… we were determined to do it and we actually did it with couple of pit stops and sutta breaks….

The actual learning things were the two accidents what we had on the way to Manali. The first one was a near death experience and the second one a side effect of heavy food and no sleep….

Were we hurt? Yah we were I had bruised legs and swollen arm so did frank. However we determined to reach manali with a positive note, and we reached Manali in the wee hours of the morning at 3 am. The rain gods were happy from us and blessed us with thunderous rains. It was the experience that cannot be forgotten. My body all bruised and bloody, tired to the core, with a hurting as@. I still was happy and contended. Why and how you will ask me yah it was the drug called Adrenalin which was pumped to the MAX.

We stayed in manali for two days and planned to move on 23rd July to LEH. I was still in pain so was Frank his right arm was swallow like a pumpkin and he still wanted to ride to the trenchers way to LEH. I was not so convinced with this idea so we advised him to go back to Delhi and see a doctor.

Now out of four souls only three were left. With heavy hearts of missing a fellow rider we packed our beats and started our journey to LEH.

The roads were good till rohtang pass weather was also amazing we reached rohtang in 1 hour. What to say I was pretty amazed to see the world from such a height. I did what everyone does clicked snaps.

Our destination for that day was darcha which was a small settlement beyond kylong. Night was spend in a nepali tent. It was cold and wet because of rains. But it was a scenic wonder. We started from there at 9 am and were suppose to cross Sarchu and reach pang. However luck was not with us. After the Gata loops Saurabhs bike started giving us troubles and we had to tow it back on a truck from Nakila pass.

Before we could find a truck I was asked to go to Pang and get a truck from there. This ride was just approximately 40-50 km however it proved to be more on me. I was not carrying water as the high altitude sickness took a toll on me and I has to stop on couple of places for catching up a breath. I was in pang in 3 hours, the distance which I cover in couple of minutes.

Probir followed me in few in few minutes and apprised me that saurabhs bike had been towed back to manali. It was a sad moment for us as we had already missed two fellow riders. I was in physical and emotional pain.

The next started with a bright new sunshine and a promise that we will reach LEH without any tragedy. We roared our beasts to Baralacha-la and then took a breath. LEH was just around the corner and I had already stated becoming nostalgic. I was missing frank and Saurabh the preparations what we had gone through and still we meet with such an unexpected tragedies.

LEH, the promise land, the Buddha’s backdoor. It was such a peaceful and pleasant view all brown mountains and a black road running between them with Satluj River running next to you. This road promised you speed it was better than any other road in Delhi. I was already doing 120km/p and still wanted more speed. Probir was enjoying his sutta and it was a pleasant view I felt like an easy rider.

Finding a house was a pain all the guest houses were either full or were reserved for the foreign travelers. We took two hours to find a room near Shanti Stupa and that was a sheer luck that we found such a beautiful location with such a hospitable people. Our window opened to shanty stupa in the morning and we were blessed by the holy thus come then (Buddha).

We now wanted to look around in LEH. Permits were procured and the destination was set one day we were going to khardungla, then peongon, shonmorery and then back.

We started with khardungla which was just like a delhi-gurgaon journey. In the ride I saw oil leaking from my bike and discovered that the clutch box was damaged from bottom and the oil was coming from there. The mechanic fixed it with M-Seal however that was also waste. I some how managed the next three days.

We now were on our ways to pengong the salted lake or the blue lagoon. To reach there we had to cross chang-la the riding and was more painful than reaching khardungla it was -2 Celsius temperature was dropping with every minute. Ride was tough but amazing with equal thrill and excitement.

We reached pengong stayed there for few hours and then back to LEH this whole 300km journey was completed in 10 hours. And we were happy with our accomplishment and wanted to do sonmorery. However my bikes oil was not stopping. Now we decided that we will tow the bike back to manali and meet Saurabh there and do Kaza as by then both our bikes will be mended.

We met a transporter and fixed our ride back home, it was a mixed feeling as we were there to ride and now the bikes gone we were no more bikers. The happy feeling was that we don’t have to go on that Leh/Manali road. We got along the truck driver Sanju and his cleaner Chotu for the next two days they were our drivers and navigators.

Some how we reached Manali with a huge care we took our bikes out and planned to get then services the next day. The next days started with rains and they brought pain to our souls as mechanic did not have the spares and they were only available in Delhi. We had to come down to a conclusion that we were going back to Delhi.

On 2 august 2006 we started from manali with huge bag of memories and a 20kg box of apples….famous manali apples.

The ride was so pleasant as it was raining all through till Ropar we were drenched till our bares. We reached Chandigarh at 7 took some rest and again started for Delhi. Everyone was excited to back from such a long journey.

How ever I wanted some more and promised my self of next year when the preparation will be better and I will be a more mature rider.

I reached home at 6 am and my mom refused to recognize me. When I had left I was neatly dressed and clean shaved delhwala now I was looking like a zombie with unshaven and tired face I welcomes the morning.

I wish I could stay more in LEH.

My first bike ride to Chakrata – by Dallbir

Chakrata has always been my favorite place. It’s like I can never have enough of it, whenever I get a chance, it is the first place to cross my mind for a quick getaway. Been there 5 times last year only, still can’t resist the idea of a holiday there. But the most memorable trip to Chakrata was the second trip, which I did on a bike in 2006.
My first trip to Chakrata was in August 2005, when I planned to visit Deoban as well. But couldn’t make it to Deoban as rains had made it next to impossible to cover the 18 km dirt track. It gave me all the more reasons to come back.
But next time I had already decided to go on a bike, only then you can do justice to the beauty of this place. Couldn’t afford to miss Deoban at any cost specially after hearing about its unsurpassed beauty from the locals last time. But my bike ride didn’t seem to materialize as none of the guys was ready to ride so far, couldn’t find words to explain that. But I stuck to my decision and I am glad I did. Plan was simple, six people, one car & one bike. We started early around 6’o clock in the morning, wanted to catch the 12’o clock gate from Kalsi. Only one way traffic moves at a time from Kalsi to Chakrata due to various reasons and narrow road. The gate opens for traffic after every two hours for 20 minutes. If you miss the gate even by minutes, you’ll have to wait for two hours. Pillion kept on changing throughout the way. Everything was going smooth till I crossed the Delhi border. My beloved Bullet developed some problem in the engine. At around 90kph, heard a terrible sound in the engine and it went flat soon. As I was new to Bullet, didn’t know exactly what went wrong. We stood there for a while, and thought of taking it to the nearby mechanic. As we kick started it again, there was no sound, nothing and it was smooth as always. Couldn’t figure out what went wrong, but thankfully everything was back on track.
It was next to impossible to move together with the car, so we decided to meet midway after some distance. Others were waiting for us for breakfast at Panipat; we finished up quickly as we had to make it to Kalsi gate in time. Soon it became a race against time. After crossing the maddening traffic at Yamunanagar, we were in the green country surrounded by green fields. Soon we got our first glance of hills and company of Yamuna. The road was amazing, through the hilly forest, up and down, smooth curves, with very little traffic. We reached the holy city of Poanta Sahib on time and took a 10 minute break on Yamuna Bridge. The clock was ticking and it already seemed little unrealistic to catch the gate. From there, we traveled to Kalsi in fast forward mode and made it there just on time at 12’o clock. Think we were the last ones to cross the gate at that point of time. There is another catch to this gate system. There is one catch to gate system, to ensure that one doesn’t stop any where on the way, they have one more gate midway at Sahiya.
We completed the most beautiful part of journey in next two hours and entered Chakrata through the last army gate. This town is completed controlled by army, think that is the reason, why Chakrata hasn’t lost its charm even today. We had booked our stay in Hotel Himalayan Paradise, which has a very scenic location and is approx 6 kms ahead of the town. After a long journey we were quite tired but it was all gone once we were there. We kicked off our shoes, relaxed, ate and just sat there doing nothing. But, there was something on the back of my mind, Deoban. Asked the hotel guys about the road situation, but could not get a satisfactory answer, some said road is under construction, some said, work has finished. More I asked, more I became impatient to explore the area. Decided to enquire about it from the locals in town. The plan was to hire a jeep next day from the local market and go to Deoban, as the car was incompatible for the terrain. But we needed to know whether it was worth the effort. We sat off on bike to know more about the route. We climbed slowly towards the Forest Rest House, avoided the left turn and reached the forest check post. After chatting up with the locals for while, the desperation was building up and wanted to confirm the way.
We carried on straight towards Kanasar and took a less traveled road on our right after 3-4kms and we were on our way to DeobanJ. There was no road, just a path which took us to paradise. We rode for a while just to check out the condition but after a while it was becoming impossible for us to stop. It was like a love at first sight, further we went, more we wanted to see. Haven’t seen such a beauty before in my life, the setting was all so magical and no sign of human existence so far. It was like a forgotten land we were exploring, could not see wildlife (yet) around us but there were many signs of their existence. Little ahead was army mountaineering training school and beyond that, sight was something completely indescribable in words. Never intended to go to Deoban that same day, but could not resist the beauty. Just wanted to see what was there beyond the next curve. We reached Deoban around 6’o clock, when it was about to get dark. As I mentioned we never intended to go to Deoban that day, we were wearing only t-shirts and it got chilly as soon as sun went down. We started our backward journey, we were there in that jungle for the first time, without any mobile signal, without toolkit and spares, without informing anyone, and to top it all low fuel. We were 10% scared and 90% overwhelmed about being to Deoban.
Back in Chakrata, everybody was worried about us as ‘we never intended to go to Deoban’. They started looking for us, from forest check post to Chakrata Bazaar, they looked everywhere. After long, dark, cold ride, we made it back to our hotel in Chakrata safely.
It was a stupid decision going there without any support whatsoever, but till date that was the best ride I ever had to Deoban.

Bhangarh – An inexplicable experience

Put the word ‘Bhangarh’ in Google search and the first result you get is ‘Bhangarh is known for its ruins where nobody dares to stay after…’ you eagerly want to know Stay after…। What? Well the second result to your query makes it simpler॥’ Thats Bhangarh in Rajasthan, which is the most, haunted Place in India as per Archeological Survey Of India। “STAYING HERE AFTER SUNSET IS STRICTLY …’ What did you say? Come again। Yeah you read it right. The most haunted place in India and according to ASI board put up there you can’t stay here after the sunset. When it comes from the ASI and not the hearsay, you tend to agree with the statement. Yet the curiosity in you wants to know more. Why can’t I stay there after the sunset! And what’s this ‘most haunted place in India, C’mon, you must be kidding. This is 21st century and you are talking about Ghosts’!

My reaction was no different when my friend Ashwani Khanna, popularly known as ‘Ash’ in our bikers group mentioned this place to me. Not only this, he was too keen to visit this place and stay there as well. The biker in me, always looking for some excitement and new places, immediately fell for this one. I immediately booked my place with him. Now there were two of us and soon the word was circulated in our group (60kph) that when living for Bhangarh, twelve of us were ready to vroom on our bikes to the most haunted place in India.

On further research on the net we learnt that the place is somewhere on the way to Jaipur via Alwar. It sounded better since we were all from Delhi and it could be done on a weekend. On the set D day we started our exciting journey with a bit of qualm. Everyone was chirping yet somewhere the hesitation and uncertainty persisted in our minds. Thinking that the place is not far off, we started late and with leisure halts we kept on riding on a slow pace on the single lane state highways after crossing Alwar via sariska. By the time we made it to Bhangarh it was already dark. Finally we were there. The most haunted place in India. The next task was to spend the night there and get to the truth. As per the notice board of ASI, they would not allow us to stay there for the whole night. Since our primary reason to this place was to meet the ghosts and secondary to see the Bhangarh ruins. If we have to pass the night than why not amongst the ghosts, if they do exists. Immediately a plan of action was charted out. We had come prepared with three tents for the night stay. We divided ourselves into two groups. The first will go and look for the place to pitch the tents inside the ruins and second to go and arrange the food from the nearby dhaba (approx. 1 km from the ruins).

The first group went on and reached the main entrance of the Bhangarh ruins. It was pitch dark and not soul around. We went near the gate and saw a shadow walking towards us. Oh my, was that a Ghost? We were getting ready for the any eventuality and waited patiently for the shadow, which turned out to be a Guard from the ASI. Soon another shadow, I mean the second guard also joined him and after the usual pleasantries both flatly refused to entertain us at that hour of the night informing us about the rule of entry restriction after the sunset. Now was the time to get the facts right. Are there any ghosts living here? Had they come across any such experience? Is it true that people who stays here do not go back alive? All these and many of other thoughts of ours going on in our mind were drowned with the buckets of cold water when both of them announced nothing such happened or happens. All these are rumours. But then why there is restriction on the entry after the sunset? Well, he announced very casually that it is because of the wild animals who probably comes to drink the water from the ‘kund’ within the ruins. Plus this rule applies to most of the places under ASI, isn’t it. How stupid of us! Why we didn’t ever thought on this angle. Now what. Somewhere in our mind we were still not ready to understand their point. After all we ripped off the whole world wide web to know if someone had stayed at Bhangarh ruins for the night and could not come across one single person claiming so and these guards are saying there are no ghosts. We ought to find that out ourselves. The next on the agenda became to pitch our tents there, which the guards had already politely refused. After much buttering and persuasion they agreed to allow us to pitch our tents near the gates to which we gladly agreed.

Everyone was relieved and with full throttle we starting inflating our tents and by the time the food arrived, the tents were up. It was already past 9 in the evening. We had our dinner and the group started discussing the ghostly world. All this went on till 2.30 am before we said goodnight to each other and also taking a good look towards the ruins in that faint hope of some hallucinate effects. Alas… nothing.

It was six in the morning and I heard some hollowing noise. Came out of the tent and it was our dear Langur running towards the ruins. I had the opportunity to have the glimpse of the ruins with the first ray of the sun and it was wow. The next couple of hours were spent clicking the early morning ruins of Bhangarh. It is about 34 kms from Dausa via Sainthal Mod, and 47 kms from Sariska, this place was once a flourishing town of 10,000 homes. According to legend, it was built in the 17th century by Raja Madho Singh, the younger brother of illustrious Man Singh (one of the nine gems of Akbar’s court). A quick look at the surrounding is enough to conclude that it definitely had a prosperous past. With a well planned bazaar and the famous Randiyon ka Mahal (Palace of Prostitutes) in the backdrop makes it a very fascinating sight. The palace in fact seems to be cross between a palace and a fort has definitely been built tastefully overlooking the green lawns and the temples. The temples are a treat to the eyes but seems to have been badly ripped off by the thieves till it came under the supervision of ASI.

Ghosts or no ghosts, a visit to Bhangarh is a must for every traveller. The route from Delhi is via Bhiwadi-Alwar-Rajgarh-Tehla-Bhangarh and the road is excellent.

Input & Photographs : Shekhar Patil

Jambughoda – A Ride To Remember – by Mandeep Kalsy

Sleep never eludes me whenever I have to ride the next day. Infact it is sounder than the usual sleep. Maybe it is because my mind, heart and body is relaxing that we’ll finally be on the roads once again after a very long time.But this time it was different. I tossed and turned throughout the night swatting mosquitoes even though goodnight was burning at full throttle. After ages it was 8 am and I finally couldn’t take it any more and got out of the bed. The packing was still pending and after a quick visit to the bathroom I started collecting all the things I’d need for the trip to Jambughoda.Jambughoda Wildlife Sanctuary is located in Halol and Jambughoda talukas of Panchmahals district and Sankheda taluka of Vadodara district. Originally the area was a reserve forest having extent of 130.38 sq. km, which was constituted as Sanctuary in 1990. After commencement of Wildlife (Protection) Act amendment in 1991, the area is deemed to be declared as a Sanctuary under Section 26 (A). Forest and revenue villages surround area of the Sanctuary. Terrain of the Sanctuary is hilly and undulating.This is one of the good forest areas in Chhotaudepur division. It is also an important area for nature education and environmental awareness camps. The forest plays important ecological and hydrological roles of constituting catchments of small rivers, preventing soil erosion and maintaining health of the watershed. It also plays socio-economic role by satisfying basic needs of tribal communities living in and around the Sanctuary. Local tribals collect minor forest produce from the area for their livelihood.I had been trying CP’s phone since the last two days but I couldn’t get through. I was confident that he would be at Valsad at the time we had to leave. But 11 o’clock and no CP. So I called up my mechanic to ask him if CP had come in for a final checkup of his bike. Pankaj said he hadn’t seen CP since the last 10 days. Throwing caution to the wind I packed my stuff in Amol’s Cramsters and took a bath. After refreshing myself and having a hearty breakfast I collected my luggage and climbed down the stairs to load it on Epicenter, my 500 cc Enfield, which has given me 35000 untroubled and wonderful kilometers.A quick wave to mom and I was off to the petrol bunk to top up. The attendant asked if Saab was going somewhere. I said Saab was going to Ahmedabad. He looked like somebody had hit him where it hurt the most. I paid him, kicked the bike to life and roared off to join the traffic and madness of the national highway no.8. As I checked my cellular (I don’t wear a watch), it was exactly 12 in the noon. I didn’t have a shadow to follow. It would go with me for some time before I had to start chasing it. The temperature was pleasant. It always is at Valsad because of the seacoast. I rolled forward slowly taking stock of my stuff, thinking if I had forgotten anything. Home was just 3 kilometers away and it wouldn’t be a trouble to go back and get it. But everything seemed in order and I sped up gradually twisting the throttle till I was at my most comfortable speeds, neither stressing the bike, nor myself. Surat passed by in a blur of trucks and busses and rickshaws, a melee of confused traffic at the crossroads, unsure where to head. I had crossed the busiest part of the highway and now the roads would be comparatively better as there were no diversions or construction work in progress. My first stop was at Baroda, 110 kilometers from Ahmedabad. The heat was hot here and even at 4 in the evening it was like riding in a furnace. I don’t wear windcheaters and neither do I use sunscreen lotions so when I finally got off the motorcycle for a small halt to refresh myself, I observed that my skin had gone a deep red. Sunburn. Terrible. My mom was going to yell bloody murder. Munda kaala hoke aaya hai. At a small restaurant nearby I bought a couple of bottles of mineral water and washed my face with the chilled water and soaked my bandanna with it. I still had a full bottle and a half bottle. So I sat down to finish them off slowly and let the sun go down a bit more so that it would cool down a little and make it more comfortable to ride.Anshuman called up in the meanwhile to ask where I had reached. I said Baroda and it would take me another 90 minutes to reach Ahmedabad. He promised he would be there at Narol to pick me up. These big cities are always a nuisance to me. I can never make out what road I have to take to reach some place except my mechanic, Ketan’s place and that too because it is on the way to Ahmedabad city. Aviral also called up to know where I was and when I said I was near Nadiad, he asked me if I was flying a helicopter. After a small laugh session with him I started for Ahmedabad again. As I entered Ahmedabad and was looking for a place to stop and call up Anshuman when I heard my name being shouted from the other side. It was Anshuman on Saadi, his Enfield 350. That’s what I call timing. We shook hands and headed off to my uncle’s place but not before the mandatory visit to Ketan’s garage where I ogled his Triumph Speed Twin.Ahmedabad even at 6 in the evening was like a pressure cooker. Full of heat emanating from everywhere around you. It felt as if one was literally burning. It was then when I realized that I was indeed burning. My skin had turned a ghastly red in color due to the constant exposure to the sun for such a long time in such heat. I couldn’t wait for the cool water from the shower to hit my body. Anshuman left me at my uncle’s place where I met my aunt and nephews, while he went to get the number printed on his number plate promising to be back in a little while. Aunty prepared the always-refreshing tea while I dominated the bathroom for a half wonderful hour. The water took away the heat and restored some of the moisture I had lost along the way. After a change of clothes and a cup of tea followed by two bottles of water, Anshuman, Aviral, who had come over to my uncle’s and I started for Rituraj, the weekly meeting point of the Gujarat bullets.As Anshuman had some work, Aviral and I decided to head to Rituraj and wait for the others and Anshu would join us there itself. Aviral and I were the first ones and within 10 minutes, the other members came roaring in. I met Ouseph, Xavier, Samip, Ashish, Tejasbhai, Parikshit, Avinash, Kaviraj, Joy and Jassi. It was a wonderful feeling to be back with the gang after a long time. We bickered and exchanged ride stories and road experiences and some jokes over chai and bread butter. The time and rendezvous point for the Jambughoda ride was discussed and finalized. While others left some of us decided to go to Shivshakti dhaba for dinner. We left for Kaviraj’s house where we parked our bikes, loaded up in his Gypsy and left for Shivshakti. Amol called up to ask our whereabouts and when we told him where we were headed he promised to be there in some time but it would be late by then. I said we’d wait for him no matter what the time. So we reached Shivshakti, ordered the mandatory daal bati and attacked it as soon as it was served. The plates were empty within minutes and after Aviral’s brief performance of raag dakaar, we settled down to wait for Amol. It didn’t take him long to arrive and after the customary hug session, we ordered chai. Then the group dispersed and I decided to ride pillion with Amol as it had been a long time since we’d met properly while the others headed off in the Gypsy. After reaching Kaviraj’s house, we picked up our bikes and as Anshu and I were riding the Epicenter, I told him to drop me at my uncle’s while he could take the bike to his place and come back to pick me up tomorrow morning. Then we would go to Tejasbhai’s place and pick up Anshu’s bike and Tejasbhai. After promising to pick me up at 5.30 sharp, Anshu left, the Epicenter’s thump echoing along the walls of the Shastrinagar complex.That night for the second time in a row, sleep eluded me. By the time I managed to doze off there was a message from Anshuman asking me to get ready. Damn., it was already 5 am. Brushing my teeth and using the toilet took me 10 minutes and another 10 minutes for packing my stuff and getting ready. By the time I hauled my bags out in the balcony Anshuman thumped in and revved a little to get my attention. We loaded the stuff onto the bike and left for Tejasbhai’s place. He was already down from his apartment and waiting anxiously for us. We distributed the luggage on both the bikes and I took Tejasbhai pillion with me. Then we headed off to Fun Republic to link up with the others. Anshuman had confirmed earlier that another good friend, Pushkar would also be joining in. so as we reached Fun Republic, we saw that some of us had already reached there and the others were on their ways. Tushar was the last to come and after a brief photo session and road manner instructions by road captain Aviral, we started for Narol and then to Baroda.The bikes and riders looked pretty good, strung out on the left side of the highway. When we overtook, there were 10 indicators indicating the left or right and when we braked there were 10 brake lights illuminating one after another, like some kind of a pre programmed circuit with a fixed interval. It was truly a sight to behold. It was on the national highway that the traffic really hit us. Even though it was 7.30 in the morning the traffic was like it is in the peak hours. But thanks to Aviral’s skillful road captaincy, we maintained the line throughout till we reached Dabhan and stopped for breakfast.Breakfast started with the usual leg pulling. We decided, jokingly of course, that as Aviral was the road captain of the ride; we would eat whatever he could afford. Lots of discussion on this and lots of fun later, everyone ordered whatever he felt like. A hearty and fulfilling breakfast and a very refreshing cup of chai later, we headed off for Baroda where we had to meet Dhruv who would take over from Aviral in terms of leading the group as he was more familiar with the routes. We made good time and within a very short time thumped our way into the parking lot of Blitz Auto, a Skoda dealership in Baroda. Aviral called Dhruv for his whereabouts and we were relieved to know that he had already started. And so had the heat. We had almost exhausted our water supply we had taken from Ahmedabad and now were waiting for Dhruv to come, so that we could start and purchase some bottled water from some hotel. Dhruv joined us and after a brief session of hellos and his, we headed off with Dhruv leading the pack. We took a left turn at the GSFC cross roads and within no time found ourselves heading for the Baroda Halol expressway. I doubted that we would have an entry to the expressway but Dhruv said we could ride on it if we paid the toll of 5 bucks. Everyone readily agreed and Ouseph shelled out the necessary 50 bucks for all the bikes. The race began. Tejasbhai wanted to take a lineup photo of the group on a curve and so we sped off to tell the others about the idea. But some miscommunication was bound to happen and as we stopped at a vantage point and Tejasbhai was setting the camera all the 9 other bullets roared past us on full throttle. An opportunity wasted. But there were other places to take photos, so we headed off, this time riding tail to the group. As we reached Halol, we had to take a right and since Ouseph and Xavier were waiting at the junction with Samip, we also stopped. Someone asked where Anshu and Parikshit were and I assumed that they were ahead with Aviral and group, but when we called up Aviral to ask his whereabouts and enquired about Anshuman and Parikshit we came to know that we had left them behind. So we decided to wait for them. About 20 minutes later they reached us and we headed off to join Aviral and gang at the reliance petrol pump where they were waiting for us. Some of us needed to top up our tanks so after getting the fuel we set off for Jambughoda.The road now changed to soft ghats with lazy turns and no extreme hairpins or climbs. We took our time cruising at a sedate pace, looking like a giant mechanical python zigzagging its way after a hugely satisfying lunch. The temperature in the meanwhile had also soared a bit and all of us were scorched with the heat. As we reached Shivrajpur and were about to ask for the forest rest house, Mr. Nepali, who was the person we had contacted for the stay met us and asked us if we were the group that was coming from Ahmedabad. When we replied in the affirmative, he asked us to follow him to the rest house where all the arrangements had been made for us. We set off after him and a kilometer or so later, we left the main road and took a dirt track. Aviral, Ouseph and Xavier had been lagging behind, so Pushkar, Parikshit and I decided to wait for them at the turning to the dirt track. They came into view about 20 minutes later and we headed off after the group. There were a couple of small roads heading off from the dirt track but we managed to look for motorcycle tracks and finally found our way to the campsite where the others were already waiting for us.Some went off to look around in the small forest while some of us decided to rest a bit in the cool shade of trees and then unpack our bags from the bikes. Aviral in the meanwhile waited under a mango tree for mangoes to fall down by themselves. Avinash hit everything but the mangoes. But finally we had 4 mangoes to pass some time. They were quite light and we discussed the possibility of them being made of thermocol. None of us had seen where our sleeping quarters were. So when we saw the small thatched huts, we thought this was where we were going to stay. As we unloaded our motorcycles and headed off towards the huts, Avinash and Joy informed us that we were to stay in the rest house on the top of the small hillock, at the bottom of which we were sitting. So carrying our loads we headed that way. Little did we know what a nice surprise we had waiting for us at the top. As we rounded the small turn on the hillock we saw a path leading to our right. We realized a little sluggishly that it was the wall of the Kada dam. But this was half of it. There were stairs leading to somewhere on the left and as we mounted the stairs; a well maintained building came into view. This was the rest house, where we would stay. As we finally reached the top and looked outwards, we had a splendid view of the reservoir, now 90 percent dry and the villages near it. The whole area was surrounded by rocky hills and was set up in a sort of bottom of a bowl. More surprises, the rest house had double beds, attached bathrooms, electricity, and a boon for summers, a working fridge, with bottles of chilled water, waiting just for us. As we ooohed and aahed our way through the various rooms and dropped our luggage on the floor, we realized that we were in for a lot of fun. It was almost 4 in the evening when we made ourselves at home and breakfast was served. We were to be there at 10 in the morning at the latest. But what is a ride if everything goes according to the time?? So here we were sitting and talking while the caretaker Natubhai prepared delicious poha for us. Two bowlfuls of poha vanished like magic and there were still four people left who hadn’t had any of it. So a second round was requested which was graciously served by Natubhai. The same thing happened again but this time everyone got a helping. This was followed by the ever-refreshing chai. Some of us went to bathe while some went to sleep. Some went to explore the reservoir while some sat outside in the small but neat garden taking in the nice view of the surroundings.After all of us had refreshed ourselves and were ready to go for a small walk, we first decided to fix our dinner menu. A lot of deliberation later it was decided and we gave the money to the caretaker to get the things and prepare the dinner. Ouseph and the caretaker went to get the necessary things and also got kukkad and desi daru with it. The walk along the reservoir was good fun. While we were headed towards the village, Aviral and some of us who had already left earlier were returning. Talking, joking and passing comments, we had a small photo session taking in all the scenes that surrounded us. It was still too hot.We returned to the rest house after a nice walk and some talking with the villagers there. Preparations for dinner were well under way by the time we settled down on the comfortable sofas and chairs of the rest house. While some took baths again, Avinash and Dhruv opened the customary bar. Although I don’t drink at all we cheered for each other and the drinking session was officially opened. Aviral went outside to and announced that it was definitely much cooler there than inside the rest house. We all decided to see if he was drunk or saying the truth. He was saying the truth. As darkness fell, the wind cooled down and picked up speed. It rustled through the small plants and trees around us. Maybe because we were at some height, the gusts were very strong. Almost like announcing the beginning of the monsoons. But the skies were clear, the moon shown and the Milky Way cut across the sky like a huge highway. Maybe there were some aliens enjoying in some distant galaxy like we were enjoying it here. Who could tell? But then who wanted to know? Ouseph acted as chef for chicken and a little while later, when everyone was hungry enough to tackle a grizzly with one’s bare hands, someone announced that dinner was served. There was a mad rush to the table like it was the last day on earth for us and within seconds all emerged out in the verandah with plates heaped with food like they hadn’t eaten for almost a week and wouldn’t eat for a week thereafter. It was the long ride, coupled with the atmosphere that had made us all so hungry. Dinner was delicious. Not too spicy, neither too oily and nor too salty. Just right for everybody. All ate praising Natubhai with every bite of roti we took. Chicken was still pending. Ouseph said it’d take a little longer. We agreed to wait and eventually when it was served everyone agreed that indeed the wait was worth it.After dinner, Aviral wanted to bring his bike up to the rest house. Soon everybody wanted their bikes at the top. So one after the other, everyone went down and got the bikes up. Aviral and Avinash went to the terrace and within a few minutes were off to sleep. The others sat around talking about many things in general, nothing in particular. Dhruv was the last to arrive back at the rest house. He had somehow got lost and couldn’t find the way back up. Although none of us knew each other very well, never for a moment we found that we didn’t understand each other or our views didn’t match on a particular subject. Everything was in harmony, one to the other and all to nature. It was a wonderful feeling. I’d finally sleep that night. We decided to sleep on the terrace. It was midnight but the rest house was still warm and uncomfortable to sleep in. So we took our sleeping bags to the terrace and prepared to sleep. Here too Samip and Joy gave us a nice comedy show and we all drifted off to sleep, some laughing and some smiling. The wind kept its relentless volley blowing. Like an angry god breathing hard. But we slept.Dawn came with a sudden change in temperature. Tejasbhai and I were the first ones to get up. The benefit of getting up earlier than the others is that you can use the bathrooms at your own leisure before everyone else starts banging on the doors. And we did exactly the same. We were the first to get ready and soon everybody was down waiting uneasily to use the bathrooms. Within a short time everyone was ready to go to Jhand Hanuman, Bhim Ki Ghanti and Hidamba Van, about 12 kilometers from the rest house. Natubhai served chai and after two cups and biscuits later the photo session started. The lineups and close-ups were taken and finally at 10 we started for Jhand Hanuman. As soon as we had gone about 5 kilometers we realized that we were missing two bikes. Parikshit and Ouseph. Waiting for them, we saw that Samip’s bike had a flat. Joy and Samip helped me to remove the wheel, which Anshu and I took to patch up. When we returned, everyone was there and we started again. The road now stopped being a road and turned into a dirt track. I hung at the tail and well behind everyone so that the dust settled and I could move freely. Some more kilometers later, the convoy came to an abrupt halt. Another puncture. This time in Joy’s bike. Again the same routine, but this time Dhruv and Joy went to get it repaired. We waited for them to return but when they didn’t come even after half an hour and our water supply had exhausted, half of the group decided to leave for Jhand Hanuman and the rest decided to wait. Finally after waiting some more, Aviral, Ashish and Samip decided to wait while Pushkar, Parikshit and I decided to go ahead. The dirt track was beautiful and it reminded me of how Gaurav loves to ride the dirt tracks. Finally we reached Jhand Hanuman and found the others waiting for us. There was chai for Prasad and after a cup for each we headed to see Bhim Ki Ghanti. As myth had it this was the grinding mill where Bhim had ground flour for his wife, Hidamba to make idli dosa…hehe. As we reached the approach to the place we were speculating on whether to take the bikes to the top or go on foot. A majority of people were climbing the route on foot so we were a bit apprehensive at first. The vacationers having lunch in the parking were snickering that the bikes wont be able to reach the top. We decided to take the bikes with us. So we shifted into the first gear and started to the top. The road. a dirt track actually, at first was a bit smooth though undulating but soon it turned to small rocks and stone and sand. But like all good and sincere bulleteers who go where nobody dares to, we didn’t lose heart and went the whole hog. Finally after slow and careful riding for about 10 minutes and maneuvering the bikes around small boulders and such we were on the top. It was a good feeling that washed over us. We had done a difficult road without anyone falling or injuring himself and without any bike having any problem. When we finally parked the bikes under a huge tree and turned around to look what actually Bhim Ki Ghanti was, we were spell bound. There was this grinding mill and all around it were stacks of stones, one over the other, five in number for the Pandavas. There were different colors to stones and the whole landscape looked out of the world. We stood there mesmerized for about 10 minutes. It was the silent whirring of Anshuman’s camera that brought us back to our senses. We all started talking at once. After some photos and poses, while Avinash stacked his set of stones we headed downwards. At the bottom while we took stock of all the bikes and whether anyone was having any problem the people who had snickered at us looked at us with some respect. We headed back for the rest house. It was already two in the afternoon and officially we should have started for Ahmedabad by now.While heading back we were met by Aviral, Dhruv and Joy who had fixed the tire and were going to Jhand Hanuman for a quick dekko. We waved to them and went off our way. Strangely Samip and Ashish were not with them. We put bad thoughts aside and headed for the rest house, negotiating the magnificent dirt track once again. As soon as we came to the Pucca Street, Samip and Ashish greeted us there. When we asked why they hadn’t come with us, Samip explained that they were looking for dahi to make some chhas, which Samip claimed he was a master at. We reached the rest house and started packing our stuff while Natubhai prepared lunch for us. We had decided to leave immediately after lunch, so everyone was hurrying up. Samip in the meanwhile got busy with his chhas project. Eventually, Aviral, Joy and Dhruv arrived and we discussed what all we had seen and whether the ride was worth it. Everybody agreed equally volubly that yes the trip was worth every single paisa. Natubhai announced lunch and Samip presented his chhas. Lunch was delicious, rice and daal. The chhas, exceptional. All had so much of chhas that, coupled with rice it made everybody drowsy and lazy and reluctant to move. Avinash in the meanwhile hit upon an idea to have a quick, cool, refreshing bath at the point where the water from the dam entered into a farming canal. Some were reluctant to go while Aviral and Dhruv were game for it. So they headed off for the canal while we digested the rice and chhas sitting and talking on the sofas in the drawing room of the rest house. Soon I had a feeling that maybe I should also take a dip in the canal. In the meanwhile Avinash and company were back from there and were full of praises for the wonders of sitting in a canal in this sweltering heat. That was it and Tejasbhai, Samip, Joy and I headed off to try out the water. We found a still better place to relax and took our time sitting in the water letting the heat dissipate and the coolness seep into our pores. It was truly relaxing and wonderful. Ashish came just as we were about to leave. Soon we reached the rest house and after a quick change of clothes we were ready to leave. In the meanwhile Natubhai announced his irresistible chai. We had to drink it. Soon we packed everything on our bikes and were ready to move when we realized that we had forgotten the most important thing. Paying Natubhai off for all the food we had consumed. When the accounting was done and the final figure reached at, everyone was surprised to see that for two days and one night of almost non stop eating all one had to pay was 60 bucks per head. Everyone readily shelled out the money and we added a hundred and fifty bucks for Natubhai and his assistant for the wonderful service they had provided. Thanks to Joy’s uncle Mr. P. K. Patel who is the RFO at Jambughoda that we didn’t have to pay for the rest house stay and permission and entry charges.As soon as we started our bikes and were about to move, Joy went crazy. We realized he had a flat. Again. So we removed the tire and Anshuman, Joy and Pushkar headed off to get the tire done. I asked Anshuman to call up Sandeep and let him know that I would be home by dawn. The rest of us just plonked our butts into the grass and started having a good time. A good half an hour later Anshuman and Joy arrived with the tire. While I was fitting the tire Anshuman told me that I had to come back to Ahmedabad as I had to get something from there for Sandeep. I agreed. So it was 6.30 when we finally left Jambughoda. We decided to take it real slow because it was getting dark and we didn’t want any mishap to occur due to speed or recklessness. Everyone agreed and the convoy started with Pushkar and I tailing them. It was a beautiful sight to behold. 9 motorcycles in front of me, their silent chuffing filling the air and their taillights like some wild fireflies in wild surroundings. It was a spell binding sight. Almost hypnotizing. But we didn’t get hypnotized and before we knew we were in Halol. Here calamity struck again. Ashish had a front tire puncture. We decided to remove the tire and get it done up but then we realized that we had a foot pump and it was a slow puncture so we pumped it up good and headed off to the puncture guy whom Avinash had already looked for and located. Here again we were in for the shock of our lives. The puncture wala didn’t know how to remove the tire and insisted that it wasn’t his job to remove the tire; it was the mechanic’s responsibility. Controlling our frustration and anger, we removed the front wheel, got the puncture done up and headed for Baroda. But we had one more surprise waiting for us on the expressway. While Samip and I tailed, Tejasbhai went camera crazy and took a lot of night shots. Suddenly we saw Ashish getting airborne for a couple of seconds and coming down again. Aviral stopped immediately after ensuring that everyone was safe. Samip and I dodged a couple of broken boulders bang in the middle of the road and stopped a little ahead of the group. Aviral in the meanwhile had gone out of his mind and was shouting and pointing ahead. When we finally got our eyes in the direction he was pointing, we realized that a bus was zigzagging in the middle of the highway and headed towards Baroda without its lights and apparently no driver. That is when we realized that Aviral was telling us the same thing that the bus was without a driver. Pushkar and I raced ahead to stop and board the bus and then get it to stop. But suddenly the headlights on the bus went up. We thought that maybe the bus was haunted when suddenly the driver poked his head out of his window and asked us what the matter was. We lambasted him and threatened him to pick up the boulders he had left on the highway and if he didn’t do it we would cause a serious traffic jam and report him to the authorities. In the meanwhile, the highway patrol ambulance also reached us thinking that there was an emergency. We notified the ambulance guys about what had happened, took a couple of photos and headed off again to Baroda. At Baroda we regrouped and discussed about dinner. It was already past 9 and everyone was hungry. Dhruv suggested a restaurant at Vasad where we could have good food and he could head back to Baroda after the dinner. We agreed. Dinner was delicious and after dinner we all said goodbye to Dhruv and headed for Ahmedabad. The highways were reasonably empty and we made good speeds. Suddenly I realized that only Joy and I were ahead and there was nobody behind us. So we slowed down while others caught up with us. We stopped at Dabhan for tea, as everyone was feeling sleepy. It was almost 2.30 when we reached Narol. Ouseph’s bike had conked out and Aviral was pushing it since the last 20 kilometers. They passed us while all of us gathered at Narol to say final goodbyes to each other. Then we headed off for Anshuman’s place where I would spend the night, finish off Sandeep’s job and head for Valsad that day. We dropped off Tejasbhai at his place. Anshuman’s bike had burnt valves and a dead piston. But we were lucky that it didn’t give us even an ounce of trouble during the whole ride. We finally reached Anshu’s place and were asleep even before our heads hit the pillows. Two days of fun and heat had tired us so badly that we didn’t even feel the stifling heat in the room. We just slept like logs until it was 9 am in the morning and time to get up.I got ready and we took Anshu’s bike to Ketan’s garage for repairs. My bike also needed minor attention. We reached there, and when Jayanti kaka, Ketan’s father was through with my bike, we asked him to start and see what was wrong with Anshu’s bike. He started it and said that the valves were kaput and maybe even the piston. It would take a couple of days. We put the bike in for repairs, I said goodbye to Jayanti kaka and thanked him for taking care of my bike and headed for Anshu’s office. Tejasbhai had already developed one roll of photos and even Samip had his cd ready. We saw the photos and recalled all the fun we had. Finally it was time to leave. I shook hands with Tejasbhai, went with Anshuman to finish off Sandeep’s work and came back to Anshu’s place. It was 3.45 in the afternoon and burning hot. But I had to leave. So I packed my luggage and Anshuman came to see me off till the highway. We said bye and parted ways. I picked up speed and started for Narol. It as 5 when I turned right and faced my bike towards Valsad. 6 hours later, at exactly 11 pm I was at home.My mom went crazy looking at the sun burnt face and hands. My dad was shaking with laughter while I listened to my mom rant about how careless I am. Finally Sandeep ordered pizzas and we had dinner. I took a bath, fell into bed and went to sleep, dreaming of Jambughoda.