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 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.
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