Riding the Sands of Time

This is a Blast from the Past… When I used to ride with the Luci-fers… a bunch of bike enthusiasts from my ex-office… before I started Soul Trails.

The Sands of Time –Luci-Fers in Bikaner

After another long hibernation, the Luci-Fers decided to break the shackles of monotonous existence by doing some hardcore riding. The destination, which was of not much importance to us, was decided as Bikaner. 920 kms of hard assed riding, to be covered in 2 days.


The riders:

· Manish Chachra on The Black Beauty (Modded T-Bird 350)

· Karan Puri on Julius Cruiser (Modded T-Bird 350)

· Nikhil Sharma on My Soul (Machismo)

· Suraj Bhardwaj on Trishna (Black Bajaj Avenger)

· Swapnil Wilson on The Bitch (Std 350)

· Jai Prakash Tokas on a T-Bird 350

· Anurag Srivastava – Pillion with Swapnil

· Yashaswini – pillion with Suraj

· Ramya – Pillion with Nikhil

· Bokul – Pillion with Jai

Day 1:

The day started at 0400 Hrs, with most of us barring yours truly and Swapnil Wilson, assembling at the dhaba near Convergys. I rolled in at about 04:30 Hrs and Swapnil was able to join us at about 05:15 Hrs.

After multiple rounds of “Chai” and smokes, all of us saddled up and started to roll towards our destination, Bikaner. We must have gone for about 20 kms, when fate struck a deadly blow… the throttle cable of The Black Beauty snapped, rendering me immobile. This happened after every one had moved on, after waiting for Wilson and Andy to catch up.

Although, carrying spares did prove to be a boon, but after changing the cable, I was unable to open the screws at the Hand Throttle end and as such was riding with the cable in my hand, using the wire to control the speed. Rode that way for about 20 odd kms and caught up with the rest of the pack and I told them of my predicament.  We needed to locate a mechanic who could do something about it. We must have ridden for about a couple of kms when a truck mechanic came into sight and The Black Beauty was parked and the throttle cable fixed the way it was supposed to be.

From this place, we rode non-stop till Narnaul, where we took our first official pit stop at 0800 hrs, to tank up on some tea and breakfast. And as is the norm of group riding dynamics, the break extended well beyond the stipulated time frame and we got rolling on our way at about 09:30 Hrs.

Breakfast Halt @ Narnaul

From Narnaul, we rode on to Singhana and then on to Jhunjhunu and Mandawa. This stretch was a mixture of good roads, bad roads and good roads with horrific traffic conditions.

At the Jhunjhunu – Mandawa stretch, there is only a singe lane road, which is barely wide enough for a bus.  Imagine your plight when a state transport bus comes rambling at 50KPH and whizzes past you, leaving you gasping for breath due to the sand and then gasping for your dear life due to the narrow gap which was left between the bus’s rear end and your bike…

The Road in Hell

Once we reached Mandawa, the traffic situation got from bad to worse, with a traffic jam in the middle of a village and us squirming our way around buses and locals. The stares we got when riding through Mandawa was scary enough to make us feel unsafe and we all thumped our way out as fast as possible. After crossing Mandawa, we hit Fatehpur, another settlement with loads of crowds and traffic jams in the narrow alleys. Post that, we hit the NH-11 and then the fun started.

Good roads, no traffic to speak of and no people… the perfect blend for a biker, urged us to open up our throttles and we ripped the roads touching 110 KPH in our effort to be in Bikaner while the sun was shining. But fate had something else in store for us… after a brief halt for photography, we began our ride to Bikaner

Landscape on NH-11

The Glorious NH 11 - A rider's dream

Posing for a Riding Shot

The Bikes

The ship of the Desert

After a short while, due to some confusion, the entire juggernaut came to a halt. The entire juggernaut meaning every bike and biker except Nikhil & his My Soul, who plied into the rear end of the Black Beauty at 30KPH, resulting in him doing a half assed somersault, and his pillion Ramya, sandbagging him. The damage to the bikes and the riders was minimal with scrapes for Nikhil, a broken silencer for the Black Beauty and a twisted handle on Nikhil’s “My Soul”. Ramya, being lucky escaped without a single scratch on her. The damages to Nikhil’s machine, a bent foot-peg and the crash-guard were fixed up at a roadside mechanic’s shop. Post this entanglement, we started riding more carefully, maintaining safe distance between the bikes.

But riding safe does not mean that you can’t speed, and seeing the excellent roads, we were tempted to open up the throttle once more. We all gave in to the temptation and started ripping again. The sight of 6 bikes roaring and thumping away to glory was a sight to behold and the locals were in awe of the entire entourage, watching us with jaws dropped and gaping at us with envy.

Another halt, and some photos of the sun hitting the horizon later, we were accosted by a local, who was passing by on his battered and tattered Hero Honda Splendor.

A desert-y Sunset

This is where Karan, with his dry & sarcastic sense of humor, started leg pulling of the guy who had bothered us. He gave him some “goli” about his bike, a modded T-Bird, being a new Enfield export model with a 1000cc engine, the only bike of its kind in India. After this ribbing, the guy left us, muttering away something in his local language and that was that. We again saddled up and must have ridden for about 45 minutes, when we were hailed off the road. This was on the outskirts of Bikaner, where a Zen was parked on the side, and a man was standing there. He introduced himself as the owner of the hotel where we were supposed to be checking in. We all followed him to the hotel, with Andy joining him in the car, as he was sick of carrying the guitar.

The hotel, Meghsar Castle, is a place I would rather not mention any more as the experience was horrific. Although the rooms were nice, the service can only be rated as beyond poor, and that would be the understatement of the decade. Once we parked our bikes and our rear ends in the rooms, we had our share of the good times by partaking in a healthy dose of alcohol.

The revelry, which started at 2000 Hrs, must have continued till about 2200 hours and we had to quit so that we could eat as the staff was to leave at 22:30 hours… (I guess no one heard of 24-hour room service in that hotel which caters to foreigners as well). Then came the food… all we could taste was chillies, chillies and more chillies and then followed by some more chillies… the effects of which are too gross to share in this forum. The ladies were wise enough not to eat the fare dished out, resulting in saving a lot of trouble and decided to focus their energies on their much-needed beauty sleep.

Andy & Nick decided to call it a day and headed to their room, leaving Karan, Tokas, Suraj & yours truly to our own ways. Post the consumption of the food, which could have been used to degrease a clogged engine, we all came to our room and started the session of general leg pulling and jokes. This lasted till about 0200 hrs in the morning. It was then that we realized, if we were to go to the Karni Mata Temple in Deshnok, which was 30 Kms away, we better call it a day and catch up on sleep to rid our bodies of the tiredness after a 13 hour ride and the partying. With this thought, we all bade good night to each other and promptly went off to bed… snoring away to glory.

Day 2

In the morning, Suraj came into the room and jolted us awake by shouting out the time. It was already 1000 Hrs and if we were to reach Delhi in time to be able to rest properly for office, we figured that we would have to give Deshnok a miss. However, one of us, Andy, had managed to rise and shine  & get ready was already in Deshnok and managed to be back in the hotel by the time we all came out of the sleep induced stupor at 1100 Hrs.

Since we had decided not to have breakfast in the hotel, we all got ready and in the mean time, Suraj went to the owner, after haggling for a discount, finally got 10% off on the bill. Post settling the bill, we moved out to have a look at the fort. While looking for a place to park, we came upon a restaurant called the Gallops, which is situated just opposite the Bikaner Fort. The building housing the restaurant used to be the Royal Stables, which had now been let out to private restaurateurs.  We parked our rides there, and realized that since no one had a decent dinner or any breakfast, we all were famished, we entered the restaurant and placed our orders.

A Local Musician with his family outside Gallops

Inside Gallops

Swapnil the Guitarist, trying his hand on a Sarangi

Our food and refreshments were served in due course of time, during which we heard a local musician play the Sarangi, with Swapnil showing off his Guitar and then trying his hand on the Sarangi

The Dancer in the musical family

After clicking some snaps of the musician and his family, we all gobbled up on the much-needed food and then ordered some more.

Finally managed to move out of the restaurant and started to discuss the route to be taken as the stretch from Fatehpur to Jhunjhunu was not very conducive for night riding as the road was barely wide enough to accommodate a single four wheeler. And if you happen to have one barreling towards you at 50KPH, we would have to move off the road, into the sand, which might result in some life threatening situations. However, insanity prevailed and we decided to go the way we had come.

While riding out of Bikaner, we stopped at a petrol pump, where we topped up on engine oil and fuel. The hard riding and the heat must have taken its toll as the oil in each and every bike was touching rock bottom.

Pitstop

Post this brief but necessary halt, we started riding and rode hard till we reached a place which had some small sand dunes, where we clicked some snaps and then it was time to burn rubber. All of us ripped the road, riding at 80-90 KPH and touched 120 at some places.

While riding ahead, Nikhil came up and overtook me & Karan, where we spied smoke rising from his silencer. After signalling him to stop, we found that the air filter was pulling up oil, which was dripping on to the silencer, creating the smoke. With nothing to do apart from draining some oil from the crank, we rode on. While we were stationary, it was decided that we would ride to all the way Kotputli on NH-11, which was about 250 Kms away. From where would head towards Delhi on NH-8, making the entire journey free of passing through settlements and small villages, which dot the way if you come from Rewari.

After navigating past a railway crossing, I realized that the nut holding the gear rod on my forward controls had come off and was lying somewhere in the middle of the road from the crossing till Bikaner. To rectify this, I had to stop and while I was about to ask the entire juggernaut to come to a halt, everyone stopped on the side of the road and I fished around for some wire to tie up the levers so as to be able to change gears. After a smoke break, we all moved on and hit the turn to Fatehpur, where we all stopped for god knows what.

Again a change of decision happened and we headed towards Jhunjunu, passing through the narrow alleyways of Mandawa and then coming on the most treacherous stretch between Mandawa and Jhunjunu. The Sun was about to set and in the twilight, the road as described earlier, proved that my fears were correct with me having to get off the road atleast three times to thwart the bus drivers’ attempts to take me back to Bikaner.

Finally managed to survive the ordeal and took a brief breather after crossing Jhunjhunu at about 1900 hrs. Everyone arrived in 10 minutes and we decided to take a tea break at the first decent hotel/restaurant we could find. And what a find we made… a place called Jamuna Resort. We parked our bikes and entered the place and were led to a shed that had been converted into a restaurant.

The Restaurant from the Inside

It was no doubt a very beautiful place and we were feeling pretty good about it till the time we saw the menu.  No A-La-Carte or buffet style service. We eat what they cook and the menu read somewhat like this:

Lunch/Dinnner – (Rs.150/- for Vegetarian & Rs. 200/- for Non vegetarian food)

Soup

2 Vegetables

Dal/Chicken/Mutton

Roti

Rice

Salad

Dessert

Tea/Coffee

When we asked for just tea and some snacks to go with it, the attendant mentioned that this is what they have and this is what we could get. When we tried to talk sense into him, mentioning that we just wanted some tea and pakoras, he quoted a weird rate of Rs. 60/- per person for it.

Since that was way too much for our meager pockets, we moved on from there, but not before having some heated discussion with the owner. Next up, we stopped at Bagar Inn in Bagar and the first thing we checked up on was the menu. Finding that this was the menu we all were comfy with, we parked our rear ends in the garden restaurant and ended up ordering tea and pakoras, along with some parathas as well.

After gorging on this yummy fare, we had some more tea, paid up the bill and moved on. Now the fun starts as we were originally headed towards Narnaul, but when we had ridden for almost 2 hours with barely a soul in sight, we halted at a petrol pump, where I filled up on some fuel, we asked the attendant where the hell were we???

The guy mentioned we were on the road to Bhiwani and that Delhi was another 180 kms away. Then we all lit up our smokes and tried figuring out “Where in God’s name did we take this turn?” However, the figuring out phase lasted only till the time we finished our smokes. We were feeling lucky that the road was just amazing and with no traffic for miles, we could ride as fast as we could ride safely and be in Delhi in time.

The good stretch saw us till Bhiwani, which was about 110 kms from Delhi. Made headway after asking for the way and being misdirected by a local dude. But thanks to a shopkeeper, we did not venture off-track for more than 500 mtrs and were directed towards the correct way. And then all our dreams of a decent riding surface went for a toss. The roads were as bad as they could get and then things got worse. The road was no where to be seen and there was some fly-over being constructed so we had to go off-road, taking a long winding detour from the main road, which opens up on a railway crossing. The next destination was Rohtak, and 40 Kms of mixture of good and bad roads later, we reached there and asked our way around for Delhi. While we were riding towards Delhi, a guy on his Hero Honda Splendor (yes ladies & gentlemen, another one of those doods) asked for the way to Delhi. Directing him in the right direction, no one paid him much attention till the time he started riding and weaving in and around the bikes in the pack. Decided to let him do his fancy riding by himself, we all pulled over at a dhaba for another cup of tea and coffee. This halt extended to about 45 minutes but being so close to home, we did not make much of an effort to ride on.

Finally, managed to get the weary body moving enough to park the rear end on the bike, kick start it and engage the gear and let the clutch out to start moving. Once the chill air hit the face, all tiredness vanished and we were in the mood to ride again. We all thumped into Delhi and about 20 Kms later, stopped at the Pira Garhi Flyover, bidding adieu to friends, both old and new with promises of another ride as soon as possible.

9 Comments

  • Mahesh Semwal says:

    Dear Manish,

    Wow!!

    You are amazing. When ever I go through your post, the one line comes in my mind which you have written in your profile “Writes from the heart and quotes from the hip”.

    Rajasthan is one of my favorite state. It is one of the colourful tourist destinations of India.Hospitality is great.Food is very economical.

  • bikerdude says:

    @Mahesh,

    Thanks for the Ego Massage… appreciate it :-)

    Rajasthan is beautiful and a wonderful place to visit… the only thing I do not like about it is the immaculate condition of the road… many people would disagree with me but as the saying goes… “To each his own”

    I like my roads to be twisty, broken up and difficult to ride on… they keep me alert and on my toes. I hate the sleepy feeling I get when the going is tooooooo easy… marble smooth, straight roads with barely any traffic induce a laziness I hate when I am riding…

  • aurojit says:

    Hi Manish,
    Great post and equally great pics.
    This lively post reminds me of my trips to Bikaner/Jaipur.
    Thoroughly enjoyed.
    Thanks.
    Auro.

  • Manish as ever enjoyed your post and pictures to the hilt.

    I have spent 25 most beautiful yrs of my life in Khetrinagar, a place very close to Singhana and Chirawa. I think that the feeling of being unsafe in Mandawa was mainly due to your unfamiliarity with the region. Anyway we all have our own experiences …

    Good to see your post after a long time. Hope to see the next one pretty soon :-)

  • Ram Dhall says:

    Manish,

    Looks like that Sehwag and Company were inspired to take the title “Delhi Daredevils” for their IPL team by the amazing heroics of your team(s). Though your last post, “The Trans Himalayan Experience” was simply hair raising, I thoroughly enjoyed your ride to Bikaner too. Once again your sense of photography was par excellence.

    As Manish Khamesra has said, we are looking forward to your next post.

  • bikerdude says:

    @Aurojit, Thanks dude, those words made my day :-)

    @Manish K, been busy with the new website, new plans, new itineraries and loads of stuff to keep things rolling… haven’t been doing much of travel. as for the new posts, I am sure the old ones (locked in one of the folders) would have to suffice till I have new and fresh experiences to add to. July should offer something new as I am headed out to the Spiti Valley again, which should be interesting as we would be smack in the middle of monsoons, and I am sure it would add another interesting twist to the already exciting trip.

    @Ram Sir, I wish the Dare Devils had me as an inspiration :-)… that would be a blast. As for the snaps… I say

    “I just click what I see… people happen to like it is an added bonus.”

    The Trans Himalayan Experience is surely one of the most exciting itineraries I have on offer… a perfect blend of adrenalin rush, kick-ass adventure, cultural exposure and the natural wonders of India… It sure is hair raising as the roads aren’t very rider friendly… but that is what makes it the most awesomest (if there is a word like that) ride ever.

    Nothing can come close to the experience of riding on roads @ 15000 Ft ASL and then comes the BIG DADDY Khardung La @ 18380 Ft ASL… Meeting the friendly people who brave the elements, tough terrain, no roads, bad roads, riding on river beds,… all these come together and make it THE ride to do… If I had things my way, I would do this route every year as a pilgrimage…

  • nandanjha says:

    youngish scribble :)

    thoroughly enjoyable.

  • bikerdude says:

    @Nandan, this was written quite some time back… had the draft post up on Ghumakkar eating dust and ditto in the lappy’s harddisk… just could not muster enough motivation to clean up the act…

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