The Nomads Ride to Ranthambore

“Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?”
-William Blake

In order to spread the passion for the road and the spirit of riding, I initiated a biking group in my workplace. This group was named The Nomads with the objective of exploring the world, 1 km at a time on 2 wheels. The very idea of having a biking group ignited the imaginations of many who signed up for the rides. We initiated the group with a short day-trip to Karnal lake, a picnic spot about 150-km from Delhi. This was followed up with a weekend ride to Lansdowne, a famous hill station roughly 250-km from Delhi.

After the long and arduous ride to Lansdowne, one that left us drenched and fatigued, it was time for the Nomads to tread towards less complicated terrains. So, giving the hills a much deserved break, Nomads decided to ride to the colorful state of Rajasthan. Amongst the many jewels of Rajasthan, we chose Ranthambore as our destination.

Ranthambore as a destination had many things to offer. The roads were in excellent condition, the distance was just about right, the weather was just enough cold and to top it all, we had a chance to meet the striped stalker during the safari. So, as soon as the destination was decided, mails were sent and nominations were sought for the ride. A total of 19 people signed up for the ride riding on 14 bikes. Inquiries were made and we decided to take the route via Alwar rather than the one via Jaipur as the Delhi-Jaipur highway had growingly become more crowded due to a lot of truck traffic.

Our office, located in Gurgaon, was chosen as the assembly point for the ride. Since the ride was happening in the month of November therefore, we were anticipating a chilly weather during the ride. Our anticipation came true as the weather was quite chilly and foggy to begin with. We started our ride at 0530 in the morning and even at such an early hour, there were traffic jams on the NH-8. Being on 2 wheels helped us immensely as we were able to meander through the traffic jam pretty easily. All of us knew the major towns that we had to pass through however, were not quite familiar with the actual route. So till we reached Alwar, it was quite a trouble stopping intermittently and asking for routes. The fog added to the woe early on in the morning as we were riding on single-lane roads. Thankfully, we were all dressed for the occasion. A part of the group took a brief halt just before, Alwar for breakfast. For breakfast, what you get in this belt is a real delicacy. Here, paranthas are fried in oil before being served and are a must-have when you are riding in this section. Many “diet-conscious” people would shy away from such a diet like this but when you are on the road, you should not loose an opportunity to enjoy the local delicacies. So after consuming a mouthful of fried paranthas, we proceeded on our ride.

Soon, we made it Alwar and beyond that the ride was a wonderful. The roads were amazing with an excellent tarmac. In no time, we reached Dausa. I was riding with my wife as my pillion and since she also rides therefore, in this open and empty stretch towards Dausa she took on the handlebars and rode for some time. This was quite a sight for the fellow riders who cheered her. At Dausa, we halted for a while and decided our plan ahead. Ranthambore was a little over 150 kms and we were yet to have lunch. After much consultation, it was decided to have lunch in Dausa town and the proceed towards Lalsot. To our dismay, we could not find any good place to eat in Dausa and therefore, we kept riding with empty stomachs. Eventually, we stopped at a roadside dhaba just outside of Dausa and had a sumptuous lunch.

What lay ahead of us was a 40-km stretch of some amazingly bad roads leading to Lalsot. It was quite a nightmare, especially after the superb tarmac that we had just rode on till Dausa. With lots of trouble, we negotiated through these bad roads and eventually were back on some good roads towards Sawai Madhopur. The bullet lived upto its reputation of breezing through bad roads with little trouble to its riders. The road from Lalsot onwards was a little better, so the ride was a little comfortable. Due to the record amount of rains this year, the fields around the roads were completely lush green. It was a quite an experience cruising on those roads. By the time, we reached Sawai-Madhopur, it was dark. We stopped to further enquire about the way to our hotel.

The ride from Sawai Madhopur to Ranthambore was quite interesting. It was dark and we had to pass through a near jungle route over a mountainous track. All the 14 bikes were riding in a line with their headlights on, presenting an amazing sight. We also had to negotiate a short 500 m of dirt track off the main road to reach our hotel. It was a little scary but definitely an amazing experience.

Our plan for the next day was fixed. All of us had to go on the safari to the national park hoping to get a sighting of the majestic creature that the national park is famous for. In no time, we all got ready and boarded our canter for the safari. The safari itself was quite thrilling as we waded through the dense Ranthambore forest with the fort watching over us with grandeur. The safari lasted for almost and hour and a half however, to our utter dismay we could not spot the elusive creature. A little while later, to our relief, we did get a chance to see the tiger however, from a very far distance. We all felt lucky to have spotted the tiger, even though it was from such a distance. However, when we were about to exit the park, one of the guards prompted our canter’s guide to turn the vehicle and proceed on a certain direction as a tiger was spotted in close vicinity over there. The driver wasted no time in doing so and as soon as we took the turn, the prowling predator was sitting and keeping a close watch on a herd of deer a little far away. A little while ago we were feeling lucky to have spotted a tiger a couple of kms away and here we were just feet away from the striped stalker. The guide alerted us not to wave our hands or offer anything to the animal. There was an eerie silence as all of us in utter amazement were watching the tiger in its territory. Then, the unthinkable happened. The tiger stood up and started walking towards our canter. We were literally frozen. The guide, however, advised us not to panic as this was a regular feature and the tigers were used to such attention. As the tiger started to walk, the canter ahead of us started to follow it and it looked as if the tiger was leading us till the exit of the park. It was something that none of us had ever experienced before. The guide kept saying that only the lucky few get to have such a close encounter with a tiger. We all now truly felt blessed and I declared the ride a success.

the lady of the lakes-photo by fellow rider, Jitendra

We followed the safari with a short sojourn to the Ranthambore fort. We had a guide who shared the history and interesting facts about the fort. On top of this fort was a temple which was inundated with langurs. There were hordes of these simians patiently waiting for devotees who would offer them prashad on their way back. The interesting part was that the langurs would pick the food themselves from the devotee’s hand without hurting them. After spending some time, we came back to our hotel and called it a day.

All riders and their bikes-photo by fellow rider, Jitendra

the langurs waiting in anticipation of food outside the fort temple

Post our visit to the fort, we made a brief sojourn to the local market. It was a busy evening and as the entire market went about doing their regular stuff, a line of ducks appeared on the road from nowhere. They were all walking in a synchronized manner much to the amazement of the people around. For a moment, the entire market came to a standstill. It was quite a sight..!!

a line of ducks

The next day was our return to Delhi. One of the locals, suggested that we take a different route rather than the one via Sawai Madhopur. This was one other surprise that was waiting for us. This route passed through some of the most remote villages and was literally a single lane road. As the roads were a little bumpy therefore, all the 14 bikes were again riding in formation. This was an amazing sight and the local villagers were absolutely amazed to see so many bikes riding together. In the surrounding serenity of these villages, the thump of the bullet was quite welcome. As we proceeded a little further, our progress was halted by this railway crossing. It was manned by this lone guy and he was thrilled to see such traffic waiting for the gates to open. We wanted to let it be known to the surrounding that we have arrived so as we stood there, we all started to accelerate and rev up the engine. The sound was as good as a roar and it won’t be an exaggeration to say that the train came ahead of its time so that it could make way for the bullets 

the riders roaring their own tune waiting for a train to pass at this lonely railway crossing-photo by fellow ride, Jitendra

The ride from here on was regulation stuff and after a few stops for lunch and tea, we all made it safely back to our homes in the night.

All in all, it was an amazing ride with some beautiful roads and sceneries all around. But the show stopper was our close encounter with the tiger. As I reflect on this ride, I feel that it is not often that a royal enfield bullet is humbled by something. The machine has a reputation of tiding over any predicament be it bad roads or weather or terrain. But this rendezvous with the striped stalker was one that humbled our beasts as well. But we managed to leave a mark as we ruffled our own sandstorm.


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