As the saying goes, “Two roads diverged in the woods and I took the one less traveled”
The thirst of treading the road less travelled, comfort of moving at my pace, freedom of taking as many stopovers so as to soak in the moment, surroundings and place, riding through every possible part of land so that even the minutest details of this chapter of life is not missed, get to know the people as they are and not as they are being told, experience and live every moment, all this concluded in the thought of a Bicycle, backpack, a bottle of water and road less travelled in a landscape through legendary enough but rarely travelled.
Someone once said, “The traveler sees what he sees, but the tourist sees what he has come to see”. A traveler is active, continuously in search of adventure and experience, a tourist is passive as he goes for a sight-seeing trip on the popular notions. I chose to be a Traveler.
To ride on this travel expedition, I chose Rajasthan, the land of colors, the land of forts, the land of royalty, the land of chivalry. A friend suggested me that if I wish to see, explore, experience and live all the colors of life on earth the “Rajasthan” erstwhile Rajputana is the answer. For my travel arrangements and assistance, I hired the services of “Le tour de India” (letourdeindia.com) the experts of the field, Cycle trails, offbeat routes and the country side. They let you to be a traveler and not force you to be a Tourist. Take any wild turn, stop at any hour of the day, and start whenever you feel like, they will be like partners in the crime. Le tour de India has revolutionized the way, one experiences Rajasthan.
This magnificent journey commenced from a magnificent place, Udaipur. On day one in the evening, I was prepared that I was not alone, embarking on this trip, a few like-minded souls were also there, together we were going to explore the land. A brief introduction to tea was organized by Le tour de India to get us familiarized. We were briefed about our rides, equipment, terrain and general climatic conditions of day and night. A very short brief of Udaipur and we were free to explore Udaipur on our own.
The moment I took a step outside our hotel, I was in a totally different world, the place was swarming with all kinds of tourists and travelers. I followed the main roads and a kilometer’s walk led me to the lake front of Lake Pichhola, the magnificent City Palace standing tall on one side, beautiful Lake Palace in the middle of lake, the Ghats, the Havelies now converted to Hotels, Rooftop Restaurants, a Canal crossing the city and meeting another Lake, Lake Fatehsagar and adding charm to this was full moon smiling on this heavenly place, it was all like a film sequence. The thought of this place is truly called Venice of east crossed my mind. What a fulfilling initial few hours of my journey, I was feeling light, fresh and charged for the next day, which was scheduled to begin quite early. I had the dinner together with fellow riders and team captain of Le tour de India at one of the lakes facing restaurant.
Day two was quite early for me especially in winters, we had a wake-up call at 5:30 AM, 6:30 AM breakfast was served and sharp at 07:00 AM we hoped on to our chartered bus to move out of city limits. Our bikes were ready with our support staff, a brief on the route and terrain and we were riding into the hilly terrain with the first rays of sunrise, towards Jhadol, a tiny hamlet. We took a stopover at a lake side for refreshment and acclimatization for the road ahead. We left the main road for the back roads to be discovered, learning a few local farming techniques of hill areas, witnessing a change in the pattern of farming practices and crops with a change of landscape from hills to plains and again hills. The jungle along the roads is rich with various fruit plants. We had a refreshment in the most natural way, plucked the fruits from trees, washed them in the flowing river stream flowing downstream and the feeling of eating was “WOW”, life cannot get better than this, but we were wrong there was much more coming our way. We had lunch at Jhadol. By this time we had paddled almost 60 km’s and were spent for the day, we left our rides with our support team and the bus took us back to Udaipur. Post high tea we went exploring the city and markets on foot. All this time our support team was in the background, let us be on our own, experience and see the things as they are, never interfering but always available.
Day three was similar in the morning, wakeup call, breakfast and by bus to our start point. A minimum of 50 km’s of a ride to Ranakpur, mostly uphill but downhill was quite a fun. The jungle along the way is a protected sanctuary for Wild Boars, Leopards, and Monkeys. We had a few stopovers at villages, along with the way to refresh, to interact with the local folk, experience their lifestyle, cuisine, and culture, to find out how rich this place is culturally, and what good hosts they are. On reaching Ranakpur, an architectural marvel was awaiting us, the Famous Ranakpur Jain Temples. By this time as we reveled in the beauty and serenity of the place and temple, our stomachs went on calling out loud. A jungle theme restaurant nearby did the job for us to pacify our tummy. Post lunch we headed to Rawla Narlai for night stay. Rawla Narlai, is a Heritage resort in the Narlai village on a back country road from Ranakpur, hidden away in the heart of Aravali hills.
Day four began with a morning walk in the village with the sun rising from among the hills to witness and experience the morning chores and activities of a Traditional Rajasthani Village and a cup of tea with the locals. After breakfast, we saddle up for a short ride of 30 km’s (by this time 30 km’s cycle ride seems short enough) passing by villages from hills to plains, from jungles to open vast fields. The climate changes from soothing to dry. A stopover on reaching the highway, after refreshments we hopped on to our bus for historical city of Jodhpur. After checking in and lunch, Mehrangarh is the new destination along with the old city of Jodhpur and its bylanes.
Day five is an adventurous ride to Chandelao, it is an off road trail again but of very rough terrain, and I met with some 5-6 punctures, which were readily repaired by the support team. The terrain around is dry, barren and absolutely no roads, it was like riding in the no man’s land. Then, from a far off point we were able to see some houses, then huts, then a few shepherds with their herds. At this point, a race is initiated by our team captain to reach Chandelao fort with a few hints. And it was a race worth participating, through the village, jumping among the streets; the children in the village were looking at us like we were some kind of celebrities or aliens, and suddenly we were in front of a big fort right in middle of the village. There awaiting us was the traditional welcome with Garlands and drums. We relaxed there after this taxing road trip and post launch an open jeep took us for a jungle safari. The stay in this far off land was unmatched and food awesome.
Next day, as usual, we had an early start this time all the way to Pushkar, halting at various villages on the way, experiencing every inch of the land and soaking in it. The change in terrain was amazing; we could barely take in the beauty of the land and people when an almost different world came out of nowhere. But the people always welcoming, the best of hosts, their love and smiles unmatched. Pushkar was altogether a different world, with the ongoing world’s largest Camel fair. The Mela ground was intoxicating; I have never imagined this kind of fair even in my wildest of dreams. We had the wildest of activities a visit to the sand dunes on the camel, a tea made of Camel milk, giving a hand to milk a camel, sunset in the sand dunes, the adventures were not coming to an end, with the Mela ground being altogether an exhilarating place.
Day seven took us to the Pink City, Jaipur. I had been to many places of historic importance, but none like this and to top this experience we experienced the city on bicycles an altogether new idea exploring even the narrowest and busiest streets, enjoying the marvelous city to the fullest. The evening was relaxing and well deserved good nights sleep for us to recharge for the rough seas ahead.
Morning, and to the battle stations. our rides were ready, we saddled up and paddled to Sawarda a distance of some 60 km’s, not once touching the highway, meandering through the country roads or connecting roads, through lush green fields, crossing lakes and ponds, capturing the most photogenic villages. We got to try hands in the carrot crop, a tea with the locals left us wondering whether our team Captain, Khushal is having family and relatives at all the places in this land or the people actually are so welcoming. They even filled our bags full of fresh fruits and vegetables. Though our team was, completely stock up with our refreshment rations, water, energy drinks etc, but need to use them never arose, as wherever we halted the people there never allowed us to leave without our tummies and bags full. Wow, does this kind of people still exist in this mean world. Reaching Sawarda, again a witch hunt was called by our Team leader. Sawarda again was a wonderful place, a walk in the village took us to Potter’s hut, I tried my hand at pottery, and actually made a coffee mug for my mom. This journey was turning out to be memorable enough to pass it on to my future generations, though I am quite young to think of future generations, but couldn’t spare the thought. At the fort we had our hands full of colorful traditional Rajasthani dresses, a team was ready to help us with the dresses and turbans. The dinner was in house cooked by the ladies of the house, even the thought of it has activated my taste buds and left longing.
Day eight had some 85 km’s of cycle ride to Tordigarh. The real fun was tracking up to the old ruined fort at the top of the hill, the view from the top was holding lush green fields with a river flowing nearby and some beautiful villages. Our team leader never tires of putting surprises, only when the tea and snacks were served to us at this place which could not even be imagined, that we came to know of the person who walked with us with the supplies. As usual, the Le tour de India team working in the background to make us sail, safe and happy.
Day ten from Tordigarh to Ranthambore, every Tiger enthusiast must have heard of this place and longed to come here. We paddled for some 60 km’s, through small villages, using back country roads, taking pit stops at some local tea joints before finally stopping for lunch at a very Indian AC restaurant. The way to Ranthambore from this point was approx 100 km’s, as we chose the again the back roads and bus to reach our destination, it came out to be a rollercoaster ride. Ranthambore, do I need to write about Ranthambore, so much has already been written about this place. I can only say this, I you are a Tiger enthusiast, then it’s a must.
By the time our journey was coming to an end, I got addicted to this land, people, and my two wheeled companions. The team of Le tour de India was a big part of this once in a life time experience. This travelogue remains incomplete without their team and efforts. They were like sailors with expertise in every field assisting the captain of the ship to navigate through calm and rough seas through bright sunlight and dark nights. This journey was so mesmerizing that I wanted it never to end but every journey has to end so as to recollect, share and learn from the experience earned and eventually set sail for the next one in the life.
For, someone once said, “The world is a Book and those who do not travel read only a page”.