It was 2015. It was almost a year I finished my graduation. I was a working professional at that time, as I am now. And I was looking for a nice off-beat vacation for few days. Concurrently, there comes a friend with this plan saying, “Let’s ride to Rajasthan!” I was like “Ya, why not?”
I did not own a bike at the time because I was changing cities quite often and there was no point buying a vehicle in one city when you are changing 4 cities in a year. I was in Surat then when we planned this ride to Rajasthan. I tried to rent a bike but there was no such service in and around Surat. Luckily I got a Royal Enfield Classic 350 from my friend’s brother. I was super excited as it was my first ride with a round trip distance of 1000+ kilometers.
I began my solo ride from Surat to Baroda on 29th December 2015, which was 160-odd kilometers. I reached Baroda in a few hours. I met a friend who was hosting me for the night. It was the chilling December month of Gujarat. We went for a nice cup of hot chocolate. I was meeting her after quite a long time.
The reason for stopping at Baroda was to join more riders. I left my friend’s house next morning and joined 2 more riders who had 1-1 pillion each plus my pillion. Six of us started riding from Baroda to Mount Abu on 30th December. We reached Abu Road city around evening time and started our climb up the hill. Our home for next 3 days was not some resort or home-stay or a hotel. As you ride up to Mount Abu from Abu Road city, you have to take a small detour from a remote village. We reached our campsite through that village – the beautiful ‘Aarna Wild – The Campsite’
By now, it was 48 hours since I left Surat. I was tired, dipped in dust and stinking yet full of joy. There was something waiting for us already, to contribute to our joy! It was water. The icy cold water of mountains during winter was waiting for us. As I mentioned, we were dipped in dust and stinking. Hence, we demanded water to take bath.
The campsite owner gave us a bucket of water to experience the water temperature! And yes, it was scary. Due to this sudden shock, we dropped the idea to take a bath and settled for just washing our faces and brushing teeth. This 10-minute activity with that icy cold water turned our nails purple. It was really cold. We crashed inside our tents for a power nap. Later, we quickly got up, geared up and went riding to explore the surroundings.
Nakhi lake is one of the mainstream attractions there, where you get this super-amazing and super-delicious Rabri in terracotta cups. Trust me, it was one of the best street-side desserts I have ever tried. Temperature was about 10 degrees and someone said it will touch as low as 2 degrees in the night. And yes, it went as low as 2 degrees that night!
Next morning, when we got up, we took bath with that cold water! Haha yes, we did it. It seemed impossible but we did it. We were screaming inside those modular washrooms. The person outside waiting for his/her turn could hear you screaming because of that cold water. Later, we could hear that person screaming for same reason. It was fun. After breakfast, we left for Guru Shikhar, a peak in the Arbuda Mountains of Rajasthan. It is also the highest point of the Aravalli Range. It rises to an elevation of 1,722 meters.
On our way to Guru Shikhar, we met a Gurkha regiment – one of the toughest army regiments of the world. Adolf Hitler once said “If I had Gurkhas, no army in the world could defeat me.” We were all covered in jackets, gloves and helmets to ride to Guru Shikhar while they were in their shorts and T-shirts running to the top of the mountain. It was an absolute pleasure to meet them. Sadly, I do not have any picture with them.
The view from Guru Shikhar was absolutely mesmerizing. It was better than I imagined. We were sitting and looking at this magnificent landscape from the top of the hill. There was a cold breeze under hard sunlight. Guru Shikhar also has ‘Mount Abu InfraRed Observatory’. It was visible from where we were sitting. I hope to visit that observatory someday.
That day we had a small hike planned behind our camp site. We returned to our camp from Guru Shikhar to freshen up, and started hiking. Our hike instructor suddenly spotted something! Voila! Bear footprints on the ground! It was barely 200 meters from our tents. That meant a family of bears had come down to our camp site last night in search of water. Well, that was scary.
Although bears in Rajasthan are small-sized black bears and not the humongous grizzly bears, but still! We were within bear territory and it was scary enough. Trek instructor told us not to worry because our camp site had good fencing and trained guard dogs. As we kept hiking up further, we were penetrating deeper inside the jungle.
Our trek instructor told us that if we sit on the spot till midnight or during midnight with night-vision glasses on, we can see bears as ants both in terms of size and numbers also. That forest definitely had good population of bears.
After this hike we went back to camp site, had dinner and got back to our tents. Something was different that night! It was fear of bears. I knew that time and I still know, this fear was not real but bears were!
I was sleeping alone inside my tent and around 3:00-3:30 am I had a strong urge to go to loo. The temperature was almost 2 degrees outside. I was wearing 3 layers on top and 2 layers from the bottom of my waist already. I opened my tent window and hit the torch outside to check if someone was there roaming around or whether someone else was also going to loo, so that I can join him/her. Nobody was there! Nobody! I suppressed this feeling till the first rays of sun. I am serious. I waited till dawn and I ran! I ran towards loo. I can never forget this incident. Here is a picture from that night.
Next morning, we bathed with that brutal and nerve-chilling water again. Later, we had breakfast and got ready for our next adventure – chimney. Chimney is a formation of rocks that makes a vertical tunnel. One has to do rappelling to reach till the bottom. We went on a small hike from our campsite to Asia’s deepest Chimney.
It was 150 feet deep! Freaking 150 feet! But we were allowed to go only till 30 feet because after 30 feet it gets too dark and oxygen level drops. So, it was too risky for beginners like me. Rappelling inside chimney was really a different experience. You are dependent completely on your body weight, core muscles and hands. It was fun.
After Chimney, we went straight up to Nakhi lake for Rabri and then to sunset point. We saw the last sun of 2015 setting down. It was the night of December 31st. We sat around campfire, sang songs and danced. It was my kind of celebration. My kind of new year’s eve.
The next morning was a sad morning – our last day at campsite. I was going to miss my home for 3 days. I was going to miss everything from birds chirping in the morning to eagles screeching in the evening. I still miss the amazing food they served, the hikes and bike rides. It was amazing. I rode back to Baroda on the same day. I stayed at that friend’s place and the next day, took a solo ride from Baroda to Surat.