Monday, January 23, 2017

Tour-de-Thar 2016 - A biker experience

Digvijay ‘DeeJay’ Singh

What if someone offered you an opportunity to spend the last days of the year with friends, old and new, riding across the beautiful backroads in the day, sitting across a warm campfire in the wilderness, singing and dancing the night away, hard to say No isn’t it! Tour-de-Thar to me is one such opportunity which I look forward to every year.

Tour-de-Thar kicked off with 4 bikes setting off to explore the ‘Thar’ desert of Rajasthan, to now where the convoy on the road spreads across half a kilometer. It is not the number that I like about it, on the contrary it is the seclusion and the wilderness it offers that got me hooked. Every year Tour-de-Thar lets me escape from the civilization, teaches me not to worry about anything else but the road ahead of me. For these five days, my friends become my family and the wild becomes my home.

Tour-de-Thar this year was going to be much more exciting as we were going to explore a new side of the Thar. As always the route planned was unconventional, virgin and consisted a lot of backroads. Also, lined up were a host new and exciting experiences.

Tour-de-Thar first halt was Jawai, a quaint village which in recent years have been famous for its Leopards. We were generously hosted at Jawai by Mr. Manahar Deo Singh Kahai at one of his many properties in Jawai. Mr. Deo is also an automobile collector and restorer, he showed us around his lovely collection of rare automobiles. What an incredible sight, it is heartening to see forgotten and neglected automobiles coming back to life again.

We were lucky to spot a Leopard just 100 meters from us, on foot in the night, and a baby crocodile basking in the sun along a village pond. We explored beautiful trails across the jungle, saw the magnificent Jawai Dam from the top of its gates. Lying on top of Lava rocks in the night we stared at the show the stars above have put up and witnessed meteor shower in its full glory. Jawai was a revelation, it had so much to offer that the extra day spent by Tour-de-Thar participants there also felt inadequate.

Spirit of Tour-de-Thar is also to understand our artist culture. One of the stops en-route was Bhinmal, famous for its Rajasthani ‘Mojri’, quality and workmanship of which is the best. Although the town is famous, it lies on a dark spot on the map. No major highway or railway line passes through Bhinmal. It is comfortably tucked away in a corner untouched by the touristy activity. We made our way to Mochiwada, through the narrow lanes snaking and crisscrossing each other. Mochiwada is a small settlement of craftsmen who have been traditionally involved in making the Mojris. Women sitting on the doorsteps of their houses, knitting the patterns on Mojris, Men tucked away in the workshops besides the houses scraping and shaping leather into Mojris. In this age of machines and computers small settlements like these are keeping our traditions alive.

Crossing over the dry river bed of Luni was one thing which I was looking forward to on Tour-de-Thar. Luni, which I remembered from childhood, in our summer holidays we would scan the river up and down on feet looking for birds. On a dark night, you are tired, hungry and the destination is still a couple of hours away. Half of the convoy is stuck on the dry river bed, surrounded by wilderness there is no one to help you out, just you and your buddies. It could be your worst nightmare or the best adventure, depending upon how you perceive it.

Camping in the courtyard of temple ruins added another feather in the list of beautiful places that we have camped all through different seasons of Tour-de-Thar. As the sun came up, the majesty of the Kiradu ruins was evident. The construction of the temples is so simple, yet they are standing tall even after a thousand years of wear and tear. The carvings were so intricate, detailed and beautiful but even in this age of 3D printing we are unable to replicate these.

A major highlight for me on Tour-de-Thar is the food. This year this department had moved a step ahead. Instead of cooking our own food or sourcing it from the Dhabas, we had arranged for local cooks. These cooks reached the camping location ahead of us, cooked and hot food was ready when we arrived! How convenient is that. Local food, cooked by local cooks, served in the wilderness, especially for you, pure bliss. This is the best food experience one can ask for. We have always believed in simple, rustic and authentic experiences, this is one great example of it.

You are in the dunes with your friends in the swanky new SUV you recently acquired. It is a perfect winter morning of Tour-de-Thar with dunes spread over to the horizon. Suddenly the SUV starts to lose traction, the wheels are spinning, throwing sand out but are not able to push the SUV forward. Before you realize the mammoth SUV has become a sinking ship on the soft sand. What do you do? Who do you call out to?

You call out the local band and ask them to play and you start dancing on the lovely Rajasthani tunes, because hey…what is life without some song and dance, especially during Tour-de-Thar!

The SUV is stuck and it will get out, what’s the point in sulking over it.

There has never been a dull moment, there was always someone laughing! Even before I could barely open my eyes in the morning, I was cracking jokes.

This has been the largely the philosophy at Western Motorsoprts, who organizes Tour-de-Thar, whatever may come your way never fail to enjoy the moment!

Now if you would excuse me, it is time to prepare for the next Western Motorsports Adventure! See you on the trails or dunes.

Tour-de-Thar Fifth Edition 2016

Somya Poddar

Tour-de-Thar Fifth Edition 2016 (TDT) is a WesternMotorsports initiated motor riding expedition  to showcase Rajasthan for adventure, heritage and cultural destination for travel. Tour-de-Thar unlike other travel expeditions held, goes to unusual places, which are not even talked about and could be rather called ‘raw’ in nature. We setup our tents by ourselves and sometimes even cook our own meals and enjoy the local food and culture of the destination we stop by. This year was the fifth edition of Tour-de-Thar held from 24th to 29th December.

Tour-de-Thar Fifth Edition 2016 participants who came from different walks of life and different towns, got together at Western Motorsports on 23rd December for a briefing about the flow of Tour-de-Thar’16 and collected their merchandise, first aid box, stickers and wireless radio communication systems which we fitted to their vehicles. We decided upon the meeting point as a tea stall on Ajmer Road at 0500 hrs.

As planned and scheduled everyone with their bags packed and everything else set right, met at the designated tea stall for a morning cup of tea and some light breakfast. We were a group of 5 SUVs, 5 bikes and 1 service vehicle carrying our camping equipment and kitchen set up. We started the most awaited Tour-de-Thar trip at 0600 hrs.’ on 24th December, 2016. Some of our friends came as well to send us off and wish us luck for Tour-de-Thar. They even rode with us for some distance on their bikes on a chilly winter morning.

The Tour-de-Thar convoy rolling smoothly reached the first toll plaza and encountered the demonetization affect, the highway toll booths facing scarcity of currency notes could not give us change but came out with a wonderful approach to the problem and provided us with toll coupons of instead of change which could be used at another toll plaza. Friends riding with us bid adieu at the second toll after riding nearly 100 Km.

The Tour-de-Thar routes and locations which are simply beautiful and scenic and rather a USP of Western Motorsports, we embarked on our journey of unusual paths. So, we left for our first destination Jawai, leaving the National Highway and taking the back roads, traversing through small Ghats and forests. We thank our strong reconnaissance team for finding us such wonderful routes on which we even encountered water crossings in Rajasthan. It left us amazed as long after monsoons are over, we still found such crossings in Rajasthan which is a dry and arid state.

The convoy left for Leopard Safari as soon as it reached Jawai, wherein the convoy sighted a Leopard. Second day of Tour-de-Thar, our stay at Jawai, we explored the Jawai Dam and rode across the virgin trails around it and enjoyed the splashing around the small rivulets. Once reaching back to the camp, the convoy celebrated Christmas with some bonfire, music and dance. We relished a special recipe of Jungli Maans (we often call it a Shikaar recipe as this was the staple food of Rajas and Maharajas on their hunting expeditions).

Day 3 of Tour-de-Thar, we started our explorations further into the Thar desert and rolled for Bhinmal with an enthralling journey of the backroads.  Bhinmal is a quaint town where we further witnessed how the famous Rajasthani Jooti is made and were left with an awe for how much effort the artisans put in to make this beautiful, colourful and comfortable footwear.

On the same day Tour-de-Thar convoy moved towards Kiradu temple, crossing the dry river bed of Luni. But as they say, no adventure comes without certain difficulties. The convoy experienced great difficulties while crossing the dry river bed of the Luni wherein two cars and a bike got stuck. But with great team effort, we could get them rolling to Kiradu temple, also known as the Khajuraho of Rajasthan.

With the start of Day 4 of Tour-de-Thar, the convoy headed for Munabao Station, where the train exchange with Pakistan takes place. It was a wonderful experience driving on the deserted desert roads, winding and climbing over the dunes. We winded up our day in a typical Rajasthani Style with Rajasthani folk music and dance.

On Day 5 of Tour-de-Thar, with the break of dawn, we headed out for the most awaited segment of the tour, Dune-Bashing and diving deep into the Thar desert. A long day of riding through the wild Thar desert led us to the town of Osian, where we enjoyed the evening with the local artists and bonfire.

All good things come to an end, so was with Tour-de-Thar’16, with our last ride and last exploration with taking the backroads from Osian to Jaipur.

People often travel for distraction, but we travel for fulfilment. After the enthralling journey of six days, Tour-de-Thar’16 convoy ended up at the Sambhar - The Salt Lake.

Life is an adventure which should be experienced to its fullest. Our way of experiencing it is through travelling, in real sense. We pack a small bag with our tents and ride into the wilderness of Rajasthan, for us, travelling is simply riding and exploring.

See you in 2017 wading through the sands of Thar Desert.