When we hear the word ‘Desert’, the first few things that come to our minds are cactus, camels and kilometers of sand dunes. Our country’s richest heritage is hidden in the deserts of Rajasthan and Gujarat and before the year 2016 ended, I had to pay a visit to complete my rather speeding year. But it wasn’t like my usual trip.
My phone rang with an invitation from Mahindra two wheelers to explore the desert with the most incredible motorcycle they make, the Mojo. The Mojo Jojo in me had woken up and I was headed for possibly the most extravagant trip of my life. Period.
I have been scared of doing excessively long touring on a motorcycle. The maximum kilometers I remember conquering was 800 kilometers in 6 days. Adventure beckoned. So I packed my bags and took a brief flight from Delhi to Jaipur where the Mahindra Mojo Desert Trail was to be flagged off.
Post a few signs on forms and a briefing by Mojo’s hero, Sarath Shenoy, we head out to our bikes and rev off through the chequered flag. Jaipur is a bustling capital of Rajasthan and it shows. Unlike Delhi, there is lesser traffic but on the other hand there are less traffic rules that are followed by the city dwellers. We push our way through the streets to finally get ourselves on the Alwar highway and then down to Nagaur. Enroute we found several villages settled on rather solid soil giving us hints that the deserts haven’t still arrived.
Nagaur is the city whose fort holds significance of the ruler’s land getting taken away by the Rathors of Jodhpur and also the return of the Islamic conquest in the Rajputana reign during the 14th and 15th centuries. We spent the night at Nagaur exploring the local delicacies and to my further exploration I found a huge gate that divided the Hindu and Islamic communities in the city, even in today’s day and age.
Morning struck and hard knocks on my door seldom came. I was late to get ready for our next stop. A quick breakfast and we ride off towards the famous Sam Sand Dunes. Through our ride towards Sam we found many windmills, suggesting Rajasthan has moved to the best source for renewable energy.
The roads in this part if Rajasthan are tremendously smooth and flawless, which meant we could push the Mojo to its limits and so we did. The Mojo is pretty quick on its shoes and does 150 kmph with itter ease. We also crossed the historical town of Pokhran, the nuclear blast site where India’s 6 nuclear bombs have been tested since 1970s. After a quick lunch break at a Dhaba in Pokhran we rode ahead racing against the wooshing sun.
By night we reached Sam Sand Dunes, unknowing how the surrounding are since it was pitch dark and we could see nothing around us except stars and the cars passing by. We found abode at the Rajputana Desert Camp a huge area with lots of makeshift tents and a amphitheatre in the middle for our entertainment. I was only interested in the former as riding approx 350 kilometers had my bones jarred and my muscles twisted. The other morning, with the slightest tinge of light in the sky and while everyone else was asleep I pushed off to the nearest empty spot to glance the first shine of the sun onto my face. It was beautiful indeed, with MRF Mogrips running on my rear wheel I was rest assured of a good grip on the sandy surfaces.
A heavy breakfast was recommended as what lied ahead was a long ride with nothing in between to stop at untill Longewala, the area of Indo Pak boundaries famed by the movie ‘BORDER’ and the war of 1971 against the insurgencies of the Pakistani military. The road to Longewala is long and incredibly paved. It also is peaceful, barren and totally disconnected from the outside world which also means there were one in a billion road dweller in your way, What luck!
We rode with our hearts and our brains in conscience and the beautiful roads of western Rajasthan were a treat indeed. With an assortment of twists and turns, inclines and declines and cinematic straights we reach Longewala. An hour of exploration around, we stumbled upon recovered Pakistani military weaponry which are a testament to the fight our brave soldiers had against the sneaking neighbor. After a brief period, we headed back towards our camps with a strong will in our hearts and vibes of the great war that was.
Our tents were, well, makeshift and the doors were as easy to open as untying a shoelace. It was a wake up alarm to go for the Desert Safari, a thing that everyone wanted to do even before getting onto their bikes for the trip. We wade through the soft sand in Mahindra’s capable Thar 4x4s and made to another camp site wherein we were served tea over the majestic view of Sand Dunes, Camels and Sunrise. This indeed was a discreetly watched visual by everyone.
Soon we head out of our camps and do a very quick ride towards our next stop, Sanchore which was our last stop in the state of Rajasthan. Our team leader made sure our last raid through Rajasthan is a memorable one, so we took a longer detour towards Gadra Road, a village on the edge of Rajasthan. The Village of Gadra is divided into two parts, each part being in India and Pakistan respectively.
We figured out a way to the BSF post in Gadra and after several minutes of pleading for permission we finally got it. We walked up a hill and saw something that had me shaken in the nerves. A live zero line. With both the posts facing each other with their guns pointing straight one does feel that there can be a war in seconds. After spending a lot of educational time at the Zero line we were given a task to find a place to feed ourselves.
In a village so remote that Google shows no information about it, it wasn’t going to be easy. We all went in different directions in search for it and finally found a makeshift grocery store cum Dhaba in the main market area. Astounded by the number of guests the owner started to cook food and what food it was. Bajra roti, jaggery, buttermilk, dal and a mix vegetable so incredible we all asked for refills. Lip-smacking food in the middle of nowhere. As darkness fell we rode in full swing towards Sanchore, passing through some scintillating landscapes and also frightening incidents of being blocked by the local tribes.
Sanchore, a semi industrial town run by the locals called the Bishnois, Everything owned a run here was by a Bishnoi. We spent our night in well, a Bishnoi owned hotel and the next morning Gujarat beckoned to be taken over.
The road from Sanchore to Bhuj, which is another industrial town in Gujarat is one of the most amazing ones I’ve ever been to. They are like the tarmacs built in your wildest of dreams where you are driving without any jitters and only in one direction. I was in love with road and the landscape full of solar farms and windmills. Bright sun shining upon us as we rode ahead without stop to Bhuj, the sand dunes had stopped and the much firmer soil had arrived with a lot of vegetation and water streams.
A beautiful end to and otherwise over-adventurous trip. But the best thing of them all, the Mahindra Mojo. It took all the beating, I fell, stood up, dusted off and rode ahead and not a single time did the bike gave up on me. We did a few thousand kilometers over a course of the week and I really truly am impressed by capabilities of the machine that is. It is fast, it is agile, it is efficient and NOT fragile. It has been on the roads, on the ruts and on the sand but never in the middle of the road has it made me stand. The Mojo will be missed.
Until I do this again!