It was a casual start to the day. We had a little breakfast of hard boiled eggs and toast, lots of coffee, and started our trek back to Delhi. After a brief discussion it was decided to turn the four hour highway blast to Bharatpur into a seven or eight hour back road wandering exploration home. “Embrace the Detours” has become the unofficial Wandering Hippy motto. With Deeg set as our first destination we were off.
The morning air was warm and fragrant as we trundled through the back streets of Bharatpur. The city itself was just waking up. The laneways were filled with carts full of goods being wheeled to the market. Fresh vegetables and fruits were being arranged on road side blankets and wooden tables for purchase. We have found sticking to our Delhi philosophy of getting out of the city before the morning ends is usually the best way to go. We escaped from the city limits in good time and started cruising the country lanes towards Deeg. Slowly, we allowed the countryside swallow us up. We became part of the landscape. No longer a couple on a motorcycle cutting through the panoramic vista, but a piece of it, we weaved ourselves into the fabric of India. This is what I cherish, the gentle simplicity of India’s countryside. The very moment I am free of population and civilization, I fall in love with this country all over again. It’s the genuine things that make these road trips worthwhile. The toll gate that looks as if you are entering a palace, the fields shimmering yellow with rapeseed, the ox drawn carts full of sugar cane or bamboo. The small huts of straw and simple tinder wood farms growing crops are like castles in heaven. We stop in a small road side Dhaba and the old man behind the wooden counter whips us up a delicious mutton curry while his grandson wipes the dust off the bike with a tattered rag. It starts to rain, small droplets, but the boy and his grandfather rush to wheel Mina (my bike) right into the Dhaba to keep her dry while laughing with ear to ear smiles. Both of them refused any extra money from us as we were leaving. As if our happiness was tip enough. All that was required was an assurance the mutton was enjoyed….and it most certainly was. Periodically I will stop on the side of the road to take a picture or just breathe. Inevitably, a farmer’s wife walking down the road or a young man on a scooter will stop, they will smile and ask where we are from and a few pleasant moments are spent chatting in broken English or limited Hindi. This is the India that speaks to me.
Mina growled into Deeg just in time for the princess bride and me to watch the water buffalo take their afternoon bath. We chatted with the shepherd as the buffalo clamored out of the water. Insistent urging was required I might add, they were definitely enjoying themselves. He was explaining the mystique behind the Great Deeg Palace and how most of it was submerged. We watched the local women do some laundry and I shared a coke with a young boy who had enough guts to come over and say hello. It was so majestic. Being surrounded by this depth of history is humbling. To stand inside what once was a huge palace, in a thriving land, with a vibrant society and economy.
All of this before the country of my birth was born itself. I snapped photos until the batteries in my camera expired. That seemed to signal it was time to move on. We stopped at a small shop, picked up some candies and duracells and pushed west.
I have mentioned before, The Wandering Hippy’s motto is “Embrace the Detours”. Just on the far side of Deeg, I went left over the gully instead of right over the river (as will happen) and it wasn’t too long before the locals were waving at us to say turn around knowing we were NOT on the road to the highway. Truly wandering again. As I pulled atop a bridge over a dried out creek bed to turn around, Mrs. R tapped me on the hip (our signal to stop a second), unsure as to the problem, I put my feet down and hit the kill switch. The reminisce of Mina rumble rolled and echoed down the creek bed and eventually faded away. I twisted around to ask what was up when Mrs. R. said “Namaste” . There was a peasant girl, no more than twelve years old looking at us with a wide eyed fascination. In her hand she had a wooden staff she was using to prop herself in a half sitting, half leaning position against the stone wall along the side of the bridge. There was a brief conversation in Hindi and I was told that the herd of goats in the gully were hers, she was the shepherd. After a little more conversation, Mrs. R told me to take her picture; the girl assented with a nod. I took the picture and smiled at her, she smiled back; but it was a sad smile all the same. That picture, that moment haunted me for a couple of days after our return home. It was so real. We gave her some chocolates from our candy bag and turned back towards the highway. I’ll never forget that little girl or our ride through Deeg.
It wasn’t too far from the highway, now we’re back on course and we saw the usual assortment of goats and young boys clowning and having fun and after that, it was a straight run home.
But this trip, as simple as it was, was one of the most memorable and lovely one of all our adventures. Recounting it here has solidified its place in my mind as one of the best…..so here I will end.….oh and by the way…as it turns out, it WASN’T a water snake after all…it was a leaf.