When was the last time you were scared? Not startled, like rounding a corner and someone is standing there. Or being cuddled up to your significant other while a Hollywood movie monster wreaks havoc on your TV screen. But scared? Let me rephrase, when was the last time you were terrified? I’m not sure we feel that level of intense fear too often in our lifetime, but when we do, it’s memorable and it can be an exhilarating experience. May 19, 2017 for me, coincidentally my mother’s birthday, fitting as I was thinking about her quite a bit that night. That night, I was huddled in a cheaply made tent on the side of a mountain. High in the Chanshal Pass to be exact, hovering above the Shimla district in Himachal Pradesh, India. At 14,830 ft above sea level, I was buried deep inside my sleeping bag and covered with a thick woolen blanket, beautifully woven in the style of the Himalayan Sherpas, and I was positive I was going to die.
Beginning in 1500 BC, Alwar’s history has been woven into a colorful Rajasthani tapestry. It glitters as the princely state of Rajput, adorned with Delhi Sultans and garnished the Rulers of Jaipur. Throughout its history, Alwar has always sparkled like a deep blue sapphire in the red Rajasthan desert and today, the city of is full of hustle and bustle and features some fascinating destination locations. But for me it’s a portal back in time and therefore, a perfect place for riding and wandering.
It was cold, dig it? And I’m just not used to being cold in India. You know the kind of cold that worries brass monkeys? Well, here I was riding in it. I was starting to question my sanity and get a serious dislike on for the ever helpful and always smiling sales guy at my local Royal Enfield shop. This, was his fault. It’s bloody 6:00 am and I am headed to Rohtak, the monster parantha sanctuary of India….on a Sunday. “Join our ride, sir”, he suggested one sunny (warm) afternoon at my local Royal Enfield dealership…….and I, seriously distracted by the display of shiny new helmets, agreed.
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.
Our arrival at Keoladeo National Park aka Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary, Rajasthan,was a bit of a kerfuffle…that is to say it got our feathers in a ruffle…rather apropos. The hotel is inside the park and the bird militia stationed at the gate wanted an entry fee, so we could get to our hotel…in the park….and a parking fee….to park, at our hotel…in the park.
It came through a fog, droning, haunting, somehow very familiar, yet completely unknown to me, melodic, dreamy…a sitar, a tabla…in my bedroom? As consciousness came to me, I realized what it was. My alarm. The one I use for gentle awakenings, the awakenings that you know the night before are going to hurt. Like this one, 4:10 am…time to get up; today we are off on another bike adventure.