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Royal Enfield recently invited DriveSpark to ride with them on their 'Tour of Rajasthan 2018' event. The 10-day ride event was organised between the 14th to 24th December by the Chennai-based motorcycle brand, bringing together all interested Royal Enfield owners.
The event itself was scheduled to begin from the 14th December (day 0) with all the riders meeting up at Radisson Hotel, Jaipur. The event saw riders from different parts of the country, such as Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Delhi and UP take part.
The 10-day ride consisted of us travelling a total of 2,600km starting from Jaipur and heading to places such as Nahargarh, Udaipur, Mount Abu, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Sam sand dunes, Longewala, Bikaner, Pushkar and Sambar Salt Lake, before heading back to Jaipur on the 23rd December.
The first day or Day 0, as mentioned in the itinerary, we met up with the crew members from Royal Enfield, who would be leading the group throughout the journey.
All the riders gathered with their bikes at the parking lot for the preliminary scrutiny process. This involved members from Royal Enfield making sure the motorcycles were ready for the ride. Royal Enfield members also checked the riding gear of each participant, as part of their safety standards.
Apart from the motorcycles themselves, Royal Enfield also had three support vehicles - a Fortuner; a Tempo Traveller to carry all the spares, tools and equipment required in case of any breakdowns (Royal Enfield called this their ‘RE Gunwagon') and a pick-up to carry the luggage of all 15 riders.
I was given the keys to the Royal Enfield Himalayan BS-IV Sleet, which would be my ride over the next 10 days.
Talking about its specifications, the Royal Enfield Himalayan is powered by a 411cc single-cylinder air-cooled engine producing 24.5bhp and 32Nm of peak torque. The engine is further mated to a five-speed gearbox.
The Himalayan is the first adventure-tourer motorcycle offering from Royal Enfield. The Motorcycle has a good ground clearance (220mm) along with long travel suspension, allowing it to really excel in off-roading conditions.
The motorcycle uses telescopic front forks with 200mm travel and a monoshock rear suspension with 180mm of travel. Braking on the Himalayan is through 300mm and 240mm single disc setup at the front and rear, respectively. The Royal Enfield Himalayan further rides on 21-inch front and 17-inch rear wheels with 90/90 and 120/90 tyre profile.
Once the motorcycle keys were handed over, the motorcycle scrutiny was completed along with my riding gear inspection. Upon completion, all riders were called for a pre-ride briefing. This included participant introduction, along with the crew members briefing us about thedo's and dont'son the ride. The RE crew members also explained the ride timings, itinerary for each day and the route plan for the next 10 days.
The ride started off on the 15th December with the riders gearing up as early as 7:30 am. All 15 riders first headed towards the Royal Enfield brand Store in Jaipur, ahead of the flag off for the ride. At sharp 8 am, the ride was officially flagged off, with all 15 riders on their way to Bhimlat waterfalls, before heading to the final destination of the day, Nahargarh.
The first day included a total of 350km, this mostly highway runs, with a bit of off-roading closer to Bhimlat falls. The ride would conclude for the day at Nahargarh's ‘Justa Lake Palace', but we'll get to that later.
The route on the first day mainly saw us riding on the national highways right till a small town called ‘Bundi'. From here, we took a deviation away from the comfort of the highway and onto cemented roads. The cemented stretch also disappeared as we inched closer to the Bhimlat Waterfalls (206km from Jaipur). Soon we were left to ride the last 10km stretch completely on loose sand and large rocks.
This is where my choice for the Royal Enfield Himalayan proved useful. The Himalayan was able to take on the harsh terrain with ease, the suspension and the tyres bearing the brunt of the off-road ride. The comfortable riding position and the long travel suspension of the bike, allowed me to easily ride over the rocks without a sweat.
After leaving the beautiful Bhimlat falls, we made our way back on the highway to reach ‘Justa Lake Palace' on the outskirts of Nahargarh. The Lake Palace as the name suggests was situated in the centre of a lake, with just a ferry to take people from one side to the other.
The first day gave everyone a glimpse of what the ‘Tour of Rajasthan' is all about. The straight stretches of the highway, mixed with two-lane roads and the off-beat cement tarmac. This coupled with the daily average saddle time of seven-hours, was a true test for both the rider and his motorcycle.
The second day was a comparatively relaxed ride, with the rider's briefing done we left Nahargarh with a comfortable 168km of riding ahead of us.
However, as soon as the ride started a small twig played spoilsport, puncturing the rear tyre of my Himalayan.
This is where the ‘RE gunwagon' showcased its importance in the ride. The tempo traveller tailed us throughout the 2,600km journey across Rajasthan and came with all the tools, equipment and plenty of spare parts, sufficient to service any of the motorcycle taking part in the ride.
The technician in the Gunwagon was able to immediately sort out the puncture of my Himalayan, allowing me to hit the road in no time.
The relaxed highway riding for the rest of the day, ensured no other issues on the motorcycle, allowing us to quickly reach our destination, Udaipur. Upon reaching the city, riders got a chance head into the city and take in the beautiful sites and sounds of the market and the fort.
Day three, was definitely one of the longest days for everyone - travelling from Udaipur to Mount Abu. However, a number of detours lay ahead of us, taking us through the back roads of Rajsamand, Qila Kumbalgarh, Ranakpur and Pindwara.
These back roads gave a proper shake-up to the motorcycles and their riders. The loose sand on the road, the small narrow lanes of the villages in between and the uneven tarmac, further added to the physical exhaustion for all the riders.
With sunset upon us as we rejoined the highway, a quick regroup at the base of Mount Abu ensured the last 21km climb to the top went without any hassle.
The last stretch to Kesar Bhawan Palace (our place of stay for the night) was through complete darkness, with just our headlights to figure out the road ahead. The speeds instantly dropped and the group began to ride in a convoy with the RE crew riders covering the front and back, ensuring no one is left behind.
With the temperature dropping, we reached the top of Mount Abu, cold and exhausted, but in one piece. Once we reached our stay, the Royal Enfield technicians were immediately at work, ensuring the condition of every motorcycle after the hard beating each one had gone through over the course of the day.
With all the motorcycles, prepped for day four, we left Mount Abu and travelled to the Blue City, Jodhpur. On the way to Jodhpur, we crossed the famous ‘Bullet Baba Temple' or the Om Banna Temple*. The temple is a shrine to Om Singh Rathore, whose 350cc Royal Enfield Bullet has been kept and worshipped by travellers.
*Om Banna Temple: Legends state that Om Singh Rathore who was travelling on that road in 1991, lost control and fell into a ditch. The next morning police officials removed the bike and brought it to the station. However, the next morning the bike was mysteriously found to be back at the accident site. This happened a number of times and every time, the motorcycle mysteriously found its way back to the accident site every morning News about the miracle ‘Bullet bike' spread, until nearby villagers built a temple to worship the bike.
The temple is 50km before the city of Jodhpur while travelling from Mount Abu, in the district of Pali, Rajasthan. The temple lies right next to the highway, with a number of visitors including locals from nearby villages coming to worship the motorcycle.
After a brief visit to the Bullet Baba Temple, we headed straight to the city of Jodhpur*, also known as the 'Blue City' and/or the 'Sun City'.
In Jodhpur, we got a chance to visit the Mehrangarh Fort** and the bazaars of the city while feasting at the famous ‘Janta Sweets' (a must visit for sweet lovers).
*Jodhpur City: Jodhpur was first founded back in 1459 by Rao Jodha, a Rajput Chief. Jodha later conquered the area and set up the kingdom of Marwar, with Jodhpur being its capital city. The city is also called the ‘Sun City' due to the bright sunshine available throughout the year. It is also known as the ‘Blue City' which is in reference to the blue houses of the Brahmins in the south side of the city.
**Mehrangarh Fort: The fort was first built in 1460 by the Rajput Chief, Rao Jodha. The Mehrangarh fort is said to be one of the largest forts in the country and situated 125 metres above the city, with imposing thick walls. The Mehrangarh Fort was the seat of power for the Marwar kingdom after the older Mandore fort was considered less secure.
Day five, saw us leave the city of Jodhpur and travel to the sand dunes of Sam, in turn passing through major towns like Pokhran and Jaisalmer. This for me personally, is where the ride really began to impress. Moving closer to the vast Thar desert, the bustling highways gave way to some of the most scenic roads I've ever come across. With the desert on either side and a single straight road ahead of me, it was a mesmerising feeling riding the Himalayan.
As we moved away from Jodhpur and inched closer to Pokhran and Jaisalmer, villages gave way to army settlements and civilian traffic turned to military convoys. Passing through the town of Pokhran*, we could also see the Indian Air Force Fighter Jets circling over the city.
*Pokhran: 45km on the outskirts of the town of Pokhran, is the Pokhran Test Range. The test site conducted India's first underground Nuclear Weapon detonation. It was built in 1974, under the authorization of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), by then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
On reaching Jaisalmer, we regrouped for a quick lunch stop, before fueling up and heading to Sam sand dunes. Sam is not exactly a town, but a small area located in the middle of the Thar desert with a number of overnight camps and other attractions available.
It is 50km ahead of Jaisalmer and right in the middle of the desert. Visitors to Sam can spend an entire day in the desert dunes, going on a camel safari, Jeep safari and even paragliding. The safari tours take you approximately 2km into the desert, providing a mesmerising view of the sunset in the evenings.
Staying in the Camps in Sam, itself proved to be an adventure due to the desert temperature dropping to a single digit in the night.
Day six, we left Sam and travelled to Jaisalmer, not before taking a major deviation to visit two of the ‘must-visit' locations in Rajasthan - Longewala and the Tanot Mata Temple.
Longewala is around 123km from the city of Jaisalmer. The post is 21km off the Indo-Pak border and is completely controlled by the Border Security Forces (BSF). Identity proof is required to enter the Longewala post, with multiple BSF checkpoints. The Longewala post has the War Museum, which explains the events of the 1971 Indo-Pak war (The Hindi movie ‘Border' is based on the Longewala war).
Moving along the border is the famous Tanot Mata Temple. The Temple became famous after the 1971 Indo-Pak war. During the war, Pakistani soldier kept shelling bombs towards the temple, however, none of them exploded. Until this day, the bombs from the war are kept in the temple, which is completely manned and maintained by BSF soldiers.
After visiting the Tanot Mata Temple, we headed back into the City of Jaisalmer, to explore the streets, culture and its cuisine. Jaisalmer is also known as the ‘Golden City' due to the houses and temples built using a yellowish sandstone.
Day seven had us riding from Jaisalmer to Bikaner and day eight we rode from Bikaner to Pushkar. Both days, we covered a lot of ground, slowly moving away from the Thar desert, back to the bustling civilian traffic of the national highways. On Day eight, while travelling from Bikaner to Pushkar we stopped over at the Deshnok Mata Temple* (Karni Mata Temple); 30km outside Bikaner.
*Deshnok Mata Temple: The temple is a shrine to Karni Mata, whose son Laxman drowned in a pond while attempting to drink from it. Legend has it that the God of Death permitted Laxman and all the male children of Karni Mata to live on as rats. Hence, the Deshnok Mata Temple is also known as the ‘Temple of Rats'. Travellers from around the globe come here to either worship the rats or just out of curiosity.
The last day of riding, had us head back to Jaipur from Pushkar. The town of Pushkar is famous for having the world's one and only Brahma temple. Apart from the temple, the town also boasts of the Pushkar lake and a number of smaller temples all around the central part of town.
During the ride back to Jaipur, we passed through the Sambar Salt Lake. It is India's largest inland salt lake and situated around 98km from the city of Jaipur. The lake has a total catchment area of 5,700 square km and has a 96km circumference, surrounded by the Aravalli Hills on all sides.
The last post-ride brief upon reaching Jaipur, saw the Royal Enfield crew members put up a slideshow of some of the best moments from the 10 days and also handed out certificates for completing the ride.
To conclude, the ‘Tour of Rajasthan' is one of the many ride events organised by Royal Enfield the brand owners. It is part of the wide range of ride events organised annually, held in the winter.
The ride offers a chance for Royal Enfield motorcycle owners to explore the state of Rajasthan and spend time and appreciate their motorcycle in various situations and riding conditions.
The ride also brings together a group of like-minded people from various parts of the country and units them in the spirit of motorcycling. However, beware that the ride is not for the touristy and vacation-minded, but a hardcore one, for the true biking enthusiast.
For a biking enthusiast such as me, who has done countless south India rides, it gave me my first opportunity to ride in the North. And what an experience it was!