We started towards Tanot at 9 a.m. The path is straightforward, with no probability of getting lost unless one is drunk or stupid – or both.
While going, we saw a windmill farm. A large amount of huge windmills are continuously spinning, to power up Jaislamer.
About 12 k.m.s from Jaisalmer, we reached Bada Bagh. At Bada bagh, there are cenotaphs (aka Chhatris) of Jaisalmer rulers, dating from 15th century till 1950s. A cenotaph is built in memorial of the dead. This tradition was ongoing till recent, but due to death of a prince by a mysterious disease, it was stopped in 1947.
A large number of cenotaphs are situated here, and seeing the dates on each, one really goes back in time. A very serene, serious place.
Later, we joined the main road to head to Tanot. Riding on this road was the most fun I had in entire Rajasthan ride. Initially we encountered a few trucks going on opposite way, and as the wind was blowing towards us, the air blast when the trucks passed would hit us like a brick. I started leaning whenever a truck came in opposite direction to avoid this hit, and after 2-3 such slaps, even Nandinee started to lean!
Later, the number of trucks went down, and empty roads stretched their hands to welcome us. At one such stretch, I leaned and started giving throttle. The speedometer 90 KMPH.-94-98-100-102 KMPH. The fastest I ever rode with a pillion. But it was not enough. Again on a second stretch, I leaned with the hand twisted, and Vesta touched 107 KMPH. After bringing her to normal speed (around 85 KMPH on that road), I sat straight, when I heard Nandinee’s voice: “Hit it again!”
On next stretch, same exercise. We reached 107 KMPH, but then the roads started to get a little bumpy. We got back to normal speed, and then a goat decided to jump in the path and dance its way to the opposite side! Then it struck me this is not the right place to see the top speed, and we rode sedately from then on.
Racing with a camel cart!
Some on road scenes
There is one Ghantyali Mata Mandir, with ‘First Darshan’ board. So parked Vesta there, and took Darshan. The story mentions that Pakistani soldiers tried to destroy that temple. It was shocking to imagine that where we were testing top speed were there Pakistani soldiers trying to capture the same land!
We reached Tanot Mata Mandir at around 1.30 p.m. This temple is depicted in the movie ‘Border’ too. In 1965 war, Pakistan had attacked with some 3000 bombs. 450 bombs fell around the temple, but the temple was not damaged even one bit. Similarly in 1971, hundreds of enemy tanks and vehicles were destroyed by Indian Army and were forced to retreat.
Some calves in temple campus, trying to eat my jeans away!
The main point of today’s trip was to see Bordar Pillar no. 609, the last accessible point to civilians. After some 100 meters from this pillar, Pakistan border starts. The norm for this trip was to ask permission at Tanot Mandir checkpost, which was supposedly easily given, and head further 15 kms for the pillar. But this was not to be so.
The army post had new set of rules now, stopping everyone at the Tanot Mandir only. It was shocking to know that after traveling 150kms, we would be stopped for last 15 kms. Even Longewala was out of reach for civilians. Some Jaisalmer taxiwallahs had blamed the Army about taking bribe for letting people to the border pillar, so Army had decided to stop the whole affair fully. We were told we needed permission from Jaisalmer office or Ramgarh office, which was situated about 60 kms behind!
We argued, hassled and nagged the sentry, the officers and whoever we could find in army uniform for about an hour. Even caught hold of a medical officer who had come for a visit, but the answer didn’t change. Some soldiers even explained to us:
“What’s there to see? Nothing! Same as here. See, it’s like this. You see that gate? There is a similar gate there, only big in size. In this place, there is a floodlight there, and there, there is a bunker!”
One even shared his experience:
“When I joined the army, I was all excited to see the border. ‘Oh I want to see the border!’ But when I reached there, I thought, ‘enough of the border, I want to return!’”
It was hard to swallow that we were stopped just 15 kms from the point we came to see, and that too just because of some stupid taxi walla’s fault. That day, we realized that interacting with army people is vastly different than interacting with traffic police or even usual police. Army personnel are not reasonable or negotiable, they only follow orders. So unless you have a permit from the upper authority, you can be sure their first answer to be their final one.
With heavy heart, we headed back to Jaisalmer. The roads brushed away our sadness again. Riding the same roads on the way back was still enjoyable and not boring as I had thought.
Lunch at Tanot is a serious problem, with no hotels around. One has to go back to Ramgarh for having anything to eat. So we suggest you carry your food all the way from Jaisalmer, if you want to avoid the hunt for hotels. We had our lunch at Ramgarh, that too we selected dhaba which was least dirty of all! So beware and bring your food with you.
It was a fast blazing ride back to Jaisalmer, because we remembered there was some puppet show at about 6.30p.m. near Gadisar lake. So we hoped to reach in time for that show. It was already 6.40p.m. till we finally found the place where the shows were conducted, but the ticket counter people let us in. We sat with full motorcycling gear, and stole the show for a few moments where everyone thought we too would be playing some part in the show!
The show lasted for about 40 minutes, had 4-5 puppet performance and commentary by founder Mr. Sharma. This 83 year old man still has the passion for true Jaisalmer tradition. It was touching to hear from him how Jaisalmer was 50 years ago, how the immigrants would pass the city in 1947 divide, how the town lost its place in business due to sea ports, and how the tradition was now getting sidestepped for money.
The day was spent well, and even though we couldn’t see the border, the roads made up for it.
…to be continued.