Thursday, May 11, 2006

Road Trip 2!!

Still riding high on the enthusiasm of the first one, as soon as we joined in the third term at IIMA, we were ready to go ahead with Road Trip No. 2! So one Friday in early Jan this year, it was decided: We would go to Nalsarovar, a nearby Lake and Bird Sanctuary. And so, on Saturday evening we all fixed our respective riders and pillions, and 4 bikes and 8 people got ready to start off early on Sunday morning, before day break, to reach the destination in time, to see the birds wake up at sunrise. So we all slept early, or atleast tried to, excited at the day ahead.

At 3 am, Vikas came over to wake me up. I quickly got ready and by 3:30 we were ready to leave when BV gave us a call to let us know that the trip is delayed by 45 mins and we would leave by 4:15 am. Faced with 45 minutes of no plans, we knew we could not sleep: Vikas would feel very sleepy while riding. So we sat up, watching some arbit movies etc. Finally at 4:15 am we went to the maingate, to be faced by the first difficulty of the day (yes there are more to follow): Apparently some egg-head was driving very fast and crashed his car into our friend Manac's bike. Thankfully Manac was alone, however the bike was very badly crushed, and Manac's foot was hurt badly. After some quick first-aid, we arranged for another bike (Poor KG, we woke him up at 4:30 am on a Sunday morning!) and decided to leave. Manac insisted he would also come, and tried riding for a while, but the pain gave way and he had to return to the campus. The rest of us: Pepsy and BV, Mishti and Chandru, Sid and Vishnu, Vikas and I continued; one after the other, headlights shining, riding on a coooool winter night.

Although none of us had ever been there before, nor anyone had perfect idea where it was, we could do with whatever little instructions we had, and thankfully did not get lost because the road was pretty straight. (Unlike Lothal!!) Finally at about 6:30 in the morning we approached Nalsarovar, parked the bikes, sought permission to enter (one needs to pay money to get in) and settled down for the boatmen to come. It was a cold but beautiful morning, and we sat there, sipping hot tea, and watching 100's of men carrying curiously loooooong sticks. Later we found out that these were the sticks used to row the boat and navigate, by the boatmen!

Suddenly, as if from nowhere, a 100 boats appeared: all colourful, with names like Haseena et al; and so did a throng of people: Localites, people from across Gujarat, and ofcourse, some foreigners to complete the fanfare! (Seriously, do people have nothing better to do on a cold Sunday morning than to come to Nalsarovar, something important like sleeping? Only we poor sleep-deprived students know what a luxury it is... Enjoy it while you can, kya pata kal sona ho na ho!!) All around us people started to negotiate fares in Gujarati, while we stood there clueless about where to begin. Finally a sweetlooking couple standing near us gave us information about fair fares and helped us get a good deal. Finally after much haggling, all 8 of us got into one boat, and started sailing with 2 boatmen.

Dawn was breaking, birds were waking, and it was a sight to see. Though we could not go to the banks of Saurashtra where the Flamingos are, we still got to see Seagulls, Herons, Egrets etc. These boatmen knew the species of all kinds of birds, their eating habits, hibernation etc. It was an awesome sight, and we enjoyed every moment of it.

Apparently these boatmen also fished in the lake: the waters were very dirty, but very shallow and had some fish. So there were a lot of nets embedded on the lake bed. In fact we saw one net and enquired about the kind of fish, and got lucky (or unlucky) to see that a fish was caught in the boat. A fisherman came with a boatful of dead, stinking fish, and proudly showed us his haul, while we all sat there cringing our noses and feeling sorry for the fish! Its quite a horrid sight I tell you, seeing a dead fish, with eyes wide open... Yuck!

Anyhow soon after that we approached what looked like a lost island from Lalooland! I mean it: there was dirt and huts, with lotsa flies around everywhere. Open food kept here and there, little naked children running along, buffalos tied outside each hut/shop... We asked the boatmen, who answered that this was an island famous for desi food, as well as bird feed. While we were very hungry, none of us dared to eat food from this place, and instead settled for 10 rupees worth of bird feed. With that we took a turn and sailed back towards the shore. Halfway there, we saw a flock of seagulls nearby, and at that opportune Moment, the boatman threw the feed in the water, and it was sight to be seen: Millions of seagulls appeared from nowhere... And dove into the water to get a bit of the feed. It was marvellous, one of the most enchanting sights I have ever seen!

After the feed finished and the birds departed, we started to approach the shores: we saw horses running along the shores. Apparently this was another tourist attraction, rather a commercial venture: people bought a ride along the shore, galloping away on horses, early in the morning. It was quite popular, judging by the crowd there. Finally we touched base, and disembarked, paid the money, and dragged our feet towards our bikes. But before we left, we bought conches (shankh kinda thing) which some little children were selling for Re 1 apiece! Such beautifully coloured, soft and clean conches.

With heavy hearts, and hungry tummies, we then left Nalsarovar, having captured whatever magic we could in our cameras. On the way back, Vikas and I got lost, but we finally reached Sankalp restaurant, dying to have some South Indian food. Unfortunately it was closed. So we proceeded to Mysore Masala, and had a lazy, sleepy, tired breakfast; and rushed back to IIMA to crash in and sleep off; only to wake up late in the evening, that too only cuz it was a Monday and we had to study something!!

All said and done, tho we spent hardly 2 hours there, it was a beautiful place, and a great Bike trip!

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