After spending some time looking back and recalling many of the things that we had done around this place and drinking a final toast to his memory and the by-gone days, I got into the car with some reluctance and set course for my next destination-Ahore, some 60 kms away.
A few minutes out from there, and the neat two lane road gave out to what can only be called a road that some sadistic excavator had taken out its frustration on. It was not that there were pot holes and the road was bad. It’s just that there was no road at all. The top surface of the road had peeled off in huge slabs. The only alternative was either to head right back to Jodhpur or to drive on the dirt track on the sides. Since every body was doing that, poor sense prevailed and I followed suit. Crawling along in first gear, swallowed up in a cloud of dust kicked up by the truckers who kept beeping past, leaving me to figure out if I was still driving on the road or crawling into a ditch.
The nostalgic drive through the beautiful countryside went for a bleeding six. After six hours of cursing and swearing at all those netas, babus and contractors who had swallowed millions in the name of road construction, I crawled into Ahore. All intentions of spending some time there or may be even the night had long evaporated. I turned my nose due east towards Udaipur, discarding all good intentions of seeing the desert once again, maybe even for the last time. There was just no way that I was going to make a mess of the car. Desert or no desert. The fact that more than half the shops around the city were car repair shops, was a clear indication that these roads were only for the people who did not care a chit for their cars. Still fuming, I crawled out from there and followed the first sign board that said ‘Udaipur.’
It was getting close to dusk and so the search for a suitable place to crash out began. Doggedly I crawled along till darkness. At the first small wayside dhaba that I came across, I stopped to look around to see if there was a safe place to park for the night. It was close to nine by then, and most of the shop keepers had downed shutters, and since the place looked as safe or unsafe as it could, I moved the car around so as to get as close to as many shops as possible and decided to call it a day.
After two stiff drinks I began to feel better and after apologising to the car and having complimented it’s shockers for having brought me this far, I let my blood pressure drop and began to look at the few remaining Idli’s with great anticipation if not absolute relish. That the Sambhar had become as cold as any self-respecting ice cream can did not put me off in the least. With great relish polished off the Idli’s that I had bought that morning in Jodhpur, followed by a cube of cheese and two slices of bread I felt as if I had just come out of some fancy five-star restaurant.
It was freezing cold, but that was for the stray dogs that snuggled into left-over bonfires. I had my bed and my quilt and was as snug as a bug in a rug. In a few minutes, I was out like a light. All the irritations and setbacks forgiven and forgotten. No police patrol came to wake me up. No one to disturb me, and all was well in my world.The bright red of the morning sun and the taxis roaring past me, woke me out of a goodly nights rest. Once more, I hit the road. Since I had got used to the idea of crawling along I accepted it philosophically and bumped out of that small town, which did not even have a name worth mentioning.
The sun was out and the mustard crops were in full bloom so it was like rolling along in a sea of goldwater. A submarine with its periscope stuck out. Three hours later the distant hills began to appear in the hazy distance.
Ten kilometers short, the small outcrops of rounded rocks began to appear and at the first lot I decided to stop and forget all about the atrocity committed by the roads of Rajasthan and walk around these little baby hillocks.It was gorgeous.
A small track led off the road and headed straight for the base of one of these outcrops on which one could see a small little temple. This is what I had come for all this way. There were a lot of trees so finding one, I plonked my car there and decided to walk up to the temple, which was not too high up really but just a wee bit up from the base of the hill.
After having prayed and meditated there I came back to the car , and putting on my shoes let the explorer in me take over. A few minutes later I was on my way up. The rocks were a bit slippery but the little tracks around theses smooth stones gave traction and without any difficulty I was at the top. The view was out of this world and well worth the battering I and the car had taken. On the way up were a few bleached bones of dogs wedged in between the boulders. Not a very good sign. This was panther territory and panthers just loved dogs. There were not too many of them around either, a very unusual thing near a temple. Throwing caution to the wind I continued with my climb right up to the top – eyeing every cave with trepidation. But climb I did, right to the bloody top.
Beautiful view all around, with a couple of friendly villagers waving out and shouting pleasant greetings to me. It felt good to be amongst such nice and friendly people, till the wind carried their entire greetings up to me, “You bleeding idiot !! What the @##& are you doing up there? A panther mauled a villager there two days ago and he is still up there in one of the caves!!”.
If fear lends wings, I certainly got a generous loan. Forget capturing the stunning scenery I was out of there like a rabbit. The thought of being potential lunch for one of the local panthers made me shelve all pretensions of being some sort of world-renowned photographer and I half skidded, half ran, stumbled and finally crawled back into the car with a speed that sure as hell did me proud. Yet, you can see from the photographs, the area was well worth getting the fright of your life.
After an hour, when the heartbeats returned to normal, I decided to forget all about it and let my self relax and feel the whole scene and the divine weather made me feel at peace with the world. Late in the afternoon I decide to abandon the idea of spending the night there. No, it was not because of the fear of the panthers taking off with me, but for a more prosaic reason. There was nothing to eat, and it was highly unlikely that the priest at the temple would invite me for a seven course dinner, so with that reality and a rumbling stomach I decided to crawl along to the next place willing to give me a bowl of rice and some curry………………