Ok so its been long since I last wrote, but the LC200 problems had led our car to detour to Delhi skipping on Amritsar, and the good company and attractions of the city ensured everything else took the back seat. Anyways I’ll have a separate post for the city’s (mis)adventures – it definitely deserves that – for now let me update on day 5 & 6.
Day 5 – Barmer to Sri Ganganagar
So after all the chaos of Barmer, we started on a fresh note and headed to Sri Ganganagar skirting the desert lands. The route was to take us through Jaisalmer and Suratgarh (for different reasons), but otherwise was expected to be barren. Before cast off everyone was excited about photo op with a herd of camels (is herd the word used for camels??).
Once again I was to drive the flagship LC200, not because the others were generous, but only as none wanted to take a chance with the wounded beast. I was the last to mind, cause mech troubles or not, this vehicle is almost the steel incarnation of Katrina Kaif.
Our first halt was the imposing Jaisalmer fort, which has the unique distinction of being one of the very few “lived in” forts. Its a bit surreal to walk through a historic site, and suddenly find a girl in school uniform and bag hopping out of one of the houses. But the intense tourism has converted this regal fort to a shanty bazaar. Most of the time one is trying to peer through layers of shops to get a glimpse of the actual architecture.
One of the exceptions was the Jain temple, which had spell-bounding sculptures and almost magical statues, which seem to move with you, facing you at any angle. Such construction is forgotten in today’s glass and steel world and for me its the nearest I come to Diagon Alley. But I strongly feel commercial establishments inside fort premises should be kept to a bare minimum if not banned.
So I definitely did not enjoy the experience and have instead visited smaller but richer forts in the royal state. As we left Jaisalmer, the road flirted with dunes and life seemed to wither away with every passing kilometer. The road stretched straight for as far as the eye could see and that meant great speeds. With no trees or buildings or even electric poles, for the first time in my life I could appreciate why people once imagined the earth to be flat.
But in the middle of nowhere we did find two young boys on a cycle heading to school, which was 14kms from their home. Its quite bitter-sweet to see the state’s apathy which cannot provide even basic education comfortably, but such effort being put in by these village boys to beat the system and get access to education no matter the hurdles.
Enroute we encountered some sand dunes which presented the perfect opportunity to give the vehicles a taste of what they were designed for. Sadly the LC200 was not in the best shape to get adventurous, so it was just the Prado which got the privilege. For the first time in my life I could see the wheels spin at different rpms and could almost feel the differential struggle, making calculations in millisecs, diverting precisely the power required by each wheel.
The ease with which the Prado rode across and back was testimony to its capabilities and Toyota’s technical excellence. After a brief photo session, we encountered a berry bush and picked lots of wild berries. One “experienced” team member assured us they were safe for consumption, and once we started, it was impossible to stop. By the end of a few minutes everyone had multiple thorn pricks but were still hungry for more.
We continued to Suratgarh where the Army station commander was supposed to host us for dinner. But we started to sense something wrong as we found a military escort waiting for us on the main highway entrance for the city. As it shepherded us inside the city and cantonment, we realised there was a function on for the night. But only when we neared the officer’s mess, did it dawn upon on us that the dinner was a part of the entire station reception which had been organised in our honour. Frankly this was more embarrassing than humbling as none of us were prepared for it. We had arrived tired and grimy amidst gracefully decked and officers and families of the station.
The Colonel had gone the whole hog, organising a ceremonial band and other typical Army hospitality, which frankly none of were used to. Unfortunately we still had to drive till Sri Ganganagar and I was the designated pilot (:P) of the LC200. I say “unfortunately” cause that meant I was to miss out on the inviting spirits on offer. So making do with fruit juices for the evening, I immersed myself into the kind hospitality of the Indian Army.
Finally we reached Sri Ganganagar really late and were supposed to break away from the rest of the cars from the next day. They would continue as planned to Amritsar, while we diverted to Delhi for emergency repairs. This meant a 5am start the next day, leaving precious little 3 hours to catch up on some sleep. AGAIN the accommodation arranged by the Army was immaculate.
So day 5 then was certainly a step ahead after the previous two days. Tomorrow I post about the drive to Delhi and then the much more interesting 3 wonderful days’ stay at the capital. So till next time adios and drive safe