Nothing delights a biker more than challenging himself and his machine to surmount the challenges thrown at him by nature. The lure of elements unleashing their fury add to the charm of the bike ride. What promised to be a tepid and tame bike ride organised by the Directorate of Jammu Tourism ended up as a odyssey.
On a chilly morning the biker fraternity congregated at Sidhra Golf Course driving through the mist rising from the nearby Tawi river. The winter morning’s stillness broken by Rub-a-Dup of machines. What was a high decibel cacophony for others was music to the true bikers. Machines revving up, riders rearing to go. But before the flag off was a golden opportunity to asses and observe the fellow riders. The machines, the persona; the group loyalties; the clubs and the gangs playing out their allegiances. But one thing which was constant was the mutual respect.
Once the initial jostling for places in the flag off was over, the scenery, the cloudy morning and the turns and terrain of Bajalta and uphill journey to Surinsar started playing out. Interestingly a medieval ritual was also on a display. Some biker groups kept their cool and maintained their ranks, other just dispersed into small groups. For the steady bike riders, travelling in order, the rout of their opponents was complete, the leaders of small groups clueless and left to fend for themselves!
As the rally approached the majestic Surinsar Lake the dandies of the Biking fraternity were out to strut their wares. Harley Davidsons and Hayabusas started their solo peacock runs on the Boulevard. The lake provided a perfect canvas. As the rally rode deeper into the road inside Surinsar Mansar Wildlife Sanctuary an emergency halt created a lot of interest. A leopard sighting created a lot of fear and interest though it was not clear whether the biking fraternity ought to congratulate the biker for rare sighting or sympathise with the cat for missing her meal!
By now the bikers had decided to enjoy the nature at its best, the rolling fields, the lush green pine forests, the camel foot vines and the brooks and streams. In the equestrian terms the gallop turned into a trot. The ride to boat club on the lake shore was heavenly. The vastness of water body and the majesty of the decks of boat club was a heady feeling. It mesmerized the visitors and embraced them in their lap.
The winter chill gave way to warmth as local snacks like mathi, sewian, mater washed down with pink ginger- cardamom flavoured tea – a type of green tea and the speciality of hills created more bonhomie than the prodding’s of event managers. The terrain, the topography and the Mahoregarh fort was the hot topic and Mahoregarh fort beckoned everyone. Once the photos and selfie session was over the bikers hit the road again only to be stopped enroute at Zamora village. Mustard crop in full bloom interspersed with lush green fields sown with wheat halted the procession. It was a DDLJ (Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge) moment for everyone.
Once the excitement was over Mahoregarh was again in everyone’s mind. The route from Shah Balote to Sarna covered with stone chips challenged the biker’s skills. Biker’s became conscious about their machines and anxiously ascended the last stretch upto the Mahoregarh fort. Some drove straightway upto the majestic fort gates. Other’s parked their metal horses on the flat land adjoining the water body. Everyone tried to soak up the atmosphere, the landscape; the insurmountable cliffs; the crags and the distant Mansar Lake now marked only by mobile towers on the hill. The sweet aroma of Dogra cuisine wafted in the stiff breeze, the stomachs ached and the congregational feast called Dogra Dham commenced. Leaf Plates and cups locally called Doona and Pattal added novelty to the experience. Rajma and Dal cooked in brass utensils jostled with Ambal, Khameere and Babru for attention. The sattavic food had a calming effect on everybody.
Just when the Heritage Bike Ride entered its last leg to heritage temple complexes of Utterbehni and Purmandal, a light drizzle started making the ground slippery and difficult to negotiate. However what was organisers curse was bikers delight! A few slipped, a few tumbled from their iron horses. The veterans took to guiding the novices, out came the mentors with their age old wisdom. The local Sarpanch played the role of a pioneer guiding the entourage to Utterbehni across Holy Devika river.
A quick round of Temple complexes housing Lakshmi-Narayan and Lord Rama at Utterbehni satiated the curiosity. Temple complexes of Purmandal made the bike riders feel proud of their ancestors and the heritage bequeathed by the Dogra dynasty to this state.
By now the so called ‘Western Disturbance’ was in its full fury and added charm to the Bike Rally. The bikers aligned with Biking groups with exquisite names like Bikers Brotherhood India, The Bull Riders Cafe, Himalayan Bulls, Iron Hawks, Metal Horse Riders Club, Kathua Riders, Northern Adventure Club and Super King Bikers sped towards Jammu city. The Rally was over But the biking culture is truly alive, kicking and roaring to go.
(The author is CEO, Surinsar-Mansar Dev. Authority.)