Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Motorcycle Diaries

Day 3 – Ramblings in Ratanmahal

We packed our bag after the breakfast since we were leaving Kevdi to go to Ratanmahal guesthouse which was some 30 KMs away. Jethabhai was in cheerful mood and cracked a few jokes. Unfortunately they were certified as adult jokes. We bade them farewell and left. I wanted to ride the bike so asked Alpesh to sit back and enjoy the ride. The bike was little heavy for me but to drive it was an awesome feeling – the sound of the engine, the wind blowing on the face, the trees and houses passing by in hurry. From Kejenta, the straight road made the way for the serpentine road with lots of ups and downs. The good thing about all those roads was that they were properly tarred and marked with white lanes even inside the forest. I have not seen such good roads in the other parts of the country.
Gujarat can certainly guide other states when it comes to the road network. How comfortable it will be to have the same kind of roads in Kerala or Coorg!

At Ratanmahal Forest Office, the Range Forest Officer (RFO) suggested us to stay at Naldha Nature Camp which was not far from there. We got a nice bamboo hut there for cool 250 bucks. The camp was situated between hills and a river ran nearby. The food was tasty and the service was exceptional. We strolled around after lunch and watched kids playing cricket inside the camp. There was a waterfall which was reachable after a moderate trekking. We were told that it was 2 KMs away. On the way to waterfall, just outside the camp, there was a machan. We occupied the machan for a while and pretended that we were soldiers guarding the fort. But in the rein of the nature, there are no enemies. I thought I saw enough of the butterflies the previous day, but Devdi was a lone soldier compared to the army that was Ratanmahal. Plenty of butterflies of wide variety asking for your attention! I forgot that I was going to a waterfall. Alpesh had to literally drag me.

The trek seemed far more than 2 KMs. The climb was steep and heavy stones made it more tiresome. At one point we reached nearly to the top of the hill and still there was no sight of the fall. We almost gave up but what kept us going still was the sound of the water crushing the stones. We knew we were about to win in that game of hide and seek. Finally we emerged as the winners. It was a small but virgin waterfall. It seemed not many people frequented this place which helped it retain its beauty. The water was cold and we had no intention of splashing it despite having our swimming costumes with us. With the loud background music of the falling water, we recorded ik din beek jaayega.

We sat there blissfully, enjoying the all the Mother Nature had to offer. The hills, the trees, the water – Alpesh noted that these very things, the building blocks, are same everywhere but the way they are put together differs in each place. Or for that matter, all humans are of same composition but still no two human beings are same. The different patterns emerge, and they make the world beautiful and exciting. As Alpesh meditated, I sat quietly allowing the water to run over my feet. That was the moment when I could not help but remember Kailash Kher’s the Cherapunjee song -
barse barse re ambar ka paani, jisko pee pee ke dharti deewani; khilkhilane lagi hai, muskurane lagi hai, bheeg gaya mera mann.

The descent was easy from thereon. We enjoyed nice tea at the camp. It was 5 PM by then and we immediately started for the sunset point. The RFO met us in Ratanmahal and advised us not to waste time because sun set early there and the 8 KM road to the point at the top was rather not supportive. We soon realized what he meant – the road was full of small pebbles, quite steep and winding. Not used to that kind of road, we almost fell down at one curve. Twice the bike stopped on the road and refused to move. Undeterred by the difficulties, we continued going up on the treacherous road. Later that night the RFO said that the bike Thunderbird was a royal
maharaja bike and we should have not put it under that heavy stress. What I thought was that it was the beauty and the beast; only vehicle that could have taken us to the top with wanting for more. And don’t the maharajas carve their place in the history by fighting rough battles?

Halfway through the terrain became plain and easy and the gregarious bamboos crowded both sides of the road. They looked dry. The RFO explained that these trees flower after 50 years and then die. What I was looking at were the dead trees! A bird full of life caught my attention soon. I watched it taking flight from the empty riverbed. It was an Indian Roller – blue colored bird with brown and black beak and legs. It disappeared in the bamboos just after two seconds but I could vouch that was the most beautiful bird I have ever seen. My eyes searched it between those trees, but it was not to be found again. Poor me!

In the end it took great courage, caution and care to reach at the top. On the opposite side of the sunset point, there was a small temple. We offered our prayers first. The view was spectacular from the point. The hills were all spread across the horizon and giving an impression of camel humps in a desert. The sun was slowly going down behind the hills covered with green vegetation. It looked like a lonely sunflower in a huge farm. If before a few minutes, I was ready to give up my life for one more sight of the flight of the bird, now I was a sucker for life. Give me more…the sunrise, the sunset. The twilight made compelling case for Alpesh to meditate again. I was not ready even to blink lest the wonder wither away.

We had to leave the place involuntarily. The RFO gave the students lessons about the nature while we had our dinner. There was no electricity in the night. The camp ran on solar cells and they were discharged that night. We retired to our beds after a walk. It was the best day of our trip. We were rejuvenated. As the cook in the camp put in his own lyrical words
aav haala, ratanmala (Brother, Come to Ratanmahal).

* Photos can be found at: http://picasaweb.google.com/brijesh.gajera/Ratanmahal#

To Be Continued...

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