Myriad of meandering trails split the landscape into arid soil dunes spotted with thorny shrubs. Binding this patchy terrain together is river Chambal, flowing strong, flaunting its notorious blue water.
Notorious not only now, in the modern times for the dacoits who have thrived and prowled amid the dunes, but notorious right from the ancient times. And this identity has kept its waters relatively clean, its banks sparsely populated, its trails mysterious. Many of our rides have taken us through its realm and each time it has managed to leave a lasting impression, as if it were a person.
When we planned the Bonfire Night to Chambal, our idea was to camp alongside its banks, but considering the expanse of the ravines we were not able to choose a spot. A safe, convenient, beautiful spot. Now, here comes in the positive role of the MP Police. The SP of Morena District, when approached by Jai Khande, our coordinator for the camping, responded positively and gave his valuable suggestions.
He not only suggested a good spot, but also assured us of safety. And all this was because he appreciated our cause for the ride. The cause to bring the beautiful side of this terrain into light.
So, once guided about the spot, we went to check it out and finalized a spot for camping by the river. The spot gave us a massive view of the river valley, its wildlife, an island (which has its own stories) and a nearby temple.
On the day of the ride, which was Saturday, we left from Gwalior at around 2pm. Taking the rural route which took us via Malanpur, Mitawali, Sihoniya, we reached the camp site by 4pm. Once there, I noticed that quite a few onlookers gathered in no time, curious about us. These were mostly people coming to visit the nearby temple. Although, we had some personnel from local police which us, who convinced them to vacate the campsite.
After some rest near the tents, we started to explore the nearby dunes, climbing up to the taller ones to get the view of the sunset and the river valley. The dunes here were particularly tall, much taller than what we see from the highway thus the view was more expansive.
After the sunset we trekked back to the camp and remained settled around the bonfire till dinner. Just prior to dinner officials from the MP Police and Morena administration came to join us a while. Their views on the area, its history, beauty, potential and other aspects were very interesting.
The best part of the interaction was that their views about the area were more focused about its positives. Their stories had a sense of hope for betterment, of changing the public image of the area, of encouraging us to explore more.
After dinner, the team departed and we started off on a short trek to one of the dunes, to get a view of the starlit valley. The trek this time, was harder. The trails here are very narrow and in the darkness it was hard to keep walking in the right direction. But somehow, we managed to reach the right spot. Once there we spent some time listening to music and enjoying the view.
But probably our flash lights pulled too much attraction, as very soon, we were confronted by a group of around 15 locals on top of the dunes. As we were on a cliff, we felt cornered. Things were silent for a while and the group seemed curious. The policemen who were staying with us for the night, were at the camp. So, we decided to slowly retreat and get back to camp, which we did soon.
Back at the camp, we settled by the Bonfire again, listening to music till late in the night.
There is certain romance to the ravines, a romance which remains shrouded by the fear which covers this land like mist. The dunes speak to you, the trails are their throats and wind their voice. It takes a while to sink into this world, a while of patient listening with sealed lips and and open mind.
If asked which Bonfire Night out of the 3, I would like to do again, this will definitely be it.