The first Bonfire Night at Pagara had set sort of a benchmark in terms of landscape. So, once that ride was done, we strained our memories to come up with a destination which would not let us down. Harsi a reservoir in the district Shivpuri, near Narwar and around 70 km from Gwalior was the first choice. The lake has ample open space around its periphery, with little vegetation, with quite a few spots apt for camping. But we were still skeptical if it would match up to our expectations.
Now the road to Harsi reservoir turns into a trail for the last 5-6 kilometers. The trail ends against a hill, which hides the lake behind it like a wall. Once you go around that wall, the lake comes into view quite suddenly and the vast size of the waterbody immediately takes a traveller by surprise. As soon as I was hit by the surprise yesterday, I knew that Harsi had all the charm it needs to be an ideal Bonfire Night destination. For some riders, this was even better than pagara!
From Gwalior, we started at around 3pm. Although the distance to be covered was short, the roads towards Shivpuri are notoriously bad and thus it takes a long time to get from Gwalior to Ghatigaon. From Ghatigaon, we took a turn into a narrow, clean tarmac road which goes up and down hills in beautiful straight lines. This road is a pleasure to ride on, right from the turn up till the Rani Ghati.
Rani Ghati is where we wind down the valley in which Harsi is based. The ghati is littered with beautiful trees with both branches and root forming intricate patterns as they reach out to the sky and the ground. These are probably some variety of acacia, but I am not sure. Whatever, these are, surely make the scene quite stunning.
As we wind down into the valley, the road starts to crack up, the stone masoned path starts to appear under the tarmac. The patchy road then wanders through villages, herds of cattle. It runs along rocky hills often crowned with temples and canals fed with water from Harsi.
Upon reaching the dam, we took a trail along the lake leading to our camping site. The site which we had chosen was a narrow patch of land extending into the water. The camp was already set up by Jai Khande’s Camp14 team. An array of 8 tents, a bonfire surrounded by chairs and a kitchen set up by our chef Ranjeet made up our accommodation for the night.
We were in touch with the Harsi House and police who rendered full support to our venture. Without local support, it is really not sensible to attempt to camp in and around Gwalior and thankfully we had all the support we needed.
A star lit welkin devoid of the moon which had waned into darkness, made for a beautiful backdrop for our camp. Hills on the south-east were backlit by the lights of Narwar town, adding color to the sky. The island in the lake looked like a massive equilateral triangle and surprisingly I could see reflection of the stars in the wavy water. I don’t remember seeing that every before.
Riders who sat circled around the bonfire worked on keeping the fire alive till late in the night, even as cries of foxes echoed out from the forest near the camp.
Morning was bright, golden, fresh. Weather was pleasant, free of fog. Flocks of ducks and other birds made their way towards the east, high in the sky. The team in the kitchen prepped for breakfast, campers soaked in the morning sun pondering upon their departure. Camp morning bring with them a dilemma, whether to remain lazy or to pack and and leave. Departure, although is unavoidable as home beckons everyone, but some procrastination surely creeps in.
The route out of Harsi was same as the one into it. Everyone seemed happy and more importantly less amazed than in Pagara, by the apparent fact that outskirts of home town could home to such a destination. Harsi turned out to be an amazing Bonfire Night, thanks to the efforts all the Bulleteers, especially Jai Khande. There will be many more bonfire nights in the future and throug