The weather was pleasant yesterday evening and it was maybe around 5 PM when turned left from Jaura, towards Pagara. The narrow roads both meandered and shot straight through the flat terrain of the rocky land which leads through the rural central Indian landscape. Sun was heading down, the sky was turning maroon, soil golden and trees olive green. The wind was growing cooler and riders’ excitement warmer, as we rode down the final twisty road which sloped down into the valley which houses the beautiful grassland of Pagara.
I came across farmers on the way back home from fields, herders herding the sheep back, kids tired of the day’s play and women lighting their stoves. Life in the village would have, by this time been heading towards beds by this time, but the resounding thumps of our motorcycles made it halt and wonder, even if for a little while.
Once in the valley and through the village, we made our way into the grassland. Two lines of blue tents could be seen on the one of the hills and we tuned our handles towards them. This camp would be the destination for our bonfire night, our year end night.
Jai Khande and his team were waiting for us, all prepared, confident, smiling, having done all their preparation of what seemed to be the best possible camping arrangement on the location. Once our motorcycles were parked, we looked around, dumped luggage into the tents, again unparking the motorcycles and heading out in different directions to get the best view of this undulating, hilly, water-laced grassland which was claimed to the best landscape around Gwalior by some.
As we had rolled out of mobile networks, riders resorted to forming small chat groups by sitting together and putting their phones in airplane mode. Capturing the wonder of this vista in words, in the eyes and camera lenses occupied everyone.
Sun soon set behind a plateau on the west. Darkness fell, lanterns lit up, stomachs suddenly felt empty and bonfire started to burn. People who would usually be weaving words on whatsapp, circled the bonfire to talk, laugh, listen to tales of travel and songs of hope. It was a moonless night, stars soon came to watch over us and with them came a caring fleet of the police force from Jaura. They stayed till late in the night, ensuring that this dacoit ridden land doesn’t swallow any of us. Without their help, assurance and presence, this night of wonder would not have been possible.
Well, sleep come to everyone, early to some, late to some and even not to some. I bid farewell to sleep very early in the morning to be awake to witness the sunrise.
The sunrise, which happened soon after I had gathered all my camera gear and positioned myself at a suitable place, morphed the land again, as the sunset and night had done before. Mornings are like Midas, turning to gold all they touch, but unlike Midas in taking the glitter away with them. Sky, water, grass and chrome on our motorcycles shone golden for maybe a quarter of an hour. Shutters worked hard in various hands to capture the scene.
As the golden reign receded and sky started to turn blue, riders hurried towards their breakfast. I thanked everyone, took a group photograph, congratulated Jai, Ranjeet and rest of the team, before heading out, heading home. An epic experience this was, which will find a special place in my memoirs of travel.
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