Rajasthan Motorbike Tour
[20 Nights/ 21 Days]
Day 1 of your of trip - you will be met by our rep. at Delhi international airport and will be transferred to hotel.
From your first glance at the sprawling metropolis of Delhi you will immediately begin to appreciate that India is a land of contrasts, a land of diversity and variation unparalleled anywhere else in the world. Abject and squalid slums sit incongruously alongside amazing modern buildings of stunning beauty, like the lotus shaped Ba'hai temple. Five star hotels are served by 1950's-vintage taxi cabs with engines the same size as their batteries. Ten million people somehow manage to eke out an existence in this city whose levels of activity continue to escalate at an apparently unsustainable pace. At times confusing, at times challenging and at all times chaotic, Delhi is never still, never restful and never boring.
Day 2 will be used to break you in gently to the culture shock some people experience in Delhi. We'll take a half-day guided tour of Old Delhi including the Jama Masjid, India's largest mosque, the impressive Red Fort and perhaps a rickshaw ride through the tiny, crowded streets of the bazaars around Chandni Chowk. We can also do some last minute shopping and preparations for tomorrow's departure. We will need to be up and about early tomorrow, so a quiet night is called for. Don't try to drink all of your duty-free whisky tonight.
Day 3 has us rising early to leave the chaos of Delhi behind before the peak hour traffic begins in earnest. We set a leisurely pace and enjoy the burble of the bikes as we briefly take National Highway 8 southwest from the capital and soon enter Rajasthan. We leave the highway as early as possible and take to the back roads, travelling only 120k for our first day's ride to Neemrana Fort Palace. Covering some 25 acres of land and built in 1464, it is the oldest heritage resort in all of India.
Day 4 The state emblem of Rajasthan is the peacock and many can be spotted roaming freely in the rural areas we traverse today on our way to the Shekhawati region, famous for its beautiful havelis, those centuries-old mansions of wealthy merchants and noblemen. Intricate frescoes and murals depict the history of the area. Our stop for the night is a mediaeval castle, the Mandawa Castle Hotel, near the regional capital of Jhunjhunu where the British based their famed Shekhawati Brigade.
Day 5 sees us heading directly west through arid wastelands, approaching the Great Thar Desert which constitutes much of Rajasthan. Our destination today is Bikaner, a town of half a million, once an important staging post on the great caravan trading routes of the middle ages. Our accommodation here is the impressive Gajner Palace, built on the banks of a lake. Its architecture is a splendid example of the skill of early craftsmen.
Day 6 will take us through progressively sparser vegetation and population, to the remote outpost of Pokaran. An obscure little spot until very recently, Pokaran is the nearest inhabited place to the site of those notorious nuclear tests which India flaunted at the rest of the world in 1998. The nearest we come to the site is about 65km however, so we're not in much danger of radioactive contamination. Still, if anyone's roommate should start glowing in the dark, our tour leader would appreciate hearing about it.
Day 7 brings us right into the heart of the desert. As we approach the western extremities of India near the border with Pakistan, an amazing spectacle rises from the floor of the Great Thar Desert. This is Jaisalmer, a stunning fortress city looking like something straight out of Arabian Nights or Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. With its incredible array of bastions, battlements and ramparts, the colour of this sandstone fort at sunset has led to Jaisalmer becoming known as the Golden City.
Day 8 is a rest day which we will spend exploring Jaisalmer, perhaps with an afternoon camel safari. In earlier days it truly was a golden city, a place of great opulence on the caravan trading routes between India and central Asia. In Jaisalmer, some of the population still live within the walls of the Old City and fortress but in recent, more peaceful times, the buildings have sprawled out into the desert all around. A feature of Jaisalmer is the abundance of splendid havelis; intricate carvings and works of art are commonplace and visitors are welcome to roam freely.
Day 9 is our longest day in terms of kilometres travelled, but the 300k to the Blue City of Jodhpur is mainly on good sealed highway without too many traffic hassles. The Maharaja of Jodhpur gave the world those wonderful horse-riding breeches of the same name, which he had specially made by the court tailor after he found it quite impossible to play polo with the British in his long, flowing regal robes.
Day 10 is spent exploring Jodhpur. Although not appearing blue from down at ground level, the view from the huge fortress of Meherangarh Fort over the town is a true spectacle as all the blue-washed Brahmin houses shimmer in the sunlight. The fort was one of the film locations for the recent Disney re-make of Rudyard Kipling's splendid The Jungle Book. We may also visit the Umaid Bhawan Palace for lunch, a stunning Maharaja's palace now converted into the largest ground-area 5 star hotel in India, with the Royal Family still resident in one wing.
Day 11 and we proceed to Mt. Abu. In the very south of the state on the border with Gujarat, this is the only 'hill station' to be found in Rajasthan. The climate is a cool welcome relief from the plains below, with the town spread along a hilly plateau at 1200 metres. Beautiful Nakki Lake is the primary attraction in the town, very popular with honeymoon couples who come here and walk around or paddle across it. The entire town is very picturesque.
Day 12 We start with a visit to the superb Dilwara Temples, 5km out of Mt. Abu. Dilwara is possibly the best preserved group of Jain temples to be found in India, with intricate designs and marble carvings unmatched anywhere else. In the afternoon we ride to Udaipur, famous for the beautiful white Maharaja's palace in the middle of Lake Pichola.
Day 13 is a rest day. As every second local will tell you, a segment of James Bond's Octopussy was filmed here in Udaipur. The lake palace, like so many others, has now been converted into a luxury hotel and we can visit for lunch or afternoon tea to have a look around. We shall spend some time on the lake in a solar-powered tourist launch, and the sunset over the lake with a stunning white palace provides great photo opportunities.
Day 14 Chittorgarh, perhaps more than any other fortress, is symbolic of the futile, idealistic chivalry which was a way of Rajput life in the middle ages. Frequently plundered and sacked by superior invading armies, the warriors of Chittorgarh responded by declaring jauhar, a ritualistic, macabre suicide pact. The men would don saffron robes and ride out of the fort to meet certain death, whilst the women and children would throw themselves on a huge funeral pyre. Death before Dishonour was the paramount consideration. In one single tragic case, 13,000 women and 32,000 warriors are said to have perished in this manner. Chittorgarh is our destination for today
Day 15 We proceed to Pushkar, a peaceful and picturesque little town for the eleven months of the year which do not have the world-famous Pushkar Camel Fair. Thousands of camels, horses, cattle and oxen are bought and sold with the enthusiasm and gusto that only an Indian crowd of around 200,000 traders can muster. It's always held at the time of the full moon in November, and is one of the most colourful and flamboyant festivals in India.
Day 16 At other times of the year, Pushkar is a peaceful and picturesque little town with its beautiful lake a pilgrimage site for devout Hindus who come to bathe in its waters. If we rise early we can catch the dawn bathing and praying rituals ('puja') and watch the town come to life before we ride to the Rajasthan capital of Jaipur, the Pink City. Pink is the traditional Rajput colour of hospitality and many of the homes in the Old City are this colour. The Hawa Mahal, Palace of the Winds, is a fine example of Rajput craftsmanship in the centre of town. Built 200 years ago to allow the ladies of the court to watch everyday life in the streets below without themselves being observed by probing eyes, the palace is virtually only a facade of fine latticed windows in pink sandstone.
Day 17 sees us arriving at Ranthambhore National Park. This is the headquarters of India's rather unsuccessful Project Tiger, a noble but futile effort to ensure that the magnificent Bengal Tiger had a sanctuary in the wild where it was safe from mankind's ruthless greed. Unfortunately the Park officials, like so many of India's bureaucracy, were often susceptible to bribery and corruption and 'occasionally' turned a blind eye to poaching, with the result that tiger numbers fell to an alarming 40-ish at one stage. Things seem to be gradually improving in this regard however, and the chances of seeing a tiger here are now better than anywhere else on the subcontinent.
Day 18 will see us in the Park around sunrise, for an elephant-back safari in search of the elusive tiger at his most active time of the day. No guarantees though! Then we hit the road again and head north to another sanctuary of a different kind; Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary. Even for non-birdlovers, this place is quite spectacular. Some 415 bird varieties have been identified here, migrating from as far away as Siberia in huge, apparently unsustainable numbers. Upwards of 3000 painted storks have been counted in one square kilometre of marshland.
Day 19 is when we leave Rajasthan behind and cross the state border (although you won't notice it) into Uttar Pradesh. We shall visit the incredible deserted city of Fatehpur Sikri, once the capital of the Moghul Empire for a brief period before being completely abandoned, due to a total lack of foresight in obtaining a reliable water source! Then we proceed to Agra in time for a sunset visit to that most famous of all Indian monuments, the Taj Mahal. This mausoleum is without doubt the world's greatest symbol of love, constructed between 1631 and 1653 by Emperor Shah Jahan as an eternal tribute to his beloved wife Mumtaz who had died in 1629 perhaps not surprisingly, giving birth to their 15th child in 17 years.
Day 20 and those who wish can make a second pilgrimage to the Taj Mahal at sunrise, to see the amazing change of colour effected by different times of the day on the brilliant white marble. We then head off on the last leg of our Safari to cover the 200km between Agra and Delhi, which we should do easily by around lunchtime on this recently improved highway. We convince you to return the Enfields to their rightful owner, farewell you this evening with an early meal in one of the popular restaurants in central Connaught Place, then transfer you to the airport for the midnight . It's been a lot of fun !
Day 21 Home sweet home. Go tell all your friends.
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