Ever since I did my first overnight ride to Ramtek early this year, I had realized that a ride to Ramtek SHOULD never be missed. Never ever! And this last weekend, my postulate was once again validated!
As a habit, I started my Saturday morning with a Lenormand card reading to gauge how the day would unfold. And the cards gave me a strong inkling that this was going to be an incident free day that would be dominated by riding (read cycling) followed by a night under the stars (a stay in the tents at night). And this came out every bit true as the day unfolded.
I and my cycling mates from Saddle Up Guys assembled at the Law College square and pedaled off towards Ramtek by 3.30 pm. In order to avoid traffic and chaos on the Kamptee route, it was decided to take the Koradi – Parseoni – Amadi – Mansar – Ramtek route and also pick up a couple of our mates on the way.
As the road wore on, we realized that this was a wise decision. There was not much traffic till Koradi and later on the ride from Parseoni to Amadi was a breeze. There was minimal traffic and the greenery on both sides of the road was a much needed soothing sight to the eyes in the peak afternoon.
Personally this was a stretch I had never explored and therefore the joy of discovering a new route to Ramtek was even more of a thrill for me. Amadi onwards, we latched on to the routine road towards CAC Adventure Camp, our abode for the night.
By 8.30 pm all of us had reached the CAC adventure camp and were welcomed with lemonade. The warm hospitality here floors you every time you visit. Saturday’s special that they had cooked up for us was predominantly fish – Fish curry, Fish eggs bhurji, Fish fry and Fish brain. The 16 kg fish was the highlight of the feast in the night! I would confess here that I started relishing fish only after my last visit to CAC Adventure Camp. The taste of the delicacies prepared by Anil sir back then still linger deep within and I sincerely feel that if not for adventure, one should visit the CAC Adventure Camp for the food it offers – simply out of the world!
Talks, drinks and dinner combined, we never knew how time flew and soon it was 2.30 am before everyone decide to hit the bed. But by then teams from Nagpur had already been decided for the upcoming Paris-Brest-Paris, Tour de France and RAAM events. And not to forget, the other educationally enrichening talks! Not just me but everyone was rolling (in the literal sense) on the floor as Sunil Sir and Monti regaled all with talks that would even put Kapil Sharma to shame!
The next morning heavy breakfast and hot piping tea lifted our spirits that were asking for more sleep at 7.00 am. The fun and frolic of the night had slowed us down, but the guys at CAC Adventure Camp cajoled us out after packing us lemonade and water in our sippers. And by 9.30 am, the Mogarkasa trail was on!
Tar roads passing through lush green fields with a splatter of white flowering plants thrown in-between every now and then accompanied us until Musewadi. The scenery changed drastically as we took the road to Guguldoh. Tar roads were now replaced by loose gravel and kachcha roads. The forests of Ramtek were now beginning. Guguldoh was a small village where many of us topped up our sippers. The villagers were proud of the fact that they had cement roads, albeit for a small stretch. These cement roads soon gave way to a kachcha road that passed through paddy fields and onto the forest leading to Bhajimokasa. Somehow we managed a selfie session amidst cows as they made their way to the greener pastures.
The road to Bhajimokasa was very confusing and we were lucky to be helped by a village girl who appeared out of nowhere and showed us the correct detour, else only God knows where we might have landed. A proper path was non-existent as we rode and intermittently walked in the forest. Inclines with big rocks were now the norm as all of us lifted our cycles on our shoulders to climb the rocks and advance towards Bhajimokasa. This was perhaps the toughest part of the trail and we were on it for about an hour or maybe more.
Sweat flowed and sippers ran empty until we reached the top of the hillock where a water pump appeared out of nowhere. Surprisingly at a place where humans wouldn’t as such come there was also an open temple of Lord Shiva here. Sippers were refilled and after a rest session a downhill ride through very dense vegetation followed.
We were cycling on and through grass. A momentary lapse in concentration was enough to cause a fall that would have those behind, piling up on you. Though it was 12 noon, the thick vegetation easily led us to believe that it might as well have been just 8 am. Anil sir led us through trails which I am sure we wouldn’t be able to re-map on our own even if we traveled through them the very next day. Amidst foot high grass, sand and gravel I was lucky to be trailing a bit behind because I could gauge the terrain a bit later and adapt, as compared to Anil sir who unwillingly had to ride through innumerable cobwebs that criss-crossed the narrow paths. We were lucky to not have a single cobweb in our face, because Anil sir cleared them for us during his descent 🙂
Almost an hour after starting the descent, we reached Mangarli, that falls on the State Highway that passes to Tumsar from Jabalpur. It was about 1.30 pm and we had a tea break session here after the tea vendor had finished with his monologue for us city dwellers who were according to him always in a hurry. Sippers were topped up at the hand pump that Mangarli offered us as we proceeded to Lavada. For a change we were now on tar roads. Off roading in the jungle through rivulets, streams, grass and loose sand and gravel made it a bit tough to adapt to tar again.
Our next halt was now meant to be the Mogarkasa lake through Lavada. Anil Sir suggested taking a short detour through the Mansingdeo sanctuary as it would save us about 8 kms. The stretch was laden with significant amounts of loose sand and stones butting up every now and then. Cycling was tough but slowing down meant slipping into the sand. I figured out that the best way to be on the saddle in this stretch was to pedal as hard as possible, irrespective of inclines or declines. And I found steady company in Dev. As I pedaled on this stretch, I realized that one could easily be forgiven for assuming that he was being watched at from beneath the vegetation. 45 minutes of pedaling through loose sand and gravel with dense vegetation on either side took us onto the lake that was the highlight of the trail.
Mogarkasa is a small lake which is frequented by those wanting a picnic spot. Not very well developed but it is definitely a good getaway if one should desire one amidst the jungle! A stopover of about 30 minutes later we started the trek to Ramzanghoti. And it was once again through the jungles!
The paths were now a wee bit wider and cycling a bit easier. A rivulet crossing and we were onto the tar again! While two of us put their cycles in the pick-up that the CAC guys sent for us, the remainder of us made our way to Umri.
The off-roading was now officially over. And we had tar roads now. Umri is a small village, the kachcha houses of which are reminiscent of the traditional village life with each house having almost identical sloping roofs, and cattle outside their houses. We were soon out of Umri and onto the roads that led us to Chizda. The roads were fantastic and could at best be the perfect locale for a time trial. The absolutely dense vegetation on either sides made it tough for the sun light to come in and not once did I and Dev feel it was 3 pm as we rolled at speeds exceeding 30 kmph for the first time ever since we started in the morning.
A brief halt at Chizda for a regroup and Anil sir once again led us through a detour to shelve off 3 kms from the total distance. The only difference being that this time the roads were tarred!! We were now back on the roads to the camp.
As I entered into Ramtek, a small group of kids started chasing me and as they ran along with my bike, they pleaded with me to change the gear of the cycle. The kids were aged less than 10 and the squeal of joy they gave when they just saw the rear gear shifting still rings in my ears. How easy it is for them to be happy and how complicated we have made it for ourselves to derive the same subjective emotion!!
As I pondered over this aspect, I rolled into the camp. The others too rolled in over a couple of minutes. Lemonade and lunch followed in quick succession since it was already 4.30 pm. The return ride started by 6.00 pm as all of us loaded our bikes in the truck that was arranged by Prasad. Had it not been for this arrangement, returning yesterday would have been next to impossible. The trek which was just 62 kms had taken us 7 hours to complete and with night starting to fall, the Kamhan – Kamptee stretch would soon be a nightmare for us cyclists!!
The return trip to Nagpur took us just 2 hours and we could immediately feel the difference in the air quality of the city as opposed to that in the jungles where we were, just a couple of hours ago.
The RAAM (Race Across Mansar) as Monti christened it was an adventure, whose hangover still envelops me. It would stay for a couple of days and I don’t want it to leave me any sooner. No words can match the experience I had and no commercial trip can give the ecstasy I was privileged to enjoy. I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I labeled Anil sir, the Columbus of Ramtek!! What for me was just a town synonymous with the temple of Lord Ram or the ex-constituency of former Prime Minister P. V. Narsimha Rao, today has other synonyms too!
I look forward to the next season of RAAM and for those who didn’t make the cut this time, ensure that you make it next time. This is an experience that you would cherish for long!