Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Biking, Beauty and Birds: A Trail Towards Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary

Every travelogue has an interesting story to tell but this one is really special for us since this is our longest journey at least till the time when this blog was being written. It is an adventure into the wilderness of nature away from the city life of Delhi and Gurgaon, towards the villages of Haryana which are so near yet so far from the MNC culture. It is not only an adventure but a mark of triumph for a few of us into a cycling world of our own which we have begun to create.  Yes, after a few 30-40 km trips, we planned to take this challenge of visiting the Sultanpur National Park or Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary as it is more known for.

Giving an introduction to place, Sultanpur is only known as a metro station to most of the Gurgaonkars, but folks, there is a more beautiful national park just situated at a mere 15 km from your Millenium city or Gurugram! The maps say it is 40 km from Dhaula Kuan and 46 km from our abode IIT Delhi. Since the sun reaches over the head as it touches noon, we started this trip as early as we can start at 4.15-4.30 am from IIT. It is still before dawn. We had looked that there are two-three routes which can take us there but we started from the main route towards the IGI airport side. This is the trip we went mostly planned, purchased helmets, flashing indicators for cycles and mobile holder to help us in navigation. We also carried puncture kit though we didn't have any idea how to use it.

The ride began passing through urban South Delhi area passing near Vasant Kunj and we were clear of our route till we went near the airport. But as you say, the real world is not deterministic and one of us made a wrong turn towards Dwarka or terminal -1 and as soon as we turned, we realized we are on a road not to be taken. One of our "unsaid" cycling rules is not to turn back but find a way through the path you are on. Rerouting on google map told us there is a way through that part as well though much rural arena, but as we normally do, we followed our unsaid rule.  We keep on going and as you would read, that part turned out as a blessing in disguise for us. We went up the Dwarka flyover at around 5.30 ish -6.00 types and took a left turn towards Dwarka Mod Sector-1. The ride through part was also good as there was zero traffic in morning and roads are well built. As we come out of Dwarka, the most interesting and beautiful part of our journey began. There is a small road near the Najafgarh drain and since it was foggy a bit, it was beautiful to navigate through sharp turns of that. We had never imagined encountering such sort of terrain in NCR  and icing on the cake was we three were alone cyclists on that stretch. We went on and on without having hands on cycling handle and absorbing the fresh breeze within.

We joined the main road when we were 15 Kms from our destination at a village and by that time, we have passed most of Gurgaon and are in the countryside of Haryana. Many a rat were jumping in our stomach by then and what is the best way to insatiate your hunger than the sumptuous breakfast of roadside dhabas where butter is dancing on the Hot Tandoori Parathas. True to state's tagline, we were in "Desan ma des Haryana, Jahan doodh makhan ka khana" meaning the land of Haryana has food of milk and butter signifying the dairy and farm prosperity of the state.   We took a break at one of these dhabas to have a couple of parathas each and began the last stretch of 10 km. The last 10 km stretch was pretty easy and by 8.30 am we were at Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary.The bird sanctuary was better than what he had expected.  It was pretty well managed by authorities with a lot of bird lovers around. The three of us looked least prepared for visiting a bird sanctuary without a Tripod, Binoculars, and a telescopic camera.  One thing which caught my attention was the billboards with some awesome quotes like the one shown here.

Nevertheless, we entered the bird sanctuary taking a nominal ticket.  Over the age, I have started to enjoy bird sanctuaries and national parks but have started hating the concept of zoological parks which in itself kills the concept of freedom and the dominance of one species over another. We enjoyed watching different types of sparrows, pigeons. But this place holds a special mention for water birds particularly found in swamps, which catch the sight of many an ornithologist. The problem with watching water birds like swans and other numerous species is that you have to watch those only from a distance and without a binocular or a good camera, you will definitely miss the core of this place which we did :(. We sat for a while in that area and the sitting was so soothing that it is very difficult to avoid a siesta especially after a long 50 km ride.

Another beautiful aspect of visiting a bird sanctuary is you realize the importance of silence. Silence is what lets you invade the territory of many a bird very closely and capture a sight which is not easy to get from a distance. Many a chatterbox like myself mutes themselves at such places. After having a round of first part, we were returning back and then we realized that we have missed one part of this sanctuary. Though we were dead tired, we thought of taking a stroll in that part. True, as they say, a lot of men are likely to give up when they are close to something beautiful, in this part, we get to witness some beautiful owls from the very close vicinity.  (See if you can see spot one of these in the pictures below).

After spending an hour and a half in the sanctuary, we started back the sojourn which is only half done. The clock was ticking around 10.30 by the time we started. We met a few lads from Gurgaon on bullets outside the bird sanctuary and they were surprised to hear we have cycled all the way from IIT here. These Gurgaonkars told us that they get tired on bikes even and commended and increase our enthusiasm for the remaining half journey.  After riding back for 5-7 km, I was feeling drained out and suggesting to these guys, we should stop by some place for juice or so. We stopped at a village side sugarcane juice stall for recharging our discharge batteries. We ordered the biggest glass which was of 30 Rs but when this guy handed us the juice, we all were looking at each other. This was a big-big glass which looked approximately of 1 liter. But juice was so refreshing that somehow we all finished it and proceeded further. This juice was worth the calories we have drained out and to prepare us for our destination which was still 42 km ahead and the Sun God would also be coming into play to make it farther from what it actually was.

We rode the return part on the same road occasionally stopping for a picture of green fields and countryside. After traveling the major part of our journey, we make a diversion from our forward journey where we rode along the wall which is very close to the runway of IGI and the sight of a plane landing very closely to us was worth this diversion. After riding 26 km, we were again feeling thirsty and this time we stopped for coconut water on the roadside. The malai-wala (creamy) coconut is quite healthy drink known throughout the country. After having the coconut water, we proceeded along the busy National Highway which was scarier to drive at noon hour with cars speeding at 100 km per hour. After crossing that part carefully with much caution, we rode back to the campus. As per our estimates, we should have covered 92kms, so one of us Prathmesh does not want to be short of the century and hence, he decided he will make two rounds on campus to touch the ton mark while Suvam and I proceeded to Hostels.

We were dead tired after this sojourn but a sense of achievement of this milestone had taken away all the fatigue and as happens in life, the immediate thing crossed my mind was- What should be next for our BTwin Diaries :)

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