Barely after we entered the boundaries of the reserve, we spotted some deer. Rather, we managed to find some spotted deer. The road had turned from a mix of broken tarmac and rubble to non-existence, with stones, mud and tracks forming our path into the forest. Even though it was hot and dry, there was no shortage of greenery. The types of trees around gave the surroundings equal measures of lush and spooky; many a dead tree with skeletal branches was there forming the backdrop, seemingly spying on us through the foliage.
As we made our way through, we found the place deserted, save for some jumpy spotted deer and sambhar, which couldn’t be bothered. I decided to explore the forest a bit, but the howl from the Tiger’s triple was probably enough to warn anything around of my presence a good bit before I actually got there. The Tiger’s tyres offered commendable grip and the bike felt absolutely stable. That meant I didn’t have to pay attention to trivial things like throttle control and grip levels in the mud I was traversing.
After a quick detour, we were back on track, all set to head into the lion’s den. The Lion Safari starts from Talala. They have a fleet of specially-adapted SUVs and guides to take you through the forests in the search for the elusive king of the jungle. We hoped we would spot some lions, majestically basking in the summer sun, although we did know fully well that it was all down to chance, and being in the right place at the right time.
The sun was beginning to set as we headed out of Sasan Gir hoping to make the most of daylight. It was still sweltering as we stopped to cool off in the shade of some trees. There was something about the sunset in the isolation which grew into civilisation again. There was farmland on either side of the road and modern-day irrigation had turned the whole place into a lush green paradise. I popped my visor a crack, and the air was warm but felt soothing. There was no need for speed. This was serenity being handed to me on a road I had to take. What could be better?
The greenery went on for miles, and soon we spotted human construction and many, many buildings. One of the first that got my attention was the Groundnut Research Centre. Yes, a research facility for groundnuts! I felt quite stoked about that and realised that agriculture is something very serious. That was just what I needed to ponder over as I took on the curves at high speeds. The needle’s vertical, the engine is howling away, the wind is attacking me and I’m wondering what sort of tests they subject groundnuts to and if they indeed were dicotyledons, if I remember my secondary school science right. Before I knew it, I was in the middle of the bustling city centre of Junagadh. After asking some locals, we checked into the Leo Resort, which was a stone’s throw from Junagadh Fort: our first stop early next morning.