Originally published at Vagabond Journey Travel
It can be difficult to tell travel stories sometimes, to impress upon listeners the magic and mystery, and this story is but one example. I’ve told it dozens of times, sometimes a little bit drunken, sometimes to other travelers, and sometimes to myself if a day has become frustrating at work and I need an escape. Rarely does somebody actually listen, and some don’t really believe me.
For at least one day in Rajasthan, India, my partner and I had an entire blue city to ourselves. It’s true..a whole walled-in fortress with blue doors and blue walls…the things that sell thousands of postcards and have tourists queuing up to get a glimpse. We had one of those to ourselves, except on a much smaller scale, but who is nitpicking?
I was 24 at the time and free as a bird. I had a silver and blue Royal Enfield. I was preparing for my second six month stint in India after my first visa ran out. I had spent three weeks in Pakistan and was back for a second tour: Delhi to Kanyakumari by motorcycle.
Around the streets of Delhi we popped into small bookstores, the ones that sell (photocopied) copies of literary classics, as well as newspapers, astrological guides and, oddly, copies of Mein Kampf. The old wooden tables pile out onto the street. We found a blue and red book with OFFICIAL ROAD HIGHWAY MAP TO INDIA written in bright yellow letters. Inside there was, as indicated, an official road map of India with an accompanying booklet with little inserts for famous landmarks and tourists sights for each of the country’s 28 states. My favorite was a plea to visit the hydroelectric dams of Madya Pradesh… “The temples of Modern Progress.”
We looked around for any other guides or maps that could be of use and found little booklets for Rajasthan and various other states, but none had quite the authoritative stamp of the OFFICIAL ROAD MAP TO INDIA. It would be our gold standard as we traveled south from the capital.
We started our journey around midnight. In the alleyway behind the NEW KING HOTEL (our usual Delhi haunt) I apologized to the sleeping cows as I revved up the engine of the motorbike and we took the opportunity to drive through the deserted streets of Delhi – by day a place teeming with the masses – supercharged on emotions and passionate for invisible intimacies of the spirit world mixed with the all too painful concerns of this temporal one.
At night a different city emerges, a shuttered world of closed shops, parks filled with homeless and huddled masses and the signs of the new world order — gaudy neon lit night clubs and fast food chains opened until the wee hours. We drove around the empty, modern highways, turnoffs and freeways that politicians are so proud of, and turned them into our own private red carpet, a motorcyclist in Asia’s dream.