The last time I saw any elevation of any sort was in Kashmir. On entering the Punjab province, the land just flattened out and that’s how it remained for the past few hundred kilometres. It’s been village after village that is interspersed with well manicured farm lands. There is nothing that is harder than running day after day and there is nothing around you that can distract one from the mundane task of knocking down the kilometres. Then came our chance, on the map we spotted a mountain range and with it a detour that would take me into the edge of the dessert, into wild India away from people and maybe a bit of peace and quiet. It took a massive amount of planning to work out this route, it was 3 days of running on instinct and village help, but that’s why we are out here that makes a journey.
It was 4:30 in the morning, phone alarms buzzing; we rolled out of our tents into the cold desert mist. It was a quick breakfast and off we headed as the first sign of light illuminated the edge of the hills round us, casting a little glow over the valley. Excited, we slowly traversed up the long winding cattle track into the mountains. The route we had plotted was about 130 km and we set out 3 days for this trek, but it meant we had to push all the time. As we got deeper into the valley so it became quieter, gone were the hooters, trucks people and the eternal noise pollution of India.
Within an hour silence had fallen on us, it was such a strange feeling, totally quiet, just birds chirping and the constant noise of insects, buzzing in the early morning rays. The only foreign sound was that of our shoes swishing in the sand. Winding up the track we eventually hit the pass we were looking for. The villagers had told us of this hundred year old camel track leading up from the valley running parallel to the desert an ancient short cut only known to them it then descended back into the valley on the other side of the range. For a few hours we slogged through thick soft sand between the thorn trees in a dry river bed. The going was tough, worse than we thought; we decided that the only way we were going to make any progress, was if we could find an alternative route and get out of this river sand.
Eventually the track split, left went up into the mountains and right continued with the valley. Up we went, just to get out of the sand. The sand now turned to shale as we ascended. The mist had started to burn off in the valley around us. The morning suns heat began shredding the mist into large tufts of cotton wool like blobs, the torn wisps of the mist tumbled and floated down the plains below slowly evaporating as they hit the open heated sand. Ahead of us, out of the mist climbed this massive rock structure, towering up into the morning sky and jutting out above the sides of the valley. It looked like an ancient fort that must have been build to protect the pass.
This structure was like a magnet to us, up and up we went, drawn away from our original direction we accelerated towards it with excitement. Scrambling slipping and sliding over the crumbling shale we finally reached the massive parapet of this ancient structure. We climbed up another 50m twisting around the back of it and finally started the vertical climb up onto the top of the look out platform.
The plains of Rajasthan just unfolded around us, in every direction the beauty of the desert plains rolled out to the horizons, softly lit with purple and red rays from the soft morning light, pockets of mist danced along river valleys below us. Mesmerised I stood there looking at the thousands of kilometres of open space, the odd twirl of smoke spiralled up from the villages dotted below. A soft cool breeze lapped around us, other than that there was nothing, just the beauty and peace of the great open plains of Rajasthan. Peace and quiet at last.