Motorcycle touring is no stranger to me. But this time around, it's a unique opportunity to tour Punjab, a state which I have only passed through on numerous other occasions, but not really seen or explored. The icing on the cake, as they say, is that, we'll be riding Jawa motorcycles, on the Punjab da Tor, the name given for the Tour of Punjab. After a late night arrival in Amritsar, it was time to hit the sack for an early morning departure, with a few Jawa owners, some celebrities and other social media influencers. The idea was to visit otherwise unexplored parts of Punjab, with some philanthropic activities thrown in, paying homage to all that makes Punjab - valour, bravery, sacrifice, food, music and penchant for living.
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My companion for the day was a maroon and chrome gleaming Jawa. Our first stop of the morning was a border outpost, or BOP in Pulmoran, right next to the international border with Pakistan. Our hosts were the Border Security Force, who had laid out a sumptuous breakfast for the 35-odd riders. After breakfast, it was time to head to another well-known frontier, Husaainiwala, on the banks of the Sutlej river, on the border with Pakistan. Hussainiwala is the site of the National Martyrs Memorial, which marks the location where Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru were cremated on March 23, 1931.
The Jawa Tour of Punjab is not just any motorcycle tour. The idea is to include some philanthropic activities, more specifically to remember and pay homage to the armed forces, for those brave heroes who continue to defend India's frontiers. From Hussainiwala, it was a dash to the Attari border, the site of the famous beating retreat ceremony at the Wagah-Attari border, one of only two road links between India and Pakistan. The ride from Hussainiwala to Attari took more than three hours, through narrow country roads, some with broken surfaces, and even stretches of dirt roads. The Jawa took on all kinds of terrain with nonchalant ease. Handling is the Jawa's forte, and even with the slightly stiff ride, it can easily sail over all kinds of potholes and broken tarmac with barely a whimper of protest.
The Wagah-Attari beating retreat ceremony takes place every evening just before sunset, with a parade by soldiers from India's Border Security Force and the Pakistani Rangers on the other side. It's a well-rehearsed, and well-coordinated parade, and as the sun sets, the iron gates at the border are opened and the two flags of both India and Pakistan are lowered in a perfectly coordinated ceremony. After the ceremony, it was time to unveil 'The Borderman' at the Attari-Wagah border, an eternal sentinel standing as a tribute to the indomitable spirit of the Border Security Force. Back in Amritsar, it was time to head out for the food trail, savouring some local delicacies and tucking into some delicious Punjabi food before calling it a night.
Day 2 was a long-ish ride through some beautiful farmlands for a brief stopover at the Harike wetlands, the largest wetland in northern India, situated at the confluence of the Beas and Sutlej rivers. The Harike wetlands is home to a large number of birds, and during winter, thousands of migratory birds arrive from the Himalayas, Europe and Siberia. My companion for the day was a pre-production prototype of the Jawa Perak, a factory custom Bobber-styled motorcycle with a slightly bigger displacement engine and more performance. The Perak may look like a custom Bobber, but it certainly doesn't miss out on the dynamics of its siblings - the Jawa, and the Jawa Forty-Two. The second half of the day was a dash through some smooth four-lane highways and provided a very good opportunity to explore the Perak's highway performance. By early evening, the 30-member group of riders rolled into Bhatinda, for the inauguration of a new dealership, and a parade around the city, before hitting the highway to Ludhiana.
Halfway through, I swapped the Perak for a Jawa Forty-Two. The difference in performance isn't significant, but the Perak does feel like it has a very slight advantage in the top end. But overall, all three Jawa models offer more or less similar performance. While top-end performance isn't much to write about, the Jawa bikes will happily cruise all day long at triple digit speeds, without a hint of stress or vibration, and that is always welcome while covering distances on the highway.
We rolled into Ludhiana at around 9 pm, just in time to attend a musical evening. For me, the ride with the Jawa Nomads, the official ride programme by Jawa Motorcycles had come to an end. But for the others, the ride continued, riding first to Jalandhar the next day and then along the Nangal Dam and Anandpur Sahib to finally culminate in Chandigarh, after six days and covering 1,250 km. It was a one-of-a-kind opportunity for me to experience the sights, sounds and tastes of Punjab, and it was a special trip, made more special by getting to know the Jawa motorcycles a little better.