From nail biting temperature to perspiration, numb hands to palpitating self, foggy sunrise to relaxing sunset, a ride to Himachal was one the kind.
Okay guys so it was quite a looong since me and my friend have gone for bulletbaji and we both had been longing for one. So as I have mentioned in my previous posts also, my friend is a nerd and a total maniac, he popped up with a mind boggling plan of making it to mountain ranges of Himachal in December. It was 2008 when we last made it to Nepal and by now I had been transferred to Noida too (guess my Mumbai office people didn't like me :P), so we both decided to hit the roads in shivering month of December'11 to HP.
In short what we covered in 9 days and 200 kms is
Delhi - Bilaspur - Manali - Dharamshala - Mac Leodganj - Kasauli - Delhi
Day 1: Delhi to Bilaspur: ~400 kms.
We decided to leave on 21st morning so my friend dropped in with his luggage and bull at my place on 20th Dec itself.
Lohani, Lohaniiii.......we are late (my alarm clock never fails :)) shouted my friend to wake me up, clock showed 6.00 am, dude are you serious, late!! from which angle?? I shouted and pulled my blanket over head. After few more shouts and kick I finally got up. With our bags loaded with warm clothes and after wrapping ourselves in layers of pullovers and jackets we kick started for Bilaspur at 7am. Piercing chilly winds making music around my chin and ears is all I remember. I have a full covered helmet but it's not padded from chin area to block air entering inside. Temperature that day must be around 10 deg, I had to insert cloth to block the air since only few km of ride gave me a numb and running nose. Roads in Punjab are broad and were empty we throttled as much we could so by early evening we hit the destination. Since it's all green pastures and open areas stretching kms on roadsides, we could see smog (you don't get to see fog now) covered road and they were bit wet due to condensation happening as to our amazement Mr. Sun was making his way up that day. We rode continuously stopping ones or twice, as cold wind was biting in, to shower the plants :) and then stopped at Karnal for some breakfast. Now amazing thing in Punjab is you don't get smoke easily, after some light breakfast, tea and with whichever brand that was available we headed again. It was little in the afternoon and weather had also become decent, we bypassed Chandigarh and passing through Rupnagar and Kiratpur Sahib we entered Himachal. My nigger friend had some other thoughts about the road condition but roads were nice and flat. We maintained our pace and guess took a pitstop at Swarghat for some lunch, after some 200 kms of last stop.
The ride from here lil hill ride starts. Since days are small and we wanted to avoid driving in dark we left quickly. Riding through the easy curved roads and close to dusk we passed through Govind Sagar lake view point.
We were close, we checked in Hotel Sai, next to the Bilaspur petrol pump. After unpacking we left for market stroll to look for old saint and lighter for my Snoopy Dawg (Jasjit Singh Bajwa, yeah I know both names just don't relate ;)) cause we had everything for hookah but no light to lit it. Cold weather and no hookah, it's just not happening for my friend. We pushed off to sleep lil late as we knew we don;t have too much to cover next day.
Day 2: Bilaspur to Manali: ~200kms.
Cold winter morning and you just want to be in your slumbers for long but my alarm clock, my surd friend has this habit of getting up early. But guess that night temperature dropped a lot so even my nigga wanted some warm sleep. Going by my friend standards we got up late at around 7am and felt like grabbing some more sleep. We looked out of the window and the roads, shops petrol pump have vanished, it looked like fog has engulfed the whole of Bilaspur, we could not even spot the hotel entrance from 2nd floor.
Buzzzzz... we rang the reception phone twice or thrice when a weak voice answered, 2 cups of tea please, room no. 202. Water was so freezing that bathing was just out of question and we took an oath, of having our next bath in Delhi only :P. It was 9am by the time we fixed our luggage back on our bulls, weather did open a bit but still it was nail biting cold, we were still in dilemma of making the ride since it was all hilly ride from Bilaspur. We decided to move slowly towards Manali, the fog was so dense on roads that visibility has reduced to few meters only. We were driving slow but the cold wind was so harsh that our fingers felt frost bitted in 20 kms of ride only. We stopped to pull another thin glove and to decide on, what next? We rode for another 20km and thought of finally stopping at Sundernagar. I guess it was 12pm when we reached their riding in sheer chilled weather with approx 10 mtr of visibility.
Shops were still opening and we halted at a tea shop for some quick bite and also waiting for Sun God to rise from his slumber. The shopkeeper's gas helped us in bringing our fingers back to life which had gone numb in last 2 hour's drive of inclement weather. We left at around 1pm when smog has subsided a bit and roads seems to be little open.
Driving through Mandi and passing through Pandoh Dam we reached the Aut tunnel, this tunnel 2 lane with dim lights inside and is approx 4 kms long. It has been nicely maintained by BRO and as we entered the thumps started echoing in the tunnel which automatically made us throttle lil more :). Well it never seemed to end, we kept on driving wondering how long is it, when we saw light at the long end.
It was ~4pm when we reached Kullu, temperature had dropped further and our fingers felt numb after driving for so long. It was getting extremely challenging to ride further uphill in ice freezing weather, 2 gloves were not giving a proper grip too on clutch and throttle wire. Slowly and steadily we made it to Manali foothills.
20 more kms felt like Herculean distance to cover, after paying some 20 rs per bull we entered Manali check post at around 7pm, dalle or brokers whatever you call hovered around us promising cheap hotel, promising service and ample amenities. Without negotiating much we went with one of them, Hotel Chaman (near old bus stop) :D yeah I know but we were not in state to think at that time. We unpacked are bags and barged in, guess everything was ordered that night, we didn't even move out of the room.
Day 3 & 4: Naggar Fort, local market and attractions, Marhi:
Binggg..... Sir do you want tea?? and we got up at around 9am. With flavoured hookah fumes still in the room we smelt our morning masala chai guess our broker was correct when he mentioned promising services :D. I normally let my surd friend to get ready first, it gives me some extra sleep ;). We got ready and left for Naggar fort on one bull at 11ish. Snow was lined up in road corners, guess roads were broomed in the morning. We felt the gush of cold air as we reached the open area after taking right from the bridge. Beautiful snowy morning with Sun light trying to peep in. Snow covered mountain top all around just made the view splendid.
Riding ahead and going till further uphill air became little more chilled and we could see many small water streams have frozen to ice. Since me and my surd friend both own a SLR and try to click, I must say he is much better than me, we normally keep stopping at points were we get some decent pics.
Then we passed through range of tall tress where temperature dropped little more. We stopped for few click and cold breeze made contact as we removed our helmets, the whole situation, cold breeze, tall green trees, peace and light music of ratting leaves just made the WOW moment.
Finally we reached the Naggar fort, 10 rs is the entry fee. From the fort one gets a mesmerizing panoramic view of snow clad panoramic mountain . A small restaurant in the fort was much needed for a hot cup of tea in the freezing weather. After that we proceeded back to Manali for wandering in local market and other attraction like Hadimba, Vashisth and Manu temple, local Monastery. The weather was cold but at least chill winds kept away inside main Manali area.
Manu temple is in old Manali, moving towards it we could see snow capped roads and water has frozen to ice on the road sides and in the river stream. We wandered at places all around, old Manali shops were closed due to off season. Himachali wine is quite famous so after grabbing 2 3 different flavors we came to Chaman by 7pm I guess, wine, hookah and finally food. Next morning we has to leave for Rohtang Pass so turned in early.
I am not a morning person so my alarm clock takes care of me, it was quite a cold morning. After wrapping sheets of jackets, skullcap and 2 gloves we left for Rohtang Pass. After crossing Palchan, Leh Manali roads are quite serpentine, the road sides were covered with snow all over and water was oozing on the roads, there was a snow fall I guess last night above Solang. There were patches near Kothi were the complete road was covered with snow, the rear tyre was also slipping and sports shoes made no grip. We kept driving slowly on the hair pin roads, one after the other the bends never finished. As we were closing Marhi, the density of frozen snow continued to grow and roads were becoming dreadfully wet and skiddy. I have no clue why traffic kept on rising, guess there were many other idiots like us except we were on bullets and they on 4 wheelers.
There was a heavy snow fall last night at Rohtang with 16 feet of ice belt all over, complete traffic was stopped at Marhi, we parked and went to officials to enquire further. Not even a bicycle was allowed so bullets were out of question.
We decided to have some tea, maggi, few shots and then head for Manali. Nail biting strong wind made our ears numb, red, nose running and we shivered to death as we got frozen to bone marrow. Then we found a little friend roaming around near tea shop, Lucky was his name.
He was so cute that we felt like taking him along.
Me and mah friend grabbed our camera and proceeded for some shots. We were back by 5pm and then wandered in local market. Our next destination was Dharamshala/Mac Leodganj so we had to leave early. We cleared out hotel bills so in the morning we waste no time.
Day 5: Manali to Dharamshala: ~300 kms
We left early in the morning for Dharamshala, driving along the dam water on left with cool breeze made the day comfortable for the first time. We stopped at few points for the clicks and then carried on. After crossing Pandoh some unusual sound started in my friends bull and we could see little smoke coming out of engine seal. After crossing Mandi the knocking sound grew and we were tensed as it was 12pm & still too much of distance was left to cover, we halted many times to check everything thoroughly but nothing looked unusual . As we were heading uphill towards Dharamshala at ~30 kms knocking became dominant and smoke fumes were visible. We parked at road side to check, smoke was from engine seal which ruptured at one place and to our shock, we could see hole on the rocker top. The rod inside the rocker had gone loose and with engine running it had been hitting so hard that it almost gave up. We decided to return to Mandi as we knew there was a Enfield showroom but where was the question. Since Mandi was downhill we didn't had to push and bull made its way downhill to the showroom.
We somehow managed to get everything working and our ride resumed at 3pm again. Since roads are pretty straight we jockeyed our way to Mac Leodganj by 7. Looking for the hotel where my friend stayed before, had gone quite high and was out of our budget, so we went further in and took a newly constructed hotel, guess they were just trying to get more business. It was already quite late so we hurriedly went to market place to bring things that interest us at night ;) with side-ies.
Day 6 and 7: Local market and temples, Monastery, Dalai Lama Ashram and trek to Triund
Since last was a lil tiring day, I already told my friend not to pester me in the morning, so we got up by 8ish, weather was not that cold so bathing after a week made lil sense to us :P. At around 9am we left for Triund, road was closed for a 3 km stretch which we could have made on our bull. My nerd friend who had already been to Mac Leodganj before took me from a short cut, Bloody Hell, road or no road, full of rock, stones and pebbles with an inclination of 45 deg at least was there. 3 km was cut down to 2km but all I could do was keep pulling myself, shouting and throwing good words on my dear friend. He kept on walking ahead of me and me trying to keep pace with him, finally we reached the starting point, it's 10 kms from here :(
We left again after grabbing some breath, I was cursing myself for the sin I committed on agreeing with him for a trek, never ever before I had done trekking in my life and 20 kms was my first one. Slowly and steadily I was coping with my friend who seemed to have gathered some alien power and kept on walking. People normally take guide for this trek but my surd friend said he knew the route :P so now we are lost, I mean can you beat that, in the middle of nowhere. After some reki he pointed to a direction and I had no other option than to trust him :| Walking on the circumference of the mountain we came to an open area. Jesus Christ :o the route seemed never ending, with no roads to walk, only trails to follow and a Surd to trust, was I helpless?? :P
The best part is there is only one shop at 5 kms and the other at next 5 kms, God, at my friend suggested to buy some Red Bull, water and some chocolates. Slowly, steadily and panting we completed the first 5 kms. I was dead tired, had no courage to walk further but felt on top of the world.
Maggi 80 rs, tea 30 rs and red bull 200 rs, Wakao but who cared. After some 45 min of rest, my friend got ready and I was thinking whether to go up or roll down :P. Well later was not the option since my friend wouldn't let me so we carried on. As it's well known "Har ek Friend Kamina hota hai" was sounding so true to me, he won't let me rest and gave me targets to walking to this bend or that rock as if some relay race was happening.
Walking in the middle of nowhere, following the trails and at times climbing the rocks looking for short cuts we kept walking, my legs felt so heavy and we was almost breathless and palpitating. Panting, gasping for air with ruptured muscles, broken bones and trembling legs we finally made to the top "Triumph on Triund" . Maggi 100rs, tea 30 rs but who really cared, so after 1 hour of rest we pulled our cam for some shots. There are many trekking regions ahead to snowline and all, 2 days from Triund. These peaks are snow covered in Jan/Feb and beyond it is a snow line and gr8 Himalayan range. After some we left, down the slope and as expected coming down was much easy, We made all 10 kms in 4 hours. It was evening when we returned and broken by gr8 trek we decided to descend to our room directly, order everything while hookah master makes his flavour.
Next day was our local sightseeing, we left for Bhagsu Nag temple and then walked to local monastery and Dalai Lama ashram. There is also a St. John church, we rode to. There are many famous monasteries in distant areas but we decided to go to 2 of them, Norbulingka, other I don't remember and then to Chamunda Devi temple.
Normally sunset in Mac Leodganj are very pleasant, we went to the spot for few clicks and since next day was all set for a ride, we decided to dine in market, have some were authentic Tibetan food and leave for hotel. Same as ever, bills cleared and all luggage set for yet another day, yet another ride to Kasauli.
Day 8: Mac Leodganj to Kasauli: ~300 kms
Temperature had become all okay by now and mornings at least bought Sun with it so rides were not that much a concern. Roads to Kasauli are also pretty straight so we easily made it. We took pit stops in between for lunch and tea and for lil stretching too.
In Himachal govt. have opened restaurants with subsidized rates and good quality food. We reached at around 5pm, after paying some entry fee we took our bull inside the campus, place being very small has limited options for night halts, decent hotel are way too expensive. We looked for a small hotel for a night stay and checked in. Evening we came out for a stroll in market and to the church and for buying flavored fruit wines. Markets close by 8pm so we had our dinner and retired to our room early. Morning we had plans for quick photography and back to pavilion.
Day 9: Kasauli to Delhi: ~350 kms
We went for a early morning for a walk, after wandering around for some time we came back to the hotel for winding up and finally ending our 9 day long expedition. There's a little more hill drive for next 20 30 kms, till Kalka I believe, after that it's pretty straight and plain. My good nigga and daily alarm clock bid me adieu near Chandigarh as he had to leave for his place, Mohali. He pointed me the direction for Delhi and I continued all the way long, all alone. Awww.....back to ground zero, from Heaven to Hell!
Things to carry:
1. Keep spares like Brake cable, Clutch cable, Tube, Tool Kit, Engine oil, you will have to top it up in between. 2. Medicines and First Aid for Emergency.
3. Tarpal for covering your luggage.
4. Jackets, pull overs and gloves, if windproof nothing like it.
5. Petrol can 3 ltr would be enough for safety.
6. Ensure you helmet visor is white one and is new i.e. free of scratches, else evening drive is a problem.
7. Vehicle papers: registration, pollution, insurance.
8. Walking or running shoe if you plan to do trekking.
If you are riding during winter or would be riding in low temperature area, ensure you have a proper helmet which encapsulated your head and prevent air from entering.