Flashback to 2004
I had become a proud owner of a brand new Estem VXi and was eager to go on a long drive on it. Oppurtunity presented itself in us being invited to a family function and presence was necessary… Asked my elder brother and his wife to pack their stuff and the 4 of us (2 of them with me and my better half) decided to stay overnight at Mussoorie and come down for the function in Dehradun, attend it and be on our way back home.
Well, the drive in itself was harrowing with the brand new car being smashed on the rear side by a truck and the remaining journey being spent with a sullen mood. The saving grace was the drive from Dehradun to Dehi via Paonta Sahib, the route which I decided to take after that not so pleasant experience on the regular route via Meerut, Muzzafar Nagar, Roorkie.
Flash forward to November 2008
I had to go to Dehradun to finalize on a business venture and again I was in a dilemma… whether to venture on those not so friendly roads or go to Dehradun from the way I really went bonkers about (the Yamuna Nagar – Paonta Sahib Route)
Still undecided on the day of departure about the route to take, I decided to wing it depending on the time I left home and the time I was supposed to be there.
1100 Hrs on D-Day
After getting ready, I was still double minded… but started riding and let my instinct lead me. Finally, I ended up on NH-1, riding towards Dehradun via Shahbad – Sadhaura – Bilaspur – Chhachrauli – Khijrabad – Kalesar National Park – Paonta Sahib – Assan Barrage – Herbertpur.
The going was easy and nice and I was making good time and was in Panipat by 1230 Hrs. as time went by, the weather bacame a spoilsport and it was getting hotter by the minute. Since I was wearing a riding jacket, things pretty soon became hot under the collar. Decided to bear the heat for the sake of safety and pretty soon, I had hit Pipli. 20 Kms to Shahbad and I took the right turn which would see me riding on the stae highway leading upto Yamuna Nagar.
The good thing for me,about riding on these roads, is that my ancestral village is situated on it and I would be crossing it while on my way to Yamuna Nagar. Decided to halt on the road, outside the village and called up my brother who stays there, farming on the lands which have made us what we are. Since he was out on an errand, I confirmed the route which I would have to take to reach D-Dun. He advised me to ride straight for 12-13 kms till I hit a round-about, and then to take the right turn for Bilaspur and take the left turn from Bilaspur and head out to Chhachrauli and then onto Khijrabad and Paonta Sahib.
I started riding, following the route, I hit the round-about and then took the right turn and then all that was good in a rider’s world ended. It was time for Anarchy to reign supreme.
I was left on the mercy of road which had suffered the brunt of the heavy monsoons and were in the process of being re-paved. Avoiding potholes the size of meteor craters and the diversions on the roads, I finally managed to limp into Bilaspur about 1 hour later… Earlier I was running neck to neck with the clock but after this experience, I ended up being so late that I stopped caring.
Now the only agenda was to be able to ride through this nightmarish terrain safely and I decided to forsake speed for it. Barely riding at 20 KMPH, I managed to reach the Chhachrauli turn and then took the right turn for Khijrabad. Had to negotiate this with special care, given the fact that the road condition was trecherous and there were so many trucks that I lost count. some were plying the road and some just stood there, in the middle of the road till the “Khalasi” (helper) got something for the “Ustaad” (driver).
Many people would figure that how could the roads be so bad… figure this… There are stone quarries and dirt mining happening on the entire route till the time you hit the entry for Kalesar National Park, I guess Harayana’s one and only N.P. The mined stones are then taken to the crushers to reduce the giant rocks to small pebbles and then loaded (read over-loaded) on the trucks for transportation. and guess which route do they take to reach the nearest town? The one I had travelled on. This results in the road taking a huge punishment and the condition worsens day by day. Now add in the more than heavy monsoons we faced this year, and the road starts to crack, break and the tarred road starts to peel away from the surface, leaving a crater… This is further worsened as more and more traffic passes over it, further deepening it and then it becomes a traffic hazard, which most people try and avoid, swerving while zipping on the road and then head up into the oncoming traffic and more often than not, you end up in a head-on collision with oncoming traffic.
Riding in such conditions was dangerous but thanks to some prudent decisions, like riding slow and giving a wide berth to any sort of traffic, be it a tractor, scooter, mobike, moped, bicycle etc. I live to tell this harrowing experience.
As soon as I took the right turn for Chhachrauli – Khirjabad road, it was as if I had been teleported to a setting of the yesteryears. The only sign of modernization was the presence of mechanized farm equipment and some 2 wheelers.
The road was like a slim, narrow waisted beauty with loads of curves waiting to be taken on high speeds, the road-sides dotted with small jaggery factories, the smell of the boiling molasses, the juice being crushed out of the sugar-cane and the thumping beats of the diesel run tube-wells watering the fields…
Blend all of that with the beat of an Enfield and that would give you the PERFECT riding conditions on interior roads. But this was a shortlived setting. as soon as I exited Chhachrauli, and hit the Highway for Khirjabad, the surface condition deteriorated and never was it able to resemble a tarred road till I entered Himachal Pradesh.
It was pure hell on BB’s suspension and I was sure I must have broken something as the rear tyre started grating against the rear fender. Thankfully, when I decided to take a break from tis hellish riding, the fears were put to rest. No damage to the shockers or the suspension. It was the soft setting on the gas filled shock absorbers which made the rear tyre go bumpity bump. after an agonizing 3 hours, I managed to limp into Kalesar National Park, in my knowledge, Haryana’s only National Park. Hitherto unknown, rarely ventured into and not many people know of its N.P. status. Till Now that is.
You know you are nearing the N.P…. the roads broaden, the condition starts improving and just as you cross a tax barrier, the road becomes single lane and you start seeing signs asking people not to honk their annoying horns for the sake of animals. Pretty awesome to be this thoughtful for animals, especially, in a country which survives on honking while travelling… even on empty roads with a wide, huge lane to overtake motorcycles.
Thankfully, not much traffic could be seen here apart from the usual flurry of trucks and a tractor or two. Decided to take a tea halt when I saw a bus stop in the yonder… Took BB off the road, kicked the side stand out, and got off and stretched… Crack Crack Crack… I could hear my spine loosening itself after riding on that hell-hole of a road till here.
As soon as I ordered my cup of tea and a samosa to quell the hunger pangs, I saw a bunch of kids looking at me and giggling… took me some time to realize they were chit-chatting amongst themselves on the gear I was donning. A bulky jacket with armoured shoulders and elbows and spine, knee & shin protectors for motocross racing, sure I must have resembled some huge bulky brawler overloaded with steroids, spoiling for a fight. Decided to do the decent thing and took off all the gear… It would take me about 5 minutes to don them but given the heat, I decided to go through that rigor when it was time to ride.
As is the case, I decided to sit and chat with the tea stall owner about life in this place and about various things in general. Fished out the cigarette and the dude took out his “Beedi”. Decided to swap my cigg for his beedi and we became instant friends.
It had been a long time since I had smoked this stuff… more than a decade I guess. Enjoyed the “Indian Cigarello” with relish, I decided to haul ass and get going. Bidding an Adieu to the tea stall owner, I started riding. The going was pleasant with a decent road surface and with no worry of potholes or oncoming traffic. The sun was on its way to dipping beond the horizon and I picked up thepace. Wanted to be in Dehradun before it set. Soon I entered Himachal Pradesh and zipped past the Paonta Sahib Gurudwara. With the passing of this milestone, I know I was on the hoome stretch with Dehradun less than 100 kms away. Crossing Paonta Sahib in a jiffy, I was on my way to Asan barrage.
More details on Asan Barrage can be found here
Crossing the Asan Barrage, I was just 40 kms short of Dehradun. The road, which was blessfully bereft of traffic started to get crowded as I neared Herbertpur. Riding further, I crossed the Indian Military Academy.
This is the place which gave us Sam Manekshaw, the first Vice Chief Marshal of the Indian armed Forces. It was known as the Indian Military College, when it was set up in 1922, by the Prince of Wales. It was the proving grounds for Indian Military Officers for further training and studies in the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst.
It was re-christened as Indian Military Academy in 1960, and it celebrated its Diamond Jubilee on 1st October 2007.
As soon as I crossed this landmark building, I was greeted by a massive traffic jam, the reason being a day specific market the likes of “Budh Bazaar” setup on the road. Buses, Cars, Trucks, Cycles, Rickshaws, Bikes, all jostling to get ahead of each other and get through this crowded place. Truly maddening display of the chaotic Indian traffic and lack of any sense of road discipline was evident here.
From this place on the outskirts of Dehradun, I was just a stone’s throw away from the famed “Ghanta Ghar” of Dehradun. Made slow and steady progress towards it and pretty soon, I was on Rajpur Road, the place where I was supposed to meet with a local contact for the business venture I was getting into.
Since I was travelling on a really stringy budget, I opted to stay overnight in one of the many guest houses in Dehradun. Checked one out but it wasn’t really clean. Shabby rooms and a really stinky toilet made me take a decision of staying in the Gurukripa hotel on the Old Survey Road, which is attached to a banquet hall, and is let out to the out of town guests of the people who have booked the hall for marriage functions. Being low season for marriages, I was lucky to have the entire place to myself. The only drawback was that there was no food available in the hotel. Food was the least bit of worry for me as there are loads of places where one can eat for a decent sum of money. One of the places I found was within walking distance of the hotel. a Bar-be-cue take-away joint, run by two sikh brothers. THey really dish out some yummy, finger-licking food.
Day 2 was filled with taking care of business with meetings the whole day, with another like minded chap who wanted to organize a HImalayan Rally. The evening saw us having a session with Bachhus, the Roman Wine God and regaling each other with our riding and travelling experiences in the mountains and plains.
Day 3 was the time when I decided to haul ass and come back the same way I had gone up. I had to visit to my Aunt, who stays in the Mohit Nagar area. I decided that after a brief stay for meals, I would head back to my village and an overnight halt there.
As it happens, I had to stay put in dehradun for one more night as my cousin insisted that since I had come after 4 long years, I just could not go without staying over. So another boozy night in Dehradun later, on day 4, I headed back the way I had come. A fuel top-up later, I was well on my way to my village, Dhanaura, in Haryana.
Pretty soon, I hit the Asan Barrage and was lucky enough to see a lot of birds in the water, and some flying around. Crossing the barrage saw me heading towards Paonta Sahib, and then it was Kalesar N.P. again a pitstop at the same tea stall later, I was well on my way towards Dhanaura. However, as chance would have it, I missed out on the turn from Khirjabad, which would have taken me via Chhachrauli. I kept riding straight and ended up in Jagadhri, about 50 kms offtrack. The road was BAD. Much worse than the one I had ridden on when I was going to Dehradun. However, managed to reach Jagadhri in one piece and was quite lost. Upon asking, I was told that the turn which I was supposed to have taken would be too far to backtrack (more like I did not want to), and that I should take the right turn which would come up after about 8-10 kms ahead. Rode on and saw the turn in question, with a board stating that Bilaspur was this way. since Bilaspur was thr place I had crossed to reach Chhachrauli, I took the turn and made a bee-line towards Bilaspur… Generally, good riding surface with some construction work was the norm and the going was good. about 30 minutes of fast riding saw me in BIlaspur, from where I was suppoed to pick up my nephew. Both of us started riding and in 30 minutes, we were comfortable home, having the much needed lunch. Decided to crash here for the night and start riding in the morning.
Day 5 saw me getting ready for the ride back home, but not without an experience of life in the village. Decided to drop the tractor in the farm. This was the first time I was driving one. Not an easy task to remember that the throttle is a lever on the right hand side, beside the steering column and that the clutch and brake levers are one on top of the other. press the brake and the clutch gets engaged as the lever goes down. Managed to reach the farms without any mishap and was told to park the machine next to the mango trees in the middle of the field. That was where things started getting messy, and then took a turn towards ugly. being a heavy machine and being handled by a simpleton with not much of experience in riding behemoths, the tractor got mired up in the slush and the tyres got stuck in a rut, filled with mud and slush and kept on spinning… in short, I was stuck. Decided to let the experienced hands to unravel the mess I had made, I made a beeline towards home. I would stick to riding my motorcycle and let people who know what they are doing handle things like tractors. A quick wash-up and change of clothes later, I started riding and an uneventful ride later, I was crossing the Delhi border by afternoon.
Although the business venture I had gone for did not materialize, the ride in itself was pretty fulfilling with expereinces which have become cherished memories.