The Nomads’ 2nd ride to Lansdowne

After the Nomads initiation ride to Haveli @ Karnal, it was time to organize the 2nd ride. This time the intention was to go on an overnight ride on a weekend. The place chosen was Lansdowne, a small hill station roughly 250 kms away from Delhi. Nominations were sought and finally we had a group of 15 people including 5 women. We also had 6 bikes and 1 car.

The reason I chose Lansdowne was due to its proximity to Delhi and the beauty of the place. Nestled in the Garhwal segment of Uttarakhand, Lansdowne is one of the closest hill stations to Delhi. The approach to Lansdowne is fairly smooth and passes through the towns of Meerut, Bijnor, Kotdwar etc. The road is mostly plain except for the last 45 km from Kotdwar which is hilly.

Once the place and participants were decided, my friend Amit helped me with the accommodation. We booked accommodation at a place called “Retreat Anand”. Well, the less I talk about it here, the better.

When I was planning the ride to Lansdowne, one thing that was plaguing my mind was the weather. It had been raining pretty badly in Uttarakhand and I was worried that our ride could be hampered by it. However, I drew comfort from the fact that the hilly terrain was barely 45 km and therefore, there won’t be much trouble caused by the inclement weather. Now as I reflect upon the ride, I can’t help but wonder how man underestimates the wrath of nature.

We started the ride on Saturday, September 19, 2010. Our assembly point was Akshardham Temple at 0500. By the time everyone assembled and we started off, it was 0645, a good one hour delay from the proposed starting time of 0530. The initial phase of the ride till Meerut was pretty good. We had good amount of traffic but we managed to wade through and reached Meerut by 0800. Till Meerut I was riding solo and from here on, I was joined by my good friend & colleague, Ruma who was on her maiden road trip. After a brief stop-over at Meerut for tea, we proceeded towards Bijnor. The ride from Meerut to Bijnor was a déjà vu of the nomads’ first ride to haveli. It was cloudy, cold & windy. The roads were wet as if it had just rained and we were riding on roads that passed through lush green sugarcane fields. But the ecstasy was short-lived as it started to drizzle and then to rain. We bikers stopped now and then but the rain refused to relent. By now, we were all drenched to the bones and the wind was adding to the woe. Ruma didn’t utter a word and was quietly tolerating the rain and the cold. We passed through Bijnor, Najibabad and eventually made it to Kotdwar. The ride between Najibabad and Kotdwar is simply stunning. The road passes through a jungle reserve so you see the black tarmac amidst lush, green jungle. Due to the rains, the surrounding fauna was in its richest green and the ride was simply awesome.

We reached Kotdwar by 1400 and stopped at the famous “Siddhbali Sweets”. It was still raining. We grabbed a few quick bites and resumed our journey to Lansdowne. From Kotdwar, Lansdowne is merely 45 kms. On a normal day, this would have taken about 2 hrs to cover the distance however, this was not a normal day.

Our first hurdle came just 5 kilometers from Kotdwar in the form of a stream flowing down a mountain on to the road. We witnessed the brute force of water as it triggered a landslide that resulted in huge chunks of rocks landing on the road. The stream’s current was very strong and even four-wheelers didn’t dare to cross it. Amongst us, we had Jitendra Singh who was a local from Kotdwar and our colleague. As he was experienced with these situations, he went ahead to check the depth of the stream. He soon did his reconnaissance and advised that 2 wheelers can make it through easily. So first, we ensured that Ruma, my pillion, crossed the stream by walk and made it safely to the other side. Then, one by one, the four bikes crossed the stream. I was very scared as the very sight of the flowing muddy water made me feel dizzy. After tackling with the flowing stream, we now proceeded further anxiously preparing ourselves for the next onslaught.

A little while later, we made it to Dugadda. Here, we got news of another impending damage just 2 kms before Lansdowne. The locals advised that cars cannot make it through the wreck but bikes would be able to. They also advised that the cars can reach Lansdowne via a detour. So the car proceeded towards the detour and the bikes proceeded towards the direct way to Lansdowne. It was raining pretty badly and the wind was getting very strong. Since none of us had any rain cover we were drenched to the bones and shivering. We soon made it to the spot were we saw the amount of damage that rains could cause in these mountain regions. The entire road remained like a mangled wreck. The earth beneath the road had displaced and made it look as if the place was struck by an earth quake. One by one, we negotiated the bikes precariously on couple of inches of flat path and finally made it to Lansdowne. There we were happy to see that the car with its occupants had reached Lansdowne as well. Amidst this happiness and excitement we were also worried about Sukrit, Adil, Siddarth and Parmeshwar with whom we lost touch. Earlier, Sukrit and Adil had missed a turn and instead of reaching Bijnor they went to Muzzaffarnagar. They then had to retrace their path which cost a lot of their time. With no time to wait, I messaged them the hotel details when we arrived at Kotdwar. The issue was that after Kotdwar the cellphone network would not have worked so they could not have been able to get in touch with us.

After meeting up with the car at the Lansdowne market, we proceeded to our hotel. The hotel was in the middle of a jungle. On a warm, sunny day the location could have been perfect however, due to the rains the entire place was in a mess. The rooms were all damp and the bathrooms had water seeping from the ceiling. I don’t think the hotel manager could have done much about it as the weather was wrecking havoc at the place. Soon, to our surprise the other 2 bikes also reached the hotel. We were all very glad to receive these 4 guys and were happy to know that they made it safely to the hotel. After having the customary booze, snacks and dinner, we all crashed in for a much needed sleep.

It rained throughout the night. The next morning greeted us with more rains lashing on our cottage ceiling. We inquired about the road condition to Kotdwar and to our dismay we were informed that the road from which the bikes came has been shut down and now we had to take the longer route counter-clockwise to reach Kotdwar. Since none of the riders were carrying rain gear, we quickly decided that we should buy rain coats. Couple of the riders volunteered to go to the market which was about 4 kms from the resort and purchase the raincoats for all of us. By now, we had eaten breakfast and were ready to take on the predicaments that lay ahead of us.

The first came in the form of a tree that had slid down from the mountain side on to the road. It had blocked the entire road so there was no way for the vehicles to pass. We also came to know that about a KM ahead of this landslide spot was another tree that had slid down to the road. While waiting at the first spot, we saw some army vehicles approach the spot. We inquired with the army guy and he advised that it would normally take 2-3 hrs for the debris to be cleared. In the meantime, the commandant of Lansdowne cantt had also visited the spot and ordered the way to be cleared. While all this was happening, some of us contemplating returning to Lansdowne and spend time waiting for the way to be cleared. However, there were a few who had a crazy idea. They went ahead and asked the army man for an axe which he said was not available. While considering our options, some of us just walked towards the next landslide spot. There, Jitendra instantly got to work and started to help the lone guy who was cutting the tree. As they had a spare axe, Deb, Mahipal, Abhiroop, Sukrit & Harsh brought it to the first landslide spot and we took turns to cut the tree ourselves. Within 15 minutes, we were able to cut the tree and by this time, the second landslide spot was also cleared. As the rest of the people who were waiting there for the landslide was the efforts that we were putting they all gradually stepped forward and helped move the tree away from the road. Human spirit finally conquered over nature’s challenge.

Once the landslide spot was cleared of debris we proceeded further with lots of excitement on what we had just achieved. However, tragedy struck soon as Deb’s bike had a flat tyre. All enthusiasm now turned to agony as we were left helpless. Now there is a very popular adage, “necessity is the mother of all inventions”. I would like to take the liberty and customize it to describe what happened next. I would say, “Desperation is the father of all daredevil acts”. And our daredevil came in the form of lean and mean Mahipal. He offered to ride Deb’s bike by sitting on its tank in order to avoid pressure on the flat rear tyre. He rode the bike this way for about 15 KMs before reaching Dugadda where we luckily found a mechanic who quicky fixed the problem. While the bike was getting fixed, we grabbed a few quick bites from a nearby shop. We also checked on our folks in the car since they were to lead us but were nowhere to be found. One of the bikers was also untraceable.

Soon we made a call and to our utter shock the folks from the car advised us that they took a wrong turn towards a place called Satpuli and now their car was stuck in a flowing stream. Incidentally, Harsh had also followed them down the wrong path and was stuck with them. Luckily, there was a bull-dozer that had come there to clear the debris and was helping them out.

We proceeded towards Kotdwar with prayers for our fellows. Post Dugadda, we came to the same spot where the water stream was flowing wildly the previous day. By now the force in the water had subsided and made it easier for us to cross it. Once we reached Kotdwar, we quickly called our folks in the car and were happy to know that the car and Harsh came out of the spot safely and were back on the right track. We decided to proceed letting the car catch up with us on the way. At Kotdwar, Jitendra’s relatives gave him food for all of us. We stopped on the same road that passed through the jungle reserve and had the delicious poori-chole-aalu. The food was very delicious and we finished the entire stuff in no time.

By now, the car and the other bike were well on the right path and were about 2 hrs of riding time behind us. We were now in the last phase of our ride from Kotdwar to Delhi. I would describe this phase as the most frustrating an arduous as the rains were getting heavy and the visibility was limited to a few meters. The rains coats that we had bought were of no use as our clothes were literally soaked. We kept on going taking frequent stops but the rains would not relent. The rains continued all the way till Meerut. Finally, as we waited at a dhaba, the car caught up with us. Vivek, who was driving the car, told us that Harsh decided to stay over at Bijnor as he got very tired of the ride and did not want to ride anymore.

The road from Meerut to Ghaziabad was in a bad shape with lots of potholes. With no light on the roads, it was getting very difficult for me to negotiate through the craters. But then, this was nothing compared to what we had been through already. The ride came to an end with all us making it to the comforts of their homes in the night.

In retrospect, the ride to Lansdowne from Delhi was the longest 250 kms that I had ever ridden. Having been on a solo ride to Ladakh and to places like Kaza, Kibber, Kunzum La and Chandertal I thought I had seen it all. But the ride to Lansdowne was an eye opener. The predicaments that we faced were unprecedented but, I also feel that we put up a brave front to each and every obstacle. I always feel that each riding experience teaches us a lot of good things about life. In this ride, the one instance that stood out was our collective effort to clear the way by cutting the tree in turns. It was a true example of team work and exhibited the possibilities that we can achieve if we work together.

Rain was pouring from up,the “lans” were literally going “downe”
each mile we passed, it made us frown.
high current streams, trees, a gorging river and landslide
these were the exotic ingredients of our ride.
with lots of valour we took on each stride
as we conquered each obstacle, we were filled with pride.
10 guys, 5 gals, 5 bikes, 1 car
some were first-timers, but their spirits were above par.
we waded through streams, cut trees ourselves and put them away
riders always make their own way, they say.
they also say, some companies are not always good to keep
the one with the rain during the ride, literally made us weep.
but who says, bike rides would be a cake-walk
smooth roads, good weather, cruising speed are just sweet-talk.
exploring the world, one km at a time, on 2 wheels doesn’t always come for free
with all the predicaments, you get a different world to see.
experiences of such sort brings the best in you
this was, in a nutshell, the nomads’ “ride 2”.
-Vas

12 Comments

  • Mahesh Semwal says:

    Wow !!!!!!!!!!!!! what a adventurous ride. I have been to Lansdowne two years back with family.
    If you get some time go through it. Link is given below :-

    http://www.ghumakkar.com/2009/06/21/dehradun-lansdowne-gurgaon/

    • Hi Mahesh,
      Thanks for your comments. I read your write up too..glad to note that you and your family had a good time. Lansdowne is a very nice place, if you go there in the right weather. btw, once my friend and i went on a ride to rishikesh and from there we reached lansdowne without hitting kotdwar. i was reminded of it when i read your post. it was raining and there was a river which we had to cross…amazing and scary experience..!!

  • zeevie says:

    wow wow,i was there,last year.mast jagah hai yaar but vry boring two for two days,my kids,bahut bore ho gaye the.In raining seson,avoid driving.i went to rishi kesh,15 days back,roads were so bad,tht driving musibat ho gayi thi nd it takes 10 hr ot reach there.But u have enjoyed ur ride:).nice article

    • Sir, if only I knew that the rains will play such havoc on the roads. i agree with you that it might get a little boring for 2 nights however, whenever i plan for lansdowne, i always add one more place in the itinerary-usually rishikesh or pauri…

  • ashok sharma says:

    real adventure!!!!!!!

  • Saurabh says:

    wow…we can imaging the situation while reading through the post.I am also palnning to go Lansdowne this weekend and hoping it to be enjoyable…

  • Ram Dhall says:

    A brilliant breezy write up.

    So the Nomads (I liked the title) have graduated to the hills. What is going to be your next destination !!

    I suggest you browse through the writings of our professional biker dude, Manish Chachra. You can easily spot him on the list of “Top 20 Authors”.

    Shall look for your next post.

  • rkumar02 says:

    Wow!! So adventiourious. I went there last year..place is very nice and a prefect weekend gateway. I also went Ranthambore last Nov. If you are planing, must read Nandan’s write ups…that helped me lot. Take off beat road ..which turn better : Delhi-Dharuhera – Alwar-Dausa – Lalsot-Ranthambhore. Road are these days coverted to toll road and there are very less traffic.,..specially you will away from mad traffic of truckers !!

  • Parag says:

    What an adventure!! I wish I was thr with you guys…even I was planning a trip, but due to rains we changed…now planning to go to Kodaikanal n Ooty…loved every bit of your adventures :)

  • nandanjha says:

    time to take a bow, my dear Vas
    for you have not only sustained the rain lash
    but also broken roads, gushing rivers and trees bash

    You know, when someone reads you sort of never get it the way someone has actually gone through it and every time I tried to visualize and it looked tough, real tough.

    Best wishes of Deepawali and many more great rides. Look forward to read about Ranthambore.

  • I agree Nandan. reading a travelogue is more subject to the reader’s imagination which may never be able to recreate the same emotions, circumstances that the writer has been through. thanks for the diwali wishes. hope you had a good one too..!! you will soon be hearing from me about my family trip to mussorie during the diwali weekend.

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