01 Oct 2011 – 2 Oct 2011
Unexpected Happens! It all began in the month of August when i along with Adhiraaj and Swapnil initiated the discussions for a week long getaway in the first week of October. Well, the discussion was short and we zeroed in on visiting Nepal. As usual the responsibility of planning the entire trip was mine and i was game for it. We had 9 days in hand i.e from 1 Oct 2011 to 9 Oct 2011, and Dusherra being a holiday all we needed was a 4 day leave from the office. Well, i was rather excited and applied for the leave in August itself. My manager who is also a passionate traveler asked me about the plan and immediately sanctioned me the leave. The plan was made and soon after Swapnil owing to personal commitments backed out. Adhiraaj was also not so sure, he had applied for the leave but his manager was not approving the same. Well, he kept on trying for the same. Meanwhile, i could see the plan going in a limbo. So i decided to make an alternate plan and ended up drafting a Road Trip through Himachal…..
September end was coming and my office commitments were keeping me busy that means working late nights leaving me with no time to prepare. In between the idea of visiting Nepal was dropped completely, though Adhiraaj showed some hope of getting the leave but that was not meant to be. It was 9 p.m on 30 Sep 2011 when i finished a long and hectic week at the office and came back home. I was tired, and was not very sure of making the trip. I was alone, packing was not done and a rough estimate showed me about 1600-1700 km of driving in about 9 days. The doubts were slowly creeping in my mind and i even thought of going to my home town for the holidays. Well, i set the alarm for 3.30 a.m and slept. And i have no idea what happened in the short 5 hours sleep that i had. I woke up fresh and it was decided that i am definitely going. I packed my bags, got the puncture repair kit which i accumulated when i went to Yamunotri, had a shower and was all set.
I came down, took the bike out and tied the bag on the back seat. It was 5.00 a.m on 1 Oct 2011 (Saturday), had no idea of what will be in store for me for the next 9 days, i pressed the ignition switch bringing my Avenger 220 to life and thus began
‘My Himalayan Pilgrimage’….
The plan spanning over a period of 9 days or the Final outcome was – ( More or less the same as originally planned)
01 Oct 2011 (Saturday) – Noida to Kufri via Panipat, Zirakpur and Shimla
02 Oct 2011 9 (Sunday) – Kufri to Chitkul via Rampur, Wangtoo and Sangla
03 Oct 2011 (Monday) – Chitkul to Kalpa via Sangla, Powari and Reckong Peo
04 Oct 2011 (Tuesday) – Kalpa to Tabo via Spello, Khab, Malling and Sumdo
05 Oct 2011 (Wednesday) – Tabo to Kaza via Dhankar Monastry
06 Oct 2011 (Thursday) – Kaza to Bataal via Ki Monastry, Losar and Kumzum Pass
07 Oct 2011 (Friday) – Bataal to Manali via Chandrataal, Chattru and Rohtang Pass
08 Oct 2011 (Saturday) – Manali to Mohali via Mandi, Swarghat, Kiratpur Sahib, Rupanagar and Kharar
09 Oct 2011 (Sunday) – Mohali to Noida via Chandigarh, Ambala, and Panipat
It was still dark when i left Noida and it took me 2-3 minutes to enter Delhi via Kondli border. I was feeling good cruising along the traffic free Delhi Roads, feeling the cold breeze on my face and witnessing an unforgettable sight of the Sun rising on my right and the Moon setting on my left. And on a well maintained road and well marked signs i crossed Delhi, took the NH 1 going towards Panipat and it was time to cut loose. I knew the road condition well and the journey till Panipat toll was a breeze attaining a maximum speed of 121 kmph. As calculated on the earlier trips i was waiting for the meter to show 148 km i.e my first planned stop at Sukhdev Dhabha which comes right after crossing Karnal. By now i was navigating through the diversions and negotiating the traffic on the NH1 and knew that it will remain the same till Ambala.
As planned, i had my first stop at Sukhdev Dhabha which remains crowded irrespective of the time. A line of cars marking the entrance followed by the sitting area. I parked my bike and moved to the sitting area. The place was already engulfed with the aroma of hot paranthas and butter and i wasted on time in ordering the same and had a hearty breakfast. First parantha made way for the second and by the time i finished, i was feeling heavy. Guess, i should have stopped at the half of the second but what to do now they had already made their way into my stomach. The break was getting long, i had already spent 45 mins and it was around 8.30 a.m when i left the place. The Sun was up and it was getting hot as the day was progressing. I soon crossed Kurukshetra, Ambala and took the NH 22 going towards Chandigarh. Well, i had no idea about the road and it turned out to be excellent. The traffic was also sparse and my Avenger was cruising along at 100-110 kmph throughout living thoroughly to its tagline “Feel Like God” You bet… I am….
I had no plans to enter Chandigarh so i took a right towards Panchkula bypassing Chandigarh completely and keeping on with my journey on the NH 22 which will stay with me all the way till Khab. I crossed Panchkula, Pinjore and as soon as i crossed Kalka i began my ascent to the Himalayas. The road condition was very good and steadily i was making my way up to Shimla. The sun was right above me and i was feeling the heat now. And on top of it a headache, so i made a stop near Solan, had some fluids and took some rest. It was around 12.30 pm when i started from Solan navigating through the snaky roads and reached Shimla. I followed the sign and took a left through the tunnel towards Kufri.
I was some 18 km away and getting through Shimla was a pain. Out of no where i was stuck in a traffic jam. The road was narrow and an endless line of cars and trucks on both sides of the road made the situation worse. It took me some time to get through it and as soon as i got past that the road condition deteriorated considerably. The path was steep and greeting me now was huge potholes, grainy roads and a lot of dust. I didn’t know at that time that the worse is yet to come. The speed of the bike reduced considerably to 15-20 kmph as i made my way up to Kufri.
I had no idea of what Kufri would be like. As till now i had visited the place only once and that too when i was little and all i can remember from that time was roaming around in the Zoo. So, it was around 3.30 pm when i reached Kufri, passed through the shops that were lined up on both sides of the road and stopped the bike on seeing a guest house.
I stood there for a while. Nothing about Kufri seemed enticing, the sun was going down and it was all hazy so there were no views to be seen as well. I went inside the guest house, inquired about the room and the answer was negative as they had converted the same into a hostel – Why it was not updated in the Outlook Traveler Himachal Guide? Well, i went to the next hotel in line and it was already booked. Guess, it’s the Bengali Season and i was not aware of that too. Slowly, i moved back towards my bike and thought of going to Fagu some 4-5 km away. I was about to leave when a man came towards me from the hostel and asked me that for how long i needed the room. I told him that it’s just for 1 night and i’ll leave by 6 a.m the next morning. So, he told me that he has got a room empty and i could stay in the same for the night. I saw the room and it was ok, anyways i needed the same to pass the night. I took the room, went downstairs to the market to get some supplies and retired for the day.
End of Day 1 – Oct 1, 2011, Total Driving (Noida to Kufri) – 380 km, Start Time – 5 a.m, End Time – 3.30 p.m
It was the second day of my trip and i was up by 5.30 a.m and all i remember from the last night was getting two calls in the middle of the night, one being from my friend Deepika who knew about the trip but didn’t know that i actually went alone and when i told her then it was time to get some beating and the other one a surprise call from my friend Pahul who’s currently working on a project in Mexico. Well, he had no idea at all and when i told him about the trip, it was time for him to give me his peace of mind. Blah! Blah! Blah!
It was time for some serious biking now. I got dressed, packed my bags, tied the bigger one on the back seat again and left Kufri at 6.30 a.m. It was cold and cloudy too and yes it was time for some driving in the clouds, though i was enjoying every bit of it. I too was hoping for the sky to be cleared up soon. Rain was the last thing i wanted. As per the IMD website and the weather maps the window till 7 oct 2011 was clear but you never know with the Himalayas. The weather here changes pretty quickly and you know that a power greater than all of us is controlling everything, where all your logic’s will vanish as quickly as they come.
The condition of the road was good and at 25-30 kmph i was making good progress navigating through the dramatic Hindustan – Tibet Highway. Moving up on a hill and getting down to move up to another hill was the order of the day as i made my way through
“Kinnaur – A land depicting the canvas of surrealistic magnificence of nature, green valleys, orchards, snow covered mountains and gushing streams”
I was nearing the town of Rampur Busher, when a call from Adhiraaj brought the bike to a halt and i briefed him about the progress, the road condition which was good until now. I checked the time and it was 11.30 a.m and i was hopeful of reaching Chitkul by 2- 3 p.m depending upon the road condition. I was feeling hungry too, so my eyes were also in search for a place to eat along the way and it took me to a small town that came along the way – Jeori. So i made a stop at the Lama Sweet Shop in Jeori and had my lunch.
The condition of the road was getting worse by each passing kilometer. The tar road made way to the grainy, rocky road covered by dust. At some of the stretches the water tankers were moving on the road to keep down the dust. Suddenly the roads became never ending and driving getting difficult especially for a lone bike rider all along the way. I kept on driving slowly and crossed Wangtoo, Chooling and reached the Karcham Dam. A right from here would take me off the NH – 22 and put me on the Sangla- Chitkul road. The winds were also picking up and it was getting difficult to stand near the dam. So, i started the bike again to cover the final stretch of the day. The road condition was bad and the way to Sangla was steep and narrow. One slip here and i would have to pay for it with my life. So, with all the concentration on the road and a speed of 10-15 kmph i began the ascent on the hair raising Sangla – Chitkul road.
As i was nearing Sangla, the valley was opening up and so was the smile on my face. The nature here was assaulting me with its sheer beauty at the every bend that i took. The mountains, the valley, the blue sky, the river, the fields, the houses were all looking so beautiful. Is everything happening around me REAL? Am i alive? Surely, i must be roaming around in the heavens.
I crossed the Sangla Village and an off road driving of another 24 kms took me to the dreamland – Chitkul…..
End of Day 2 – Oct 2, 2011, Total Driving (Kufri to Chitkul) – 228 km, Start Time – 6.30 a.m, End Time – 4.30 p.m
PS : .mb – pics from mobile, .c – pics from the camera