Saturday, September 14, 2013

Heavenly Himachal - Chasing Rains and Clouds (Part 2)

The journey back from Rohtang was good but had a disappointment in my heart of not being able to explore Pangi Valley in monsoon. So decided that next monsoons, I will go on trekking to this valley rather than taking bike. With this assurance to myself, the ride towards Manali started.

Had nothing in mind in terms of which direction to go from next day onwards. The first thing I planned was to opt for nice hotel in Manali, have hot water bath for long, pamper taste buds with some spicy food and then chalk down the days ahead.

Manali felt empty that day when I entered. Probably it was because of unplanned return to the town. So it was not ready to welcome me. With couple of rounds in the town, finally landed at nice hotel, completely made of wooden and floor shining even with natural light.

Google Map was the easiest way to identify the routes and distances. Considering that I wanted to enjoy the ride under rain and chase clouds, I chose the plan as under :-

1) Manali to Mcleodganj via Mandi, Baijnath and Palampur (these areas receive quite a heavy rain during monsoon)
2) Mcleodganj to Khazziar via Jot (Jot Pass remains closed for few months in year due to heavy snowfall)
3) Khazziar to Dalhousie (A day to relax)
4) Dalhousie to Moga (End of the trip)

Felt bit relaxed after making the final plan and hoping that now things wont change.  Couple of hours left for the dawn were spent exploring Old Manali (my most favorite market). This area not only fills you with excitement and feeling of being free but also gives you an opportunity to meet new people, try new food and sometimes weird food :).

While walking uphill in the middle of Old Manali, a row of bikes parked on the side of road caught my eyes. One bike among all caught my eyes was Harley Davidson's Fat Boy. It was looking stunning and it was too fascinating to even watch it. Well felt like I have been riding a cycle. But this disappeared when I ignited my Classic 500 next day morning for ride towards Mcleodganj.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Heavenly Himachal - Chasing Rains and Clouds

A solo bike trip with solo objective of exploring greenery of Himachal and soak in the serene beauty of heavenly Himachal. The non stop rain for seven days and clouds made my unplanned journey spectacular.

The Trip started from Moga, Punjab on Day 1 late in the evening. With obvious heavy rainfall, the luggage and preparations were done accordingly. The God of Rain had planned much more than what the rider had in mind. So rains started in one hour from start of the trip. Well before Ludhiana when it was 07:00 PM, it started raining and in no time it turned into heavy rain.

Day 1 the Target was to reach Una, Himachal. With continuous heavy rains, helmet's visor not being able to help much, indisciplined drivers throwing high beam from opposite sides and slippery roads made the ride miserable. The consequence of the same came in the form of more time on road than expected. The day ended with rain, rain and rain everywhere.

Day 2, the plan was to reach Manali. The route chosen was different from Kiratpur which always remains full of truckers. The idea was to explore new place, hence it was Hamirapur Highway. Day 2 also started with Rain in the morning and gave company untill Manali.

Apart from rain, met a six feet long Cobra, escaped couple of slips, got lost on the way, took some off road tracks due to landslides and rode alone in the middle of dense fog.

This indeed resulted in good amount of tiredness. With Manali welcoming with green lush mountains around it and stay at good hotel helped heel the dents.

Day 3, the plan was to ride from Manali to Udaipur crossing Rohtang. Got lot of suggestions in Manali to not to conquer Saach Pass in heavy monsoons. Ignoring people, Ride continued on Day 3. Rain was still the companion from very beginning of the day. Getting out of cosy room of hotel was a daunting task, but curiosity to explore Pangi Valley kept starving rider inside me going.

Riding uphill towards Rohtang was fascinating and different experience than past rides. It was full of greenery and waterfalls everywhere made the valley spectacular. The easy part of road to Rohtang was fun with drizzle, however the moment bad roads of Rohtang started, the weather also turned in same direction. With roads getting worst and rains freezing my hands and feet, it reminded of crossing Baralachha La Pass on the way to Leh during 2011 Bike Trip.

As expected Rohtang Pass was full of tourists and no place to even park bike. However Mountains have mysterious magic that no matter how much is the crowd around you, eating steaming Dal and Rice on the top of Misty mountain put taste buds on active mode.

It was still drizzling when the ride started towards the other side of the pass. The rain had turned into extreme heavy mode and the water was eroding mud along-with it in every corner. Met two bikers who brought a news that roads beyond Udaipur are closed from last two weeks. Roads between Keylong and Udaipur were also not reported good. Now this put me to rethink in the middle of nowhere.

Deciding way forward was not less than a solving a puzzle. Kept on riding untill I reached at one small shop on the way where I stopped to chalk out the plan. Different options emerged like this :-

1) Continue Ride till Udaipur (Dekha Jaayega jo bhi hoga spirit)
2) Take left turn and ride via Chandertaal, Spiti and Kinnaur Valley (Chances of landslides were equal here)
3) Go untill Keylong today and ride to Leh tomorrow (But did not have much leaves available)
4) Ride back to Manali and make this trip leisure by wandering from one small town to another

The unplanned intevention in trip had made me upset. So decided to turn trip into a leisure one and rode back to Manali.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Bike Tour - Kargill to Gulmarg (Day 11)

Whosoever rides through Kargill route, has one challenge i.e crossing Zozilla Pass. We also had the same worry in mind. But having crossed toughest and highest altitude passes we were high on spirits. To accommodate any delay in plans due to landslide or some other reason, it is always advised that its always better to start early in the morning from Kargill.

We left Kargill at 06:00 AM with clear objective of crossing Zozilla Pass in three hours. Clear sky had given some relief to us but weather turns its waves in no time at high altitude passes like Zozilla.

Kargill, being close to LOC, was full with military base camps and every where critical points were guarded by military Jawans. Couple of places, one can see the peaks which falls on the other side of  LOC. 

On the way, few kilometers from Kargill, I met one Jawan who asked me to drop him on the way. So I got the opportunity to understand their lifestyle. It feels good to see them, but the life they lead is not at all easy. They live in all kind of extreme climate conditions to make them toughest and incomparable.

Riding early morning in cold weather when I was shivering we entered Drass, Second Coldest Inhabited place in the world. The Kargill War of 1999 was fought from here in the valley named Mushkoh which is the base of Tiger Hill. When I saw that sharp 90 degree Tiger Hill peak, I could not even imagine how our brave soldiers flagged the victory. Thats called the extraordinary bravery of our Jawans.

Kargill War Memorial at Drass speaks the bitter truth of the Kargill War. The memorial is full of martyr's names who gave their lives to protect the nation.

We stopped at one of the dhaba at Drass for breakfast. The next destination we could see was Zozilla Pass. The weather was still in our favour with sun shining in different corners of roads we were riding.

Having mixed experience of Zozilla in my previous trip to Ladakh, I was little skeptical about the road and weather conditions. I was praying for clear weather and no traffic.

Riding towards Zozilla reminded me about Chitkul in Himachal at one of the place wherein we were riding in the middle of lush green valley. As we started progressing towards Zozilla, the winds became cold and sky brought some clouds. Only best thing was that it had not rained at Zozilla for at least three to four days as we found all the roads completely clean and dry.

This time I got ample of time to spend at Zozilla pass. Unlike other high altitude passes, it is very congested, one hardly can see a place to park a bike. Soon we were riding downhill on the other side of pass. At the bottom of the pass, we could see colorful tents everywhere, and the place is called Sonmarg.

As we reached Sonmarg, we felt completely relieved as the road ahead was easy and calm. So far we were hitting our time. We stopped at Sonmarg for Lunch at one of the old Dhaba.

Ride from Sonmarg alongwith river was an amazing experience. Riding in deserts for more than a week had carved my pulse for greenery. River flowing in its full flow close to road felt awesome.

The traffic from both sides made us realised that we are back into the crowded life and so called civilization. I ignored it because I was super excited to see Gulmarg. The ride had started to reach Gulmarg now.

As we were heading close to Srinagar, the traffic was increasing, so is the case of pollution. We diverted onto the different route from Srinagar highway. The road to Gulmarg was beautiful and surrounded by green lush fields all the side.

It took us to the surprise when we were 30 kilometer away from Gulmarg and the ride was uphill. The traffic of tourist vehicle was unbearable. It was evening time and people were returning back from Gulmarg in huge way. It clearly gave us an indication about the crowd we were going to face at Gulmarg.

As we reached Gulmarg, we lost each others and got stuck in traffic. I searched for Anand everywhere and he did the same for me. Mobiles had stopped working. After an hour search I decided to stop at one corner and called Anand. With some struggle to spot the place, we finally met.

We chose a Hotel which had beautiful view of entire Gulmarg and stayed at this amazing place for two days.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Bike Tour - Leh to Kargill (Day 10)

It was time to starting our journey back home. Kargill was the destination for the day. An easy ride in the planes of Ladakh region and transition from deserts to Green Lush valley of Kashmir always spellbound people.

This was my third consecutive trip to Ladakh and similar to past two departures from Leh, this time as well I started the ride with heavy heart. Wishing that I will get another chance to visit Ladakh we wrapped up the stuff.

Though the roads are pretty easy to ride on this route but that does not mean that it is not serene. Couple of Kilometers from Leh and we get to see a famous "PattharSahib Gurudwara". Devotees from different corner of world comes here to serve and assist Military which has been running the show for ages.

The next attraction on this route is called "Magnetic Hills". After few curves from PattharSahib, there lies this mysterious spot. On first glance this place does not any different. A flat road in the middle of deserts and giant mountain with no vegetation in front of it. This Giant mountain supposedly contains good enough amount of magnetic that it can pull/shake a bigger things as an aeroplane. The road in front of the mountains looks an upward slope and all the vehicles get pulled up automatically. On contrary I found that road as downward slope. Its all about illusion. But still remains a huge attraction of people.

The third attraction of people is "Sangam" where two rivers Indus and Zanskar meets each others. The best ever view of two rivers Sangam.

With continuous riding of an hour when we were feeling a need for break, a landslide forced us to park our machine on side and wait. We met lot of people here who were on also waiting for the BRO to clear the landslide. The wait was as longer as two hours.

The day had grown hot and hard sun had started hitting us. We stopped for a lunch at one of the small dhaba on the border of Ladakh Region and Kashmir.

Ride after lunch was smooth in the middle of Kashmir valley. As per the plan we reached late evening at Kargil.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Bike Tour – Pangong Lake (Day 8 & 9)

On are arrival at Leh we had learnt that there was huge landslide on the way to Pangong Lake and thousands of tourists were rescued by Army. Assuming that situation would get normalized in few days we had kept our Pangong Ride towards the end of the trip. Thank fully as per our intuition, the situation had normalized by 9th day of our trip and we were all set to ride to Pangong Lake.

Unlike our initial days of trip, now we had luxury to start the day little late as the roads were good and huge water streams were just a story now. With lesser luggage, the ride felt great until we started riding steep uphill towards Chang La, world’s third highest motorable pass. Keeping in mind that during 2011 bike trip, we were not able to go to Pangong Lake due to time constraint, I was much more excited to cross Chang La again and witness the divine beauty of Pangong Lake.

Once we crossed the first check post, the bike started losing its power due to low oxygen. Couple of miles ahead and we had severe problem in pulling our 500 CC machines on steep uphill ride. The road to Chang La has its unique daunting curves with roads full of rocks unevenly spread on steep uphill drive. Bikers with lesser CCs in hand were struggling badly and stopping under loosely hanging rocks was not at all choice for anyone. Speed and balance was to be maintained very carefully throughout.

While we were slowly nearing Chang La and Snow Capped peaks were indicating the drizzling coming down, we found caught ourselves in the middle of huge trucker’s caravan moving uphill. At the same time beginning of some of the uneven surfaced water streams added spice to the entire story. Now it was either a truck creating hurdle in our efforts or a water stream. On the other side, the weather was turning cold with every move.

By the time we reached Chang La, we had crossed almost 50 trucks. The sad part was that we had to stop at Chang La and by the time we would resume our ride, these trucks again will be driving downhill on the other side of Chang La downhill waiting for us to repeat the same effort. But there was no question that we would not stop at Chang La.

Ignoring all this, we really felt proud to be at World’s Third highest motorable pass. The surrounding peaks of pass were all covered under thick snow and overcastted weather was clear indication of drizzling any time.

Once we resumed our ride, the other side of the pass was full of snow and roads were completely under water. The truckers had disappeared and we could not see them anywhere. Now we were eagerly looking for the recent landslide spot. In some time we had to stop in the middle of now where as there was road repair work was on. The road from both side was full of vehicles. And later we realized that this was the very same place where couple of days back there was huge landslide.

Ride after this break was extremely smooth and enjoyable. The landscapes of this corner of Ladakh always fascinated me. On the way, stopped at couple of places to relax, to eat and for photography.

In the later part of the ride, we reached a place where in a board was put in to indicate the first glimpse of Pangong Lake. This is where my excitement increased manifold. The blue color of lake always attracted me.

Finally, we reached at the beginning of the lake. The water was calm and blue color was shining under clear sky. With handful of tourists in the area, the solace can be felt despite of the thump of the bullet. There were many camp sites close to the lake but we were looking for the best, and we knew that to get the best we need to ride further.  Our destination was village Spangmik. A small village situated at the bank of Pangong Lake is the only best option to stay.

We chose a camp site which was exactly in front of the lake and we opted for a lake facing tent for the night. The hospitality of people here was extremely impressive and we had superbly delicious lunch followed by a coffee under open sky.

After some relaxation time post lunch, we were all over the lake. The place always seemed like a house of god. The water is unbelievably blue and calm. The evening darkness made me realize that the day has come to an end.

Day 10, we had to ride back to Leh and we were nearing towards the end of the mega trip. This brought a sadness in me. But we had no choice than to come back to the reality.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Bike Tour – Tso mori ri (Day 7& 8)

Seventh day we were heading towards the corner which was new to route for me, Tso Mori ri. We had heard a lot about easy track from Leh to Tso mori ri. The road was supposed to be smooth, no high altitude passes, no water streams and no off roading. Keeping all these things in mind we started from leh around 9:00 AM.

To reach Tso Mori ri, we had to head back on Manali Highway until 50 KMs when we had to divert on different direction at Upshi.

The day was sunny and I was feeling the heat to some extent. Untill Upshi we were surrounded by various bikers and vehicles cruising both sides.

As we took diversion from Upshi, the silence of Ladakh deserts took over. There were no vehicles, no man and no life. By seventh day, I was little bored with overflowing silence at most of the places, so did not like the track much. Over and above it, the sun had started bothering me a lot.
Landslide and road construction at one place wasted our half an hour under harsh sun where we saw some people on cabs travelling to/fro Tso mori ri.

The ride was mostly down hill until first 150 kilometres with all kind of curves and terrains. Every turn to the other side of the valley was bringing new mystery of Ladakh deserts and beauty.

Kiari was our first stop of the ride where Military runs a cafeteria named “INDUS CAFETERIA” at an altitude of 13,500 feet.

Soon after we resumed the ride, we reached at one bridge where some water was overflowing onto the road. The continuous flowing water had made the road very rough with some big rocks lying oddly here and there. This was the first fall of my ride wherein I could not balance my bike on one of the rock under front wheel. I tried a lot to balance it but it had to fall gently. Due to low oxygen I could not lift the bike easily and had to struggle a lot as Anand was quite ahead of me. Well this brought some excitement in the day.

Seventh day was only kept for riding and it was feeling little boring quite often. After my fall, we rode continuously for 01:30 hours as there was nothing much interesting to stop. We stopped at village named “Sumdo” wherein an uphill ride again started towards a small pass. Some bikers riding down from the other side brought some signs of life here.

After seeing some bikers and vehicles, an excitement to ride added some energy in me. Hoping that we will stop at the Pass to capture some serene views of Himalayas I pulled the bike hard. However, we did not even realise when we crossed the pass, It happened due to lack of high altitude of this pass.

The pleasant surprise was the view from few kilometre away from Pass. The green water lake was all in front of us. I was wondering as how come the water of Tso mori ri, which is supposed to be blue, has become green. As we moved further towards the lake, the suspense increased. Later we realised that its not Tso mori ri because we were still 30 kilometer behind our destination of the day.

The green water lake was really an amazing gift of nature for tired riders. We relaxed for sometime and opened the map. There we came to know that the amazing green water in front of us is known as Thadsang Lake. Surrounded closely by mountains from all sides, this small lake is an amazing place for camping.
The last 30 kilometers were terribly off road and some of the places were extremely confusing in terms of which direction to go.

As we were nearing our final destination Korzok Village, we got to see the glimpses of Tso mori ri. The lake was widely spread wherever one could see. The calm blue water was real soothing gel for soul. Riding along the lake made me forget the rough roads which we were witnessing for last 30 kilometre.

The view of village Korzok on the bank of lake and numerous camping sites set the whole aura of beautiful life here.

After scouting at few places for shelter, finally we got an amazing camp site near lake. We offloaded our luggage and biking gears immediately, took some refreshment, relaxed for a while. The absence of thump of bullets was making me feel the saturation of extreme silence here.

The time had come to explore the place. We headed towards lake when we had huge argument on our balance days plan. Finally it ended by the time we reached close to the lake.
The amazing beauty of lake was breathtaking. The sunset made the time extremely divine. With handful of people around, the solace made me feel my presence all over. I was roaming on the bank of the lake until darkness had hit the ground.

Such places makes one feel the true meaning of life, which is simplicity. Away from hassles and worries of city life, this place does not feel anything less than a true heaven on earth.

Day 8th ride was to head back from Tso Mori ri lake to Leh. It did not bring anything new than what we had experienced previous day except the fact that Thadsang Lake where we had seen it completely green had turned blue.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Bike Tour - Ride to World's Highest Motorable Pass Khardung La (Day 6)

Reaching Ladakh after continuous five days ride from Chandigarh via Shimla, Kinnaur and Spiti valley was big relief mentally as well as physically. Similarly our bikes also needed some rest and basic checks. Day 6 started late in the morning with breakfast at Restaurant called Gesmo.

After reaching Leh, if you wish to cover surrounded valleys such as Pangong Lake, Khardung La, Tso Mori ri and Nubra, then the most important activity is to obtain permit called Inner Line Permit (ILP) from local SDM office. The process is not at all time consuming and lengthy. Also officials issuing permits are extremely helpful and humble.

I manage to get the ILPs for Anand and me by 12:00 PM. Soon after this our landmark ride started towards World's highest motorable pass, Khardung La situated at analtitude of 18,380 feet. It was my third year in a row when I was riding to World's highest motorable pass.

The weather was completely clear sky and sun was shining hard. After five days we were riding without luggage and it was fun riding on uphill curves.

It was not at all a long distance to cover from Leh to Khardung La but the steep uphill ride was proving tough every now and then. Soon after Leh and before South Pullu (The first check point for security checks), my bike started struggling to pull uphill due to scarcity of oxygen. There were times when I was struggling to achieve the speed of 30kpmh.

Once we crossed the South Pullu, the road began with huge pot wholes, water and mud. Since we were riding without luggage, the suspension of the bike was hitting me hard. Even small rocks had started hitting hard. This further reduced my speed to great extent.

As we progressed uphill, the view of hills on all sides emerged more and more spectacular. The snow capped mountains with clear blue sky was a view to count on.

We crossed lot of landslide prone areas with melting snow hanging on head. The water on road had increased drastically and it was making really difficult to ride with a stable pace.

Each and every terrain and view reminded me of my past two year's ride and fellow riders. Every time it was joy to ride to World's highest motorable pass.

As we say, great things does not come easy, similarly Day 6 ride proved very tiring and hard on me despite its shortest distance among other days we rode so far. At one point in time I was looking forward eagerly to reach the Pass not out of excitement but just to finish the ride.

Finally I manage to reach Khardung La and believe me, in fraction of seconds I forgot the tiredness I had. The place offers a soothing effect of its aura on people. The snow all over and smiling faces of people makes one feel proud. The colorful flags dominantly present in every corners where human being can reach were flourishing in Air and making a smooth noise in ears. The sun was also feeling soft on head now.

The feeling of achievement, pride and success made me completely overwhelmed. I was wondering whether I will be able to make to this place ever in my life.

We had a long photo session at Khardung La. Post photo session, we headed to the restaurant run by military for some food as our stomachs had started starving for lunch break. At such places when it comes food, what else can be other than Maggi. The delicious Maggi cooked in the form of soup cum noodles were great to fill the appetite at World's highest motorable pass.

Another attraction for me was the Souvaniour Shop of Khardung La. I bought few of them and those Mugs everyday reminds me of that spectacular ride we had.

While starting the journey way back to Leh, we decided for another photo session as we knew that we would not be able to revisit this landmark place.

Day 6 was the most important as a rider because this was the day which differentiated our trip from other road trips as no other place can offer you a ride to World's Highest motorable Pass.


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