Thursday, December 1, 2011

2011 Airtel Delhi Half Marathon - One step ahead

2011 Delhi half marathon was scheduled on 27th November. My left knee had not yet recovered from consequences of toughest ever half marathon done in Shimla on 25th Sep 2011. But my stubborn pulse did not let me drop out of this marathon.

This was my fourth marathon ever and I had not done running at all after Shimla half marathon. There was an uncertainty about finishing Delhi Half. Moreover I could not even adhere to food intake completely.

I made a strategy to go slow in first 10 kilometers so that I am able to adjust my fitness levels and then catch up speed.

27th Nov was a cold morning in Delhi with thin layers of fog untill 06:00 AM. Marathon started from JN Stadium with thousands of enthusiast runners. First two kilometers of Delhi Marathon are always entertaining with different groups of live bands performing on roadside to cheer runners.

I was pleasantly surprised that in first 3 kilometers I did not even feel that I am running after a gap of more than one month. Moreover my knee also supported a lot. Keeping all this in mind, I made changes in my strategy and increased the pace to move ahead of lot of runners.

My run uptill 10 kilometers went quite well with almost no pain in knee. However as I finished 11 kilometers distance, I felt lot of pressure on knee as well as feet, that was the time when I forcibly reduced the pace and took minor break by walking rather than running for few seconds.

The fear of finishing more than my last record time started hammering me somewhere back in mind. I had kept a target of finishing the run in 1 hours 45 minutes but this was ruled at 11 kilometer distance itself. Now I was fighting to protect my last year record of 2 hours 8 minutes.

Untill 15 kilometers I could not believe that I will be able to finish less than last year record. But as I crossed 15 kilometer mark, a ray of hope encouraged me to run faster to finish at least less than 2 hours.

I took three small breaks at 16, 17 and 18 kilometer mark by walking few steps than running. It helped me relaxing the knee a lot.

As I finished 18 kilometer mark, a zeal to do it better than last year made me run faster. My pace kept on increasing untill end.

I was really happy to read timing of 2 Hours 3 Minutes when I crossed the Finish Line. A learning for lifetime to go one step ahead just with determination to do it better every time.

The experience of this marathon ignited a fire in me to test my physical strength more and more.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

And I flew like Bird over Solang Valley - Thrill of Paragliding

This time weekend plan was to hit Manali and experience thrill of paragliding in Solang Valley. Anand, Jaideep and me traveled all the way from Nangal Dam to Manali on Friday  (11th Nov 2011) night. We arrived at Manali late night at 01:00 AM. Cold weather at Manali in night was a change for us.

Next day morning, the agenda was to reach Solang Valley for paragliding expedition. It was around 40 kilometer from Hotel where we stayed last night.

The road from Manali to Solang is same as Rohtang pass road untill 10 kilometers from Manali town. This valley has been blessed with nature's love in form of green lush landscaps, dense pine trees and spectacular snow covered mountains peaks.

Solang Valley is known for its adventure sports like paragliding and skiing. Thousands of adventure enthusiast makes a visit here every year.

The very first view of Solang valley looked like a paradise full of greenery. Para-shoots in clear blue sky increased the excitement to experience this adventure.

An excellently maintained Cable Car took us to the peak of the mountain along-with our pilots carrying big backpack of para-shoots. As cable car moved up, the valley looked too small and in a while we disappeared towards the top of the hill.

All three of us decided that I will go first, then Jaideep and finally Anand. As we reached at take off point, pilot started putting on harness and helmet on me. It all reminded me of my Bungee Jumping at Rishikesh in Dec 2010. The valley down was similar to that of Bungee Jumping. Little bit of nervousness, but I was all set for this thrilling experience.

Then there was a time when I was on front and all ready to pull the para-shoot against wind. The only thing I knew was that wind will push the para-shoot behind and we will have to pull it ahead with full force. As Pilot gave green signal, I started moving ahead along with pilot. It was really heavy, infact heavier than what I had imagined.

After five to six steps, I lost the contact with earth. Assuming that we have already taken off, I just stopped putting any effort to touch the earth. One hit on my legs and I was completely falling down. My head was down and we were falling really fast. Thanks to Pilot's skills that despite all this we were able to take off.

As the para-shoot took off in Air, the noise cooled down and view changed in seconds. Valley looked too small, dense pine tree forest looked tiny, people looked like dots and houses looked like small toys displayed for sale in Kids store.I could see the entire valley below us like a book full of painting. Zing zag wind moving up and down helped our para-shoot to take free falls and gaining height in seconds. This entire play went on for around 7 minutes when Pilot made an excuse that wind is not enough to stay flying for long.

No wonder I wished this thrill to last long.  While preparing for landing, one could feel the speed of falling down as gravity pulls down the para-shoot hard. Contrary to my impression, landing was too smooth. I did not even feel it at all.

Those 7 minutes, I wished to live it again. But we decided to keep this excitement in mind so that it becomes a reason to come back to this place again.

Soon Jaideep also landed. We waited for 5 minutes, 10 minutes and half an hour but Anand did not reach down. We called him up, but no reply on phone. We looked for organizer, he was also not around.

After sometime, Anand landed at Solang Valley. To our curiosity, he shared his experience. Anand and Pilot had crash in first take off, all credit goes to Anand's heavy built. In second take off finally they could be successful.

I watched for para-shoots flying in sky for long and wondering if I can take para-shoot alone in sky and hover around full Himalayan range. Free like birds to fly from one beautiful place to another and story continues.

It was not only paragliding which made this weekend special but also a nice and humorous company of Jaideep and Anand added spice to it.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Bike Trip to Chamba - The ride back to work via Chamba Jot

My journey back to work from Hometown started after spending two days at home. The distance to be covered was 300 kilometers which was full of narrow hilly terrains.

This time I had no choice than to ride non stop as I had only this day available with me. I started my journey back at 7:30 AM. Those awesome serene views and Ravi River flowing along was spectacular to watch. Until Chamba I did not see any traffic. Moreover being cold morning people were not yet out of their homes.

After reaching Chamba, I had two choices for route, one goes through Banikhet and other goes through Jot (highest pass of Chamba) and reaches Nurpur. The second option was my choice because of the terrain it offers and beautiful landscapes one get to see.

The diversion from State Highway towards Chamba Jot started with Steep uphill and narrow link in the middle of crowd of various shops. In entire Chamba bike trip this was the time which I enjoyed the most. Me and My Bike, we were the only two riding on those blind narrow curve with elevation of around 70-80 degree.

From Chamba to Jot is around 35 kilometer and this is all steep uphill with narrow roads, hardly a car and a bike can cross each other at their normal speed. Jot is highest pass of Chamba. 6 - 8 months this place experiences extreme cold and snow. There are limited number of shops here offering Tea and food. As I reached there, I first ate my breakfast and then headed to trek further to explore this place. After walking for 1 kilometer I reached at the extreme top of the mountain which was relatively plane area.

The view from top was breathtaking. One side one can see villages of Chamba district and on the other side one can see some areas of Kangra district. The green lush paradise under open sky, looked beautiful and soothing to eyes. I spent an hour wandering at Jot, clicking pictures and relaxing for a while under soft sun.

I resumed the ride soon after reaching at Road. Now steep downhill ride was going to be boring for me due to my less comfort with downhill fall. Above this the road came out to be broken and horrible. I stopped at many places, this time not only to click pictures but I had started feeling tired of that downhill fall.

On this narrow terrain, I escaped thrice from getting under Local Bus on blind curves. For those local drivers it was quite normal, but every time it happened with me, I told myself to be more careful here.

The steep downhill road of Jot ends at place called Chowari. After crossing Chowari, the traffic increased significantly with every tom, dic and harry riding bikes at great speed without helmets.

Soon I crossed Nurpur and Jassur. I was pretty accurate on time keeping in mind that I had spent lot of time at Jot and then rode very slow on downhill.

After Jassur, I had picked up decent speed but I was unable to understand that why it was taking longer time than normal.

By 2:00 PM I was near Pong Dam and this was the day when I was about to ride over Pong Dam bridge in clear weather. The beautiful pure blue water of dam made me enjoy the view before I rode ahead. The Pong Dam experience always brings unique feeling. Riding over bridge in the middle of huge dam on both side and  bridge made at height of not more than ~ 20 meters from water level is truly amazing to see.

My last lap of trip from Mubarakpur to Nangal was again horrible because of dirty broken/under construction road.

This trip was special because it was on the route which I had never done on bike before but traveled a lot on that. So a unique feeling of riding on those spectacular and unexplored routes made me feel proud of it.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Bike Trip to Chamba - Khajjiar to Chamba & beyond Day 2

It was afternoon time when I started my ride from Khajjiar. Now ride untill Chamba was steep downhill. Somehow I am not comfortable riding in steep downhill terrains, so my focus on road was more than the serene  views around me changing with every curve. However after a while my stoppage for photographs continued.

One can see Chamba town after few kilometers down from Khajjiar. It looks huge especially after crossing through Dalhousie and Khajjiar with isolated roads and dense forest.

Before I could reach Chamba, I sensed that my bike need small maintenance of chain and breaks. So I decided to visit Royal Enfield Service Centre in Chamba. It took me half an hour to service the bike, and then I was confident to ride ahead.

I rode through Chamba town, and took diversion towards Bharmour to reach my hometown, which was 35 kilometer from Chamba. These 35 kilometers were supposedly the most difficult one. I filled my beast with petrol pump which was the last petrol station on the route.

Assuming that nothing need to be done on bike after filling petrol, I pulled the clutch and shifted first gear down to move on my ride. There came the twist in ride, Clutch cable broke down. In contrast of weather of Dalhousie and Khajjiar, Chamba was hot in afternoon time. I inquired about mechanic shop, thankfully it was just half a mile away. A local boy helped my out moving 300 KG heavy machine on crowded road. Sweating was too normal after pushing bullet for half mile on uphill slope. With my good luck, I was carrying  extra clutch cable. Not to be surprised that mechanic did not have clutch cable of my bike.

The journey after repair of my bike was smooth, and road ahead turned out to be pretty decent. Every mile on this road reminded me of my old memories of travelling on this road in local buses, sometimes early morning with lot of luggage, sometime travelling standing in bus, sometime travelling with bad health, sometime travelling on roof of bus and most importantly travelling from Chamba to hometown with lot of excitement without any specific reason.

Memories of my old times in Chamba and places around it got refreshed in my mind. This road was so familiar that I just kept on riding with countable stops to capture the pictures.Perhaps I am so familiar with each and every landscape of this corner of the world that my camera will not be able to capture it better than my heart does.

With my brain running into past and coming back to present with sudden appearance of a vehicle on curves, I arrived at my destination.

Another story to remember, another ride to count for, another experience to possess for lifetime.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Bike Trip to Chamba - Khajjiar, Mini Switzerland Day 2

In two hours from Dalhousie, I arrived with my Classic 500 beast at Khajjiar. After a joyful ride and serene landscapes, I was not at all prepared for the spectacular beautiful landscape of Khajjiar. I had never expected that this small place can be such a wonderful paradise. The greenery of this place was extremely soothing to eyes and incomparable.

Being, so called "Off Season", Khajjiar was not at all crowded and this is the way I like to visit such places. I parked my bike on road side, offloaded my backpack and got down there in to the beautiful landscape. Khajjiar is small place surrounded by forest of pine trees and in the middle of mountains there is beautifully maintained huge landscape spread in acres.

It took me a while to believe on my eyes to see such a wonderful place. By the time I realized that its a reality I had found a place on beautifully cut green grass under sun to spend sometime alone.

At one end of the landscape, there were small tea shops and restaurant. On the other extreme end of the landscape I saw a small cottage, which fascinated me a lot. I inquired about it and learnt that its a guest house maintained by Himachal Tourism. A zeal to spend a day ignited inside me. But will be fulfilled later.

Sitting in calm environment of Khajjiar, I never realized when I spent two hours sitting there listening to Song "Nothing gonna change my love for you".  

The best thing to see Khajjiar from birds eye is paragliding here. Organizors charge pretty decent amount for paragliding here, but trust me, its worth considering. Shortage of time did not allow me to climb to that tall hill and then take off. But two things were planned that day itself, one to stay in cottage on extreme end of the landscape and second paragliding.

My meal here was again, Maggi. Every-time I eat it, it taste more interesting than ever.

Before I fell in more and more love with Mini Switzerland I decided to move ahead. So with little disappointment and little happiness I rode ahead down towards Chamba.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Bike Trip to Chamba - Dalhousie to Khajjiar Day 2

Night stop over at Dalhousie on first day of the ride was very fascinating and eventful. I was in no hurry for my ride from Dalhousie to Chamba and beyond. It was quite unlike me that I planned to get up late, entire blame/credit goes to cozy weather of Dalhousie.

I had two routes, one goes through Banikhet to Chamba and second goes from Dalhousie to Khajjiar and then finally Chamba. I Chose second route, because the terrains on this narrow road takes the rider to highest point of Landscape and Khajjiar, an attraction to me to spend some quality time there.

Untill I started the ride, I was unaware of harsh wind going across. As I started ride on steep uphill curves of Dalhousie under dense forest, I realized that there is no petrol pump untill Chamba, and I needed to fill the stomach of my Classic 500 Machine. So moved back towards Banikhet. It took me extra 45 minutes to reach back at same point from where I had returned.

As I got out of dense pine trees of Dalhousie town, the serene view of landscape down there forced me to stop for a while. Thin rays of sun made me felt like Vitamin D deficient, It filled me with immense energy and enthusiasm. Thump of my bullet in isolated narrow uphill terrains felt like soft music playing slowly in ears and filling me with joy and happiness. Hide and Seek between Sun and dense forest made me busy tracking my own shadow again and again. This was the true fun of solo riding.

On the way, I found beautiful views of landscapes at every curve. There was a time when I said to myself that "This is the last stop, now I will ride non stop untill I find a dhaba for breakfast", but the beauty around me did not let it happen that way. A slave of natural beauty could not let the serene views go away without capturing that in my DSLR.

Finally I found a small tea shop. Now after so many experiences, it goes without saying that, if nothing is available to eat, "Maggi" will be there. Same thing happened here, so I ate delicious Maggi sitting under Sun. A Cup of Hot Coffee woke me up to ride ahead.

In few minutes, the rider was again lost under dense forest of pine trees. The eco of thump and horn of bullet made me feel as if someone is around me. Bullet speed reduced to 20 kmpl at every blind curve assuming someone would be coming from other side but no vehicle crossed me on that road. My rhythm of riding for a while and stopping for a while to click photographs continued untill uphill terrain ended. Once I rode downhill, I could see a beautiful landscape (unlike others) down there with unprecedented greenery on ground, Finally that was Khajjiar.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Bike Trip to Chamba Himachal Pradesh - Day 1

October 2011 month was almost about to end as Dry Month for Bike Trip. Even it was more disappointing for our rider group as we had dropped the idea of Spiti Bike Trip few weeks back.

Diwali festival is the time when everyone runs towards their homes, so did I. And I planned a bike trip. With insufficient number of holiday (five days), I made a plan to take my route in such a manner that I am able to cover some of the best routes and best places.

My ride started on 23rd Oct from Nangal. Weather was pleasant with low temprature in early morning at Nangal. Riding towards Una till Mubarakpur (approximately 50 KM) is the most horrible road. It spoils the entire rhythm of ride. The road is under construction from last more than 2 years and shameless government is sitting like puppet in Shimla.

By the time I crossed the horrible stretch of my ride and reach Mubarakpur, clouds have started gathering above me. I could see layers of thick cloud coming down far ahead of me.This time I was not ready for Ride full of rain. However destiny had to shower its love on solo rider. It started with criss cross wind trying to push my helmet from one side to other side. Lately I could see some drops of rain falling on visor of the helmet. In no time, there was hardly a space of my visor to see out.

I must confess that though I love to ride in rain but rain of this season is too harsh, even lightest rain can come out to be big challenge for a rider. My mantra of Riding hard in rain also seemed ineffective, because riding hard here means hitting hard yourself.

Cold temperature outside made its way slowly to enter me through gloves, Jeans, Shoes and to some extent through small gaps of helmet. In an hours ride in rain, the situation exactly felt like childhood days when we use to play for hours n hours in snowfall and come back shivering like crazy in search of bonfire at home.

My hands were cold, legs were shivering and face was insensitive. There came a time when my DSG Biking Jacket also failed to protect me from cold weather.

I started scouting for a Dhaba for breakfast and to take shelter from rain. In the meantime I happen to arrive at Pong Dam. Coincidentally I have crossed through this dam three times on bike and every time It was raining heavily. However the thrill of riding over Pong Dam Bridge is awesome in rain. The bridge goes above Dam and the feeling of so close to water is thrilling. It is even more thrilling when water level is higher.

Few kilometers after Pong Dam and I spotted a Dhaba. Entering inside Dhaba was very soothing as it protected me from cold winds. From backside of Dhaba, I could see serene view of Pong Dam with pure blue water. Greenery around Pong Dam looked fresh as rain had washed it to its best.

By the time I resumed my ride, the rain had stopped but not fully. The drops of rain were falling here and there with wind going in every possible direction. It again made me remember those Snowfall days when snow use to fly in rhythm with wind.

By 2:00 PM I had not reached even Banikhet, and I had taken almost shelters at five different places to hide from rain and cold. My last stop was at PWD Rain Shelter near to small temple where I was alone hiding under that shelter along with my bike in other corner of shelter. It took me almost an hour there, but rain was in no mood of mercy on me. After all I started my ride in rain and moved ahead.

I still had to ride almost 160 kilometer to reach my destination. It seemed difficult, so by the time I reached Banikhet, I decided to end the day at Dalhousie. The view of Banikhet and valley around it looked fully winter season to me. As I rode further towards Banikhet, the temperature had further gone down to large extent. Though people have come out on roads after long rainy day, but it was all too cold.

My hands were in worst conditions, so was the case with legs. I so desperately wanted a Hotel now. I still had to ride another 10 kilometers, and those 10 kilometers proved to be the most challenging for the day. The temperature had reached Zero degree, fog with almost no visibility made it more thrilling.

Finally I reached Dalhousie at 04:00 PM.I looked for hotels around. Oak Valley was first and last hotel where I inquired about room availability. Wait of ten minutes for hot water felt like years. After two hours, I got some heat back. I never realized when I slept.

Late in evening walk in dense forest of Dalhousie was spectacular. Now that cold weather and sharp wind was feeling so good. Spent few hours sitting in cafe, reading some blogs, chatting with friends and most importantly that hot coffee made with lot of sugar in it. The evening was so calm and soothing that I wanted it to last longer than normal.

The benefit of solo ride is that, one feel its own presence all over. The rider is the king of every decision or move. Every time I ride alone, it makes me more closer to me than earlier. It make me feel my importance more.

The day in Dalhousie was different from one more aspect that I was in no hurry to get up early next morning.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Shimla Half Marathon 2011 - It took my breath away

25th Sep 2011, a day for Shimla Half Marathon, which I was waiting for last few months. Running half marathon was no big deal to me but running at the altitude of 7,500 feet and elevation of almost 70 degrees, that is what made my curiosity to touch skies. Out of excitement I had planned three days long weekend starting 23rd Sep untill 25th evening. Last minute developments made my plan really hectic and I reached only on 24th midnight.

My day started at 4:30 AM and one hour before the big bang I was at Mall Road Shimla. The race was to start at 6:30 AM and early morning weather was really cold and was working like teaser for people who had come from lower altitude and hot climate. Interactions with running enthusiast made all mood to run as crazy as I could think.

Half Marathon started with down hill run, as the event progressed with around 300 meters, the track suddenly became narrow and extremely steep. The strategy to run here was to go steady so that blood circulation of legs does not gets affected as run ahead was extremely tougher than this. I made my run as steady as I could make it and stuck to same rhythm until the steep downhill. The downhill track went up to 4 kilometers and this distance was good enough to disturb blood circulation.

Next 1 kilometer was relatively flat track and most of the runners looked to be taking benefit of this track. The serene landscapes and tracks surrounded by pine trees caught everyone's attention. It felt like a dream run in the middle of heavenly valley.

The toughest part of Shimla Half Marathon came after 5 kilometers, when the track seemed disappearing into dense forest with steep climb of 80 degree and altitude gain of 1,000 feet in a distance of 1 kilometer. I could see people walking up and disappearing into the forest one by one. This was the stretch of two kilometer which forced everyone not let them make this marathon as an opportunity to set best self record. 

Shimla Half Marathon, made me realize that this distance running is rhythm less. Down hill, Steep uphill and flat tracks ensured that we do not stick to one rhythm. No matter how many marathons you have done at flat tracks, this one stand out among all others.

When I ended, steep uphill track, lot of people had gone ahead of me. The kilometer mark read, 9 Kilometer. That was the time when most of people resumed running. It looked really a big task to complete 21 k run at that stage. The track was still not flat and slow uphill was still on and my fight with pain in legs started here. Due to different pace at different time, down hill run followed by flat and uphill walk disturbed full rhythm. Above physical strength, but makes long distance running possible is mental strength. That is what I made sure that I do not give up mentally.

It was hardly half a kilometer track when downhill steep started and that added all the spice to run. Now the strategy of Running and Walking had to come in. This way I could preserve some energy and utilize it at flat track.

Pine tree dense forest working as blanket was protecting runners from Sun.The sad part was the water arrangement, there were hardly three places where water was available. Above this photographers (hardly two places) were carrying tiny cameras and some of them were trying to click photographs from mobile phone cameras.

Last 9 kilometers were too soothing with no runners around and calm forest. Tracks was too attractive and reduced my pain. My walking and running strategy went until finish line.

The learning from this marathon was that this is perhaps the toughest, the most beautiful marathon and the rhythm less long distance run.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Ladakh Bike Trip - A letter dedicated to fellow riders

This is dedicated to riders with whom I rode :-

Hi Riders !!

You rode hard, you rode disciplined, you rode passionately and more than that you rode safely. The Leh’ed with all you was pleasant and memorable experience for lifetime. Every day brought some good memories to save in kitty of best experiences. I envy all of you for what you do and what you have been doing.

From Top Left : - Sudhir, Mohit, Anurag, Akshay & me

Anurag Party :- Man, I have no words to convey thanks to you for making me part for such a great biker group. I really feel lucky and would love to go on more rides with you. And personally I have tremendous respect for you as person and Like you a lot.

Sudhir Party :- You are super cool dude. I envy your each and every act. Mentioning one or two things would be insult for your overall Cool Dude aura. But still remember one thing, “ Party !! Photo Banta hai”. Dude whatever you do in your life, you would be highly successful just because of your attitude and passion. There was a time when I started enjoying your bike’s breakdowns, I don’t know why.

Akshay Party :- I need to learn one thing from you is how to respect the feelings of parents. Man I am touched the way you convinced Mom everyday about trip saying how easy the road ahead is. She is really lucky to have you as Son. Convey my regards to her.

I remember the moment when you were trying to overtake a truck in rain and your bike gave up . And thanks for discovering another

Mohit Party :- You did something which unexpected. Knowing you for a day, I thought you will wrap up you trip from Manali when you faced breakdown at Rohtang Top. Hats off for what you did, rode all the way from Manali to Leh alone. If I was in your place, I would have surely given up at Manali. Its big achievement, share it with proud with others.

Guys, lets catch up sometime in future again to accumulate more experiences like this.

Maadla :P

Monday, September 26, 2011

Ladakh Bike Trip - Jammu to Chandigarh, Last day of epic ride in rain (Day 11)

Day 11, The legendary ride was riding towards its end. The day started with expression, "Its raining outside yaar." Last day of our ride reminded of Day 1 when we left Chandigarh in similar kind of rain. We prepared ourselves for all kind of adversities and left hotel despite the fact that it was raining heavily in Jammu.

We got an advantage of rain in the form of less traffic on city roads. Once we crossed the city, the heavy rain had got converted into drizzling. It was the best time to soak in some air and try to dry up the cloths.

Water logging till knee spread wide in small town on highway felt like crossing a lake on boat.

The roads were very good and we were riding at a great speed unlike other days. After covering more around 100 kilometer we stopped for breakfast at roadside dhaba. Typical monsoon style, by the time we finished off with breakfast, it started raining again.

The entire ride till Pathankot was hide and seek between we boys and rain. There were times when it rained very very heavy and visibility became zero.

Pathankot also did not brought much traffic jams for us and we crossed the city easily. It was complete contrast in weather with Sun on top of us. We rode in hot weather and there was no sign of rain.

Akshay and me realized after 15 kilometer when stopped by Mohit that Sudhir's bike had another breakdown. Now it felt really disturbing and we rode back 15 kilometer in hot day. Fortunately mechanic was nearby. We spent an hour at Mechanic's garage for repair and then rode again towards Chandigarh.

We hardly rode for 15 kilometers and rain came down. In few minutes, drizzling got converted into heavy rain. The rain was so heavy that a thick layer of water on helmet's visor made visibility zero. But the best part was that we did not reduce our speed. This was hardly for 10 minutes and in those 10 minutes we were wet as if we just came out of swimming pool spreading water all over. It felt really hard after drying ourselves in last 2 hour in hot sunny day.

The next main town on the way was Hoshiarpur. That heavy rain had converted this town into a lake. Believe me it was literally like a lake. Depth of water upto 2 feet was all over wherever I could see. Over and above that we forgot the way. It took us half an hour to cross the town in middle of trucks, buses and jeeps throwing water from all sides. The worst part was buses which were moving or overtaking us from both side. The water flow at that time was pushing us to other side and maintaining balance on bike became very challenging. However above all, my only aim was to not to let water go in exhaust of my bike and I succeeded in that.

Once we crossed Hoshiarpur, we stopped at Dhaba for Lunch. We took off everything except T shirt and Jeans. It was all wet with dirty water of road.

Post lunch I diverted towards my new place to dump the luggage which I was carrying for last 11 days and joined boys later on the way to Chandigarh.

Ride till Chandigarh was comfortable with lot of things going in mind. The feeling of accomplishment, moment of proud, experience of life time epic ride, great company of people and breadth taking himalayas, with all these things I finished my ride at Chandigarh.

Later I learnt that Sudhir's bike had another breakdown and they reached late again.

All boys spent an evening together to celebrate the accomplishment of successful journey, epic ride, heavenly paradise and lot more.

All of us lived our life in these 11 days and enjoyed every moment of it. We struggled, we screamed, we laughed, we pulled, we respected, we fought , above all we rode hard and finished the ride with some of most memorable experience, some funny  some serious and some just normal. That is all about our badly planned well executed ride to Ladakh.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Ladakh Bike Trip - Srinagar to Jammu, Down from heaven to ordinary life (Day 10)

Originally Day 10 was kept as a rest day and a day to explore Kashmir, especially Gulmarg and Pehalgaon. However we had to finish our ride on Day 11 at Chandigarh. It looked very difficult to ride for 600 kilometer that too on hilly terrains. Moreover exhaustion of House Boat and hot weather at Srinagar also forced us to run away from Srinagar. So we changed our plan to make ride little comfortable and decided to ride up to Jammu on Day 10.

We had enough time to reach Jammu, so we started at 12:00 PM noon from Srinagar. Extreme hot day of Srinagar made it difficult to even prepare our bikes with all luggage tied properly. By the time I prepared the bike for ride, I was sweating all over, it reminded of summers of Delhi. It was not at all a good feeling of being in Kashmir Valley.

We had still not seen the other hurdle which is normally seen in metros and other big cities and that is traffic jams. We almost wasted 2 hours in traffic jams and rode hardly 30 kilometers. Once we came out of the traffic jam, all of us had lost each other and every one thought that rest of the riders are behind him.

I stopped at a small tea shop to pick up water bottle when all four riders flew from behind and did not notice me at all. I rode little fast and got hold of Mohit but that time other three riders had disappeared.

Srinagar Jammu Highway has lot of small towns around it. Diversion to left and right in these towns made our life difficult as we had to inquire locals at every such diversion about correct road to Jammu. Mohit and me rode almost 2 hours alone without any clue of other three riders. The terrains full of greenery and trees made it more difficult to spot fellow riders.

Finally we decided to stop at a Dhaba for Lunch assuming that other three riders have gone way ahead. We ordered food and ate leisurely over 20 minute. When we were about to start our ride back, all three riders appeared on road. Fortunately they could see us and stopped. Pleasantly surprised, the gang was restored back again. The whole way from Srinagar to lunch spot, I thought that other three riders are ahead of us but they had lost their way at one place and that was the time when we rode on right road and rode ahead of them.

Ride after lunch was like fight of five cats with infinite dragons. We were only the riders riding downhill towards Jammu whereas uphill ride was over flooded with buses, trucks, cab and jeeps. It was all Amarnath Pilgrimage time and thousands of people were driving uphill. The worst part was that the taxi cab drivers were driving and overtaking at the places which were not obvious for overtaking. The only one thing which was in our favor was the good condition of roads.

Perhaps this was the only day when we did not stop anywhere for photographs or to appreciate serene landscapes and nature.

Srinagar Jammu highway offered us two fascinating experiences of riding. First was 2.5 kilometer long tunnel in which it feels like riding with close eyes, no matter how sharp is your bike's headlight it is bound to be dark in there. Second was Patni Top with some crazy terrains in the middle of pine and oak trees and cold climate.

We reached Jammu at around 08:00 PM. After learning the lesson from mistake we made at Srinagar we decided to look for Hotel at the outskirts  of  Jammu. Hence we rode on the by pass road of Pathankot.However with the help of directions given by locals we ended up landing in the middle of Jammu city.

Air conditioned rooms of Hotel after spending a night in hot house boat at Srinagar felt too soothing. This was third day when we played cards till late night 02:00 AM.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Ladakh Bike Trip - Kargil to Srinagar - Kargill War memorial Drass, Zozila Pass, Sonmarg gateway to heaven (Day 9)

More than half of the night was spent playing cards. Day 9 ride was different from other days because of no option than to start the ride at 04:00 AM in the morning. All this was done to cross last pass of our epic ride, Zozilla Pass.

We had heard a lot of Zozilla Pass from most of the riders and feedback was not at all good. Mud, slush, water, rocks and above all narrow roads and steep downhill ride, this is all we knew about Zozilla. Later we learnt from Hotel manager that  its not only the road conditions which makes Zozilla tough for ride but also Army Vehicle convoys. Many a time Army blocks one way movement depending on their convoy timing. So we had no other option than to leave Kargil early morning at 04:00 AM.

Sleep of two hours and our alarms started ringing at 03:00 AM. Except Sudhir, all four of us hit the road sharp at 04:00 AM in a dark and scary morning of Kargil. We left Sudhir at his luck and rode ahead. By the time light came down, we were riding on fairly good roads. Being able to see landscapes in early morning was exceptional feel.

In an hour Sudhir caught us on the way. He must have ridden really extraordinary in dark when he had no headlight of his modified Pulsar. I really felt bad for him. But as usual it looked very normal to him.

The morning was freezing cold. My riding gloves had given up and it was sucking all the air in it. By 06:00 AM I had started feeling hungry but no option to stop. Moreover the nervousness to conquer Zozilla pushed everyone hard this day.

But above all lies the Patriotism. No matter how late we were, there was no question of skipping, Kargil war memorial at Drass. We reached Drass in 2 hours from Kargil. In freezing morning of Drass (World's second coldest habitat), we saw Kargill War memorial Gate at roadside.

Kargill War memorial - Drass

Kargill War memorial, a place dedicated to all our heros who sacrificed their lives in 1999 to capture back Tiger Hill. The calmness of the memorial there tells the whole story of braveness of our soldiers and Army. The memorial had all the walls with names written of all our heros who laid their lives to earn the victory for our country.

Tiger hill is clearly visible from this memorial at Drass. The peak was covered with thick layer of snow and was too steep to climb up. Infact the sky touching Tiger Hill climb looks almost impossible to conquer. However our defence forces made it all possible. Really proud of those Heros.

We left from Kargill War Memorial at Drass with heavy heart  after spending around 20 minutes there. All of us desperately needed Tea or coffee in freezing morning. Ride for another half an hour and we get to see a Dhaba where we took Tea and breakfast. It was all done in hurry.

Next was Zozilla Pass on our way. The easy uphill ride started with slush and water on road. Trucks made it more difficult to ride along with tourist cabs trying to overtake from left and right.

As we rode closer to Zozilla pass top, the road became very narrow. The river flowing fast far down in sharp valley of mountains made the ride very scary task. But roads were not as bad as we were told by almost everyone. Trucks have slowed down almost to 5 kmph, we always had to wait for driver to give us signal to overtake trucks.

We did not even realize when we cross Zozilla top, where all of us wished to have at least one photograph. The down hill ride made us realise that we missed our spot.

Ride on the other side of pass was amazing to me. The road was well built with rocks properly settled under the mud, but steepness of road was all worth riding. This was the only place where I saw a nervousness on the faces of each and every truck driver. Every trucker had maintained a distance of at least 300 meters from each others. Hats off to those truckers who drive loaded truck with one sided wheels many times in air and almost 90% chances of imbalance.

Although down hill was too steep, but it was not a big challenge for bikers except the fact that riding above 2nd gear was not advisable at all. Once we finished with Zozilla pass, we felt like reaching our destination and what else one expect as Gift of nature than serene, breadth-taking and beautiful Sonmarg ? The awesome road of Sonmarg helped us open our hands with full throttle.

We spent sometime at tea shop at the bank of river full of white water. Maggi, Tea, Coffee and lot more, we filled our stomachs well and decided to have lunch at Srinagar.

Traffic on Sonmarg to Srinagar had increased drastically.  With very less stops on the way, we reached Srinagar at 2:00 PM. 

Disappointingly, Srinagar was too hot during day time. First it took us time to locate place to reach house boats then lot of time spent to find out parking for our bikes.

Another disappointment was Dal lake's dirty water which was smelling all around. We chose one of the house boat for our stay. It was not so fascinating as we had heard about house boats. It was too hot inside house boat also and there was no air conditioning.

Shikara ride on Dal lake in the night was the best in Srinagar with Cold breeze. We spent an hour and went back to house boat. Nothing else to talk about Srinagar.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Ladakh Bike Trip - Leh to Kargil, Serene Kashmir Valley (Day 8)

Day 8, we were set to ride back, not via Leh Manali highway, but Kargil, Srinagar and finally back to Chandigarh. I had heard a lot about beauty all around, on Leh Srinagar highway. All of us were excited to hit the road at the earliest.

It started with really superb roads of Leh and classic terrains around magnetic hill.I am in love with Ladakh so much that I really felt bad while leaving the place. I never liked coming back from this heaven and go back to work and boring life of city. I was lost in so many thoughts that Anurag had to push me hard entire day to match the speed with fellow riders.

The beauty of landscapes, roads, terrains, monasteries, Army convoys and simplicity of people was spread wherever sight went. Suddenly the place was looking so fascinating that it became difficult for me to ride back.

The traffic on this route was very high especially because of army vehicle movements. In one moment we all were lost in the middle of trucks and other moment we were riding alone in beautiful Himalaya's Ladakh range. I stopped at many places to click photographs whereas Anurag and Akshay always waited for me by controlling their frustration about my slow speed.

In four to five hours ride, we started to get the feel of Kashmir Valley with cold breeze slowly crossing us and sign of some vegetation on landscapes. Lunch at small village in old dhaba with old man was superb food. This Kashmiri Dhabawaala served the lunch with Rice and Dal with almost no spices but the taste was life giving.

The old wooden houses of Kashmir reminded me of my hometown Chamba. We were riding in Kashmir valley and that feeling of being close to nature in heaven was evident.


Kargil, I am sure, will always remain very special name for every Indian. So were we excited to reach the place. We reached Kargil by 4:30 in evening. We had an image of Kargil as a small village full of camps for bikers and tourists, however we found full fledged town there. After riding full day without crossing any major town, it felt really soothing to come back to civilization again.


After checking in at the only Hotel Green Land, we decided to explore the town and find out War memorial there. But we learnt that War Memorial is not in Kargil and we will have to go to Drass for the same. Since Drass was en route next day we kept this agenda for next day.

On Kargil streets

We met an Army man at Soveniour Shop, who told us about the War we fought in 1999, showed the places and direction of Tiger Hill which was the main target for our victory. He was kind enough to offer us tea. It felt really proud to talk to him and felt proud to be an Indian. Akshay and me bought T shirt and cap as memory of that place.

Once we were back at Hotel, I decided to take out play cards. We played till midnight when we realized that next morning ride will have to start at 4:00 AM with no choice to delay it.


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