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.

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