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.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Bike Tour - Keylong to Leh, 4 High Altitude Passes & Morray Planes (Day 5)

The aim of Day 5 was to leave hotel at 05:00 AM so that we are able to avoid some of big water streams on the way. Both disciplined riders made it on time. We hit the road at 05:00 at Keylong. The sky was clear and it was cold while riding before sunrise. It was so early in the morning that we spotted numerous rare species of birds wandering on road searching for their livelihood.

The road was mixture of bad and worst. While we only two riders were riding early in the morning I was eagerly waiting for the first water stream on our way. And we did finally reach there. The stream was unexpectedly huge, wide and noisy. The white water was making the surface invisible.

I was in full mood to get into the water and get wet completely. Though it was early morning and getting into the water was not less than freezing the feet I roared my bike into water stream first. The flow of water was extremely fast and it pushed my bike's front wheel outside. Since I had expected this to happen, I was fully prepared for this. With some tussle with water rapids we crossed it.

The count of water stream kept on increasing as we moved ahead towards Jispa and eventually Bara Lacha La. While we were riding uphill towards Bara Lacha La Pass, my feet were completely wet and numb. The numbness had started hitting my hands as well. The power to pull the throttle had reduced significantly and so as the bike. It was starving for oxygen big time and covering the distance was just becoming a challenge.

In the hope of lot of Snow at Bara Lacha La, we pulled our bikes despite extreme cold. The Suraj Taal immediately before Pass was a stunning peace of Nature's blessings. The reflection of Snow, sky and mountains in the water was breathtaking.

In a kilometer's distance from Suraj Taal we reached at Bara Lacha La Pass. The pass was covered with thin layer of snow and wind blowing from all side was making it difficult to stand there for a while also. The snow on both sides of the road continued for at least a kilometer from Pass and it felt really great to ride along the snow.

On the foot of Bara Lacha La pass we stopped to gain some energy under sun and have some breakfast at Bharatgarh a camp site. Here we got to know that there are no more water streams beyond this point. Well that was some relief.

Our plan at Bharatgarh took new turn when we decided to ride upto Leh same day instead of ending the ride at Pang. It was difficult to think that we will be able to ride 400 KM in a day on Manail Leh highway which offers all possible hurdles such as Snow, extreme weather conditions, deserts, off road, high altitude passes, water streams and much more. But we proved the saying right, "where there is a will there is way."

With refreshed energy and new target of reaching Leh same day, we had no choice than to ride hard towards Lachung La and Tang Lang La passes. By now we had started facing continuous problem of low oxygen and which was resulting in huge power loss of our bikes.

Unlike my 2011 bike tour to Leh, this year we met very few riders on the way. Perhaps one of the key reason I realized later was that we use to start our ride early in morning so we were always ahead. Soon we crossed Lachung La and Tang Lang La Passes and reached Pang by 12:00 PM. Well it was lunch time then and a deserving little long break.

Sitting under clear sky and sharp sun rays, we finally were in Ladakh. The landscapes of brown colors all the sides with no vegetation is all about Ladakh.

After lunch at Pang, it was the time to indulge in sand deserts. Yes we were heading towards Morray Planes now. Morray planes are one of the best stretch for riders where they enjoy 25 KM ride in the middle of sand. You go in any direction for those 25 KM but you will end up reaching at same place.

Once we crossed the huge caravan of military in first 3 KM, we were all free to ride off road. Sands all over and no direction where to go, we had fun. Those never ending 25 KM were extremely fascinating though tiring. By the time we finished Morray planes, we were all covered under Sand, be it our shoes, gloves or jackets.

Immediately after Morray planes, the uphill ride towards Tang Lang La pass, Worlds second highest motorable pass at height of 17,582 Feet, starts. This pass has longest uphill ride with road full of mud and one feel the scarcity of Oxygen to large extent here. Since our bikes were struggling to pull uphill, we had no choice than to move ahead steadily.

Finally we reached Tang Lang La completely tired and drenched. We were still carrying the dust which we accumulated in Morray planes. The view from this pass is the most beautiful among all other passes which falls on Leh Manali highway.

Leh was still 100 odd kilometers from here so we decided to move ahead faster. The snow on the other side of the pass was a spectacular view to watch.

After 10 kilometers downhill from Tang Lang La Pass the road was amazing to ride and we pulled the throttle as high as 90 kmph. One break at a small town and we resumed the ride again to reach Leh.

Finally we made the day come to an end at 05:00 PM when we reached Leh. The ride of 12 hours with 400 KM was an achievement for us. Despite the fact that we had to cross 4 high altitude passes, Morray planes, Countless water streams, Snow, harsh weather conditions, we made it possible.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Bike Tour - Kaza to Keylong, en-route Holy Chandertaal (Day 4)

Untill our Day 4 ride, we had sufficient petrol available on the way. Kaza to Keylong was the ride where we had to carry fuel.We went to the only petrol pump in Kaza on Day 3 evening itself. There we got to know the never heard story of not able to provive petrol. Since petrol pump's temperature had increased under sun, it was unable to pump out the petrol. This funny story made us worried as we were planning to leave at 5:00 AM next day. Petrol Pump guy assured us that he will come in the morning at 5:00 AM to provide us the petrol.

Day 4 morning we arrived Petrol Station at 5:30 AM and to our fears Petrol pump was closed. Since the weather was cloudy and we were expecting some rain on the way made me more impatient. After various calls to Petrol Pump employee, he landed at 6:30 AM by when  a long queue of vehicles had gathered.

Under cloudy weather we started the ride at 07:00 AM from Kaza towards Losar, Chandertaal and finally Keylong. We had heard a lot about this stretch. It was isolated, full of landslide prone areas, water crossing , too narrow and off road tracks.

The deserts of Spiti valley continued and mettled road disappeared soon. We were riding on rocks and water often. The day was too cold with windy morning. Met a group of riders before Losar who were struggling to ride on this track and one of the riders escaped from a fall with marginal difference.

We reached Losar, a small village, where we stopped for Breakfast. The day was turning to be more cold and since we were heading towards Kuzum Pass which is known for its haunting steep downhill track with lot of mud, it made me little worried.

Before riding beyond Losar one need to enter its details with Police at Losar. So we registered ourselves there and moved ahead. The most worst roads have started now with rocks and water on the road. I experienced first imbalance of my bike of this trip. While I was riding on rocks and water, I turned my bike to the other side of the road assuming that rocks are big enough to take the turn. But it proved to be other way round and small rocks with water imbalanced my bike. Somehow I managed to lift the bike before it hit the road.

The road towards Kunzum Pass was in bad condition. Windy weather with no sun on top had made the ride more difficult. We met few riders on the way along with some cars plying towards Keylong/Manali.

I had heard and read a lot about Kunzum Pass and its challenges. So I was excited to ride up there to 4,551 Meters and see the famous Kunzum. In couple of hours from Losar, we arrived at the top of Kunzum Pass. The wind had increased manifold and flags all over the place were creating a soothing noise. Snow patches on the top scattered unevenly made the view spectacular.

Riding down from Kunzum Pass to Batal (Apprx 30 KM) was the most difficult track so far. Steep downhill road with Mud, water and rocks made it difficult to ride. But we kept moving as our next destination was Chandertaal. With lot of patient to ride slow, we finally arrived at Batal where we inquired the off road track towards Chandertaal. Here we came to know that the off road track to Chandertaal diverts five kilometer before Batal. We had no energy to ride back those horrible tracks again back and then 13 kilometers most challenging road to Chandertaal.

But without wasting much time, we rode back to reverse those last five kilometers. I was curious to see the board which was put at Diversion point because we did not notice it while going down. When we reached that point, we saw a big board which we had conveniently missed, it proves the horrible condition of the road which forced us to continuously focus on road rather than hoarding around it.

So far we were not aware that we had taken up the most challenging 13 kilometers of the trip. Though HPPWD has declared this as Jeep Road I would advice people to not to take Cars/Jeeps on this road. Huge rocks falling on the road from landslides are big hurdles and the width of road is exactly equal a sedan car. Above this, the uneven surface of the road is good enough to imbalance any car with speed more than 10kmph.

To add more spice to the adventure, there were two giant water crossing coming straight down from Kunzum Pass. We saw one Mahindra Jeep standing well before the first water crossing waiting for someone to come as he was not able to dare to cross the stream. So we two Bike Riders became the motivation. We had crossed so many water streams that it was normal for us to get indulged in water. But the freezing water under cloudy weather was challenge for any biker here.

The road till the end was narrow and difficult. Last two kilometers we experienced riding on sand with risk of imbalance. But finally we reached the end of the road where some camp sites were also available. My impression was little different that we will be able to ride upto Chandertaal but in reality we had to walk almost half a kilometer to be able to see the Lake. So we walked slowly as we were badly tired. The day was still cloudy but the excitement to see Chandertaal pulled us towards it.

The first view of Lake took all my tiredness away and made me realize that its worth putting an effort to mark your presence here. The true unexplored and untouched corner of the world, Chandertaal made us relax for a while. There were no people except three people other than us. The wind blowing on face and making soft noise in the ears felt heavenly and washed off whole body ache in seconds.

I spent sometime there sitting on the side of the lake and imagined a small tent, bonfire and my loving one with me. Well that was just a dream and soon Anand made me realise that we need to head back soon as we were to still ride another 140 kilometer and it was already 01:00 PM.

We rode back from Chandertaal and haulted at Batal "Kangri Dhaba" for lunch. This guy happened to be from Bharmour, near my hometown. So we chatted in our Pahari Language while we were having lunch.

The road from Batal to Gramphoo was no good at all. Rather it worsened further. Since we were exiting from Spiti Valley and entering the green lush valleys, Snow capped mountains had spread huge mesh of water streams through out the stretch between Batal and Gramphoo.

We crossed countless water streams and most of them were huge, some were giant enough to push bike's front Tyre outward with the flow. Due to all kind of hurdles we were unable to hit the time which we had kept as a target. Anand was getting irritated badly today.

While we were not even sparing rocks for hard riding, a landslide because of increased water at one place made us wait for half an hour.

Once we crossed a place called Chhattru, the Greenery had started increasing drastically. The waterfalls on the other side of the valley were spectacular. One of the stretch between Chhattru and Graphoo reminded me of Chitkul valley.

Gramphoo brought us some relief when we merged into Manali Leh Highway. We were still 50 KM behind Keylong but since the road condition was good we were quite relieved.

With Spectacular views of waterfalls, Glaciers, Green lush valleys and civilization, we manage to reach Keylong at 05:00 PM.

Chanderbhaaga Hotel of Himachal Tourism at the outskirts of Keylong town became our shelter for night.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Bike Tour - Kalpa to Kaza, Exploring Deserts of Spiti Valley (Day 3)

The road was never expected to be good for Day 3 onward ride. Rather we were heavily dependent on weather conditions now. Starting early from Kalpa was the right decision to move on.

Expecting lot of rain and harsh cold conditions we started the day at 06:00 AM presuming that we will encounter some landslide and road blockage which will eat up few hours.

The haunting terrains and mysterious curves with narrow road continued once we resumed the ride from Powari. The road was extremely rough and downhill for first few kilometers. The speed of our bikes could not exceed 30 kmph.

Some of the terrains were so fascinating that I wanted to stop for a while but the narrow steep downhill tracks did not suggest so.

Finally we got our first stop when we turned sharp left into the cave and there was giant water fall with deafening noise. It was crazily scary waterfall exactly over the head. Thank God, that there was bridge to cross it else this would have surely become a show stopper for us and it would have sent us back.

We gathered some courage to park bikes near the bridge and stop for a while for some beautiful photographs.

The tracks were isolated and there were no habitat places for miles and miles. Roads were cut through rocks and many places rocks were hanging like dragon overhead. We were experiencing the best of the ride on such terrains. The best part was that we did not leave all available opportunities to stop at such places and fetch some memories in e-mode.

After riding approximately 50 kilometers from Kalpa, the vegetation and greenery of the valley had slowely started disappearing and brown colored mountains were smelling an air of arrival of heavenly Spiti Valley. This slow transition from Kinnaur valley to Spiti Valley was soothing with sunrise in different corners of landscapes.

By the time NH 5 was to end at a village named Sumdo which was the last village of Kinnaur District, the vegetation and greenery had disappeared completely. Now we were in Spiti valley of Himachal. I call it the Ladakh of Himachal Pradesh. Similar to Ladakh, this valley was not an exception to anything which happens in Ladakh. One can see colored flags tied over mountains, houses and trees (if any).

The Spiti valley houses also resembles the similarity with houses of Ladakh. From concept to colors, everything was identical. The stunning blue sky was another similarity between Spiti and Ladakh.

While I was lost in comparing landscapes, skies, houses and people of Spiti with Ladakh, an extremely mysterious terrains (rather I would say haunting) took us to the other side of the mountain in couple of minutes. On the other side, we saw curvious road going uphill and disappearing into the sky which clearly reminded me of some of the passes on Leh Manali highway.

After riding uphill, it was Nako village. There is a high altitude Nako Lake which sadly we did not cover just because it was 13 kilometer away from our route.

We kept riding ahead with the hope that next village would be further on a heigh altitude where we will have our lunch. However the road proved us wrong and Nako was the highest point and soon we were riding downhill.

Finally we landed at very small village where we had lunch and moved on. Since we were riding in the middle of deserts the day was quite hot.

The road had become flat, the valleys had become wider, the sky had become clearer and day had grown hot. We parked our bikes in the middle of nowhere,put off all gears and rested for half an hour. The valley was scaring silent and isolated but lying down under sun and blue sky had no comparison.

Unlike the other days, we were heading to finish our day by 02:00 PM itself. We were approaching Kaza town and the view from far looked like a dream or fairy tale village. A village decorated with colord flags all over was spectacular to watch.

After entering the town, we landed at a small Hotel where we decided to stay for a day.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Bike Tour - Sarahan to Sangla Valley, Chitkul & Kalpa (Day 2)

The day started with cozy weather covering entire Sarahan valley under clouds. It was difficult to come out of bed early in morning so we started the ride comfortably at 07:00 AM.

It was nice to cut the dense clouds in Sarahan and Ride ahead. Moreover downhill drive was free fall as there was almost no traffic.

Drizzling did not leave us and continued this day as well. However this day's attraction was the spectacular terrains of Kinnaur Valley. We came across all those scary and haunting terrains of Kinnaur which I had seen till day in photographs only. Slippery roads under rain made our ride more fascinating on these terrains.

Though I am well versed with narrow roads of my hometown Chamba but Kinnaur is unbeatable. The narrow roads on high hills made me cold blooded couple of times. But since I was aware that this is once in lifetime trip, we took some risk and stood at very narrow roads under hanging rocks to capture some nice memories.

While we were enjoying our ride on mud, narrow roads and scary terrains, well before a small station "Tapri" the road was blocked due to landslide and road maintenance. We were forced to wait here for at least half an hour when we finally crossed it.

Tapri was the first stop for breathing and break fast. The clouds had scattered and day had grown little warmer by now. Rest of the work was done by freshly made hot parantha and steaming dark red colored tea.

With nice feeling after lovely breakfast at "Punjabi Dhaba" we moved ahead towards Karcham, the point where we had to divert towards Sangla Valley and Chitkul Village. Somehow I was enjoying the rough tracks with my RE Classic 500. The machine was rocking on each and every patch of the rough track.

As we moved ahead of Karcham towards Sangla Valley, the uphill terrains filled completely a new energy in me and it was spectacular to ride on those mysterious terrains and curves.

Riding uphill against gravity in low oxyegn, we finally landed at Sangla Valley. The spectacular views of Sangla Valley made me stop at some of the very narrow corners to collect nice photographs. The green lush valley with various colors of house popping out of the pine tree jungles was a breath taking view to witness. Clouds wandering over it made it stunning combination of colors.

Since our target was to reach Chitkul by noon and we had plan to have lunch at Chitkul so we rode ahead without spending much time at Sangla Valley.

The road took 360 Degree turn when mettled road abruptly disappeared. We were riding off road in the middle of fields and jungle often. We crossed very first water stream crossing well before Chitkul in the middle of dense forest.

This was one of the corner of this world where I wished that this road should never come to an end. The valley was spectacular and riding was easy with no traffic on it.

As we were nearing Chitkul, the dense forest had started disappearing slowly and mountains have started widening from all sides. Before I could realize that we are about to enter Chitkul, a small Restaurant little far from road signaled that we are about to reach our destination. And yes one turn from that point and a board welcomed us. We could see the entire chitkul village from this point and believe me it was soothing to watch. Fully lush green and wide open valley with handful of houses, it was really heartening to see people living in such remote corners of the world.

Finally we got into our senses after digesting the beauty of Chitkul and rode into the middle of the village to find out some eating point or Dhaba. At the end of the village, we landed at a house cum guest house cum restaurant where both husband and wife were owner cum cooks.

Those delayed Maggi servings and Coffee was nice experience to fill in the kitty of memories. Immediately after long lunch break and lazy times, we rode back towards Sangla and Karcham so that we can finally reach Kalpa which was the last destination for the day.

Soon we reversed entire distance from Chitkul to Sangla and Finally Karcham. Now we had to move towards Kalpa. Suddenly, the road was spectacular to ride along with the river. But the joy of riding on such a superb road was short and we were finally again in the middle of rough tracks. Since our last destination Kalpa was not far, we rode happily.

Like our Day 1 destination Sarahan, Kalpa was also 15 kilometers off route from our main route towards Kaza. But since I had heard lot of great about the place, we did not mind to ride those 15 kilometer. Once we diverted from Powari towards Recong Peo and Kalpa, the ride was exactly like Sarahan uphill ride except the fact that Day 2 road was open unlike Sarahan which was fully covered under trees.

Recong Peo was way above what I had an image of this town. This small town was spectacular to watch and riding in the middle of this town is worth remembering. After taking multiple zig zag turns on hill we reached Kalpa. The very first thing I noticed was that the town was completely clean and organised. None of  water streams were crossing over the road. This was stunning to watch.

We were determined to stay at Himachal Tourism Hotel, Kinner Kailash. So we rode to the hotel and finally got the best of the room with spectacular view of Holy Kinner Kailash from room.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Bike Tour - Chandigarh to Sarahan (Day 1)

After long wait of more than a month, finally the D Day had arrived on 4th Jul 2012. Both RE Classic 500 were serviced thoroughly on previous day and pampered properly as the ride ahead was difficult and adventours.

Out of excitement I had short sleep and got up at 04:00 AM at Chandigarh. We manage to hit the road by 05:00 AM. The morning was quite hot even at 5 AM, but in the hope of great weather ahead I ignored the wind blowing on my face.

Once we hit the new bypass for Shimla near Pinjore, the weather changed dramatically. The cold wind blowing on face felt like heavenly touch and beautiful uphill terrains encouraged me to pull the throttle hard.

The clouds were coming down fast and we were heading into a mystical world behind clouds. Soon the visibility reduced drastically which ofcourse did hit our pace to large extent.

Once we reached Solan, the mysterious clouds welcomed us with drizzling and added interesting aspect to our first day riding. We were not able to see anything beyond 100 meters and clouds have made a thick white cage around us. Above this, there were no vehicles moving early in the morning.

I had started feeling hungry once we crossed Solan but there were no dhabas open at 07 AM so we kept riding.

The clouds were continuously wandering on mountains, often taking road beneath it and sometime suddenly making a view fully clear. With this play of hide and seek with clouds, the increasing traffic from the other side made us realized that we had reached Shimla.

The beautiful city of Shimla was completely drained under rain. The heavenly feeling of this beautiful city teased me to give a thought to stay for a day here in such a beautiful weather. But our mega tour had to be accomplished by sticking to the plan, so we did that.

Once we crossed Shimla, we realised that its only three hours since we started our ride and we were at Kufri. Now this was the high time for breakfast, so we stopped at small dhaba for break.

After Kufri, the entire ride was downhill untill Rampur. With roads in excellent conditions and weather becoming warmer, we manage to cruise faster. The another benefit of clear weather was awesome view of valley, which we enjoyed the most.

On our way we met lot of cyclist downhill in colorful apparels. I did get carried away with the idea of cycling but my cycling was way away from me.

By the time we reached Rampur, the day had grown, the sky was clear. The town was extremely crowded. This was the last place where we had to fill our petrol tanks as we were told that there was no petrol pump before Sarahan. So we filled our tanks here and rode ahead.

As we crossed Rampur, we got to see rainy weather far on mountains, in the direction where we were heading.

Jeori was the next station on highway from where we had to turn right to reach Sarahan. This was the another stop where Petrol pump was available after Rampur. Road condition was not so excellent but keeping in mind what we will encounter in later part of our trip, these roads were good.

The uphill ride of approximately 20 KM from Jeori to Sarahan was the highlight of the day. In the middle of dense forest of pine trees the curves of roads felt excellent to ride. As we started on this stretch, the clouds again caught us from all sides. Freshly showered roads and valley was the proof of recent rain.

Once we reached Sarahan, we enquired the room availability at Shrikhand Hotel maintained by Himachal Tourism but there was no availability. Finally we landed at some small hotel where we spent rest of the day.


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