Saturday, September 14, 2013

Heavenly Himachal - Chasing Rains and Clouds (Part 2)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Heavenly Himachal - Chasing Rains and Clouds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Bike Tour - Kargill to Gulmarg (Day 11)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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