My Travelogues....

The HIMALAYAN bike ride !!!!!!!

Dec 2006 - I was working in ABN AMRO. It was mandatory to take ten days off, hence had marked my vacation leaves and was wondering where to go. None of my friends were ready to accompany me due to leave constraint. So I decided to travel alone to Manali. Many people found the idea to be funny and foolish. But I ignored them because I have always felt that "being alone does not constitute being lonely". So carried on with my plans. In the last minute my brother told that he is also willing to join me. It was a pleasant surprise. We both had never travelled together anywhere. On the day of departure just a few hours before the train timings, my brother called up and said "Take the bike with you and put it into the cargo". "What ?? do you want to take the bike along ??" I asked. Although I was apprehensive about taking my bike all the way to delhi, I was actually excited about travelling from Delhi to Manali by bike. "But what if something happens in mid-way. What if there is a break-down ??" I asked him. "Don't bother about it. Lets take a chance" he said. I have always admired at my brothers nonchalant and care-free attitude. Its his plus and minus. Although it lands him in trouble sometimes, on most occasions his guts has paid off. I was just hoping that this was one such occasion. So I went by bike to the Central station, emptied its tank and booked a ticket for it to be loaded into the cargo coach. The railway coolies managed to suck Rs500.00 in the name of rolling two sacks on top of my bike and calling it as 'packing'.



Upon reaching New Delhi, we took the bike out and pushed it along with us to the nearest petrol bunk. After filling petrol we drove our way to my uncle's place. Driving my own bike, at a place which was thousand miles away from my home was a different feeling. I was already getting excited about biking my way to Shimla. My uncle was taken aback by our decision to travel by bike to Shimla and Manali. It was the peak winter time and travelling in bike might prove to be very difficult he said. We were in no mood to reconsider our decision. We equipped ourself with the necessary winter clothing, collected a few map books and started our journey. It was around 17:30 that I filled up my bike tank and started on the Delhi-Chandigarh National Highway. Initially it did'nt look too tough to drive. We had almost 500 kms to cover. We decided to drive as long and as far as possible and halt only if its necessary. As the night time set in, we experienced the real chillness of the winter. It was biting cold, with the wind gushing through the gaps in our dress. Every part of our body except the eyes and tongue became numb. We tried all means to totally cover our body. The gloves, the thermal wear, the monkey cap, muffler, jerkin...... everything was made to use to counter the shivering caused during the driving. At around 02:00 in the midnight we realised we could drive no longer (since our legs became numb we could not even have a control on the gear shift) and was badly looking for some warm place to relax. We checked into a motel at Ambala. We buried ourself into the thick rajai (bedsheet) and slept like logs.

These many clothes had to be worn at a time to survive the terrible cold during driving (3 pairs socks (one woolen), two pairs gloves, one thermal wear lower, one jeans, one shorts, one track suit, one round neck half sleeves t-shirt, one round neck full sleeves t-shirt, one thermal wear upper, one sleeveless sweater, one synthetic t-shirt, one jerkin, monkey cap, shoe and helmet... phew !! and despite all this, I couldn't bear the chillness during the bike ride)



Late next morning we had a sumptuous meal and started towards Shimla. After almost 9 hours of drive up the hill, we managed to reach Shimla. We were disappointed about not being able to sight any snow clad mountains nearby. We checked in at a HP Tourism hotel. For a nominal cost budget hotel, the place was very well maintained with a carpeted floor and availability of room heater facility also, very unlikely of a govt. property. Tired of the whole day travel, we hit the bed after a walk across the famous Mall street. Next day morning we enquired with the locals and found that Narkanda and Kufri were the places where snow could be seen. Immediately we set off in our bike.



As we drove a few kilometers we were thrilled to catch the first glimpse of the snow-clad Himalayas seen at the long distance. Feeling excited and encouraged about seeing snow (for the first time in our life) we drove further. As we neared the place we realized that the chillness was getting worse. After a few paces, we saw all the sides of the road filled with snow. Infact the road itself was a thick icesheet and it was very risky to drive since one side of the road was a direct drop into the valleys. We stopped the vehicle and had a round of photo session.

First glimpse of the snow mountains



Ice-sheeted road













Since it was getting dark, we decided to return to our room. Night we walked over to the beautiful Mall street. The church there beautifully lit up, it was an awesome sight. I think it’s the only road in India, where if you spit or throw waste, you will be fined Rs500.00.

Next day, we checked out of the hotel in Shimla, bought a Himachal pradesh detailed map and set out for Manali. Although the distance was less than 200 Kms we were told that the drive would be tedious. We started at around 11 in the morning. Had our lunch in one of the road side hut, which offered Aloo paratha. It was dark soon and the route was totally uninhabited. The atmosphere was very eerie and we were not sure whether it was the correct route. We could not sight a single soul in that long treacherous terrain. Since we had no other option, we drove on, occasionally stopping for a smoke and to give rest to our back. All along we could just hear the sound of water on one side of the road, but had no idea whether it was a river which was following us all through the route, or it was just a drainage system. At around 20:00 hrs we finally could see a town and it was Manali atlast. Again we found a HP tourist hotel and gleefully checked in there. The hospitality was great with nominal prices again. After dinner, we went to bed and woke up the next day afternoon. All parts of our body were aching, due to the long strenuous drive the day before. I had infact developed a slight fever. Evening we started the bike and gathered information on what were the places of interest nearby. We visited the Hadimba temple (where a scene in the film Roja was shot), the monsatery and Vashisht temple where hot sulphur spring was there. Its a temple where, by nature, hot water spring is there.

Next day, Rohtang pass was the destination. We drove up as much as possible and after a certain point driving proved to be too slippery and dangerous. So we hired a cab who took us further up. After a point there was no road visible, it was all snow. Me and my brother tried our hand in skiing, but soon realized that it was too tough to be learnt in minutes. After Rohtang pass, it was the Solang valley where we were greeted by plenty of snow. Spending the whole evening there we returned to our room feeling very satisfied and elated.















Solang Valley





Trying a Salman act





So next day morning we started early. Finished the last round of temple visiting in Manali and started back. On the way we visited a castle in Kullu. Only during the return drive did we realize what a beautiful and breathtaking, the route was. With one side of hill and the other side a direct drop into the river, the gorge was beautiful. Especially the route from Manali to Mandi.

Manali to Mandi route











With the help of the map we navigated towards Amritsar. At one junction where three roads met we took the one which as per the map looked to be a short route to Amritsar. Little did we know that it was a State highway and not a NH and that the whole route will be isolated with not a soul in sight. The most dreaded thing was the road was so poor that if by chance any break-down to our bike meant that we will be frozen to death in that place, because we could not see any sign of human being there. My brother realizing that it was wrong route and it will be futile to take a U turn, drove the bike at such full speed that he wanted to somehow get down the hills as soon as possible. The drive seemed to be endless with no sign of plain region. It was one hill after the other. Time and again we had to drive up a hill and come down the other side. It was proving to be back breaking and tiresome. But we had no option. Occasionally checking the map for the next point we drove on. Soon it was getting dark and finally we hit the plain region. It was Hoshiarpur. However, Amritsar was still far from there. All along the drive, we had actually stopped only for 4 times. It was almost a non-stop drive for more than 14 hours. The chillness was unbearable and the road was so foggy that we could not even see the front tyre of our bike. Driving proved to be very tough and dangerous. With only the sound and glaring light of the upcoming vehicles to warn us of the danger we couldn’t drive beyond 20 kmph speed. Finally at midnight 2 o clock we reached the city of Amritsar. Hot and delicious food was served in a dhaba there. Feeling dead tired, we checked into a hotel and woke up the next day afternoon.

Our first place of visit was the Golden temple. The enormous place was filled with pilgrims and tourists across various religions. We met a south Indian family group who were surprised to see a TN registration bike (mine) being seen in Punjab. Next we visited the Jalian Walah bagh, the massacre site. The place had been converted into a park. Only the preserved bullet marks, the well and the storyboards bore the signs of the gruesome incident.

Amritsar Golden Temple





Jalianwalah Bagh



The passage from where the firing had happened



Next we started towards Wagah border. The border which separates Atari of India from Lahore of Pakistan. I was very eager to see the place, to be at the edge of the country and just few steps away from our arch-rival country, Pakistan. Everyday at evening 17:00 there will be a flag de-hoisting, done with a military protocol by both the countrymen. We were there at sharp 17:00 and found a vantage point to see the ceremony. There will be a gallery from where people can get to watch the proceeding and cheer the military men. As per rule you are allowed to chant either "Bharath Maata ki jai", "Vande Mataram" or "Hindustan Zindabad". No other chanting is allowed and if done you will be caught. The gallery was full on India's side. The ceremony started and along with it started the echoing of the vande mataram, bharath mata ki jai..... At 17:30 the Delhi-Lahore bus arrived and proceeded into the country of Pakistan. After the ceremony, the gates were closed. The Indian boundary is guarded by a 10000 volt electrified fence.

Wagah Border

















That night we checked out from Amritsar and started our way back to Delhi. Again, the travel was close to 500 kms, but this time it was in the plain region. We halted for the night at Ludhiana and the next day afternoon we resumed the drive, to reach Delhi at 18:00 hrs. It was the end of a tiresome, but full of excitement and adventure journey. Thanks to the idea of my brother, the whole journey had cost just Rs8000.00, but provided optimum experience. Am sure that the same adventure and fun factor would have been missing had it been a trip by cab.

For those who wish to have a peep into the entire photo album visit http://picasaweb.google.com/vettyme

regards
Sri Kumar J

3 comments:

anjali gupta said...

Great blog post. It's great you had a chance to visit Amritsar. The city experience plenty of devotees every year to Golden Temple, the prime attraction of town. For tourists and travellers, there are various options to stay at. Check out these hotels in Amritsar near railway station.

Monika Singh said...

Holiday Places Near Delhi Thanks for sharing good information.

Yogesh Kumar said...

Experience challenging and inspiring Leh Bike trip to Leh ladakh which take you to a different world.

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A guy who loves travelling. A person who has a nomadic and indifferent approach towards life. One who oscillates between being an extrovert and introvert, depending on the mood-swings.

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