Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Into the lower Himalayas
Sumeet called up for a ride on BikeNomads and I wanted to join it. While hectic and unsure schedule at work made me confirm only at the last moment I'm glad I could make it. As with my previous experience with the Delhi nomads, there were only a few names in the riders' list. It was only a matter of time that the list of actual riders turned out to three - including Sumeet, Chintan and myself. Chintan gave us company till Kurukshetra and turned back to catch some sleep.
The dayy started for us at around 4.30 AM from Sumeet's place where I'd stayed overnight. We proceeded to the bypass and tanked up.
The tappet cover in my bullet was bleeding badly, and when I opened it up I was shocked to see a big crack over there. After checking out the spares and tools I found out that I carried everything but M seal!! Thats how it happens actually, the stuff that you would actually require in life is missing at the time when you need it the most!! With this my ride plans became endangered. I told Sumeet and Chintan to carry on If I don't get a timely aid. No point ruining their ride, when they can ride! I called up my rider friend Rajan, from Royal Beasts, at that early hour of morning to get his advise, and he also repeated the M-seal mantra. Sorry to have woken you up Rajan!!
Thanks to Ashwani sir, who was riding with his 60kph group, I got the M-seal to get a quick fix solution.
Ashwani sir pushed off soon afterwards while we stayed back to replenish our enthu with some hot tea. A good one and a half hour lost in this.
We carried on further with this setup and after a while I noticed the oil leaking again, this time from the tappet cover gasket! On this NH1 shit always happens on rides! Last year when I was riding with Sumeet to Hatu peak, Sumeet's avenger wiring went kaput! Around Christmas time when I was riding with Biscuit to Narkanda, I had problems with my carb! And this time it was the tappet cover!! While the ghost of past still haunted the savior was not so far. Pipli (Kurukshetra), where we got help the last two times, came to rescue! I knew a bullet mechanic in Pipli so I thought my troubles were gone. I rode to his shop and damn, it wasn't open yet! Luckily got a spare parts shop next to it which had all what we needed - M-seal gasket sealant, new tappet cover & M seal. We did the mechanic job by ourselves and fixed it so nicely that after this oil didn't even seep through!
Another one hour wasted in this operation. We got back on the highway and tried to cover up distance as fast as possible. Fortunately for us the weather Gods were merficul enough to not present us with soaring temperatures. The ride ahead was mostly uneventful till Zeerakpur. After turning to Shimla from Zeerakpur, it was a P.I.T.A$$ riding in that crazy traffic till Pinjaur. We soon caught up with 60kphers at Kalka, where they decided to push off and we decided to take brunch.
Now the ghats with smooth tarmac started and lasted till Kufri. As always it was fun to ride in those ghats, the footpegs on my bullet are almost gone now. Next time I'm going to replace these footpeg rubbers with the ones in LB500 bullets with tapered end. The scraping robs one of higher lean angles and more corner speeds! Sumeet was speed happy with CBZ xtreme. As heard earlier from other folks he also repeated the smooth handling and nice performance funda about the bike. Bike apart, he's grown his riding skills in the year I have been ridden with him.
Good going Sumeet!
We had crossed Shimla by 3, it was decided that we'll take a tea break at Kufri. Sumeet was so lost in taking the curves on his CBZ that he didn't even notice that he'd passed the place long back!! Finally better sense prevailed and I overtook him to stop for tea/maggie somewhere near Theog.
From Theog the road to right goes to Rohru and the other one goes to Rampur via Narkanda. The 60kphers who were behind us took the road to narkanda while we took the one to Rohru. The smooth tarmac disappeared and we had typical hilly roads with bumpy and slippery surface, this reduced our speeds to 30-40 kmph. The reduction in speeds meant more time with surroundings & man!! They were really beautiful!!
As one gets deeper into the hills you find more attention given to you by the people. Then there are kids who wave at you as you pass them and you wave back - this particular thing is a favorite with me. Reminds me of my childhood days when we used to wave at the passing motorcyclists.
Till evening 6 o'clock it kept on drizzling and we kept on riding, stopping only to click snaps without getting off from the motorcycle and then move on. Around 6 I wanted to capture a few thematic shots so we stopped. Sumeet was reluctant to stop but I pursuaded him to stop as Rohru was only 40 more kms.
Its the region of Devdaar forests, it is colder than the pine forests regions. When we rode through those forest ranges after our photoshoot it was quite cold. I could have utilised the liner of my riding jacket, which I'd left at home thinking that it would be good enough to bear the cold with a textile riding jacket. To minimize the cold I closed all the air vents and situation came under control! I rode ahead of Sumeet, and he probably got lost somewhere! It was kind of spooky to ride there in the forest roads at the time of night. No I wasn't afraid, but it definitely felt spooky!! I was thinking of finding a tea shop and stopping for Sumeet to catch up but couldn't locate any. By the time I found one I was only 11 kms from Rohru.
It definitely was very cold out there! I happily devoured tea and omelette waiting for Sumeet. It was a good half an hour wait for the dude to turn up. It turned out that he'd lost his way somewhere. There is a famous 'Hatkeshwary' temple here @ Hatkoti. The inn managed by the temple charges 50 Rs. for a night's stay. I checked this temple out from far away the next day and it seems I'll try out this dharmshala ;) the next time I ride to this area.
We checked in to the PWD guest house at Rohru for 200 Rs. a night stay. It was only dinner which kept us awake till 9.45 PM, once it was over we dunno when we fell asleep!!
I thought I heard someone honking a loud horn close to my ears, I slowly opened my eyes and it took me close to a minute to realize it was the 6 AM alarm! Snooze for 1 more hour!
At 7 it didn't sound so bad and I got up. A nice view of the hills and river flowing a bit far greeted. What a beauty! Rohru is a laid back place and it is nice to be there to break free from the usual 'bhasad' of the city life. As such there are no tourist places to visit in Rohru and even if there are any, we were not 'tourists'! We'll find our own places and feel what we really feel there.
While looking at the road maps we found an interesting road to Chakrata. Sumeet looked at me questioningly and both of us were game for the new route instantly!
After getting ready we paid the guest housekeeper and thanked him for the nice tea and dinner.
The river was not to be missed at any cost, so we found out a tractor trail leading to the river. Bingo! How time flew by the river we never realized!! Its so soothing to just sit on the banks of a river and just watch it flow by. You get some random thoughts, your mind wanders from one thing to another in a flow, its like the river you are watching.
A few random clicks and we decided to take the road to Chakrata. The roads were as bumpy as hilly roads in the interiors are. We kept on riding along river Pabbar, I occasionally stopped to click a picture or two while Sumeet kept on riding. In around half an hour of riding we did some 25 kms of riding, which going by the standard speeds in hilly roads was quite good. We stopped in a village called Sanail for breakfast. This is a place from where Uttaranchal begins. The locals here are either Himachalis or Nepalis. We'd hot tea and omelette for breakfast and we pushed off to Tiuni.
The roads are bumpy and at places have no tar but only dust and gravel. The scenery around makes for the absence of good roads, It was an awesome experience riding on those beautiful roads. Hilly roads are a different area altogether when it comes to riding or even for driving. You can easily identify who has ridden/driven in the hills before. Any sensible rider/driver in the hills makes way for the vehicle climbing the slope and takes curves wisely and without efforts. The alternates are mostly people from plains who think the road has shrunk in side and if they go a bit more to left there vehicle is gonna fall to the Gorge below! They will never leave road for you nor is overtaking these guys easy! A basic courtesy of waving after someone has made way for you to overtake makes everyone happy!
A santro driver from Punjab was one such moron, I overtook him for good and made sure that he stays way behind so as to never bother me again. We soon covered the distance to Tiuni. Sumeet was riding ahead and he missed the turn to Chakrata. I stopped at the turn, asked the locals and proceeded in the right direction. I had doubted that Sumeet would have missed this turn, so I checked up with the locals if they had seen a Red bike passing by minutes ago. I was greeted by a No and an FYI that my lights were switched ON ;) - As I do when on a ride, I smiled and told them that I'd kept them switched ON knowingly! I dialled Sumeet's number and it was not reacheable, As I proceeded further I could see the river Pabbar flowing and the other road running in parallel with it. I saw Sumeet's red bike. Perhaps he'd also realized that something was amiss! I waved frantically from this end and tried to put the reflections from my visor in that direction. I think it worked and he saw me and turned back to catch up with me. From here it was a stretch of good 20 kms which is only made of big gravel. We rode steadily at 20-30kmph. What a beauty around!! It was pine forest all around with the pine cones all around the road. We gained altitude with each twist and turn of the road.
The bottle of water I was carrying was empty and I was looking for a source of natural drinking water. There are lots of places in hills where there is some naturally filtered water comes out of roots of a few plants. I found one and replenished our supply of water. It was chilled and good tasting water.
The road ahead was mostly an offroad only, and we had a good time riding on them. The beauty of Garhwal hills was beginning to show itself.
I stopped a few kms short of Deoban to check out the view of the valley, after switching off the engine what I felt is totally unjustified with my words here. The sweet sound of whisting of the wind in my ears and a very beautiful view with absolutely no one around and a road that does not have any tar was just smashing! Time was running out on us and we had be back in Delhi the same day. I quickly clicked a picture or two and got back on the road. Moving ahead the road remained what it was before, gained some more altitude and at last we found the road leading to Deoban. The board indicated it was a forest reserve area.
Riding on this road to Deoban was the highlight of the day. Gained altitude quickly and the road was simply small gravel and big gravel and bigger gravel. And occasionally some sharp edged big stones as well. It was already quarter past two and we didn't know where and what exactly this Deoban was! However we kept riding and fortunately came across a few people who told that Deoban was a few miles ahead. This road started resembling a trail in the jungle, the devdaar trees all around sending nice cool whistling winds everywhere. We found a local at the gate leading to Deoban forest colony who told us about a maggie/tea shop in the other road to Mundali. Earlier we had thought of stopping by Chakrata for our lunch but with this find we decided to save chakrata for future trips and proceeded to the shop ahead. It was a small time house located at a beautiful spot in the forest. We ordered tea and maggie and interacted with the locals there. I was told that the place is called as Kauntarani. The few people who live there are Jaunsari and Garhwali people making their living on agriculture and animal breeding. They told they had fields elesewhere. May be they have something in Mundali village. Shankar, a local dude, advised us to start back from Chakrata in time jokingly quipping "Mumbai ka fashion aur chakrata ka mausam kabhi bhi badal sakta hai"!! The clock was ticking towards 4PM and we decided to better take Shankar's advise and push off to reach Delhi.
From Chakrata till Sahiya the roads were okayish, after Sahiya the stretch till a few kms before Vikasnagar was a real bad stretch. We were tired of the offroading and this portion was not offroading but potholed broken roads!! Towards VikasNagar I soon hit NH123 and I opened the throttle only to stop in VikasNagar at an IndianOil petrol pump. I tanked up, had tea and waited for Sumeet to catch up. It was good half an hour wait and after a while Sumeet called up from Paonta sahib!! He'd not stopped and apparently I'd missed seeing him overtake me. Anyways, after that I rode fast to catch up with him. Sun was almost about to go down, it was a perfect lovely shot material but then I had packed my camera for the day and since I had a long way to go I didn't stop to click that sunset. I soon spotted Sumeet waiting, and we carried on further.
By the time it got dark we had crossed nahan, we won't find any more ghats from here onwards. It was somewhere here that we got separated.
Some drizzling here and there but I kept on riding. After crossing this stretch of NH72 and loosing my way once (and getting confused whether Sumeet was ahead of me or behind me!!) I finally managed to reach NH 1!! I waited at a dhabha for Sumeet to catch up while I ordered dinner. After half an hour he called up and I directed him to this dhabha. It turned out that he'd also lost his way at the same place I had!!
After dinner it was plain road negotiation with the truckers till I reached Gurgaon. One particular thing about these truck drivers at night time on any of the Indian highways is that they seem to be racing against each other. One trucker driving at 46 kmph trying to overtake another trucker who's driving at 45 kmph!! Too much of frustration sometimes!!
When you have had a full day of riding, you get a sore arse and all your thoughts after that are on reaching home and thats what all was on my mind!! I soon found myself in Delhi, lost for roads!! Sumeet reached his place in Delhi after a while and I got clear directions from him and soon made my way to Gurgaon.
Too much of fun - offroading in total unplanned area. Up there from Tiuni it really was the road Less travelled. I'm glad I took that road, it made my ride!!
Click here for pictures by me;)
And here for Sumeet's pictures.
Sumeet on Hero Honda CBZ xtreme
Kam on RE Thunderbird
Delhi - Sonipat - Panipat - Karnal - Kurukshetra - Ambala - Kalka - Solan - Shimla - Kufri - Theog - Jubbal - Hatkoti - Rohru
Odo: 475 kms
Rohru - Tiuni - Deoban - Chakrata - VikasNagar - Paonta Sahib - Nahan - Ambala - Karnal - Delhi - Gurgaon
Odo: 593 kms
Overall ride distance: 1068 kms
Bye till the next time!