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HIMACHAL

Zenosh, a 60kph member from Bombay working as software professional teamed up with Ajay, a 60kph member from Hyderabad for a 14-day ride to the North India. Enjoy this 1500 km journey into the Himalayas.

Total Days: 10 (Delhi to Delhi)
Total Distance: 2056 km

1. In the Rajdhani 7. Delays due to the Lama
2. At last the ride starts - but a bit late 8. Petrol Problems at Kaza, so more delay
3. Ajay's Clutch cable & a rainy day 9. The end of the High Altitude desert and sick feeling of green
4. Amazing Sangla & Chitkul 10. Bypasses are worth it - and Camping night
5. Rest day turned out to be very hectic 11. Day of changing Plans
6. The infamous MALLING  

06 June, 2004 - Sunday (In the Rajdhani)
It's a unique experience to tour Himalayas with less number of people, especially on the bike, since it lets you know your inner self and enjoy the peace and tranquility of the Himalayas.

Sat in the train on Saturday 5th June, all excited for the trip, just waiting for Delhi, meeting Ajay and starting the trip the next day. On the opposite seat was seated Mr. Suresh Sharma who stays in Delhi- Karol baug. We talked about this trip and he was very helpful and said that if any help needed do let me know.

Sunday morning I could see Rajasthan's beauty from the train. Imagined myself riding with the train on the small road, which was parallel to the tracks. I could see the endless desert on both sides, camel caravans, small villages passing by. It was unlike the Rajasthan I saw last year while riding through it on NH 8.

Finally reached New Delhi station at 10:00 am. Now the torture begins - of carrying my luggage to Platform no: 12, then Platform no: 1 - due to the wrong info I got about the location of parcel office. Finally reached the parcel office at Platform number 1.

Then I got the shock of my life. The porters at the parcel office told me that my bike is nowhere to be found, and since I had sent it by Jammu Tawi, it might have gone to Jammu. By that time Ajay had come and we started planning that we will start riding to Jammu after fixing the carriers on Ajay's bike and take my bike from Jammu itself rather than waiting for it to come here. After some time the porter came and told me that he overlooked my bike since I did not tell him that it was a Bullet.

Lesson: Talk to an official after reaching the station to inquire for the bike/parcel. Do not talk to the porters outside.

After settling down and filling petrol in the bike we went to fix luggage carriers at Madan motors. After that we went to Nishant's place and took rest. I also did some repacking for the ride ahead.

Went to Vivek's place to meet up with Paraj, V2, and Aman (60kph-Delhi members), who had all come to meet us. We discussed the final routes and past experiences of riding in Lahaul and Spiti.

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07 June, 2004 - Monday - Day 1 (At last the ride starts - but a bit late)
Delhi - Ambala - PanchKula – Barog – 306 km

Left at 11.00 a.m. from Delhi. The ride till Pinjore was uneventful except the green fields of Haryana on both sides of the amazing Delhi Chandigarh highway (NH1). Ajay's clutch cable was becoming loose so we tried to find Ambika motors. Unfortunately it was closed so we decided to continue and see the problem the next day.

Finally we entered Himachal and the ghats started. At some stretches there was lots of traffic. We had planned to reach Chail same day but it seemed impossible due to the increasing cold and it was also getting dark.

Suddenly I started feeling very cold and was shivering. I wore my gloves and sweater but still I was not in a position to ride. We stopped at Hotel Poonam Pine resort at Barog. - Rs.400/- per room.

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08 June, 2004 - Tuesday - Day 2 (Ajay's Clutch cable & a rainy day)
Barog - Solan - Kandaghat- Chail - Khufri - Theog - Narkhanda 124 km

In the morning had a chat with the Hotel receptionist Lokesh Thakur. He gave us an alternate route. He suggested a different route to Narkhanda rather than the NH22.

Route: Take left from Khufri for Dhalli. Then go towards Tatapani till Sunni village and take a right. This road comes out at Kinjal on NH22. It is a bypass built for the army hence there is no traffic on that route, and it runs parallel with the Sutlej River.

Started from Barog at 7.30 a.m. It was a cold and cloudy morning, good weather for riding but not for clicking snaps. I observed that Ajay's clutch cable was going to break so we started asking for a shop, which would change it. Ajay had a spare cable with him (Albeit a wrong one for standard bullet and not for Thunderbird).

We found Royal Enfield Planet at Solan. The owner - Yusuf (residence 01794-229126).

We did not try the other route since after some time it started raining and it became rather cold. Before that we were doing a relaxed pace taking photos all the way. The Chail route was better than the NH22 route. Small winding roads through pine forests and green hills all around. Of course the green was pinching since we wanted the High Altitude desert terrain similar to Ladakh, that's what we had come here for.

We rested and had some food around Chail. Ajay shopped for raincoat and shoes since he came to know that touring south was different than touring the Himalayas, and you need to be prepared for it. At last it stopped raining.

As usual dogs don't like Bullets, and a dog started chasing me. Ahead of me 2 dogs were ready to pounce on me, but Ajay was behind me and he scared the dogs, so the dog chase ended there.

Reached Narkhanda and stayed at a cheap guesthouse just adjacent the road going to Hotel Hatu. There was some summer festival that night in Narkhanda so all shops were closed or were closing down. Luckily there was one sweater shop open. I needed to buy a sweater for the trip ahead. It was very cold and windy at Narkhanda and they call it a summer festival :-).

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09 June, 2004 - Wed - Day 3 (Amazing Sangla & Chitkul)
Narkhanda - Rampur - Kharchaum - Sangla - Chitkul 186 km

The road from Narkhanda to Rampur was good except for some bad stretches. This gave me an indication of things to come (Ladakh type terrain) and I was excited. Some stretches of roads were so good that it felt as if we were riding on European mountain roads.

Today it was Ajay's turn for a dog chase. I was right behind Ajay when a dog started chasing him. I laughed my guts out. It was a very funny scene.

All the way the road was running parallel to Sutlej. What I saw was a bit shocking. So many hydroelectric projects underway on the Sutlej River. God knows what might happen to this area if such development goes on.

The ride to Sangla (Baspa Valley) was amazing. Pine forests, snow capped peaks, narrow winding roads, deep valleys. The amazing thing was the road was made by cutting/blasting a vertical rock face, so all the time it used to feel as if driving in a tunnel with one side open. Reached Sangla at around 2:00 pm. It was a nice place to relax, with a small market but I guess it's on its way to become another crowded tourist destination.

Headed for Chitkul at 5.00 p.m. The road was a dirt track but not bad to ride on. The surface was uniform so we were doing a decent 30 / 40 kph most of the time. After Sangla the Baspa valley looked amazing. The weather was sunny so the mountains were clearly visible.

Chitkul is another amazing place devoid of many tourists and were almost in the lap of the Himalayas snow capped peaks. This place is not to be missed. It's worth the 44 km detour from NH 22. We could hear the murmuring sound of Baspa river all throughout. From our guest house we could see different scenery in all the 4 directions, so were a bit camera happy that day after reaching Chitkul :-) From Chitkul it's a 65 km trek to Tibet.

We stayed at Raj guesthouse, which is a 10 mins trek from parking place. It was very tiring to unpack the luggage and do two rounds to the guesthouse. But then the place was worth the effort. We had a small room - very good place still under construction.

Raj guesthouse, Phone 01786 - 244293 District Kinnaur, Chitkul - 172106.

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10 June, 2004 - Thursday - Day 4 (Rest day turned out to be very hectic)
Chitkul - Sangla - Kharchum - Powari - Rekong peo - Kalpa 69 km.

Left Raj guesthouse at 7.00 a.m. Then it was an hour of packing stuff on the bike since we had to trek 10 mins to bring our luggage to the parking place.

Clicked snaps on the way to Sangla/Kalpa but unfortunately the weather became cloudy. On the way we met a cyclist Kevin from Australia who sold everything - left his job to tour India for 6 months. Isn't that very inspiring for us 60kphers :-)

Nallah's and I don't share a very good relationship. The nallah enroute to Chitkul was an easy one but still I got stuck since I had not opened the petrol lock after our last break, so the bike stalled right in the middle of the nallah.

The route to Kalpa was a continuous uphill climb and had a lot of hairpin bends. For some time the sun came out so we took good snaps of Kinner Kailash. After reaching Kalpa market we saw a board - Hotel Kinner Kailash 700 mts ahead. We were anyways tired so thought of checking in there. We started in that direction in a relaxed pace in 2nd gear without knowing what lay ahead for us. Suddenly we saw an impossible incline ahead, so put the bike into first and started
pulling. But it was too late. Both our bikes got stuck there, and from above a jeep was waiting for us to get aside. On top of that it started raining. First we moved our bikes to the side of the road to let the jeep pass. Some locals came to our help and with some trouble we could reach the end of the incline.

But still some more was to come. It seems that the clutch of my bike was very tight. There was another incline on the way to the Hotel. Ajay's bike climbed with ease, but my bike got stuck again. I parked the bike down and went to the Hotel reception to ask the rates. Rs 1100 / - per room, cheap by 60 kph standards :-)... We checked in to another cheap hotel (Hotel Shivalik).

The bottom line - it was not a rest day as planned.

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11 June, 2004 - Friday - Day 5 (The infamous MALLING)
Kalpa - Rekong peo - Powari - Nako - MALLING - Hoorling 161 km.

I got up at 6:00 am. What a surprise, I got a very clear view of the Kinner Kailash peak. Yesterday it was very cloudy so could not see it clearly. Took some pictures.

I adjusted my clutch after my bike stalled twice previous day on incline. Later in the trip it turned out to be a very good decision.

Now we were again back on the NH 22. Took a wrong turn towards Ribba village - had to come back 3 kms. Malling was to be crossed this day so we were in a bit of a hurry to reach there early. Had heard a lot about this place from our Barfani Baba - about big boulders falling from the top onto the road, and road covered with muck, landslides.

So now there had to be delays. Rock cutting was going on 45 km before Puh, so we had to stop for 1 hour due to the roadblock.

Route: Missed Ropa valley - road goes there - nice plain as told by a local tempo driver. Its shown as a trekking route on the map but now there is a motorable road.

We reached Sutlej Spiti river intersection. Stopped here and clicked a lot of snaps. This day it was that total moonscape terrain and I enjoyed it a lot. Lot of ghats and deep Valleys cut by the Sutlej/Spiti River.

MALLING STORY – Crossed Malling at 4.50 p.m.
Finally the place Malling arrives. I stopped just before the curve after which the bad stretch begins, and Ajay got stuck behind me due to that. Then while we were discussing what to do next a big rock of size of a bullet wheel or bigger fell on the road and went down to the Spiti valley. (Bolte hai yahan se jo neeche jaata hai, Spiti mein woh kabhi upar nahi aata)

Then two jeeps and one truck started crossing and our bikes were in the middle of the road so we had to move them. The BRO people said that where we were standing was also not a safe place as rocks fall from top. We both were in a state of panic. Ajay was wondering as to why he left Hydrabad for this trip. I was almost shivering from inside due to the fear.

The BRO people gave a go ahead and it was my turn to pass MALLING finally. I rode in the marks made by the truck tyre so the mud was a bit hard there due to the pressure. Finally I cleared Malling without any problems.

Then helped Ajay who got stuck there (bike stalled) and some rocks also fell besides him. Later it was celebration time and snaps after Malling conquest. It was a very good feeling which both of us had after Malling. I don't know what it was. Maybe some sense of achievement, or feeling happy to come out of that in one piece.

Went to Nako Lake - good drive but worthless lake. Not worth a visit if in a hurry.

Again on NH22, I saw Ajay going straight into a pile of rocks. I thought he might be having some problem with the bike but actually he was feeling dizzy so he did not know where he was going. But the fellow decided to continue, as it was his usual-habit :-) Stayed at Hoorling in IPH guest house (Irrigation and Public Health department). Labh Singh was the caretaker there. The guesthouse was booked but it was very kind of him to give us dinner and accommodate us in a room reserved for workers of the guesthouse.

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12 June, 2004 - Saturday - Day 6 (Delays due to the Lama)
Hoorling - Tabo - Dhankar monastery - Kungri monastary - Kaza 125 kms.

Started from Hoorling, planned to see the Tabo monastery. Tabo monastery was good, especially old building but was crowded due to the planned visit of Dalai Lama that day. We would have to anyway stop here since there was a road block ahead, and the HP police would open the road only after the Lama arrives. So we were baking ourselves in the harsh sun of Tabo till the Lama arrived. That wasn't the end. The Lama would trouble us again later in the trip - read on.

After the road opened we headed to Dhankar monastery. The landscape on the way to Dhankar was breathtaking. We could see the Spiti river once as we gained height. The river was divided into many tributaries making their way through the desert sand, and was very wide. It looked as if someone had painted the landscape in shades of blue and sand color, can't explain it in words - see the snaps. Good roads most of the time but steep incline and many hairpin bends.

The last patch to the old Monastary building was a real challenge in terms of incline and it was a dirt road. We did not see the new building since it was not worth it. It was painted in all possible gaudy colors and looked like a circus tent.

The old Haunted building had some mysterious peaceful but haunted feel to it. We fully explored the haunted old building. The view of the Spiti valley was breathtaking from the top. It was as if it was not real but painted in strokes of light blue and sand color. Good view of the Himalayan ice capped peaks and the desert like mountains on the
other side painted light brown, and looked like huge ant hills.

Proceeded to Kungri monastery. Nothing much to say - only that the road was parallel to Pin river. Leave it if in a hurry but don't miss Dhankar's old building.

On the way Spiti River was just opposite the road and accessible so we got down and sat by the riverside just enjoying the flow. Also collected some colored stones for memory.

Reached Kaza at 5:00 pm - very dusty place and I did not like it at all.

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13 June, 2004 - Sunday - Day 7 (Petrol Problems at Kaza, so more delay)
Kaza - Kye monastery - Kibber - Kaza - Lozar 103 kms

Started from Kaza but the petrol pump was closed being a Sunday. People told us that the petrol pump attendant (Dayal) drops in anytime to check if petrol/diesel is needed by any vehicle, but does not stay at the pump all the time. So we decided to go to Kye monastery and Kibber and come back and search for petrol.

The route to Kibber/Kye monastery was good and we gained a lot of height in less time. The view from the Kye monastery was good. The monk there gave us a small tour of the monastery. Then we headed for Kibber. When Kibber arrived there was a big memorial built on the road. It's said that you need to circle that memorial before proceeding ahead.

We came back and 2 trucks of Himachal Police had come to the petrol pump. They also needed diesel. It was due to them that the petrol pump was opened. Chatted there with the DSP of Dharamsala and he made me all enthu to visit the ChandraTal lake at Kunzum La pass. They were heading for Manali and would meet us again in Lozar due to the breakdown of one of their trucks.

Route from Kaza to Lozar was very good with some similarity to Indo-China border route last year with patches of green grass, and ice capped peaks. This is the highest we rode on this trip - around 4500 mts above sea level.

Reached Lozar at 5.00 p.m. After some time the H.P. police van also reached there. Had a detailed talk about Komic village near Kaza which is now the highest village connected by road. And the disappointments of missing it in spite of seeing the right turn to it. Actually at Kaza we were not aware that road to Komic is built.

Anyways we missed Komic. I had seen the right turn to be taken but thought it was one of the new roads being constructed in Himachal. We also talked about the route to Chandra Tal Lake. He had done it before.

Also had a nice chat with the police officer from Keylong who was posted at Lozar due to the Dalai Lama visit. Our evening went very fast and it was pleasant chatting with the Police.

Lozar - very peaceful place unlike Kaza, worth spending some time here.

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14 June, 2004 - Monday - Day 8 (The end of the High Altitude desert and sick feeling of green)
Lozar - Kunzum La - Batal - Gramphoo - Manali 167 kms

The scenery after Lozar was barren but very good with couple of 6000 + mts. peaks visible and we were riding between them. The road condition was very bad from Lozar to Gramphoo. Can be said that there were no roads and very rocky terrain. It was surely a backbreaking ride.

Info-ChandraTal details :-

  1. Kunzum top route- 19.5 kms by road and a 1.5 km walk
  2. Batal route - just before Batal - while coming down from Kunzum La take a right - 10.5 km by road and a 1.5 km walk
Started to see greenery when approaching Gramphoo and we did not like it after staying in the remote moonscape terrain of the Spiti and Lahaul valley.

Reached Manali at 5.00p.m. It was very hot there unlike previous year. Stayed at Diplomat guesthouse in old Manali. Initially it was a very sick feeling being in crowded Manali but after some time we begin to like it and the charm gets on to you. Cant say what but there is some magic in Manali, you always like it after some time.

After long we had proper bath and food of Chicken lasagna and burger yummy :-)

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15 June, 2004 - Tuesday - Day 9 (Bypasses are worth it - and Camping night)
Manali - Bajaura - Kandi - Mandi - Palampur 211 kms

On the Manali Kullu stretch of NH 21 there was lots of traffic so we decided to take a detour from Bajaura and go to Mandi via Kandi instead of Aut. It was a good decision to avoid the crowded NH21. The alternate route to Mandi was similar to the Jalori pass route in terms of remoteness and scenery (of course we cannot compare the inclines of Jalori La). It was longer than normal highway but worth it. It was full green with mountains covered in clouds and pine forests. Then it was NH20 - good road till Palampur with lots of greenery.

We were tired since we had already ridden 200 kms. Finally before the Kangra- Dharamsala phata we found a dirt track, which crossed the Pathankot - Jogindarnagar railway, and we camped in the pine forest ead. At the campsite there were lots of trees that excreted a rubber like solution(resin), which is used in factories. Also lots of monkeys were observing both of us as if we were aliens. Then suddenly all of them climbed up the trees and were observing us from
top as if to attack us.

We pitched the tent, cooked noodles and in enthu called up Vivek and Gaurav to inform about our successful cooking and camping and wished luck to Gaurav who would start his Ladakh trip.

Finally after a lot of talking under the open sky slept at 10.00 p.m.

It was a very comfy night in the tent. Don't get any ideas guys. It was comfy in terms of sleep we got and the space available in the tent :-)

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16 June, 2004 - Wednesday - Day 10 (Day of changing Plans)
Palampur - Kangra - Ranital - Mubarakpur - Amb - Una - Nangal - Chandigarh - Delhi 535 kms

It was the best sleep of the trip in the tent and both of us woke up very fresh that day. Today was a day of changing plans. First planned to stay the night at Nangal, then changed it to Chandigarh, then Ambala and then direct to Delhi.

Kangra is a worthless place. Also dropped Masroor and decided to go to Nangal directly. Reached there and found Chief's restaurant. Had best tandoori and butter chicken there and slept for a hour in a huge dome the hotel had built which was covered by some creepers.

Then the ride till Chandigarh and then to Delhi was all very fast with us doing 90-100 kph on very good roads i.e. NH 22- and NH 1.

Finally reached Delhi at 12.00 a.m. and slept. The next day was spent relaxing and developing the snaps.

After that nothing much to say - just a good ride coming to an end and many more such rides to come by :-)

Happy Trails,
Zenosh

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