TagRides

Nishiki

Procured our third bike and our first ever mountain bike this weekend. Should be a brilliant add-on to my GMC road bike and Miss Me’s hybrid rovr. A cousin was heading back to India and we’d mentioned we’d love to purchase it from him if he was interested in selling it.

Late yesterday evening I rode from Shrewsbury to Southborough. Google maps got me through some very interesting roads for about 15 miles. Roads I wouldn’t have thought of taking had I hit the much shorter and more straight forward route.

At one point I wasn’t quite sure if I was entering private property. Just about when I was thinking of playing it safe and heading back to the state highway – 9 East, I came across a lady walking her dog. She confirmed maps was indeed right and the property was a public access road. Thanked her and hit the almost non existent entry to the trail. Hit some beautiful farms and then Lake Chauncey right off the corner! The trail led on to 30 East and even before I knew it I was in Southborough.

So glad we decided to hold off on fixing the bike rack to the Smart!

Tour of Kangra ride

Day One 27th January, 2012
Dharamshala – Shahpur – Lunj – Masroor Rock Temples – Nagrota suriyan (Distance 85 kms)

Day Two 28th January, 2012
Nagrota suriyan – Ranital – Baroh – Nangni – Jaisinghpur – Andretta – Baijnath – Bir (103 kms)

Day Three 29th January, 2012
Bir – Baijnath – Palampur – Dharamshala (73 kms)

The Korlai Ride

The road ahead seems to penetrate into infinity as the sky gets overcast. Sounds from the innumerable streams cascading from the towering ranges abutting the road on the left side, seem to be magically muted by the strong gusts of wind. There’s not a soul on the road kilometres ahead and kilometres behind. I stand upright on the pedals letting the rules of physics govern my motion. As I dissolve myself in the encapsulating ambience capturing every frame with my closed eyes, the stark phenomenon of passage of time becomes evident. One year back I was right here on this road in a cab. Today nothing has changed – Just that I’m on a two wheeled machine powered by just the mind and the legs.

19th Sep ’09 – Saturday

06:30hrs. The volvo comes to a halt at Jagtap Diary. Bani is right there waiting to receive the four of us from Hyd. Sumanth, Mohan, Sudhansu and I had left Hyd for Pune yesterday. We reach Bani’s house by about 06:45hrs. It’s close to 08:30hrs by the time we refresh, get the bikes set and have a sumptuous breakfast at Yogesh’s place. While I head to Dange chowk to meet Viral and Trupti, Bani and the remaining three head to Vishal nagar to get their bikes mended. We decide to meet at Tammana restaurant, Hinjewadi at 09:30hrs. A quick catch-up here and the ride begins. The target is to reach Roha by 19:00hrs. That translates to about 125kms of biking today and effectively my first century ride!

Ten minutes on the road is more than a glaring pre-cursor as to what we could expect for the next two days. Even before we could hit Pirangut, the gradient starts increasing. We stop over at a roadside shop for a quick refill of water and move ahead towards Mulshi dam taking a right at the Pirangut chowk. The landscape changes starkly as we head towards Paud. The air thins down and the effect shows on the lungs as cleaner air sinks in. The next eleven kilometres from Paud is more or less on flat terrain traversing through small towns and riding by the Mulla river. Bani catches up pretty quickly and we ride in tandem for quite some time. The best part of long distance bicycling is that you get to talk leisurely as you ride on.

35 kilometers into the ride we approach the Mulshi dam at the place where the Mulla river originates. Bani had warned us of a steep uphill climb close to the Mulshi dam and even before we realise the killer climb loomed right ahead. An ascent of a kilometre or so brings the muscles into action. Sumanth, Mohan and I take a short break at the hairpin bend letting the body cool down. Couple of minutes spent here and we push ahead and take a left turn ahead only to find Sudhansu riding back just to check if all is fine with us! A bit ahead we take a brief stop at one of the hotels facing the reservoir, waiting for Mohan to join us. As we relax in the shade munching on jaggery bars, the body starts talking sweetly to the mind. And it’s just about 40kilometres into the ride.

At about 13:00hrs we reach a roadside restaurant for lunch. A heavy [and costly!] lunch here followed by a much needed half an hour break and we decide to move on towards Tamhini ghat. The section from Palase to the Tamhini village is interspersed with quite a few scenic viewpoints overseeing the Mulshi waters. The weather gets better and by the time we reach the Tamhini village diversion point a refreshing shower gives the body a cold shock wave. Further about 10kilometres ahead is the breathtaking Plus valley. A brief stop-over for a couple of photographs and then we head towards the Tamhini ghat. It’s about 17:00hrs. The road ahead seems to penetrate into infinity as the sky gets overcast. Sounds from the innumerable streams cascading from the towering ranges abutting the road on the left side, seem to be magically muted by the strong gusts of wind. There’s not a soul on the road kilometres ahead and kilometres behind. I stand upright on the pedals letting the rules of physics govern my motion. As I dissolve myself in the encapsulating ambience capturing every frame with my closed eyes, the stark phenomenon of passage of time becomes evident. One year back I was right here on this road in a cab. Today nothing has changed – Just that I’m on a two wheeled machine powered by just the mind and the legs. Tamhini ghat has always been on the radar of un-accomplished rides for almost a year now. Couple of months back I had to miss one of the planned rides because of work commitments and today as I ride on this heavenly road, I’m speechless. For a couple of moments, all pain vanishes and what I get to experience is something which I guess would remain etched in memories for a long time to come.

Bani and I pullover to the side as Sudhansu, Sumanth, Viral and Mohan zip past us at the beginning of the ghat section. Dusk was setting in and we decide to sweep the team. 9 kilometres of complete downhill on the ghats can be real risky with vehicles spitting in at break neck speeds. We stop for some tea at the end of the ghat section and then proceed towards Vile. The next major town would be Kolad where we would be hitting the NH17. My body starts giving in at about 85kilometres into the ride. I’m compelled to stop intermittently to avoid impulsive heart beat surges. I take it easy for a while intently listening to telling signs and keep moving in a slow pace. There’s just one motivation to move on – to see to it that my first century ride does not turn out to be disappointing. At about 95kilometres I suddenly seem to get energy out of the blue to move on ahead. I take it in stride and gracefully ride ahead of the team. I’d forgotten to take my cyclo-computer for this ride, but the road markings out there were quite reliable and based on a rough estimates I should have completed my first century ride at Sutarwadi. I stop by the ‘Empower adventure training camp’ for sometime for rest of the folks to join me and once everyone’s in, we ride on towards Kolad.

As dusk sets in, things get easier. With LED headlamps and rear flicker lamps navigating through the roads gets all the more interesting. The beauty being we’re compelled to ride together and match the pace of the slowest member of the team. As we reach the NH17, navigating on the roads gets a bit dicey. At about 19:30hrs we hit Kolad. Viral suddenly seems to be smitten by the night queen and he powers down the road like never before. The remaining five of us ride in tandem. At about 20:00hrs we finally reach our chalked out destination at Roha– Hotel Dwarka. A staggered dinner at Navaratna hotel, thanks to the pathetic service and we crash in the lodge. A hot water bath [Geysers here are powered by LPG!] does the trick and even before I realise I’m in dreamland.

20th Sep ’09 – Sunday

05:45hrs. As I wake after seven hours of decent sleep, I test to see if my ass still pains. Surprisingly it doesn’t! The elation only lasts till the moment I jump onto the saddle after checking out from the place. There seems to be no cure for it and the ride has to go on. Today is going to be one long day. The plan was to head to Korlai fort [About 40km from here], spend about an hours time there, head back to Roha by noon, have lunch here, then proceed towards Kolad, Vile and then finally scale up the Tamhini ghat at night and camp at the start of the Ghat. That totals to about 120+ kms of ride and 9kms of ghat climb at the end.

We checkout at about 06:45hrs and ride ahead towards Korlai. The roads to start off seem to be pretty flat [Rather Pune flats, as Bani calls them]. Yesterdays’ sound sleep seems to have rejuvenated the muscles. I feel real fresh and but for the ass pain everything seems to be perfectly fine. I cruise ahead and go with the swing. Climbs with increasing yet manageable gradients soon pitch in making the ride all the more interesting. About 20kms from Roha, there’s this small dockyard where iron-ore is brought in to the hinterland. We stop here for sometime and then move on.

About ten kilometres ahead we come across a small village. A much needed heavy breakfast [Lip smacking Sheera, peppy hot Vada-Pav and crunchy toasts] at Pooja’s hotel and we move on towards Korlai. At about 10:45hrs we reach the Korlai diversion and ride into the village. The poor villagers are taken back with the sight of six nuts blistering through their streets on bicycles. Bani leads us through the village and then finally after some decent off-roading we reach the Korlai lighthouse. I stop a bit ahead, bank my bike on the rock and conk off for about twenty minutes blissfully sinking in the Arabian sea. The humid air and the cold breeze wafting across your body as you lie there staring into the open sea, with a bicycle beside you that’s got you 160kms from the mainland – Now that’s called living life!

After a five minute snooze, I head towards the Korlai fort where the remaining five folks had already scaled up the fort. The caretaker directs me up the fort and I wait for the team to complete their exploratory mission at the entrance of it. In a couple of minutes as the five get down, Bani reveals that there’s a change in plan. We’d be heading to Kashid beach instead of getting back to Roha and then hit back to Pune the next day. The plan sounded pretty interesting and I was instantly game! Sudhansu and Bani decided to head back to Roha to collect our luggage while Sumanth, Viral, Mohan and I relaxed by the Arabian sea. At about 12:30hrs we head back to Korlai and then to Borili for lunch. With no options left, we had to satisfy our tummies with the veg thali available in the only restaurant at Borili and head back to Korlai and wait here for Bani and Sudhansu to return. Once they return, we decide to find a means of transport back to Pune tomorrow and an accommodation for tonight. At Borili, we manage to hire a tempo for 2grand and accommodation at the same place where we had lunch. Everything in place we decide to head towards Kashid beach and get back tonite to the lodge. Kashid beach is about 15kms from Borili. The roads are mostly flat but for the last section which is a spine thrilling down slope with a spledid hairpin bend. [Viral seems to have had a near miss smooch from a vehicle coming from the opposite direction!].

The Kashid beach is one of the best beaches I’ve ever been to till date – Amazingly clean, Happening crowd and sparsely visited! After a bout of yummy maggi and some real hot tea we decide to head back to Borili. It’s already 19:00hrs and the road is pitch dark. An unwritten understanding passes on that we’re to move together all together for the whole stretch. Bani leads and I sweep. That 15kms is one of the best team rides I’ve ever done till now. All the way through, uphill or downhill, riding in synchronism in darkness – I would call it the real icing on the cake! We reach Borili at about 20:00hrs, have an ‘unhealthy’ oily food at the Chinese stall and retire to our rooms. Sudhansu comes up with an idea to head to the Korlai fort again the next morning and most of us immediately are game.

21st Sep ’09 – Monday:

05:30hrs. There’s not much to ride today – Just about 10kms probably. We head to the Korlai fort at about 06:00hrs. Viral and Mohan manage to capture some amazing sunrise shots and I get to explore the fort which I missed on yesterday. By about 07:30hrs all of us are back in the lodge. The Tempo lad whom we’d engaged yesterday turns up pretty much on time and at about 08:30hrs we head back towards Pune. A short pit stop at the same Pooja restaurant for breakfast and we’re all set for another ass paining ride back to Pune. We stop by Sudhagad – Pali for respite and then head towards Wakad. With this the Korlai ride comes to an end. A quick catch-up with Trupti, Rahul and Reetika and we head towards Brehman circle for the bus to Hyd.

This has been one interesting long ride! With a special thanks to Yogesh and Trupti for lending their bikes and of course Bani for mapping the whole ride out!

Stats:

  • Members                : 6
  • Distance covered  : Day 1 – 130kms Day 2 – 65kms Day 3 – 10kms
  • Route                      : Daily mile
  • Bikes                      : 3 carried from Hyd by Volvo, Two arranged at Pune

The Freedom ride ’09

The atlas cycle in front of me squeaks as the rider careens into one of the construction sites of the Aliens group. As I follow in tandem, I’m swept over by the cheers of the construction workers standing by the gates to welcome us into the rest station. Thumping music pulsates the 100+ crowd and the support they were profusely displaying for the cause was quite evidently portrayed in their charismatic faces. Each one ebulliently clapping and swaying as if they’re inviting the unbeatable winner of the Tour de France in regal honors! I’m at a loss of words to portray those emotions. These people just made my day and not to mention, that of the 150+ other riders.

August 15th ’09

Abhi is right at my door at 04:45hrs. He’d badly wanted to upgrade his Ubuntu OS and didn’t want to procrastinate it any more. We set up the downloads and leave for the Vidyanagar station at 05:10hrs. The mmts to Hitec city was at 05:19 hrs and it was almost evident that I’d miss it. He offers to drop me at the Novotel Hotel where the Freedom ride ’09 was to be started. and finally reach it at about 06:00am. The registration formalities begin as the riders dribble in along with their chic bikes [A few going upto 2 Lacs!]. We complete the registration of our team as Ram and Revathi ride in. I’d checked in my bike at Banjara hills the previous day to avoid riding the additional 30kms early in the morning. As the bike is checked out, I notice a flat in my front tier. Abhay and Deenanath pitch in with a few contacts and finally  Venki comes to the rescue with his toolkit and the issue is quickly resolved. The human wave is flagged off right on time post the Flag hoist at 7:15hrs. The 62kms ride begins. My first ever long ride post the chestburn. If completed,  this would be the first non-stop continuos ride without long breaks. I’m much wiser now with the Carb. loading for the whole last week and the early morning replenishment of banana shake. Besides, the plan mentioned thast replenishments would be available en-route as and when required.

We exit the city contours through the BHEL road. Amazing weather sets the pulse on and we start averaging about 20kmph. Riding through the service lanes on the roads ablely guided by the ever cheerful volunteers at vital junctions, we cross ICRISAT and a few kilometers ahead turn left to head towards Shankarapalli through Banur. Mobile replenishment stations and equally spaced out rest stations make riding an absolute cake walk! We take a three minute break at ICFAI Business School at about 40kms and get back to jackhammering the pedals.

A few kms before we hit the Mumbai road,  we’re invited by resplendent green farms on both sides of the road. Nature starts tantalizing us with a light drizzle and swift gusts of wind. As I glide through the roads completely mesmerised by the smell of the soil and the pastoral surroundings, flashes of reports from the newspapers wade by. Its the mid of August and monsoon has not as yet set in most parts of the country. Several states have been almost declared drought hit. Latest IMD forecasts do not seem to be positive either. Agricultural situation seems to be quite precarious. Power cuts would soon be the next tarot cards with the Government. The Central bank would be chipping in soon to check on the inflation. Govenrnment seems to be gearing up its water reserve measures. All this amidst a supposedly mid-Monsoon phase. This summer seems to be one dicey season. Where are we headed to?

63 years of independence. What independence are we celebrating when the future itself does not seem to be rosy? Every second person on the road today has his own vehicle. Every chap who graduates from the 12th grade dreams of having a bike of his own. Every other person who enters the corporate mainstream signs in papers for the latest brand car. Public transport is rarely used by the so called elite class. Travelling in metro rails and state government buses is considered to be portraying a low status in the society. Most evident reasoning given – ‘Waste of time, Dude’, ‘Insufficient buses!’, ‘Lack of connectivity’. ‘Pollution’. People get a life. It’s all about setting your priorities right. Your work will not be hampered if you reach couple of minutes late! If time is the issue – Start early. Wake up early. Bad traffic ? – Mate, the traffic is because YOU are creating it. You’re just adding on to the stack of multitude issues!

A set of kids ebulliently waving flags by the road get my thoughts back. We soon hit the Mumbai road and head towards the Kothaguda Junction. Five more minutes and we’ve given a royal entry into the Novotel hotel. 11:05hrs. Other riders soon start swarming in and we head to one of the conference rooms. Couple of interesting events by kids from a dance school help sink in the post ride pains. A touching oration of the Vandemataram song by a Akshaya Akruthi special kid and a sumptuous lunch brings the first edition of the Freedom ride ’09 to an end.

As I request the organisers to deliver my bike at Banjara hills and walk out of the gates of the Novotel hotel, I sink back in thoughts on how much passion for Biking changes the way we think. Earlier this year i’d been for the Enduro3 race and to say they’ve been orgainising the event for the past eight or so years is a shame on their part. This debut ride organised by these folks passionate about biking was one of the best ever organised events I’ve been to! Right from the initiation to the end of the event every aspect – Timely availability of replenishments, Spacing out of volunteers, Medical support, SAG wagons, Rest stations, Mobile support etc was taken under consideration. To say they’ve set a benchmark in organising events would be an insult! Kudos to the amazing team of volunteers and Organisers. Eagerly looking forward to the Tour de Republic ride!

Specifics:

Distance: 62kms

Registered Riders: 179

Cause: Proceeds from this event would be routed to underpreviledged children to fund their education

Organised by: Atlanta Foundation

Further details: Freedom ride ’09 Website

The Moron, the bike and the Himalayas – Jalori Pass Biking Expedition

The milestone reads – Sojha 1Km. The three of us are literally panting for breath. The altimeter on Bala’s digital watch states 400 more meters is yet to be covered. Far ahead we see a state transport bus inching its way up the curves of the road. A gust of wind gets the thin air moving and suddenly from somewhere I get this sudden urge and energy to pedal the last km of upslope. I bluntly retort to Bala that his altimeter was wrong for some self motivation and crave for my calf muscles to stand with me. Every revolution on the crank seems to sap the almost drained out energy. I just didn’t want to push my bike up the slope in the last one Km! I close my eyes and pedal almost oblivious of the steep valley to the left, give it all I have and in that seemingly endless five minutes and finally reach the next milestone which hazily reads – Jalori 5km.

If there was a device on earth that could register those few important moments, I would have done my might to procure it and put it to use here. There’s this quite prominent line that says its the destination that’s not important but the journey that leads you there. At 3500mts above sea level, about one-third the height of Mt. Everest. I realize just once again how true this is as my second personal goal for this year is checked off list in the thin air of the Himalayas.

21st May ’09 [Thursday]

The Spice jet flight taxies for about twenty minutes in the airport and finally comes to a standstill. Animesh and I pick a rick and head to Cannaught place. Animesh primarily wanted to purchase a filter for his SLR. Before heading to Palika bazaar we randomly enter a small restaurant named ‘Rajdhani’-a Gujarathi restaurant. In minutes we’re guided to an empty table and the waiters throng the table filling the plate with an assortment of dishes.  Even before the platter is empty another waiter pops by to ask if we need anything. If exemplary service had an epitome, this was it! Even before we realise, we are done with a regal lunch in just fifteen minutes. One another stark feature at this place is that you just do not have to rise from your chair once you sit at the table. A person walks up to you with a cistern and a bowl for you to wash your hands.I’ve never seen this at any restaurant till this date!Kudos to the Rajdhani management.

We then head to Palika Bazaar and shop around for the filter. It’s close to two by the time we find the exact piece and finally decide to head to the Travels through which we’d booked our bus for Aut – The base camp for the YHAI Mountain biking expedition. A series of calls, quite a lot of search and we finally get to reach the travels by around 16:00hrs only to find out that the boarding would have to be done at another point which was a fifteen minute walk from there. At about 16:30hrs we manage to reach the BP petrol pump which was supposed to be the boarding point. Co-passengers soon start dribbling in and we start guessing as to who would be joining us for the seven day expedition. The Bus leaves Janpath at about 17:40hrs.

22nd May ’09 [Friday] – Day 0 – Reporting at Base camp

A mild jerk wakes me up and I can barely shut my eyes having got a glimpse of the picturesque view from the window. The bus was cruising at about 80kmph on a narrow road winding amidst towering hills on one side and a pristine river in its early morning bliss. A look at my watch registers the time as 05:45hrs. Soon the bus enters into a tunnel which we later get to know to be about 3.5kms long! This is probably one of the longest tunnels I’ve ever travelled through. The bus comes to a halt and we’re told to get down here by the Bus attendant. The village just seems to be coming to life and the air is crystal clear with barely any evidence of pollution. A few posts which I’d referred to indicated that the YHAI hostel was barely 100m from the bus stop. We check with people around for the directlions only to be turned down with a negative response. None of them had heard of anything called – Youth hostel. Just as we turn around to find the way ourselves a lad pops from nowhere and directs us to walk some distance ahead to reach the building.

As we reach the building, we’re surprised to see no-one around. Animesh dials the number on one of the posters and finally someone by name ‘Dimple’ opens the door and invites us inside. Evidently, we’re the first two to reach the base camp for this expedition. This YHAI hostel is situated on the banks of the Beas river which silently winds its way across behind it. As we refresh and get ready, another person by name SishinderKumar introduces himseld as the camp in-charge. In a couple of hours five people from Bangalore chip in. Some initial formalities, a round of quick introductions then followed by a quick breakfast, Animesh and I decide to head to Kullu which is supposedly about 29kms from here. Sishinder suggests we visit the Vaishnodevi temple which is about a few kms from Kullu. We hitchhike a ride and get down quite some distance ahead of Kullu as Animesh wants to capture a very old bridge in his camera. A few quick shots here and we pick another bus to Kullu. From the Kullu bus stop we happen to board two more buses to reach the Vaishnodevi temple. I was literally intrigued by the architecture of this place.The sanctum sanctorum is on the fifth floor of a building, the best part being, it is enshrined in a cave! Each floor seems to be housing a different deity. This is the first time ever that I’ve come across of a temple being built in this style!

We finally get back to the Kullu town and head to a tibetan restaurant to try out some ethnic dishes. A quick round of Siddhu [Steamed Bread stuffed with assorted grains and spices] and Thupka [Noodles in a spiced gruel] and we board the bus back to Aut. A journey of an hour and a half and we finally reach the YHAI Hostel. As soon as we enter the hostel a gentleman brings his hand forward and introduces himself – ‘Hi, I’m Bala from Bombay’. Regular round of introductions and soon we have a quick lunch. The Bangalore folks[Dinesh, Ravi, Shanker, VInay and Sharon] had apparently left for Manikaran for some sight-seeing. At about three pm, the ninth member-Viral makes his entry soon followed by the four Soni brothers [Rakesh, Gopal, Kishan and Vipul]. As dusk sets in, Shishinder Kumar starts doling out his experiences with YHAI and the innumerable interesting incidents. We’re informed of the next days plan. Dimple confirms he would not be lending us the bicycles till the next day morning and after a sumptuous dinner we crash.

23rd May ’09 [Saturday] – Day 1 – Orienteering and Trial Run

By 07:30hrs we’re all set. Dimple hands over to each of us a ruck sack and asks us to carry a thick Rug and a water bottle. The plan was simple – Hike up to a temple about three kms away gaining a decent altitude and get back by 10:00hrs. As we wind uphill it takes only moments for us to digest the picturesque Himachal moutains and hillocks. Winding roads, Thin chilling breeze, Horses grazing by the hills and the warm sun slowly bringing life about. Shanker seems to take the bait and finds it a bit difficult to take it all in. Animesh of all the people has a great time what with school kids all around and the farmers tending to their farms early in the morning. We finally reach the temple at about 08:30hrs.Some time spent idylling here and we finally head downward.

Down at the base camp we get to know there are no more new entrants to the team. So the count is frozen at 13. After a quick breakfast, the rest of the morning is spent with Bala, Viral and Animesh debating on indian polity and other miscellaneous topics. Dimple distributes the gear and cycles post lunch and at about 15:00hrs we gear up for the evening warm-up ride.The rain delays the plans and we finally end up completing a decent 20+km ride followed by a ice-cream treat from Viral. By the time we reach the base camp, S.S.Heera – the program director and Nandakishore had already reached the place. Nandakishore does some ‘Gyan baant’ on team work and mental preparedness followed by an interesting session by Heera on the foundation of YHAI and its core working model. Soon we’re also introduced to Bindu, who would be with us for the next few days all through the expedition. A sumptuous dinner followed by an idyllic chat and soon we crash for the day.

24th May ’09 [Sunday] – Day 2 – Aut to Pharghu Pul

The 13 member team is flagged off at about 07:00hrs. Dimple guides us through the 3km tunnel and until Largi and from there directs us to ride along to PharguPul which would be our next campsite.

This is supposedly about 22kms and definitley not by any means simple for a mediocre cyclist too. Every turn round the corner your hope for a downward slope is blurred with an upward gradient. Viral seems to be leading the trail and somewhere around Bali, I manage to catch up with him. We wait for sometime here and are soon accompanied by a dog which in the next few days we realise would be with us all through the trip. We move two kilometers further and wait for the Soni brothers to join us. Bindu meets us a bit ahead and informs we’re just about a km from the base camp. With full enthu we now head to the base camp. A left at Phargu Pul and a few metres ahead we finally reach the Phargu Pul base camp. Pramod and Ashok [ The cooks at the camp] give us the welcome drink and after about half an hour, Viral and I decide to get back to the Bus stand at Phargu Pul to direct people to the camp. Bala soon joins us in about fifteen minutes followed by Animesh and the Bangalore folks. Animesh apparently had a great time striking a conversation with the localites there and got quite a few good shots.

We have a quick lunch and head to the adjacent river for a shower. The chilled water literally freaks the soul out of us! Dinesh and Ravi manage to prepare some hot water by the riverside. Animesh, Viral and I head out to the village skirts for a short evening walk and get back to the camp by 19:00hrs. The rest of the evening is spent lazing in the camp playing cards as the rain compels us to be indoors. A decent dinner and we’re done for the day.

25th May ’09 [Monday] – Day 3 – Phargu Pul to Jibhi

At about 09:20hrs we depart from the Phargu Pul campsite and head towards Jibhi through the Banjar town. Though this stretch is not as picturesque as the previous one, it is mottled with steep inclines. But for the last two kilometers, this 17km stretch is an absolute test of your endurance! The first four kms lead you to the Banjar town and is landscaped with noisy streets and narrow roads. Viral and I finally catch up at about 10kms from Phargu Pul. At one point we’re almost sapped of all the energy that we have that we stop for about 10mins. A few yards ahead we meet two bikers from Australia who were heading in the downward direction towards Manali. We move ahead a bit more and round the corner happen to find a water source trickling from the hills. As we refresh here, taking in the chilled water, A jeep which was headed towards Rampur stops by. The driver tries to coax us to ferry us to the base camp. We stay put and decide to head to the camp riding-come what may.

After a decent break of about fifteen minutes we head towards Jibhi. After about half an hour we finally reach the 2km milestone. Couple of wayfarers had mentioned the last two kms would be a perfect downhill. With that motivation we head downhill in full gusto. At one point of time we were in real good speed that we had to shout our hearts out to ask the people who were laying the road out there to move out of our way! Reaching the Om Shanthi Om resort was an eternal bliss! The resort was by itself set up in a mind-blowing location and facilities were Godly! Animesh, Bala, Soni Brothers and the Bangalore group soon trickle in.

Post lunch, Bala orders some Pakodas and almost everyone feasts on what was supposed to be Bala’s lunch! Another shower in the freezing waters and we head back to the tents for some rest. VIral, Animesh and I head to the village-skirts in the evening and sink in the countryside. Towering trees, gushing streams, kids idylling away, pleasant chilled breeze – You rarely get to exsperience these in the cities these days. We head back to the camp site and decide to purchase some muchy stuff for the next days ride. We soon end up striking a long conversation with the woman in the store. As she goes about describing the culture, we’re shocked listening to the change i in just about 17kms! People here are so welcoming that you feel you’re in a totally different world.

After a long conversation we take leave and head to the campsite for dinner followed by campfire. The day takes its toll and we soon hit the beds.

26th May ’09 [Tuesday] – Day 4 – Jibhi to Shoja

We’re flagged off at about 09:30hrs from the Jibhi base camp. The previous day was a cake walk compared to what we had to undetgo on this stretch. This was supposed to be a 7KM ride, but the altitude to be gained was quite a lot!The not yet constructed roads made things much worse. Enroute we infact happened to meet Israeli Bulleteers who at times found it hard to match pace with us! At about the four km mark Animesh joins us. All through Viral and I had yet another company – The dog! Bala soon joined us at about 2kms from the final destination. A few kms ahead viral’s cycle chain gave in and we had to push the bike uphill with no option left. We proceed uphill, pushing and riding intermittently.

The milestone reads – Shoja 1Km. The three of us are literally panting for breadth. The altimeter on Bala’s digital watch states 400 more metres are to be covered. Far ahead we see a state transport bus inching its way up the curves of the road. A gust of wind gets the thin air moving and suddenly from somewhere I get this urge and energy to pedal the last km of upslope. I bluntly retort to Bala that his altimeter was wrong for some self motivation and crave for my calf muscles to stand with me. Every revolution on the crank seems to sap the almost drained out energy. I just didn’t want to push my bike up the slope in the last one Km. I close my eyes and pedal almost oblivious of the steep valley to the left, give it all I have and in about five minutes I reach the next milestone which hazily reads – Jalori 5km.

I’m on cloud nine! The bicycling stretch had been completed! The next 5kms stretch to Jalori pass would be done the next day by walk. We have a yummy feast with Maggi and Coffee and latermove out to explore the fields. As we sit in the basement of one of the old rustic houses, a frail old women asks us to come over to the verandah in the first floor. Animesh, Viral and I fall into a conversation with the old lady and her daughter-in-law. While Animesh rushes to get his camera, the lady doles out about her ancestors and then nothing in particular. As we plan to leave the daughter -in-law shows us a few things that she’d made at home – Phoolae– Shoes made out of grass and Pattu – a garment that Himachal women wear above their regualar clothes something akin to a shawl. The old woman turns out to be a pro-saleswoman and in minutes boosts the price of the goods. We promise to return in the evening as we didn’t have any cash then. Later we realise that to be a wise decision as the same item was available for half the price at a nearby store!

We later explore some beaten track in the evening and after a good dinner sign off the day.

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p style=”text-align:justify”>27th May ’09 [Wednesday] – Day 5 – Shoja – Jalori Pass – Phargu Pul

At about 06:00am we head to Jalori Pass by walk. A decent hour and forty five minutes walk up the winding roads and we reach the summit. Jalori Pass written off the checklist of things to be covered! There’s a small temple up there and about 5kms ahead is a hot water lake.

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Due to paucity of time we start heading back to Shoja after having breakfast at the peak and reach the Shojha camp by 10:30hrs. Lunch followed by some rest and we finally push off to the Phargu Pul base camp at about 13:30hrs. Viral happens to have a bad fall off the bike. So we take extra precaution while riding down, get his wounds nursed at Banjar and finally reach the Phargu Pul base camp at about 15:00hrs. I’m compelled to drop the Ludhiana visit for Rahul’s marriange as breaking from the group at this point would seem quite out of the funnel. Another rejuvenating dip in the frigid beas river followed by yet another dinner and we call it a day.

28th Mat ’09 [Thursday] – Daty 6 – Phargu Pul to Aut

This would be our last ride back. At about  08:30hrs we leave from Phargu Pul and head towards Aut. I make it a point to take it easy and ride as slow as possible digesting the ambience around. The MB09 batch happens to meet us somewhere around Largi. In royal camaraderie we wave at each other and proceed to the tunnel. Finally as all of us group at the tunnel entrance, we fuel the human train and in about fifteen minutes we reach the Aut base camp. We decide to check out that very same day and head to Manali after lunch. At about 14:30hrs we board a bus to Kullu and from there to Khakhnal. The Youth hostel at Manali is located at Khakhnal which is about 9kms before you reach Manali. The Soni Brothers, Viral, Animesh and I head to a supposedly popular Karthikeya temple, while away time watching people gamble right in front of the temple in the vast expanse and finally head back to Sarthak resorts. The Bangalore folks decide to head to Rohtang pass the next day and checked if I were interested in joining them. I outrightly accept and after a sumptuous dinner crash in the dormitory.

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29th May ’09 [Friday] – Rohtang Pass

At about 05:30hrs the six of us head to Rohtang pass in a Sumo. We pick up the woolen garments en-route at shop 38 where Tenzing, our guide for the Rohtang Skiing joins us.As the road winds up the scenic himalayan range we soon notice we’re just one among the hundreds of vehicles inching their way up the roads to reach Rohtang pass. Tenzing teaches us the basics of skiing and in minutes we’re left to ourselves for about an hour and a half in the white landscape. Rohtang pass is supposed to be the origin of the River beas and a temple is built here to demarcate this. We finally decide to head to Solang pass for Paragliding at about 12:00hrs. As luck would have it, it starts drizzling and the program stands cancelled. With not much options left we finally head to the Vashisht temple and from there to the Manali Pvt. bus stand where my bus to Delhi was to depart. A leisure half an hour is spent in the Piccadely restaurant and at about 17:30hrs the Bus departs to Delhi. Animesh leaves a bit early by another service while Viral and I leave by the 17:30 service. The Bangalore folks had their bus about an hour later.

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30th May ’09 [Saturday]

At about 07:00hrs the Bus reaches Janpath. Viral and I proceed to the Metro station at Palika Bazaar.Viral leaves for Dwaraka while I head to Ajmeri Gate. Vairavan was supposed to join me here from Chandigarh but had to opt out in the last moment. Rishi happens to be around and soon reaches the station by around 9:00am. We spend a couple of hours in the station and at about 12:00am I decide to rent a room in a lodge close by and crash. My train to HYd was at about 17:30 and I was least interested to roam on the Delhi roads. I manage to find a decent place and get refreshed enough to leave for Hyd later in the evening.

All in all this has been the best ever vacation in my life. Ten whole days of being away from the hustle bustle of city life, almost totally disconnected from regular friends and family members with nothing but a bike and twelve other people from diverse regions in India to give you company in probably one of the most panoramic locations in the world. Moments that I would cherish for years to come!

Photos Coutesy: Animesh, Bala

Misc:

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p style=”text-align:justify”>No. Of days: 10 [7days biking]

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p style=”text-align:justify”>Approx. Exp: ~8000 INR [Flight,travel, Acco.,Food,Skiing charges incl.]

Animesh’s Photo blog post: Blipfoto

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