However, where there is a will, there is a भाई , we had a fourth ‘surprise’ partner, who we never expected to come with us, at least on a motorcycle expedition. So, finally, just one day before going to Manali, we got to know the names of all who were going. That took us to the second level of the problem, arranging for a second motorcycle, we had one and four on one is not a good idea at all. So negotiations started, and after three hundred and twenty three (323) phone calls and emails, we could arrange for another Royal Enfield, INR 1350 per day (rent) + INR 10, 000 security and all paid in advance.
Two guys started from Delhi, reached Manali in the morning, one day before leaving. Two guys started from Hamirpur and reached Manali in the evening. The Delhi guys were supposed to take the test ride of the ‘rented bike’ and OK the deal. However, those two riders could not win the confidence of the bike owner because of their ‘exceptional riding skills‘ and he advised them to take the alternative route, which was going to Shimla from Manali and start the journey in the reverse order. Gradually, things settled down and the bike was OK tested in the evening. The whole night was spent in packing and abusing and drinking. Everyone was happy and excited and worried about The Rohtang. In Manali, or in the biking fraternity there is a saying, one who crosses Rohtang will always reach Leh or anywhere he/she wants to go. अर्थात् जिसने रोहतांग निकाल दिया वो लेह, स्पिति, चाइना, कहीं भी पहुँच सकता है |
Day1: 5 A.M
Who will sit with whom was not yet decided and it again became a random seating arrangement. Shishir sat with me and Taunk joined The Joy Paul as the pillion rider. As soon as we left Manali, we realized that Shishir has forgotten his wrist watch in the hotel room itself, probably aftermaths of drinking too much of Old Monk. I [We] was not expecting to find it but half-heatedly we decided to go back and have a look and luckily we found it lying under the wrapper of Haldiram Moong Daal, which is a favorite of sharabis all over the world or India atleast.
After finding the watch, the भाई said, “Time is ours. We will be victorious.” and today these words have become historical statement of the tour.
First 30 kilometers were smooth, zero traffic, cold breeze and nice road. However, as soon as we reached Marhi, things started to become ugly because road was nowhere to be seen and all one could spot on the road was mud, mud and more mud. It took us one hour to cover first 35 kilometers and the next 17 kilometers to reach on the top of the Rohtang Pass took us not less than three hours. We met a couple from Dehradun, who were traveling on a 150cc Bajaj Pulsar, and believe me that guy knew how to ride hard. He was navigating through the mud and slush as if he was riding through the highway lanes of Chandigarh city. Anyhow, after falling twice and getting hurt not even a single time, we reached on the top of the Rohtang and that ‘old saying’ started to play inside my head. I was happy that now we have crossed the first and the only hurdle, things are going to be as smooth as planned.
Then we spoke to the couple from Dehradun and got to know that the lady (Neha Negi) was just not a pillion rider but she very well knew riding the bike. In fact, she rode the bike for the one half of the journey. Then, she told us that she can also ride a Royal Enfield. Then she told that she is married, has an year old kid as well. And after all this, she was standing on the top of the most dangerous and toughest mountain passes of Himachal Pradesh. Well, history was never written by sane men, I mean women.
We met another group doing Mumbai-Leh on bikes and among them one was riding a 115cc Bajaj Caliber , The Hoodibaba Bike. [Watch@Youtube]. I wanted to meet him but he was sleeping, so I salute you dude, wherever you are.
We met a Canadian guy, 18 years old ‘kid’ by Indian definition, on foot from Manali to ‘God Knows Where’, wearing namesake clothes. Naved, was his name.
We were still unclear about our next move, we were never clear about this trip actually. We could not decide where to stay because we did not want to repeat last year story, so we decided to avoid the places where we had stayed last year. Finally, it was decided that we will spend one night at Chandra Taal lake, however it could not happen because road to the lake was not yet opened. Every year some ministers go there to perform the rituals and only then the roads are opened. So it was tough luck for half of us because two of us had already witnessed the beauty of this majestic lake.
And then started the Rider Mania because we were already running ahead of our planned schedule and we had nothing to do but travel. Kunjum Pass blocked our way last year, so it was decided that we will cross the mighty Kunjum La!(4590 m) and then halt at the Losar Viallge, the entry point of the Spiti Valley.
There is an interesting fact about Kunjum La, it has got 22 curves and one small mistake and you become one with the Chandra River. On the top of the pass, there is a temple and it is mandatory to take your vehicle round the temple to have a safe and sound journey. Even a staunch non-believer will once think of going round the temple because of the bad roads.
When we reached at Losar, it was still day and we thought of stretching bit more, however it was going to be very difficult to reach Kaza on the same day but sane men never go to Spiti Valley on bikes. We decided to cover another 57 kilometers and pushed with all our energy. The last few kilometers were killing because the wrists were swollen, the hands were frozen and the eyes were unable to concentrate on the road.
My feet were swollen and I could not sense anything but numbness in my limbs.The silence was so deafening that it made a black hole inside my head and riding was becoming more and more difficult. Finally, at god knows what time, we reached Kaza, half of us went in search of hotel while I lied on the road , my heartbeats making sounds louder than the bells ringing in the adjacent monastery.
I could not believe that everything went fine. I was expecting that we will not find any hotel in Kaza and then we will travel another 43 kilometers to find accommodation but nothing of that sort happened and we slept peacefully.
Welcome to the land of Old Monk and Yaks.
Distance Traveled: 203 KM, Travel Duration: 14 Hours
Manali>Rohtang>Grapmhu>Chatrru>Chota Dara>Batal>Chandra Taal>Kunjum>Losar>Kaza
Coming Up Next : Spit~ism – Day2 – (Oil Mania)