It was cold and our brains stopped working and just two kilometers before the Sach Pass, we thought that we had reached at the top of the pass.
I imagined this to be the top of the pass, we reached this spot, obviously snow walls were not this much high. We stopped our motorcycle and looked around, it was all snow and stones lying hither-thither, forming a randomly organized pattern. It was a silent agreement between us that we [can] not go beyond Sach Pass into the Pangi Valley considering the road conditions and our mental condition.
However, we kept on riding and saw two shepherds walking towards the pass top. Inquiring, we got to know that we were about to do one of the biggest mistakes of our life by turning around from the previous spot. However, we were lucky enough to find them and the ride continued further. A temple, an emergency shed, and snow all around, that comprises the Sach Pass.
If the road closes down at this point from both sides, there is plenty of snow all around. Either you eat snow, or it will eat you.
While coming back, we wanted to capture some photographs but nature has its own ways. The near zero visibility had now turned to absolute zero visibility. We somehow managed to ride downhill and reached at the Police check-post at Satrundi. Kilad was still 75 kilometers away from the top of the pass and roads conditions were not going to be better until we had reached Keylong. The decision of coming back was good and sensible. I guess we managed not to cross the thin line between bravery and foolishness. It is always advisable to fall back if you have slightest of the doubts because with doubts, you don’t and should not mess with the Himalayas.
Dhaba at Satrundi was unlike other dhabas I have seen because the rates were not sky-high. Money matters because there is a huge difference between a tourist and a ghumakkad (घुमक्कड़ ) . A tourist plans a tour once in a year. He can afford to pay INR 15 for a cup of tea but for a ghummakad (घुमक्कड़), monetary balance matters a lot. If you drink one tea every 50 kilometers then it turns out to be 15 cups of tea for 750 kilometers, total distance traveled in the journey was 750 km. Now, for two it becomes 30 cups of tea, which means INR 450 spent exclusively on tea, which can buy you at least 6 liter of gasoline with which you can ride 210 more kilometers with an average of 35 kmpl.
Now all this might sound very cheap talk to tourists but ask a ghumakkad and he will understand all these figures and facts instantaneously.
So coming to the point, that dhaba was a good place to eat, dine, and drink. I did not inquire about night accommodation but I am sure if one is coming back from Sach Pass and it is late in the evening, say post 5 P.M., stop your journey at Satrundi itself. We had plenty of time with us and we decided to go to Chamba on the very same day so that we could go to the Jot Pass, which was not included in the original plan. The roads are not bad in Chamba just that they are narrow. Until Tissa village, roads were single lane and from Tissa to Chamba, the roads can be termed anything between one & half lane and double lane.
We left for Chamba, it was already 8 P.M. We lost our way twice or may be thrice, and reached Chamba by 9 P.M.
As they always say, the last few kilometers always hurt and they always do. Motorcycle rides in the hilly regions should never be time bound because if you are running after time, chances of you killing yourself in an accident are every high. We were riding as fast as 75kmph from Tissa to Chamba and the destination was nowhere to be seen. After a long run, we finally reached Chamba.
Moving forward, we left for Hamirpur early in the morning and the plans had changed overnight. We decided to go to Khajjiar because that place is nothing less than heavens for a photographer. My friend kept clicking photographs and he remained busy for more than two hours. His face was beaming with joy; a place changing moods with every passing minute is all that a photographer needs. Khajjiar Lake changed its colors, shades, reflections, and appearance many times that day. However, we were not lucky enough to see the Manimahesh Kailash, as it is believed that lucky ones get to see the peak of the Manimahesh Kailash located in the Bharmour region of Chamba. We left for Jot Pass in the afternoon, kept looking for free food stalls, in the name of gods obviously.
115 feet Lord Shiva near Khajjiar
Jot Pass stands at a height of 2880 meters above the sea level. One wise man once said that without crossing over the Jot Pass you never get to know what reaching Chamba means. Jot Pass overlooks the Chuwadi Valley and it is 23 kilometers away from the top of the Pass.
Luckily for us, it did not rain when we were in Chamba because rains in Chamba are dangerous because they bring landslides with them.
This trip changed my definitions and perceptions about passes. For me, Rohtang Pass was the toughest pass but Sach Pass has forced me to change my reference points with regard to the toughest pass of Himachal, as of now. Now, I am 100% sure that once we head into the Pangi Valley, our definitions of risk, danger and difficulty are going to change forever.