Sunday, June 13, 2010

North India Trip - Himachal Pradesh and beyond

    Once Srini, my cousin and I decided go on a long bike trip in North India, we began the stretched out process of planning for it. We wanted to go as far as possible along the Delhi-Chandigarh-Manali-Leh road and back on Srini’s rusty dependable CBZ.

On the way to Rotang

Here is a sketch of how it went. You can skip this part unless you are planning a similar trip:

Day1 - Start from Bangalore to Delhi (2061 kms) by train.
Day2 - Boring train journey with bad food.
Day3 – Reached Delhi and unpacked the bike. Left for Chandigarh (250 kms) and visited Kurukshetra on the way.
Day4 - Leave for Manali from Chandigarh (350 kms). White water rafting and amazing ride.
Day5 –Leave for Rotang from Manali (50 kms) and stay at Khoskar (70 kms from Manali) for the night.
Day6- Going further into the wilderness. Visited Keylong (110 kms from Manali) and Darcha (145 kms from Khoskar) before returning to Manali.
Day7 – Hot water spring bath at Manikaran (80 kms from Manali) and stayed put at Bilaspur for the night. (Manikaran to Kullu-30 kms and Kullu to Bilaspur-154 kms).
Day8 – Back to Delhi. Visited Rock garden and rose garden in Chandigarh. (Bilaspur to Chandigarh-135 kms and Chandigarh to Delhi-250 kms)
Day9- Qutb Minar, Red fort and India Gate, Lotus temple and Chandini Chowk.
Day10- Travelled in the Delhi Metro. Visited Khan Market and dinner at Haldirams.
Day11- Shopping at Palika Bazaar. Got the bike packed into the train and set off to home in the evening.
Day12 – Another train journey.
Day13 – Reach Bangalore by 7 a.m. Back to usual grind.

We left Bangalore on 28th May at around 10 p.m on the Sampark Kranti express. Srini had already loaded his bike into the same train that morning for 2200 rupees.  After spending the next day planning, sleeping and eating uncooked railway food, the blistering north Indian heat welcomed us into Delhi. We were desperate to get out of the heat; got our bike back and pushed it to a nearby petrol bunk. The first thing that impressed me about our capital was the well connected roads and infrastructure. We hit the karnal road and left for Chandigarh immediately. Stopped at Rasoi dhaba a k.m into Haryana and got our first taste of simply exquisite authentic north Indian cuisine.

In front of a 3 km long tunnel before Kullu

After travelling in a car for more than two years, I took some time getting used to bike travel. We reached Chandigarh at around 7 p.m. Srini played the student card well and got a 50% discount at Plaza hotel.  One cardinal rule I would add for bike travellers in India is to pretend you are students; gets you the best rates everywhere.

River Beas in full flow
We left for Manali at around 8 a.m. You know you have entered Himachal Pradesh when the pleasant breeze of the mountains replaces the heat of the plains. They say that the journey is more important than the destination and we had a gala time on the way to Manali; be it rafting in the cold waters of Beas river and having chilled beer with the owner afterwards or travelling through a 3 k.m. long tunnel just before Kullu. Reached Manali at around 9.30 p.m. and settled into the cosy house of our host – Das Guruji.
Guruji is an 80 year old ayurvedic doctor who still zips around Manali in his Santro. His secret: Wake up on time, sleep on time, eat on time and eat nutritious food. In that case, any software engineer is destined to die early.  Guruji seemed glad to have visitors and chatted with us way into the night when all we wanted was sleep.
Normal work day in Manali

                We have a great sight awaiting us on waking up- snow clad peaks on the road to Leh, our final destination. Our plan to go to Leh hit a serious roadblock when we learnt that all roads to Rotang were closed every Tuesday for repairs. The policeman in charge ignored our pleas that we would not be able to read Keylong/Darcha before end of day. I spent time exploring the nearby hills and working on my photography skills with Srini as my guinea pig. Finally the policemen relented and let us go ahead at around 4 p.m.
    The road to Rotang, which is at an altitude of 15000m, was bad with plenty of places where you could puncture the bikes if you drive carelessly. It took us two long hours to reach Rotang and we were too cold and tired to even touch the ice, let alone play with it. Exactly not how I imagined my first visit to an ice clad peak.  Those images of people playing in ice faded as we had a tough decision to make- whether to go ahead towards Keylong in the fading light or restart our journey from Manali the next day.

Me at Rotang pass with furry rabbit

Rotang pass

    We decided to head forward after some discussion. Around a k.m. into the drive, the roads were replaced by one foot streams caused due to the melting ice and light started fading fast. Srini started vacillating that we should have gone to Simla and the relatively easier Spiti in Kaza valley; I wanted us to go forward in spite of these difficulties as this was to be our adventure to script. It was at these times that both of us pushed each other to our physical limits and I was thankful to have somebody I trusted. We headed forward to Khoskar around 20 kms from Rotang.
    A few more kms into this treacherous ride, a few people warned us about a muddy stretch where their 4 wheel drive had almost got stuck. Once we heard this, Srini rode very carefully expecting any slush of water to be quicksand. And our bike almost got stuck at the exact same location they had warned us about. Fortunately the CBZ came through under these exacting conditions and we went forward to the welcoming village of Khoskar for the night. Never were we so glad to see a dhaba or a village or have a cuppa. The untidy little room were rented there probably costs a lot less than what we paid, but we would have paid a lot more for that at that point in time. We were now officially in the midst of an adventure.

On the way to Keylong

    We woke up in the morning to find that Khoskar was a beautiful little village surrounded by snow clad mountains on all four sides. Took some great pics. We met a Delhi Constable who had come to Khoskar through the Kaza valley all the way from Simla. He advised us to go to the famous Chandrataal lake on that road. He warned us that he had to get the help of a crane to extricate his new alto car from 4 feet deep pit of water where it had got stuck. Both Srini and I made a mental note to avoid that route all together and headed Darcha.
    We filled up petrol in Tandi, around 5 kms before Keylong. Ideally for a Leh trip, this would have been the last location to fill up the tank. Darcha is around 35 kms from Keylong. Throughout the way to Darcha, we came across breathtaking valleys and mountains and stopped at regular intervals to take pictures.

The beautiful little town of Keylong

   Written on a board in the treacherous way to Leh – “If you are married, divorce speed”. Not that you can ever find smooth roads to accelerate there! Our Himalayan adventure ended at Darcha but both of us looked back at the mountains one last time promising ourselves that we would one day return to complete the journey to Leh.

Liked my blog on the first part you the trip?? Here's what happened next- North India Trip Continues


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Manali Tourism said...

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