The morning had finally arrived! I was feeling relatively better, had a decent 3 hours sleep and woke up at sharp 1:30 AM to get ready and start the most awaited ride! I had packed my Tank and Tail bag before sleeping to save time. I took a bath, got ready with all my gear, went out to kick-start my bike and then out of the blue, Adit showed up! He wanted to start the ride with me and go to the meeting point together! It was surely a very pleasant surprise.
Bandita took our pic for the records, then I took a customary pic of the speedometer and then just as we started to move, we chanted Jai BoP to formally begin our Leonine LahaulSpiti Ride. BoP Traditions are sacrosanct and must be always followed you see!
We reached the meeting point in 45 minutes which was close to the Delhi Border. George and Hari were nowhere to be seen, we tried calling their numbers but there was no response! We sent them our GPS coordinates and kept waiting for them. Finally George arrived, we were elated so see each other and shouted the golden word “Paaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaai”! After the pleasantries, there was another 15 minutes wait for Hari to arrive but he didn’t, so we decided to leave and sent him a message to meet us after the Panipat Toll Plaza.
I was surprised to cross so many flyovers on NH-1, they were endless indeed! I remembered my 2008-09 rides when NH-1 work was in progress and it was a pain to traverse these roads but now it was an absolute pleasure! We kept up chomping kilometres after kilometres. I was absolutely loving the fact that I was riding again after a long gap and kept thanking God for giving me this opportunity! The weather was absolutely perfect too for a nice & easy 70-80 kmph ride.
We reached the Panipat Toll Plaza at 5:15 AM where Hari joined us and finally the Leonines were together. We got ourselves introduced, enjoyed cups of hot tea and then started again for another 100 kms ride before we were to stop for our next break.
I stopped twice in between for short photo and piss breaks though. The gorgeous morning was too good to resist you see! I also clicked my signature sunrise shot with my bike which I have always taken on my bike rides!
We re-grouped and stopped just after crossing the Chandigarh bypass at 7:15 AM, this time for a longer breakfast break and enjoy a much more relaxed time. Thanks to my unreliable tummy, I played safe and just had plain Aloo Paranthas without any chilly or spices and gobbled 2 of them with 2 cups of hot tea! It was very cloudy and with some dark clouds looming in the horizon, I was getting a bit anxious about the possibility of rains hitting us when we entered the mountain zone!
We were 1 hour ahead of our planned schedule so decided to take it easy and finally left at 8:15 AM and decided to regroup again at Kandaghat. And then we crossed the wildly photographed “Himalayan Expressway” which ended as soon as it began and was quite a damp squib! But it has surely cut down the travelling time as don’t have to go through the mess of Pinjore and Kalka which is a huge relief. The roads following it were much beautiful and scenic though! I was zipping past these roads at 60-70 kmph and maneuvering those lovely turns with quite some ease! I stopped near Solan for another photo op and George followed suit to enjoy his sutta break.
We had decided to skip the Shimla-Kufri route and take the Chail-Kufri one even though it is longer as it is far more beautiful plus I wanted to relive the memories of my 2008 BoP Chailastic Riders Ride! The roads are still the same but Chail is much more commercialized now with lots of hotels and shops which have mushroomed across the route. During 2008 it just had 3-4 hotels and very few shops! We stayed in a very dingy lodge which had a real nasty odour!
I rode across the Pine trees laden route which is absolutely gorgeous and to make things even better, it started to drizzle with thick dark clouds looming over us. We got the rain-gear out and started the ride towards the maddening Kufri. We stopped 2 times for taking photographs and soaking in the scenery! Thanks to the drizzle, Kufri was much less crowded but had the customary horse dung smell hitting us like always!
Once again Hari had got left behind as he didn’t take the cut for Chail but took the one for Shimla. We waited for him just after Theog and had a longish Chai-Sutta break but he was nowhere to be seen so decided to start again and wait for him when we had to stop next for the lunch break.
We stopped for lunch somewhere on the highway (I don’t remember the name of the hotel or the town though) and had a sumptuous lunch of Dal Fry, Butter Chicken (which we returned as it was under-cooked) and Kadhai Paneer. The food was good, the restaurant clean and the pricing was optimal. It ticked all the boxes for us!
We started for the last leg of the ride at 3:30 PM and stopped at 4:45 PM for a short Chai-Sutta break at a small highway Thela serving tea and some snake items. It was managed by a young Himachali couple accompanied by their kid who had a pet dog too! And that dog had eaten a monkey that afternoon! Yes, you read it correctly. It was the first time we were hearing that a dog could actually eat a monkey! These mountain dogs look cute but are quite lethal and vicious! We were treated to refreshing cups of tea by him while we chatted with him. Their Tea Cup designs also caught our fancy! It said “Papa”! I was missing Abhay a lot and these cups were near perfect for the occasion!
We gave him a Dunhill Switch cigarette and the kid who is smashingly named Laksh Raj, an energy bar. And when we asked for the bill he said ‘Sir, kuch mat do; bas aap acche se jaao’. That’s the Himachali hospitality I have always experienced.
He asked us where we were heading and just as we were about to leave, he told me a story about the Kunzum Mata temple on the Kunzum Pass. I would share that story and what I did once we reach that point in the travelogue! It was fun talking to this small and hardworking family and we wished them the best of luck.
Soon, the terrain around us started to get more beautiful with the Sutlej River also joining us for company plus the roads also started to get tougher with some hair pin bends making their presence felt too. We took multiple breaks to take photographs and enjoy the scenes.
Just before we were about to reach Rampur, my bike had a minor issue and stalled without a reason! Luckily I had Adit riding with me and a Bullet mechanic shop nearby so I got it checked. Thankfully it was a minor issue; the young kid tightened the Tappet valves and my bike was up and running. This was the first in a series of minor breakdowns which my bike faced through the 9-days ride.
We finally reached Hotel Bushehar Regency run by HPTDC at 7:15 PM. George had already completed the check-in formalities so we got into our designated rooms without any delay. The rooms were dated and old-school style but quite cozy. Most importantly, the rooms were air-conditioned and even though the ACs looked like from the 1980s, they were in working condition and decently effective. They had Wired Remotes to boot! All of us freshened up, ordered dinner and decided to sleep early to kick-start the next day really early.
We had traversed 511 kms in total. I started from my home in Gurgaon at 2:30 AM and was on the road for 17 hours! The feeling of traversing the beautiful mountain roads was absolutely magical and I wasn’t feeling exhausted at all! The passion had taken over you see!
Our bodies were relaxed, our minds refreshed and our tummies adequately full. The only thing left was a night full of rejuvenating sleep and we duly complied! We were all bundled up in our beds by 10:30 PM!
The next day was going to be another special one as we were to visit Chitkul – which is the last Indian village in that part of our border with China and witness the splendor of the Kinner-Kailash Mountain range at Kalpa which was going to be our night halt.
Day by Day Travelogues of the Ride:
So till the time we meet again…
Cheers to life…
Till then ride safe and have safe sex…
Hasta la Victoria Siempre…