Another day, another early start but it was for a different reason today. I wanted to witness the magic of sunrise today! I woke up George, we both freshened up and went to the balcony to enjoy the ethereal scene waiting for us!
The view from the common balcony of our Hotel was almost dream like! The first sun-rays of the day were oozing out of the Kinner-Kailash mountain range and weaving magic! We soaked in the scenes and were there till 7 AM taking photographs and continuing with our conversation from where we left off in the night.
While I was changing, I looked out of the window and saw apple trees full loaded with apples. I had never seen so many fruits on one single tree! It was such an astonishing sight.
Breakfast was again Aloo Paranthas and Tea which was the staple breakfast just like every other bike ride I have been a part of. I also got 2 paranthas packed for the road.
My rear brake was making a weird noise so I decided to get it checked at Reckong Peo; luckily we found a Royal Enfield specialist in the town and when he checked the brake shoes they were completely worn out and had to be replaced. It wasted 30 minutes for us and I was feeling very guilty to have delayed us. Even though we had to cover just 160 kms that day, I wasn’t feeling good about the forced 30-minutes wastage.
We had left the greenery behind and were in the barren terrain from now on. The Lahaul Spiti circuit is as barren as it gets and we were loving the hues of greys and browns! The colours of the Kargil-Leh circuit I covered in 2008 during my bike ride came to my mind as a comparison reference.
River Sutlej was our constant partner all the way through with its gushing sound which was scary at times but a trusted partner for sure!
It was getting very hot and then we experienced another landslide and this time it had blocked a bridge over the river. We were advised to go a bit downhill to move forward. There was a lot of construction activity happening across this short path which meant lots & lots of sand! We somehow started and finally reached an uphill stretch where we saw that George had slipped along with his bike and we could do nothing much as there was no way we could have put our bike on stand! George somehow got his bike up which showed is mental & physical strength and cleared the stretch. Because I had stopped it meant that I had no momentum and there was no way my bike would have cleared that height. I asked Adit to move forward and then come back to push my bike up. He did the needful and the worst was over! I was completely drenched in sweat after this short mess.
We then stopped for a breather and get some re-hydration. Soon a man came to us asking us to push his Chevrolet Beat up the same way we came. We went down and then got him through. He came, thanked us and then asked the quality of roads waiting for us! This guy had no idea about the roads and came with his car all alone from Delhi that too without any spares. I don’t know what to call it – adventure or stupidity!
And then we spotted another well-documented and photographed sign board which reads “You are travelling on the world’s most treacherous road ” which I think clearly isn’t the case as we experienced much worse roads later during the ride! But it was a pleasure to have finally been on this road and seeing that board.
The roads kept getting tougher and there was no tarmac so to speak of except some patches which came and left us quite quickly. And we left no opportunity to zoom our bikes whenever we got a smooth tarmac!
We have had enough of bad roads and I was feeling very hungry so decided to stop for lunch at a roadside joint where we were served Rajma-Chawal-Roti and Chowmein. I gobbled it up and also got 1 plate of Chowmein packed which came very handy as the day progressed! This place was managed by 3 tough ladies who took no bullshit from anybody. We saw one of them giving it back to a rowdy customer who tried to act smart with them. And in addition to their bad-assery, they also cooked delicious food. Surely a winning combination.
And then we spotted the most important sign board of our ride which read “Welcome to Lahul & Spiti” and without any doubt we had to stop and pose for photographs! The terrain was absolutely beautiful at this place.
Sometime later we crossed a series of hairpin bends while going uphill which reminded me of Gata Loops in Ladakh! My mind went back to my 2008 Ladakh Ride when I had crossed the Gata Loops.
We crossed Malling and then took another short break to enjoy the views.
We also stopped at the Naygo Dwar Dhaba for a tea break and a Theka was also located here. I definitely wanted to hydrate myself so I had 2 bottles of “Elaichi Milk”! Yes, you read it correctly, I had Elaichi Milk at a Theka!
We reached Nako afterwards where we went to the Nako Lake which was quite a disappointing experience as it was more of a small pond than a lake.
But a fun & memorable thing happened at the Lake Parking spot where we saw a big group of motorcycles, most of which had Chandigarh number plates and the flags of “Road Survivors” which is a Chandigarh-based RE Club and I had the pleasure of meeting quite many of them at the Ooty Rider Mania which I attended in January 2009. While we were chatting up with some of their members, I saw a rider walking up and I quickly recognized him as Gurmeet Sohi! We have been in touch on Facebook since 2008 but had never met in person and this was such an awesome place to finally meet him! He introduced me to his group and then we bid farewell because we were staying overnight in Tabo and they were moving towards the Gue village but destiny had something else in store for us which we didn’t know!
The roads were playing mind games with us. They were atrocious at times and then smooth black tarmac treated us! 60 kmph became 15 kmph in exactly 8 minutes and we went “WTF, again?”
While we were enroute Sumdo, we spotted the same group again parked in the middle of the road and 3 bikes coming back! Our worst fears had come true. There was a massive landslide ahead and there was no way it was to be cleared that evening. It was 4:45 PM and the BRO staff starts packing up by then to reach their residential camp site. The group that came back told us that the landslide was atleast 6 feet tall, rocks were falling continuously and had blocked the entire road!
The only big town behind us was Nako and we had no strength to reach Nako as it was an uphill ride of 25 kms so we decided to head towards the last small town we crossed which was named Chango and try our luck looking for accommodation to spend the night.
When we reached Chango, most of the accommodation had already been taken up as the landslide must have happened sometime back. The Road Survivors had also 2 ladies (mother and aunt of one of the riders named Akii Sidhwani) travelling with them in a Qualis and our first priority was to get night accommodation for them. I went with Sohi to find a place and were lucky to book a room in a home for them. It was quite a relief.
George managed to get a single room with 3 single beds and no bathroom for 400 rupees a night which was quite a good deal. The room needed some serious cleaning and we were very worried about the lack of any bathroom but this was the best what we could get considering the extreme circumstances! The riders also got accommodation nearby after waiting for almost 2 hours! I was happy that finally they had a roof under their head for the night.
We passed our time having tea and some more chowmein! There was no electricity which meant the mobile network tower wasn’t functioning so we could not call our homes and inform them about this unforeseen change of plan. And even when the power came, the tower wasn’t working so we remained incommunicado. We were quite hassled about this as our families back home would be really worried but then we had no other option.
Thanks to George’s HR negotiation skills, he could convince a Bengali family staying in the room next door who had access to 2 washrooms to spare one of them for us! It was a big relief as we no more needed to go to the riverside in the middle of the night for our bio breaks!
We ended up covering 153 kilometres that day filled with a mixture of good, bad and ugly roads!
We had an early dinner (once again Chowmein!) as the town was almost dead by 9 PM and slept at 10 PM. Surprisingly, even with those uncomfortable beds and the child weather, sleep came quite quickly and all of us were in deep slumber within minutes!
The next day was going to be another fun day for us. First the landslide had to be cleared and the roads (if I can call them) were in a very bad shape. The good part was that we just had to cover a distance of 42 kms so we could take it easy!
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…