Friday, July 31, 2009

Himalayan Odyssey VI Snow fall ---> Snow Storm.

The sun was out with gentle sunshine spreading in the hills, the snow on mountain looked bright rather than cold. It was a great morning weather The Campsite made it look even more beautiful with the monastery going up the hill and river flowing down surrounded by mountains on either side. These are some of the places you dream of waking every day of your life with a hot cup of tea.

But then we were in Himalayan Odyssey, we had to ride to the thump. We started of from to camp to join the rest of our riders at the hotel compound. We had a tough talk from Sachin for the number of falls we have been having. The ride today was supposed to cross the second highest pass Baralach la and after that we camp at Sarchu.

Now we had to get into a team structure to help each other ride, I tagged along with Shaibal, Abid, Vikarm . Actully when we started we were 8 in the team but looking for 8 people was getting tough so we split agian and that how I got into the team. I asked Abid before I joined, " I don't drive too fast, if you guys drive fast let me know I 'll find another group". Abid said, " No we will drive smooth". Eventually We did some of the fastest lap in worst of the mountain roads after that. You see what Abid thought about his adreline rush.

We got a group of malasyian riders trying to ride BMW from nepal to pakistan. ALong the way we got a couple of water crossing through towards baralach la and Damm the boots they were again water logged. While doing the accend we witnessed snowfall again yeah I started dancing. This was for long and real cold. The boots started getting colder. We put on the raincoats. Suddenly we lost track of Abid and Shaibal. Me and Vikram started the accend and then suddenly out of a blue the beautiful snowfall turned into a snowstorm. It started getting real tough will the lack of oxyzen, high altitude, snow on the roads and to add to the misery was the trucks coming from opposite direction.

It was getting difficult to drive in the snow and we tried to cross the pass as soon as possible. On the way we saw Harsh and Sachin enjoying the snowstorm. How could they? I wanted to just speed off. Then and there we hit the road block. Traffic jam on second highest motorable pass. A truck was stuck on the road with ice wall on one side and cliff on the other. I think God must had pity on US and he threw sunlight, wow the landscpe looked amazing for a while. Well in the traffic jam we had a pajero as well, which much to amuzment of the passenger served as hot bonet to dry our gloves.

After a while the truck managed to find its way and so did we, but I guess god had mercy only for the stop. It started snowing all over again, we reached bhartpur our lunch re-group point with chillness up to the bone. The first thing I did was bought some warm clothing and tried helplessly to dry my boots. The tea and the food finally gave some hope of warmness but the sight of snow storm outside kept giving chillness. We waited till all of us crossed the pass and started for Sarchu.

We started of in the snowstorm which turned to mild rainfall by the time we decended. The road were terrible and then something happended that I was not expecting. My bike started giving up for moments within the run. I prayed for the bike not giving up completely and rode the rest of the journey with blips on the power. We finally reached Sarchu , our campsite. I'll need some oxygen before I tell you what conspired through the evening. night through the morning.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

himalayan odyssey V enjoying arak in Lahaul valley

It was very cold in morning opposite to what I had been witnessing in last few days. Arun woke up earlier than me and got ready, I waked up lazily checking out my driving gear which look a wet from the rain yesterday.

The daily ritual started with tieing the saddle bags, having breakfast and tea at Goodricke canopy. The briefing today was a little tough with the number of falls we had yesterday. KD and Sachin breifed us about the day. The traffic would be bad with people going to Rohtang for the snow. We would climb down after Rohtang to Lahaul valley. This was our first high alitude experience Rohtang at about 13,051 ft .

We started up our climb after refueling, and guess what we found long queues of traffic vehicles, we manged to go past we were on bikes after all.

Here we hit our first regroup and time to get some food.

All of a sudden the climate stared changing and we were about to witness a snowfall, wow my first in this life, this made the riding very difficult, not that broken road with heavy traffic was any good.

As soon as we reached Rohtang pass the scene looks pretty bad considering I thought of it as a beautiful one. It looked like a fish market with dirty snow. I didn't even have to think about stopping and I rolled on my wheel. The other side looked very promising and the ride was pretty decent except the roads and water flowing every way possible. The scenery suddenly looked beautiful with so much of emty spaces.

I had a heavy lunch sitting with waterlashed boots and weather moving towards worst. The black tea and conversation kept us awake. I was just feeling too cold, am I going to be sick? looks so. We started off as soon s everybody joined in and we raced to Keylong. . We stopped at Tandi which was the last petrol pump for the next 365 KM. Refueled and went to the campsite. The beauty of which was to be seen the next morning.

Here I met Shaibal, my roomate. He ended up carrying me and most of my nonsense throughout and for the rest of the trip.

We had a campfire and coversation going on in the cold of the weather and warmness of the fire.
The food was excellent. After having Arak and food I dosed off waking at 4:30 in morning realizing Saibal is not in the tent. I went out seraching for him and found a spectaular view of the river and a snowcapped mountain. On the opposite side i saw he wnt for a run. Man... I was fit enough to take the run through the hills and the panoromic scenery.

We had a great cup of tea coutsey Goodricke again, and after breakfast joined the other half who elected to stay in a hotel.

KD's message said "Luggage arrived at hotel. For Keylong Morning service setup )630 including general checkup of all bikes. breakfast @ 0715, we ride @ 0830."

Monday, July 20, 2009

Himalyan odyssey IV rain, traffic, ghat , cold = destination Manali

I checked the time on my mobile it showed 3:45 AM. The alarm was to go off at 4 AM, I was awake before the alarm meant I was anxiously waiting for the day's ride. It happens with me mostly when I excitingly look forward to something. Laughed at my state where I was desperately wanting of sleep a everyday in last few months and here I woke before my alarm. The morning started unfolding slowly, we had breakfast and tea at Goodricke stall. The morning looked better compared to Delhi where we started sweating at 5 in morning.

We had briefing and the points to take were "Beware of the cabs coming in opposite direction since it is Sunday and people would be coming back",and second "make sure you take a sharp right tun climbing towards Manali at Anandpur". Here we met Mr. LS Cheema from Chandigarh police who shared pretty nice moments with us on his bullet. Man, he was passionate for bullet. The flag off was little painful with all the local journalist/camera guys delaying our ride for that perfect picture which I would never see.

The ride till the anandpur turn towards manali was more of broken road and Highways in making. I drove along with Anand for a while. he was business man from Varanasi. But as I hit the ghats I just wanted to drift along alone. Stopped for a picture, sat down for a while enjoying the valley and greenery.

The re-grouping point was supposed to be in Bilaspur, I kept looking for the Royal enfield poster which swayed at all our re-grouping points earlier but could not find any, so kept moving on till I hit PD, he was also looking out for the posters, I mentioned that it was supposed to be a good 10 Km ahead of bilaspur town so we kept riding and were out for a 20 Km where we thought of calling KD / Sachin since they were also driving, we got Ashok jee who said we are way ahead and should carry on and wait at some dhabba till he call us that they started from re-group. Obviously we missed the re-group , we were earlier than expected and riding alone . PD went back to re-grouping he was loving the ride on hills. I also turned back for a while then saw Yashwant who was coming the other way. Good I was not alone. So we two drove till the next re-group. The ride was pretty much monotonous while riding at high speed, and occasional car coming head on at the turns.

I had lunch with Yaswant and chatted "what do you do ? where are you from ?" lines. He was a businessman from Pune.

We started off after a little confusion of whether we need to wait till everyone comes or ride on. The climate changed abruptly, it was shinny hot a couple of minutes back and now it started raining. I thought wow my raincoat I bought from sarojani nagar market is useful. I started riding again, I saw Yeswant wearing ho raincoat as well. Abruptly everything was pitch dark the next moment, It seems I was inside a tunnel and a long one. Damm what do I do how do I take out my sunglasses, where do I stop. Finally managed to take out my sunglasses with one hand and riding with another. Ah, now I can see something.

It rained slowing as I climbed through the hills towards Kullu. It was awesome to be in cold again. The landscape made to think for a stop at every single minute to take pictures. I resisted it for a while but could not do more. I had to stop. I took a few beautiful pictures and then as a contrast the scene changed I was in middle of a traffic jam in narrow road of manali. We reached the hotel after struggling for a while.

I met Arun and Abid here, Abid was supposed to be god father for the rest of my trip through the mountains. We had a cup of hot tea and chatted about the exciting day with so many contrasts. The evening was cold and exciting with roaming around for a tea ( you don't get tea at night in manali) , luckily we found one and them roamed around the place. The place just amazes me with the crowd, there are people almost everywhere. I searched for the bitter ladoo and sweet samosa I saw in one of the episodes of highway on my plate unlucky again. I went back to the hotel had a dinner and slept off to wake for another day of ride. heaven!!! you look forward for the next day.

KD's message said "Truck arriving with luggage @ 2200. Please collect your luggage from the truck itself. Morning: Truck loading @0700 breakfast @ 0700, start time - 0800; lets avoid the morning traffic. Rohtang will be cold".

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Himalayan odyssey III 100KMPH

Driving out of New Delhi onto the highway was some short of relief from the traffic that early morning. Trip has started I said to myself and then thought of the re-grouping points KD had told in the last evening briefing. Rasoi dhabba first one just around 59 Km from Delhi. We drove in slow pace and were mostly in groups and reached the dhaba pretty soon. I had 2 parantha and tea, there's something really good of Punjabi dhaba on how they make food. The stomach full and all set to ride in summer heat. I remember Sachin saying last evening " Your stomach and tank should always be full". The sun was going over the head and the temperature rising, I rode at around 60-70 Kmph I reached the next re-group at karnal. It was a royal enfield showroom, we had refreshment and badly needed water. Now I understood why all guys were carrying a camelbak. Reaching there I saw most of the biker already there, now how fast are these guys driving is what was going through my mind. I should be traveling a little faster I thought and when we started from the re-grouping I started zipping very fast trying to be in company of fast ride and man we would be riding somewhere at 100-105 KMpH. The speed made us reach Ambala very soon where we had another round of refreshments. I saw we were only a few riders, now I was driving normal. I had never driven my bullet so fast in the last two years so this was the first adrenaline pumping ride. We had to wait for all the riders to turn up at the re-grouping from where we had to go directly to the hotel for the night stay. We started in 2x2 formation again so that we do not get lost in Chandigarh. Chandigarh was pretty beautiful city. We stopped at hotel where the first thing to get done was get the bike serviced. I checked the bike and the only thing bothering me was the self start which was gone. I asked KD if that could cause problem, he said no. So carried onto hotel room. I was very tired the hot sun has taken its toll on me. I planned to sleep of the evening when my cell rang. It was KD asking me if I wanted we could get the self fixed and asked me to come down at the service camp, where this time I thought against getting that fixed. this was the third time of not using it properly it was the Gati courier guys who screwed this up. As soon I turned back Sachin asked me what's the problem I told him the self is gone and I don't want to get a new one. He asked to get the self removed "that would make your kick easier to use". I jumped on the idea and went to the service station to get this done and I got a chance to drive around Chandigarh. It was a calm evening with heat very much in the bearable range. The removal of self really made the kick smooth but ther was no respite for the horn. Yes I was driving without the horn at 100+ K mph on the highway.

Came back at around 9 after roaming around lazily and had Hyderabad biryani, goodness me !!! Time to retire early to bed as we had to wake up at 4 again. Waking up early wasn't a problem anymore since I was looking forward to the day. Overall the day marred with punjabi parantha, high temperature, high speed riding.

KD's message said "bike service will be setup @0500 hrs. check your bikes and get pending work done. Goodricke will setup hot tea @ parking @ 0500 hrs Truck loading @ 0530 Breakfast @ 0530. We ride at 0630"

Saturday, July 4, 2009

himalayan odyssey - II Salute and Ride On

This Ride was to be flagged off at 7:30 from India Gate. There could not be a more appropriate place to start a journey of adventure and self-discovery.

I got up early at 4 O'clock in the morning, packed my luggage got into the riding gear. This was first time when I was wearing a riding gear and it seemed funny at that point since I wasn't going on a racing or something. Only very later in my trip I realized what a life saver these are.

I carried my saddle bag which had all the essential I would need on a trip and another luggage which I can keep in the lorry traveling with us carrying our luggage. The scene in the parking lot was awesome, there were some bullets roaring, rider chatting about the upcoming trip , some fixing their bags on the bike. This was different I have never seen so many ways of carrying your luggage on the bike. I had never carried one myself so was confused on how to tie the saddle bag I was carrying. Yeshwant was getting his bike ready at that time, he saw me struggling with the bags so he came over and taught me how to tie them around and man It looked pretty neat. Helping fellow riders was one thing that I will never forget out of this trip. You are all bunch of 60 odd riders from different parts of country barely knowing each other forget remmembering eveyone's name, but you do one thing help your fellow rider when he is trouble.

All set with the bike and luggage we waited for KD to signal us for drive to India gate. We were told in last eveuing briefing that we would we riding in strict 2X2 formation in cities. We got a little time for out chit chat and few Introduction. I saw Raja parked his bike along with me, I say he was by far the most known guy from his posts to the groups forum. After a little while it was time to ride, time to pay homage at India gate and time to start "The Journey" .

We reached India gate against the humming chants of lama's praying for the well being of the riders in the trip. The place was complete exotic there were media guys fanatically clicking photos, bullet riders from delhi, people who came for morning walk and stopped to look on the bullets and the RE guys.

I strayed into the place and wandered around looking at India gate and reading its walls where I missed the group photograph :( . We had introduction with Major General R.K. Sanan, Commander, Technical Group, EME and then was the time for Flag off.

60 odd Royal Enfield Bullets roaring for the adventure is a sight you get to see very few time in life and that unexplainable in words. Lucky we had a video of it

All for this one moment

Friday, July 3, 2009

himalayan odyssey - I

It was last year when I was switching job from Synopsys to D. E. Shaw , that I saw the Himalayan Odyssey 2008 ad on the RE website. I said to myself what a waste I should have taken a month leave in the switch to attend this. I took a vow to attend the next years event and went back to work.

A year later I was struggling to get leave for Himalayan Odyssey 2009 since I had already taken a leave for 3 week from my sister's wedding in February. So I worked like anything to complete my assigned projects and applied for leave after a little bit it got approved. So what was it about this trip that I badly wanted , if you have asked at that time I did not even know. I would have said, something like "I wanted to see Himalayas on my bike" or " I want a real break from the the order of things going in life".

If you ask me now, I will say it was one of those schools that you attend which has least of theory and and all of practical to teach you some of the important lessons of life with so much fun it it that's its unbelievable. If you know me you would get tired hearing about the trip on every moment i get to speak but i won't.

This is how it all started, I was working on one one the weekends in start of April in my office, I got a impulse on checking the RE website and there it was Himalayan odyssey 2009 registration. The page made my heart sink I was a week late. I wasn't sure if there was scope of me to fit in, So I called up Mr. Kanwardeep to figure out if there were seats left. He asked me to give a try.

Since it was already Saturday evening, I postponed the paper work to Monday. The first thing to do on Monday was to take a leave and start collecting the documents. I started with medical checkup, went to hospital nearby who made me wait for long and wasted 2 hours. Next i went to a private medical clinic and then the process started flowing, i got the draft next , called up for my medical insurance , got a courier guy who promised to deliver the courier the next day morning. Man I was tired roaming in City for a entire day in sweltering heat and realized how much capable I am to cover in hot day given the fact that spend all my day sitting in front of a computer in a AC.

I made some fanatic calls to Mr. Kanwardeep the next day to figure out if I am in or out. Man he was so patient in answering my calls. I was relived when he said my application was there.

I got a mail several days later of my participation in the event. Wow I was happy, happy indeed. The next was planning which I was pathetic in. I had no time out of work so called up my sister in Bangalore to arrange for my gear, the jacket , boots , saddle bags..... which she couriered me right on time. I was still short of sleeping bags, helmet , glove, and i know what. I got a guy in Hyderabad who had these stuff and so I was in luck again. I was late sending my bike to Delhi. Pleaded the Gati guys to deliver it on 12th when I reach there in afternoon. I went back to complete my work my appraisal and everything which looked almost impossible to complete.

I worked till wee hours of Thursday to complete the work before I leave Hyderabad and so missed most of my packing. hustled towards the airport to catch the flight. The moment I sat on the flight the thought of work was gone, I can't work now even If I wanted to :)

This was a first that I was in a trip to outdoors without the comfort of my friend who always took care of everything for me to be lazy bum. There was a little bit of awkwardness. I managed to reach delhi on time and reached our starting point. As I entered towards to the hotel I saw bullets and bullets everywhere. whew that was a scene. I had never seen so many bullets together. I started feeling something inside that this is going to be one hell of a trip. There I met Kiran my roommate for the day, he had been traveling from Bangalore to Calcutta on his 535 lightning and then went for a trip to north east and came back driving from Calcutta on a hot north Indian summer. I just took a flight that morning and jumped in :( . Then I went over for scrutiny. I met KD , Sachin who asked me to go for a medical checkup and get my Bike inspected from Amol. I didn't knew at that time how crucial these guys will be in my survival in the trip. The medical checkup went fine but there was problem with bike inspection. I still had to get the bike. I called up the Gati guys on my bike whereabouts and guess what it was still at their godown, I asked them to deliver at the destination by 5 and headed towards the destination model town 13 KM from where I was. I took a bus -> Metro -> rickshaw -> auto rickshaw to land up at the godown. The bike's self start was gone and the foot rest as well. I got back driving n the ring road and then got the footrest changed and was almost on time for the briefing which started on time at 7 in the evening.

Understanding the trip , getting introduced to my fellow riders, Ashok jee , Dr Raj kumar and media guys was what happened for the next hour. After which I started to do my essential shopping which I missed in Hyderabad. I went to Sarojani nagar market which was close by and a regular destination when I stayed in Delhi in 2000-2001. i came back at around 11 tried to sleep, we had to get up at 4 in morning. I have worked till 4 -5 even 7 in morning but never got a chance to wake up so early. This trip is going to be tough I said to myself and went to sleep.

A Himalayan odyssey

This will be by far the longest running topic , I am not sure whether to divide it by day's , rides , emotions , landscapes or the toughness.

Possibly I will have time to do so soon.