Day 1: August 8, 2010, Sunday

Day 1: Delhi to Dharampur

The scheduled departure was supposed to be 6 am and after a realistic estimation, changed to 7 am. The night before was spend packing up our saddlebags with everything we could ever need for the next two weeks. Dev, Kaustubh and Alok initially were supposed to join us at Chandigarh because their bikes were getting fixed the evening before. However, their bikes were ready and they would join us in the morning on the way to Chandigarh.

Beni & me- ready to kick off the tour of a lifetime.

Considering that, except for me, everyone was an outsider, finding the rendezvous point across Moolchand hospital became a hard task. Bijoor san had been in that area the previous day so he was Suku san's GPS but Suku ran out of fuel and had to push his bike till a good Samaritan helped him out. I and Beni san went looking for them but then it was already too late- Suku was lost again somewhere. Kaustubh caught up with us at the right moment but Dev and Alok were very very lost. As Dev finally made it, we collected Alok from near ISBT. It was already around 8:30 am! Soon after we proceeded to go on the highway, we had to make a fuel stop for Alok. And then we were finally on our way.

 By now the cool morning had given way to a very harsh sun and I was sweating under my waterproof riding gear. We got some good pace and some breaks for water or even to adjust luggage on some of the bikes and once for breakfast. After we had crossed Ambala, we saw a bypass (NH22 according to my map) that went straight to Shimla. We stopped at a Dhaba for a little break and seeing the daylight and the distance that we had covered, were very excited and gung-ho about making it straight to Shimla from there after meeting Mr Gurpreet Singh to collect the bottles of Slime that we had ordered yesterday. Just 5 minutes after we started from this dhaba (a few kms away from Chandigarh), it started to pour heavily. Everyone brought out their rain gear at the toll plaza as were shushed out of there. The rain stopped shortly after but began after we rode a little distance more. A little distance away, the Pegu boys took shelter under a shed that did very little work in the intermittent rain. We decided to proceed in the rain and as we entered Chandigarh, the rain came down heavier than it had all day! 

At the dhaba, just before rains hit us and washed away our bold plans

The gang had separated into two- Alok, Dev and Kaustubh had reached Chandigarh before the rest of us while the four of us went looking for the Slime. In the heart of Chandigarh, we found Mr Gurpreet Singh at his house with all the Slime we wanted- except Suku who had forgotten to mention that his Pulsar had tubeless tires. 

 Mr Singh is a retired Colonel and is apparently well traveled and now indulges in modification of automobiles and motorcycles. He participates in many national level races while he continues to ride bikes despite a steel plate (?) in his shin, inserted after an motorcycle accident last year. he had very useful tips a to where we should stay and what all places we should visit and what places we should avoid. He was adamant that we stop after Nako because of the unpredictable weather this year in the region which had caused many landslides and floodings. While suggesting places where we could stay, he understood our situation and made a very apt remark. He said it in a very casual way but it stuck with us throughout the trip and it was something that probably guided us well. He said "the point is to travel, not to blow money".

After our interesting  conversation, he also attempted small fixes on Suku's bike (Suku had been push-starting his bike all day!), he suggested that we gorge on chicken at Singh's Chicken. and so we did. The helpings were huge and the dishes were replete with generous portions of spices and floating oil. In hindsight, it was a good thing- as this was going to be our last meat extravaganza for a long long time.
After having our fill at Singh's Chicken, waiting for the others

Taking Mr Singh's suggestion about staying outside expensive Chandigarh, we  did something we had promised not to do- ride in the night. There were delays as the other guys were shopping for rain gear and other stuff but we regrouped by about 6:30/7 pm! We proceeded to go toward Dharampur, little expecting to find a traffic jam in the hills. 

There had been some sort of a landslide and the jam had accrued when it was being cleared. Having motorcycles enabled us to squeeze through the many gaps between the vehicles and somehow get to the open roads ahead- not before Alok dropped his bike once at standstill taking Kaustubh's call.

Once we left the jam behind, the clear roads had one problem- there were hilly and it was dark. Add to that speeding vehicles and we knew we were in deep peril. We continued to look for hotels all along the way and somewhere around Dharampur, we found a place called Hotel Namaskar. I was finally happy with this choice mainly because it had a lot of parking within its own compound. After washing up, I created a new fashion statement of combat boots with shorts! I did miss slippers as I had not foreseen eating after showering! The food was bad and the room had a smell but well, we had learned the new mantra for this trip a few hours ago- so not much to complain about really. Some did have some hopes of the Manali-Leh highway opening up but I guess we had all resigned to the fact that the Leh trip will have to wait for another year. All we could talk about was the ride ahead of us for tomorrow.

Total distance covered= 303+ kms approx.
Total cost= Rs. 1430
[Breakfast= 50 + Lunch=  180 + Stay & Dinner= 400 + slime= 800]

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