The final run!
Things were supposed to move smoothly today- we would go to the service centre, get our bikes serviced, meet Mr Singh and start for Delhi by 2 pm. However, we had to face the most dangerous riding conditions today!
It was raining in the morning and drizzles continued through the day. We somehow found the Bajaj service centre but they were moving real slow in the Pro-Biking section where Beni and Suku gave in their bikes. When I went to ask for my little Pulsar, the wait was going to be really long so in the interest of the others and of getting back home in daylight, I decided against a service- there wasn't anything wrong with the bike in any case. The Pro-biking people promised that the bike would be done by 1pm so we stayed on and waited.
Meanwhile, the hotel guys wanted us to check out by 12 otherwise we would have to pay for the next night- and I did not want to stay in Chandigarh- did not really like the city so much, esp since last night. So, we three went back to the hotel and packed up our stuff to bring back to the workshop. We big goodbye to the others there since Dev and Kjo had to return their bikes and had to catch flights later on. Bijoor san had to go to his friends' place and taking into consideration how his bike had been temperamental, he decided to carry on with them.
When we came back by 1:15, none of the bikes had any work started on them and everyone was missing for lunch!!!! Work started at about 1:45 and they crawled with the repairs. We were getting hungry so I and Suku went on my bike to fetch some chicken from a KFC we had spotted earlier in the morning and got a 8 piece bucket. We nearly got in some more rain as we came back. Both bikes were finally ready at around 4:45/5!!! A fry cry from the promised 1pm eh? This canceled our plans of meeting Mr Singh and we would have to meet him another day.
What the delay meant was that we had only about a couple of hours of daylight and this highway had many crazy drivers on the roads- I had heard of bad accidents on this highway, and in one them, I had lost an old classmate from college. I have driven on these roads many time before too so I had to sound that warning. That said, we needed to rip as hard as could for the first two hours and take it easy when darkness fell. After Beni tanked up, I took the lead in the proposed ripping and how I ripped. I tried to keep the other twos' lights in my mirrors but very soon they disappeared somewhere but I did not want to break my pace as I had given myself a aim to cover 150 kms in these two hours. Rains would threaten to visit in between but nothing serious really. The roads were mostly good and since it was day, I could see all the diversions and decide my route much ahead. However darkness started to fall earlier than I had imagined and my dark visor was not helping things. Keeping the visor up meant dust and water into my face. When I was about 140 kms from Chandigarh and about 80 odd kms from Delhi, I thought I should wait for those two because I hadn't seen them in a very long time. The night was pitch dark except for the lights of the cars and trucks.
My main phone's battery was dead so I couldn't extract Beni's number to call with the other phone- so I waited for almost 40-45 minutes (sweating in my rain gear) when Beni and Suku (who I did not see) passed me- a truck turning towards me had blocked my view so I took time to react. I still believed that I could catch up with them if I sped for the first 20 kms tailing other cars but no matter how fast I went, I could not see them in front of me. There was a bit of rain enroute so I had to stop and wipe off the water off my glasses and then decided to take it easy and solo to Delhi. I had to even refuel in between because all the speeding had seemed to have depleted my fuel (I hadn't refuelled in a long time also- since Kaza it seems!) so had to take a pit stop for that too. I was very close to Delhi and continued to push on this fast highway. Cars, trucks, buses- every one was speeding in the dark that one could never let their guard down and I did have to get my speeds lower to 60-70 kmph.
I finally got inside Delhi and the new roads there were all dusty and had giant potholes in places! Very sorry state of affairs and there were jams- even at 9:30 or so at night! At ISBT I decided to check my phone and surely enough there was Beni's text telling me that he was 80 kms from Delhi and was going to Noida with Suku later on. This meant that those two had actually stopped somewhere soon after I saw them pass me!! I was inside home by 10:30 and was happy to get into my shower and clean off all the dirt and grime from today. It was the most uncomfortable and dangerous ride we had done in the last two weeks and it made me hate the cities even more. I felt so much safer riding in the mountains, on the cliffs or waterfalls, than in between crazy traffic today.
Total Distance covered= 260 kms approx.
Total cost= Rs. 500 (fuel)
Total Distance covered= 260 kms approx.
Total cost= Rs. 500 (fuel)
Total Distance covered in the trip= 1788 kms approx.
Total cost during the trip= Rs. 10541
The last two weeks have been fantastic and today's events can never take that away from us. It only makes the previous days look even better! And I can't wait to go back again- Ladakh or the other side of Himachal or Arunachal or just about anywhere.
There were many revelations and many lessons learned throughout this trip:
1. The point is indeed to travel and not blow money- its more fun that way in any case.
2. Always watch your head- start practicing for low bathroom doors at home.
3. Never hesitate and don't let fear overcome you, especially at a water crossing- if you let doubts take over, you will be stuck.
4. Choose your bike carefully. Don't take a Royal Enfield bike up there unless you know the bike inside out and can fix problems yourself in a jiffy and are carrying a bagful of spares and a lot of engine oil. The trip was a revelation to everyone, especially me, that they are definitely not the ideal bikes up there. The idea of bullets being the best bike for the mountains (which I thought too, 'cos of all that torque, till this trip happened) is just that- a romantic idea- do it only if you want to do the job of a mechanic or worry constantly rather than enjoy the ride in the mountains. Riding REs with REs is probably a better idea since they tend to slow down things due to various factors- physical, mechanical or psychological. That said, one should always know their bikes and always keep their bikes in tip top shape- the better you treat your bike prior to the trip, the better it will treat you. ;) I & Beni would know. Get fuel injected bikes if you can so the problems of engine breathlessness are done away with once and for all. However, the main lesson from this trip is not to ride a bike because of it's reputation- I thought my little Pulsar would huff and puff but it did everything so much better without giving up on me once. Always grateful to my ol' faithful.
5. AMS is serious stuff and it has many manifestations- massive shortness of breath and muscle aches included- stay away from alcohol and smokes as much as you can and for a change, try to have some unadulterated fun in the mountains. I had my doubts through the whole trip but the boys kept brushing it off- while writing the blog, I noticed a pattern and did some research that vindicated my doubts. Beni was in a lot of pain and nearly stopped his trip at Kaza!
6. Be courteous to other road users- this is not the city and there is no room for monkeying around at 4000m above sea level next to a cliff. Other road users include your team members.
7. Always, always wear protection. Protection doesn't mean that you are being a wussy or that you wont be able to enjoy a hundred percent. It's always more enjoyable when you don't have to worry about any fatal consequences. This is applicable to everything obviously! ;)- but like the spills of Alok and Suku showed, good protective gear is a must- esp when you are going to be so far away from any medical help. No matter how good you are on the bike, a accident can happen to anyone.
8. You have to be friends with rain and always prepared for it. You should not fight it and should be ready with rain gear too- it can be often enjoyable to ride in the rain esp because there are fewer people on the road at that time. Riding in rain on bad roads in the mountains, however, will not be advisable and thankfully, we were never in that situation.
9. Camp at least once. You will talk about it for days. I will probably carry my tent from now on.
10. One should not be bothered about trying to be in the most places on a map- if you cannot get there, don't push your luck. Just enjoy the ride, wherever it takes you. Christopher Columbus should know! ;)
11. Don't try to do canon ball runs ie don't try to cover as much distance as you can in a day- pace yourselves, do shorter distances and see more. Like I stressed before, enjoy the ride. That said, don't go too slow or you will be panicking trying to find habitation!
12. Don't use your camera too much- take mental pictures, let them sink in and then make a mental note to come back soon.
13. Be ready to be humbled by nature. For all the superiority of mankind talk, one landslide can change everything. Or a overflowing river. Or even a stream- there's news of a German hiker who got washed away by one such water crossing near Baralacha in Ladakh, so never under estimate nature and never over estimate your capabilities. There's a difference between being confident and being stupid.
14. There is a difference felt in Rohtang- the mess created there is all man-made and unnecessary really. Nature would have been kinder but when man intervenes, he screws up real bad. Makes me postpone my Ladakh plans by a few years till the mess clears up- it is not worth all the effort- rather than feel accomplished, you feel bitter and I dont want to start a trip with that feeling.
15. Start early- even if you have to travel only 50 kms, you will get more time to enjoy the views and the ride. As a plus, you will find water crossings a piece of cake!
16. Always stay hydrated. Carry water and make sure that bottles cannot fall when crossing streams.
17. Ride everyday. It will make you a better rider- more mature, more careful and not take unnecessary risks. I have seen weekend warriors/occasional riders be over excited and be all about "conquering" places- met too many of those on the road. Plus, riding everyday has great health benefits by keeping you happy!
I could go on and on but the biggest lesson I learnt is that the point really is to travel and I can't wait to get back on the motorcycle to go to the mountains. I and Beni had quit our jobs before we went on this trip and I have no regrets at all. Even though we were disappointed at not being able to go to Ladakh, I seriously did not think that we missed out on anything. In fact, we are better prepared for Leh if nothing else. I am itching for my next ride and I know that wherever it is, I will enjoy it just as much.
This trip has made me revise my goals in life. I love being a graphic designer but the ideal situation would be that someone hires me for a month or two for graphic design work and pays me decently well and then sends me off on motorcycle trips like this all over the world and learn about lands and cultures in depth. That would be the best job in the world but well, if only wishes were horses...till that happens, have to earn and save till the next trip!
My suggestion to anyone would be that if you really want to go somewhere, just do it and don't bury yourself under any excuse. Cars are okay but are half the fun so try to do it on a bike, as much as you can. You will not be disappointed.