|Nako to Kaza|
The day of the big test- the Independence day ride.
We were a bit delayed in getting out of Nako as everyone took some time getting ready. We had to cross the Malinga nullah as early as possible before it got too violent. The Israeli bro-sis duo left the earliest while the other group (apparently from Mumbai and also 6 in number) left soon after them. As we slowly climbed up steep mountain roads, paused at beautiful valleys and as the fearsome Malinga stream was in sight just around the bend, we ran into a problem. Bijoor san, who had attempted to move on with the other enfield riders in the group got stuck while riding up the climb to the stream! His bike would just refuse to move up the steep incline!
Everyone tried their best to push the bike up but in vain. We unloaded all his luggage from the bike and then took turns pushing- that seemed to help but in short bursts only. I felt that not only was the air-fuel mix completely wrong, the engine oil that he had put must have worn out the clutch because he was asked to use a oil meant for cars and not bikes! Somehow, he made it across the gushing stream while we waited. A couple of cabs decided to cross the stream just as we were about to and we let them pass- on of the drivers urged us to move fast before it got worse here- sounded like he was warning of us some impending doom! Beni went across first. Suku decided to carry Bijoor san's saddlebags on top of his own bags and made it. I went in the last and nearly got caught by one wave and had to put my foot in the shin-deep icy cold water- but I also made it to the other side very quickly. No 8 inche waterproof boots could stop water from going inside- so I dealt with soaking shoes again!
|The Malinga Nullah|
On the other side, we tried to figure out the problem with Bijoor's san's enfield- we got some assistance and advice from another biker who had crossed right after us. He had a whole Jamaican look going on (and apparently called himself Jamaica as we found out later) and said that the spark plug was dirty and the clutch cable had some issues and thats all! It was an optimistic estimate but it would do.
As we hit metalled road again, Dev's Enfield started to give some problems- the kick lever was kicking by itself!!! And the clutch was definitely sounding worn out. While Beni assisted him, I, Bijoor san and Suku took a break drying my socks and shoes. Beni stopped by to take some pictures after he sort of suggest some fix for Dev's bike. Suddenly, we were swarmed with a herd of sheep and a shepherd with a very burnt face- no one could blame him. The sun was so harsh up here and the air so dry- I dont think he would have ever heard of sunscreen in these parts. He told us that the roads were good and that there were no more water crossings ahead. Getting this piece of good news, we moved on.
|The goats and the shepherd around the bend from the Malinga|
The road offered great views in good comfort- the tarmac was really well laid. We Pegu boys caught up with the others at Chango where they were resting and talking to Jamaica & co. Asked to proceed ahead, we found ourselves leading the way through some interesting narrow loops on the side oft he mountain- just like the kazigs. We saw even more little kids who were really eager to wave at us! There was even some patches of wet mud but nothing too bothersome- but for the first time I saw Beni's Avenger fishtail a bit. We soon came upon a big area in the road (almost like a lookout point) right next to the river where we saw cabs, bikes , trucks, people and a crane- there was a landslide ahead of us which had blocked the road and the crane was going to clean it up. Curious, we took our bikes ahead to very close to where the landslide had occured. Parking our bikes behind the other bikers from Mumbai (yes, the very same from Chitkul and Nako), when we walked to the spot, it was a nasty site. It was a 12-15 feet of debris of big and small rocks on the road and a part of the road had sunk into the river right next to it! The small crane looked insufficient for the job but we were told by the authorities that it would take about 4 hours for bikes to be able to pass. We could see people stuck on the other side too. After an hour we saw the army people walk to a truck on the other side and go away while some of them waited on our side with their trucks.
We mingled with the people while we waited. Suku was quick to take his nap, using his jacket to protect himself from the burning sun. It was getting hot- almost 40 degrees C if not more. The Israeli bro-sis duo also came up from behind- they had actually reached here much earlier- around 9/9:30, an hour before us and had gone back to eat something. We did the same- we rode back to Chango to get some lunch and wait it out there in some shade and get rehydrated- Beni and Bijoor san had earlier lost a bottle each to the Malinga so we were running short of water too! Lunch took some time to be made and eaten- it was a simple affair of dal, rice, aloo matar (yes, it true!). Bijoor san shopped for some spares, sandpaper and pliers- he was getting very worried about his bike. Actually, we all were.
Since we thought we had waited enough, we went back to the landslide site. Apparently, the crane operators had also gone for lunch and had started working again only when we arrived! There was talk that the crane was working today only because a army truck was stuck on the road- because today is a national holiday- Independence day! Were we glad to know that! Every time the crane would throw off a huge piece of rock, there would be cheers from our side of the road- mostly from Suku, Bijoor san, Dev and Kjo! The debris was cleared by around 3:15pm and everyone was too eager to go- causing a traffic jam there!
Trivia: the crane supposedly belonged to this short man who we had seen earlier at the same place where we had lunch. He was at the landslide spot too overseeing operations later on and I think he and Kjo had a special moment of bonding because we spotted those two walking hand in hand once the road was cleared off!
It was supposed to be bikes first but taxi and bus drivers (and even two rally-wannabe drivers) were all rude and tried to push first only causing a snarl. We broke free along with the other bikers and made a run for it but the road ahead looked like landslides had been happening there all year long because we saw the same jagged rocks all over and many portions of the highway missing right next to the river! The inconsiderate wannabe rally drivers in their modified gypsies etc overtook us at very wrong stretches and I wouldn't be sorry at all if they fell off a cliff in front of me or I heard of their death in the news. For all their rush, they all got stuck at Sumdoh checkpoint but thankfully went their way before we did- the less idiots we are around, the better. I guess that this was also one of the points of coming to the mountains- to not deal with a-holes on the roads. The national highway had ended at Sumdoh and now began the state highways and we did not have very high expectations.
The roads were a mix of high rocky surfaces on cliffs, slowly descending back next to the Spiti river on more gravelly-metalled road and then suddenly ending into these wide plateaus that started to show a bit of green all around. We had a few incidents - on small but steep incline, Bijoor san had a minor spill in front of us where I think his bike again had problems pulling up and Suku, me and Beni had to push him on his way. The Israeli duo also had problems at exactly the same spot and we gave them a hand there- though I dont think that they realized that two people were pushing their bikes as they were trying to climb up that incline. On a rather small water crossing (compared to what we have already seen before), two members from the other group stop and froze in terror. They wouldnt step in even though we wee right there telling them that it's fine- they even threw rocks in the water to see how deep it was!!! I do not know how they had survived for so long and how they would survive the next few days either- they were just too scared. Almost makes me think that we have been very gutsy in our approach to water crossings and everything else- but I dont think we have been stupid at all. On one of our photo stops, Dev's bike had refused to start again- after a long enough time, everyone realized that his engine kill switch was still on! But one could clearly hear that his clutch/gear box was having problems. That was another worrying factor as well.
We did not even stop at Tabo because we were aiming to get to Kaza before nightfall. The Israeli duo did the same- we did stop for water though as we were parched! I was also enjoying the flat plateaus where the river disappeared on the other side of the mountains and one could see only one dusty road in the middle- brought back to my head, scenes from Long Way Down. This time around, Dev, Bijoor san and Suku had gone ahead to Kaza while me, Beni and Kjo were the last to get there. Finding the guys made us go through the town through narrow streets and everything.
|The road in the middle of the mountains|
Finding no other alternative, we decided to stay in the Old Circuit House for 200 a night per room. Apparently electricity had returned to the town only a few days back and the voltage was low. Plus, our place did not have working taps and the man-in-charge said that he would fetch us hot and cold water in buckets! I guess, the point is to travel- and we adjusted.
The town was a really busy place and we saw more foreigners than Indian tourists. We made our phone calls- the phones kept dying after 30 seconds though! And there was internet too- even if slow. We caught a slight drizzle at night but nothing bad. We had dinner at a place that looked very seedy but then again, everything else looked just like that! To celebrate the back-breaking roads, the other Pegu boys, Bijoor san and Dev decided to have beer but they didnt figure that it would be warm- considering there was no power all day! They proceeded to have it nonetheless while we had a mix of noodles, pasta etc for dinner- just for a change. The sky was clearing up and we saw a amazing cluster of stars in the dark sky- we could even see the milky way!!!
Today was a turning point because we made it through a point which Mr Singh and other had warned us against crossing but I guess, the weather gods have been good on us so far and we have been open to the conditions too. The only way is forward now.
Total distance covered= 110 kms approx.
Total cost= Rs. 395
[Breakfast= 60 + Lunch= 100 + Dinner=135 + Stay=100 ]