2012 update- revisiting the Himalayas

Got the KTM Duke 200 based on all the good reviews. It seemed to tick all the right boxes and I was glad that there was finally a bike that I could get excited about again. Read all about it here.
I took the Duke to Shimla with Nilotpal on his RX135. We had to go through Chandigarh and had planned to visit Singh's chicken and meet Mr. Singh again. However, trying to get his bike fixed took just as long as it did when we returned to Delhi and we had to head to the hills soon before it got dark- deja vu! After grabbing some KFC, we get going. And what a amazing ride. A new expressway has opened up on the route- for the first section- a four lane smooth highway where we could really go fast very safely and being one way, there was an added safety net. The Duke loves to corner and I took 70+kph corners without skipping a heartbeat!

The beautiful new expressway was a dream to ride!

When we took short breaks to enjoy the scenery, Pal told me the lean angles I was taking were insane, dragging those pegs- and he was kind of afraid for me. When we got back on the old highway, I backed off the pace because the highway is two-way, there is more traffic and definitely more road hazards. And most importantly, I did not want Pal to try and follow me and make a mistake on the 20+ year old two stroke- which did a pretty good job of keeping up. Pal was sometimes dangerously  close to the center lines though- I thought I should have a word with him- but never did. Thought that he would soon back down himself.

Pal enjoys the ride.

The Himalayan hills are just as beautiful as ever. 
Felt so familiar- good to be back!

The train- always good to see it.

The sun setting as we approached Shimla.

Once we got into the quaint town of Shimla, we started to feel the chill in the air- and thankfully, there weren't many tourists around. We got hustled into a cheap hotel where we could park the bikes nearby. We quickly grabbed dinner and walked around in the streets and retired. We were riding back tomorrow.

A lovely quiet evening in Shimla- non-tourist season is good!

Walking to dinner...good to see only locals hanging around.

Next morning was beautiful and just a bit nippy. The GoPro seemed to have died but I had it up anyway. We planned to head down where we had seen the MacDonalds to get some breakfast. Also, thought it a good idea to fuel up too. We stopped briefly for photographs on the top before we headed down.
When beautiful twisty roads have such great views, who wouldn't want to stop?

Nostalgia for 2010

As we headed down the beautiful scenery and I tanked up, that is when disaster struck- just outside Dharampur. As Pal led the charge, he turned towards a blind corner too close to the center and BAM! A car T-boned him from the other lane, flinging him off the bike and both him and the bike, rolled towards the gravel run-off that was fortunately there- instead of the cliff. I was only about 10 metres away and I thought this was it! I quickly parked the bike on the gravel and went to his aid. People waiting for a bus helped. His leg looked broken- he could not move it- and he was in massive pain. Many things worked in his favor though- apart from not falling off the edge of the mountain. There was a health center right above the corner and there were doctors that could give him first-aid pretty quickly.

The driver and passenger of the car could not really run because the coolant of their car had busted and spilled- and also because they had got a flat mid-corner and that was supposedly the reason they came into our lane and hit Pal. They tried to shirk responsibility but all of us kept pressing, a cop showed up soon enough and a lot of time was wasted trying to get these people to pay. Pal's dad on the phone wanted it to be over while the cop also said not to pursue a case and just take money for pal's treatment. What the driver offered was unacceptable to us but we agreed on a mediocre amount that he would bring to Chandigarh, where we would be taking Pal to for treatment. The doctors were impatient, as was the ambulance driver- probably annoyed to be working on a Sunday- but they are supposed to help people!

The ambulance driver had left but came back within ten minutes with Pal because he was missing some paperwork! More delays...Pal was under painkillers but he  could still feel the pain. I sorted out paperwork and took the car driver's papers to make sure he had no way to flee. The ambulance was already enroute and it took me about 30 minutes or so to catch up, even riding very fast on the fast expressway. Which meant the ambulance was speeding like crazy too. The Duke was pretty steady and planted through this mad chase even at really fast speeds around the corners. We got to the city hospital (PGI) in Chandigarh together. One of Pal's dad's friends was there to help. However the ordeal with non-compassionate healthcare workers continued. No nurse or emergency worker came. We found a metal stretcher and with a kind stranger's help, lifted Pal onto it and wheeled him inside where we waited.

The ECU was packed. My brother in law contacted me after my parents told him where I was- he used to be a senior doctor in this hospital- and he got the doctors moving to get Pal the attention that he needed. X-rays & other check-ups were done and I witnessed a rod been placed through Pal's ankle to keep it in place. Pal had broked 3 bones in 4 places on his right leg! The silver lining was that they were  clean breaks and not fragmented. Plus, they were all internal and did not pierce the skin. His dad and uncle came from Delhi by late afternoon- I had just gone to my sister's house for a quick lunch- and then back to get some sleep. Pal was holding up somehow and waiting to hear about when he would be operated. The car driver actually showed up- he had to- I had his papers. He made the payment and wanted to help around.

Stretched out waiting to get attention.

By next morning, Pal had luckily got a bed in a room with other (out of the ECU finally). I paid him a visit and said goodbyes. He was with family. It was going to be one long, lonely boring ride ahead for me- just like last time. This time, in the day. The Duke was fast and pretty comfortable. I only stopped for gas once. Did 274 kms in 233 minutes! And I was not even tired by the end of it. The mood was not celebratory though- and thoughts were with what had happened.

Fast bike, fast roads and an amazing information unit.

This time around, some of the same lessons were learned. And some new ones too. In retrospect, I should have spoken with Pal about riding so close to the center. Also, he had never really gone on a long-ish tour and had not ridden beyond the city- should have let him ease into it.  I have seen weekend warriors get over enthusiastic and crash. This was, however, a freak accident that could have happened to anyone. I know I will be even more careful around mountain roads, even if it means backing off the pace. I also learned that it is important to be even more safe because healthcare professionals will sometimes make it real hard to get help- so, safety is better than trying to get a cure. Again- a reminder to be safe.

Pal got operated after a few days- and carries titanium rods holding the bones inside his right leg. He seems to be doing well and in good spirits- he took it like a champ. I just hope that he would be ready to go to the beautiful Himalayas once again and more importantly, that he does not stop riding because of this. There is nothing worse than having to give up something that makes one happy- and Pal's happiness on his maiden moto trip to the mountains was reminiscent of how I felt the first time. And that feeling never goes away. And though the trip was full of fast speeds, I feel that even at a slower pace, the beauty of motorcycling does not go away. It's not about chicken strips, lean angles, fast corners- it's just about being on the bike, seeing this amazing world.

I will be back to the mountains again. That, I am sure.

No comments:

Post a Comment