Lahaul Spiti (2009) 4 – Struggle for Shimla

Day 4 – 30 Aug 2009  Kaza – Tabo – Pooh – Kinnaur -Rampur Bushahr.

7:20 AM: Kaza in morning

Waking up early is natural to me and this day was no different, I woke up early and went for a stroll. Sun was out and the atmosphere at Kaza felt hospitable after visiting the temple beside the main road I felt bored so came back only to lay on the bed in wait for nomads to rise.

Today our aim was to reach Shimla, this was the fourth day and Sunday that means all of the Delhi folks have urgent need to return to their city to be part of rat race again. It was a very long trip of 440kms and since we have done as much on the first day itself young guns believed it’s possible to repeat this feat from Kaza to Shimla as well. They thought the road was excellent, or so we’re told. Leaving riding skills aside I considered that impossible only for the fact that the group has a way of being late every morning.

9:00 AM: Refuelling at world’s highest petrol pump

Refueling at world’s highest petrol pump.

The world’s highest petrol pump is situated at Kaza we all filled up and left Kaza at around 9:20 am. The roads were thinner but devoid of all transportation except the nomads. Our scheduled stoppage was Tabo after about 60Kms the route was scenic, all the way we found sign boards at roads which marked the town name and population. Towns themselves were far and few containing a family or two mostly. One striking feature all of them shared were green orchards, the only greenery in the otherwise barren lands.

We were gaining altitude after Lara, this stretch of road had a freshly laid surface, of course, that meant faster driving but how fast one could go on hilly roads. The road brought us up to a very high mountain, from here we could see a vantage point down to our right we could see the place from which we rose to this height and on the other side, we could see it vanishing into the bottom of a rocky hill few photographs later we left.

Reaching Tabo was a easy ride.

After reaching the base of the hill, the road now ran alongside Spiti river. We were driving through a rocky hill which was cut almost like a tunnel. Few hundred meters ahead was the Tabo bridge. The waterfall near it made a deafening noise as if announcing to the travellers that they have arrived in Tabo, we went past it to see that Jatin and company had located a nice restaurant where we ate stomach full of tasty Paranthas as our late breakfast.

5:30 PM: You Moron! and the evening

I have almost no recollection of the road we travelled after passing Sumdo, Chango, Nako until we reached Khab Bridge, overseeing the confluence of Spiti and Satluz rivers. From there on we were constantly travelling alongside Satluz river.

The road was thin, one side was a gorge for Satluj and on the other was the rock almost cut as a tunnel. I particularly remember this patch as we were now fighting with the strong winds, at times when you came out from a turn towards the riverside the wind gush would almost push you off track. It was an unusual experience trying to negate that wind on a place where we had to unquestionably drive fast.

We had to make a quick stop at Puh (I think) as the rain gods were interested in cleaning the valley. It was colder and we stopped at some construction shed where a nice officer offered all of us hot tea which we were thankful for.

We pressed forward to Powari, the scenery afterwards now had a typical Himachal tune to it, it seems that we had entered the Kinnaur region. Just ahead of myself was Sid and a little further was Jatin. We stopped for petrol at Ribba, Jatin went on ahead to ask for a local motorcycle engineer but to no avail. He was really busy in a game of gully cricket.

6:10 PM: Kinnaur delay

Rest of the path afterwards is again hazy in my memory till we reached near Karcham I remember our encounter with an engineering marvel there. On the side of the road, there was water coming out of a mountain going over the road in a concrete channel to fall over into the river down below. The sound it made was deafening. This region had a major hydro project under development.

Sudi posing in front of one of the hydro generators inside of hill.

It was about 6:40 pm and we still had technically about 5 hours or nearly 220kms of drive left to Shimla according to the nomads and yes at this point all the young guns consider this quite feasible.

The sunlight kept going down and to my mind, that was not the problem the problem was that by now we had entered into an active construction zone that runs along the road. Construction and occasional rains had made the road muddy and slippery and this was till about 25kms of the stretch. But at that time we were told that this was only for next 15kms. Sid and I were trailing and I was actually driving slow by Sid’s standards as well so he kept asking me to catch up.

7:20 PM: Dark, Rains, mud and Big trucks

After Sid took the lead from me he went on fast through the muck, looking at his success I tried to accelerate as well but found the rear tyre slipping. It had something to do with the geometry of a cruiser bike and also heavy saddle bag at the back. Front tyres gripped the much fine for the straighter drive but on the mud, they were behaving like a boat rudder if any turn or tilt too fast, the rear tyre refused to follow the lead.

I was trying my best to maintain 10-15 km hr, meanwhile, Sid was out of sight and I was now nearing a construction zone where big trucks were hauling heavy loads coming out of tunnels in the hills. Currently behind me was an impatient car driver blinking and honking, of course, he was being a real gent so I managed to move out-of-the-way at a turn only to see him almost miss hitting one of the crossing trucks in his acceleration to overtake me. That incidence firmed up my resolve of reaching Shimla or whatever in one piece ;)

I probably drove alone for about 20 minutes to find Sid waiting and after a while, we caught up with the rest of the gang waiting for us at a small Dhabha at Karcham. They were feasting on Samosas and Chola, we haven’t taken the lunch the so we dug in a few plate of Chola Masala and samosa.

All waiting for their lunch cum dinner, Chola Samosa and chai after the mud and muck drive.

We have been driving in the Keechad for nearly an hour now we were hopeful that this troublesome ride will end soon but no! we were told that the slush is still 15Kms more. Calculators were out, 15km at approx 10KmHr = 1.5 Hrs just for the mud, that means we would be able to cross it only after 8:30. After that, we will still have about 60-70 Kms left for Rampur Bushahr. “Then we can reach Rampur by 9:30”, someone claimed. I was thinking more like 10:30, but I kept quiet as the young guns decided to rip up.

7:35 PM: The plan ‘Engaging Shimla’

To engage Shimla a plan was hatched, it was decided that we will keep together all the time, if one is trailing too much he can honk and blink, the message will be relayed over to forerunners. It was past 8 pm and all dark road was only lit by our bikes headlamps, as usual. I was at the back yet again ;). I think all in all we clocked around 20-25 Km/Hr through that stretch. Finally, after we crossed a big bridge, the road was good once again. From the road we could see the flood lights down near the river which consisted of tunnels and various road arteries with varied construction machinery all glowing in orange fluorescent lamps, challenging nature in its extreme conditions.

8:30 PM: The plan continues…

After crossing the big bridge we were a lot relaxed driving on tarmac, now Shimla seemed reachable. I saw Sudi up ahead giving the guys what I believe was a pep talk of ‘go ahead at your best speed’ signal since I saw Jatin and Sid rocketing off almost immediately. Most of the times I was driving just fast enough to keep the guy ahead in my view. I was feeling tired but had enough reserves to reach a place closer to Shimla as much we could till 10 pm only. Lovey and Sudi kept ahead for some time, finally, they slowed down to my side, Sudi re-suggested that we must drive faster.

9:00 PM: The ‘Sudi Ultimatum’

Sudi in his bid to convince me, he threw some numbers at me, if we keep at this speed (40-50) we will reach Rampur Bushahr only by 9:30 PM, and if we go even faster we might reach let’s say, 20 mins earlier. I was more like “you guys go ahead I will keep up”. They both were not in the mood to let go, I felt I was being pressured into driving faster Sudi perched towards my right while Lovey was at back. I played the game, driving was a bit faster probably because of doubling up of head lamps it made us see far and wide, or maybe because I felt challenged I cannot put my finger to it.

10:30 PM Reaching the inglorious Rampur

Jatin’s fight with Enfield’s robustness, it continued that whole day as well. While turning on a bend we saw Jatin standing near his bike apparently while during turning at the good speed his headlamp conked off resulting in him taking a fall but he had managed to recover from it rather quickly. He was safe, Sid and Manish now kept him company for lighting. We reached Rampur Bushahr at about 10:15.

I was glad to get off the bike, although it took some convincing that we indeed are stopping here. Jatin came back with bad news the hotel outside which we had parked was full. So Lovey and Sudi went off scouting near the bus stand we had just crossed. Meanwhile, a taxi driver nearby suggested a possible hotel close to us, despite being awfully tired Jatin and I went on foot to locate, but we came back empty-handed.

I was completely popped by now, all of us wanted a good nights sleep. By 11 pm Manish and Sudi came back from another sortie, they told us of empty rooms at a certain hotel but the hotel was not well-kept.

11:00 PM: The Rampur ‘Voting Scandal’

Sid was restless for past few minutes he was interested in moving to Shimla, which was about 120Km. It lead to an uncomfortable situation when Sid abruptly announced,“now some body has to make a decision!” and “one person cannot do it!”, Checking himself he then let the bomb drop. “I mean we can reach Shimla tonight, but who is going to decide that? so everyone here votes!”. “Who is for leaving to Shimla?” Me and Sudi “Nay”, Lovey following (3Nay), Jatin and Sid “yes” with Manish hung(2 ½) after a round of looks at each other and to subsidise the growing discomfort it was decided to check out the hotel first.

11:10 PM: The cockroach hotel

There were cockroaches running around in few rooms which we quietly slipped as low priority. The owner was a complete asshole though, we asked him to slightly adjust the AC room fare on account of dirty rooms. But he declined with an air of someone couldn’t care less. Of course, he knew we did not have any other option. So we all went into our respective rooms switched on the AC as well as heaters, geysers and all lamps and let them be till we left in the morning.

  • Distance covered – 300 Kms
  • Time taken 15 Hrs
  • 6 Stops
  • Refueling 300Rs

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