Lahaul Spiti (2009) 5 – To Shimla and beyond


Hill roads are such that they work best at counteracting your best approximations… always!

Day 5 – 31 Aug 2009 | Rampur – Shimla – Chandigarh

I woke up at 5:10 am and went out on the porch, sat there for a while watching the Satluj river and the morning activity over the bridge. After a while I went out for a stroll.

I came back to the hotel and knocked on the doors of nomads, I was hoping to leave early for Shimla in any chance I set my mood for a stay at Shimla or head over to Dehradun.

We left the place at around 8 am and from the start, I kept the lead till a sudden burst of rain stopped me in tracks. Learning from the last night’s ride in the rain with my flapping poncho I pulled out a spare bungee cord and tied it like a belt around the poncho just below my backpack all the nomads passed me I waved them to continue.

When finished I moved ahead and I found Sid waiting for me after a turn, he inquired curiously, I told him about the fluttering raincoat, a smile broke on his face and we went off.

We kept driving for over an hour and at around 10:30 am, we were signalled by Lovey waiting at a dhabha we must have been somewhere between Theog and Narkanda. Another parantha round ensued.

I quickly finished my breakfast and took off with Manish while others were still packing their gear.

OF FOG AND RAINS

Just as we left after breakfast rains started lashing down and the visibility declined. We had to keep speed in check due to pouring rains have reduced the safe visibility, things started to get chillier as we approached Kufri.

Currently fog cover was appearing on the road to Kufri and rains subsidised it was a welcome change. Just ahead of Kufri we made a break for tea to warm ourselves up and also to wait for the rest to join.

I came to know that Manish doesn’t drinks tea, but as he finds out at Kufri why tea is such a darling of hills. Considering delicate taste buds I was working on I ordered black lemon-tea for him. With cold beating down his neck, he found it quite tasty, by the time guys made their entry; Manish had gulped down two glass full.

Folks who have just arrived decided to change clothes while Manish and I again went ahead. I was driving faster today in hope to check out Shimla before leaving, but considering the time (1:30 pm) it seems ‘दूर का ढोल’. After about 40km of nice roads with apple orchards alongside we halted for a break.

At 2:20 pm we had breached Shimla only to be faced by a long jam. We kept overtaking the jam for a kilometre or so, up to a point where two policemen managing the jam ordered us to a halt.

After 15-20 minutes, we decided to give them the slip and we were glad we did that, as the traffic further up was non-existent.

2:00 PM: ETERNAL WAIT AT SHIMLA

While nearing Shimla Sudi out of the blue caught up with us two and we three crossed the mall road and stopped further alongside the road. Waiting for the rest to catch up was Sudi’s intentful demand.

At that point I thought we were wasting time since all of us eventually have to cross Shimla anyway, so to me it made sense to rather meet them outside of Shimla.

However Sudi had a different idea so we waited for about half an hour.  I asked him to check on the guys, during the conversation they talked about taking a shortcut and they were waiting for us at a petrol pump.

Finally, Sudi reluctantly agreed to move further, so we moved to a new place about a kilometer ahead and again waited.

It took a bit of convincing again and finally after a while later Sudi realizing the merit of my point asked “so shall we move then?”. Ironically as if that was supposed to happen those guys were waiting for us just a few hundred meter at petrol pump. All in all we wasted little over 40 mins and it was over 3:00 pm.

Thinking that I have to travel back to Dehradun I kept my mount on the bike, waiting for them to move. After a while maybe because of 5 days of exhaustion or maybe because I do not like to kill time doing nothing I do not know but I was miffed waiting like this and I was holding on considering that I was the new one in the group and It would be inappropriate for me ask to break up the group now.

Impatiently, I looked at Lovey and without exchanging any words I knew that he sensed my desperation and he also began to move forward while rest were busy in this and that.

5 minutes later I called it quits, Lovey followed, what transpired during that drive was nothing less than nightmarish for me. In a fit of frustration, I drove faster than I usually do.

We braked ahead of Dharampur to change the wet socks as rains have stopped so we removed our rain coats as well. We ordered food and began talking about the ‘Shimla chance!’ as it turns out that he also wanted to stay at Shimla.

Lovey suggested: “If Sudi agrees to it then why not?”. We gave him a call, Sudi had already notified his parents to return back home. So it was only Lovey and me and instead of going back we decided to stay at Chandigarh.

About 40 minutes later the rest of them arrived at our location, they were in the mood to reach Delhi regardless of time, and we wished them the final goodbye for the trip.

7:30 PM: THE FALL BEGINNING

For all these years I have been saying this to others that “one has more chances of a flat tyre near towns than on remote locations”.

For us that remote location was Lahaul & Spiti and local was this place and ironically I had ‘that’ puncture. So after attending to the puncture we left at about 6:50 pm. As soon as I moved I felt as if I was driving on a much harder suspension. I was puzzled at first and dismissed it as a figment of my imagination.

We might have travelled 10-15 km’s when Lovey just overtook me before a long down turn, I saw him vanishing past a stopped vehicle. To this day, I vividly remember that moment, as I saw myself nearing that turn, I somehow moved my left hand from the handlebar to under front face of my helmet in order to adjust the bandana.

At this point I recall all little things were beginning annoying me, the heat the, cold, the rains and I wanted to get rid of the one I was in control. Replying to this urge I wanted to adjust the troublesome Bandana once and for all, which had again managed to slip over my eyebrows.

I was aware that this was a stupid move on my part, but could not control this urge. During that time I distinctly recall sensing a car in process of overtaking me, probably that moment triggered it.

Suddenly I felt as if the scene in front of my eyes starting to drag in whimsical blurs.

My bike tilted left towards the edge of the road, which was a good 10 inches above the soil. The edge of the road joined the ground in a smooth curve.  My bike was now gliding over this curve and instinctively I moved my left hand back on the handlebar.

THE FALL CONTINUES… “CONSCIOUS VS SUBCONSCIOUS”

My mind was aware that I was losing control of the bike, so it went into analyzing overdrive. There was a car parked a good 30 meters ahead, and at this speed, I would ram into it. I tried pressing the rear brake but my body was not balanced enough on the bike to press it effectively.

Now my mind directed attention towards the front brake, bike slowed. At that instance I thought of turning the bike towards the road, strangely my mind had that part figured since it already knew about the overtaking car on the right.

For better or for worse it suggested me to take a fall… While my conscious mind was in overdrive, the subconscious flashed a shocker “Shit!!! you haven’t fallen on the trip so far!

THE FALL… “it is DONE!”

Suddenly both minds left me to take control of the situation, it was a strange feeling, having two minds both aware and you as if a third person making the decision without consulting them.

The slow-mo of things began to fade, so I pressed the front disk-brake harder and immediately engine-braked. Unable to ride on the road, the thick rear tyre rolled over the edge of the road and I let the bike fell towards the left, my left foot was still on the gear paddle between the bike and ground, which I managed to correct and we skidded over few meters before coming to a halt just a few feet before the parked car.

THE FALL … RECOVERING

I quickly got onto my feet in that instance, I felt as if everything came back to normal life speed. Vrroom… the overtaking car went past me, I could see a streak of brake light of Loveys bike ahead.

I left thinking about the folks in the car, they must be thinking something stupid about me. Then rejecting the thought I steadied myself.

A few seconds have passed but still I felt no pain and I nervously waited for few more moments, but it did not happen at least not as much as I was expecting, I miraculously managed to survive with a minor bruise on the knee and hand.

At this point I felt the nerves were circulating blood in their full capacity, thump thump thump!

I could now feel the rush and all the jittery nerves one would after furious adrenaline pumping. With shaky hands and legs I pulled up the bike, thankfully there was no harm done, except for the bent foot guard.

I steadied myself and within a few minutes I was ready to ride again. The second gear was not slotting in well and I have to press it hard to get it engage.

Meanwhile, Lovey hasn’t noticed this and he came back to see where I was lost. After a while when I narrated this to Lovey he promptly taunted me “आपका भी अभीषॆक हो ही गया”.

UNRAVELING THE SECRET

Next up we halted at Chandigarh late at 9 pm.

Next day I was finally able to decipher the traction loss of the back tyre as well as the feeling of hard suspension.

During air pressure check at the petrol pump next morning the attended brought this to my notice that the tyres were over inflated by more than 5 psi and 10 psi both front and back. Now I know by experience that correct tyre pressure is very important ;).

For Nomads – Gaurav Nawani

Stats
  • Distance covered – 250 Kms
  • Time taken -15 Hrs
  • 6 Stops
  • Refueling 400Rs
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