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 and sat there for a while watching the Satluj river and the morning activity over the bridge then went out for a stroll the clouds were moving in and it appeared that it would rain in a short while. Seeing that 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 adventurous drive in the rain with my flapping poncho I pulled out a spare bungee cord and tied it like a belt around the raincoat below my bag all the nomads were passing me and I asked them to do so but as I moved I found Sid who was waiting for me, 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. Determined not to be dragging anyone this time 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 our 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, the fog cover appearing on the road to Kufri and rains subsidised it was a welcome change. Just ahead of Kufri we make a break for tea to warm ourselves up and also waiting for the rest of guys to join. I came to know that Manish doesn’t drink 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 lemon tea for him. With cold beating down his neck, he found it quite tasty and by the time guys made their entry, Manish had gulped down two glasses already.

All of us were wet and shivering in the cold the 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 40Kms of nice roads with apple orchards alongside we halted for a break.

At 3:20 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 stop. 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. It turned out heavy vehicles which were climbing the steep incline from the other side were slow and as a precautionary measure our side was made to wait adding on that was the incoming traffic of tourists from our side.

2:00 PM: Eternal wait at Shimla

While nearing Shimla Sudi caught up with us and we crossed the mall road and stopped further ahead and sat alongside the road for the rest to catch up as was Sudi’s 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 meet with them outside of Shimla.

However Sudi had a different idea so we waited for about half an hour then 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, he agreed to move further, so we moved to a new place further ahead and again waited for some time. I was not happy “Let us get out of the town first, it will be easy for them to find us”, I said again. Meanwhile, Manish had taken a break, being busy on the phone that is. It took a bit convincing and finally after a while later Sudi realising 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 kilometres ahead at a petrol pump.

All in all, we wasted little over than 40 mins and it was over 2:00 pm already. Thinking that I have to travel back to Dehradun I kept my mount on the bike, waiting for them to move. While in reality in my heart I wanted to take a break at Shimla for the day I was thinking that probably Lovey and Sudi wanted the same. But I was a little miffed with the Veto at Rampur’ and considering that I was the new one in the group so 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, as 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 do usually often touching 70-80.

We braked ahead of Dharampur probably 4-5 Kms to change the wet socks at this time the rains have completely stopped so we removed our rain coats as well. I ordered Noodles while Lovey ordered Rajma Chawal. We were talking about the ‘Shimla chance!’ and during the talk, it turns out that he also wanted to break at Shimla. How unfortunate we thought, now it would not have been wise to go back these 60 odd Kms, but 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 for a night. After 40 minutes the rest of them finally arrived at the Dhaba and without lunch, they moved forward as all of them were in the mood to reach Delhi regardless of time, we wished them the final goodbye for the trip.

7:30 PM: The fall beginning

One thing I have often said to others is that ‘one has more chances of a flat tyre near towns than on remote locations’ for us that remote location was Lahaul & Spiti. Ironically I had ‘that’ puncture ;) at Dharampur. We left the puncture shop at 6:50 pm and as soon as we left I felt as if I was driving on a harder suspension. I was puzzled at first and dismissed it as a figment of my imagination, or thought maybe because I am tired which I was.

We might have travelled 10-15 km’s when Lovey just overtook me before a turn, I saw him vanishing past a stopped vehicle over the turn. 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 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 one I could.

Replying to this urge to adjust the troublesome Bandana which had again managed to slip over my eyebrows. I was aware that this was a stupid move on my part, but couldn’t 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, just like those slow-motion scenes in the movies. My bike tilted left towards the edge of the road, which was a good 10 inches above the soil, fortunately, the edge of the road joined with the ground in a smooth curve. For a moment I recall myself gliding over the dis-balanced bike. instinctively I moved my free 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 analysing 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’s done!”

Suddenly both minds left me to take control of the situation, it was a strange feeling, having two minds left and right aware and you as if a third person making the decision without consulting them. The slow-mo of things began to fade as for one instance I thought of leaving the bike, but that would have left my bike bumping the car ahead, so I pressed the front disk-brake hard then immediately engine-braked. Unable to ride on the road, the thick rear tyre rolled over the edge of the road and 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. Rejecting the thought I steadied myself, few seconds have passed but still, I felt no pain 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 circulating blood in their full capacity, 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, now I needed to see my service centre.

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”.

Ends Up

Next up we halted at Chandigarh late at 9 pm. On next day I was finally able to decipher the traction loss of the front tyre as well as the feeling of hard suspension during my fall. The front tyres were inflated by more than 5 psi and the back tyre was 10 psi over their recommended pressure. now I know by experience that correct tyre pressure is very important ;).

All good things come to an end, we had so much to learn and enjoy during that trip that it is difficult to remember everything, so if I have missed something please keep it for our next meet.

For Nomads – Gaurav Nawani

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

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