Lahaul & Spiti – 4 “Struggle for Shimla”

I despise leaving bad taste or feelings linger, like a bullet inside a wound, it hurts and gets painful over time…

Day4 – 30 Aug 2009  Kaza – Tabo – Pooh – Kinnaur – Rampur.

7:20 AM: Kaza in morning

I took a stroll in the morning for about an hour. I saw the beautiful sunrise and went to the temple at the back of our hotel on a small hill. I felt tired so I came back to lie on the bed for a while. Today our whole aim was to crack Shimla. This was the fourth day and that means all of them have to head back to Delhi tomorrow. It was a long trip today about 350kms. From Kaza to Shimla road was excellent, or so we were told.

I felt obligated to approach the cooks so before leaving I met one of the cooks. He was regretful about yesterday. He came clean after a while and most of what he told me made sense. It seems they were a little baffled with all that order and being new and a few hands short they blew it. Regretfully he added “we are not bad cooks(clear from the delicious soup) do give us another chance if you come this way.

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

Refueling at worlds heighest petrol pumpThe world’s highest petrol pump is situated at Kaza, we did the honors and left Kaza at around 9am. The roads were small but devoid of all transportation except the nomads. The scenery continued its play with sculptures and barrenness throughout, the most interesting pieces were the sand structures.
Our next stoppage was Tabo after about 60Kms. All the way we found sign boards which curiously marked the town population and name of the town. Towns themselves were far and few containing a family or two mostly. One striking feature all of them shared were apple orchards, the only greenery in the otherwise barren locale.

Manish posing with sand sculpturesWe were gaining altitude after Lara. This stretch of road had a great surface, of course, that meant faster driving but how fast one could go on a hilly road stuffed with turns ;) I touched 75 at a straight inclined stretch. The road brought us up to a very high mountain. From here we could see all the other mountains, I think we were probably near Dhankar. It was an awesome scenery. 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. A panorama for your viewing pleasure. Please note I will be uploading the complete 360 panorama of this shot to panaroamio shortly.All nomads but one ;)Tabo bridgeAfter reaching the base of the hill, the road now ran along a river. We were driving through a rocky hill which was cut such that it almost looked like a tunnel. Few hundred meters ahead was the Tabo bridge. The waterfall nearby it made a deafening noise as if announcing to the travelers that they are 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.

5:30 PM: You Moron! and the evening

I have almost no recollection of the road we traveled after passing Nako, Sumdo etc until we reached Khab Bridge, overseeing the confluence of Spiti and Satluz rivers. From there on we were constantly travelling along Satluz river. On the way, I met a jittery Maturi Alto driver coming from opposite side. The fellow was frantically swaggering his one hand out of the window, signalling me to move aside. I was inside my lane so I stayed put. Needless to say some biker touched his nerves. Hmmm… maybe someone from nomads ahead… Guys?

The road was thin, on the one side was a gorge and on the other was the half cut tunnel in rock. We were now fighting with the winds, nasty winds, at times when you came out from a turn towards the riverside the wind almost pushed you off the path. It was an unusual experience trying to negate the effect on a place where we had to unquestionably drive fast. We had to stop at Puh (I think) as the rain gods were interested in cleaning the valley. It was cold and we stopped at some construction shed where a nice officer offered all of us tea. We pressed forward to Rekong Peo, the scenery afterward 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

Sudi at Kinnaur Hydroelectric thingy After that stop, Jatin went ahead. We met an engineering marvel, on the way there was water coming out of a mountain(over the road in a concrete channel) to fall over into a turbine down below. The sound it made was deafening. It was about 6pm and we still had technically 3-4 hours of drive left to Shimla. The sunlight kept going down. However that was not the problem, the problem was that now we were in a construction site that runs all along the road. And the road was filled with mud – slippery, grimy, slimy, mud. And that was not much of a problem either, the real problem was that whole stretch was only 15kms short. We had even more problems like we both were trailing and I was driving slow by Sid’s standards so he asked me to drive faster. I thought about it and decided to let him lead instead.

7:20 PM: Rains, mud, Big trucks and annoying darkness

After Sid took the lead he went on fast, because most of the times I tried to accelerate I found the rear tyre slipping. It had something to do with the bike design and heavy saddlebags. Front tyres have grooves for straight drive good even for a drive in rains on tarmac but on mud they almost acted like a boat rudder. If you turn or tilt too fast, the rear tyre will refuse to follow the lead. I maintained 10-25KmHr or more depending upon the availability of grip. Meanwhile, Sid was out of sight. I was now nearing a construction zone where there were big trucks with big tyres crossing the road with the heavy load. Behind me was an inpatient Indica driver blinking and honking, of course he was a real gent so I moved out-of-the-way at a small turn to let him pass only to see him almost miss one of the trucks. That firmed up my resolve of reaching Shimla in one piece ;)

Chola break


I probably drove alone for about 20 minutes to find Sid waiting and after a while we met 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 Samosas and a plate of Chola masala. Consistent drizzle had made us wear rain coats, mine was an army tent/coat which protected me nicely from both the cold and drizzle.

We have been driving in the Keechad for over and hour now we were hopeful that this problematic ride will end soon but no! we were told that the mud path is still 15Kms short. 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 have about 60-70 Kms left for Rampur. Cool! then we can reach Rampur by 9:30, Someone said. I was thinking more like 10:30, but I kept quiet and 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 sent over to others. I was at the back yet again ;) driving safe, but not as much as to lose them. Suddenly the traffic seemed to have increased, probably people were going home. On a problematic surface such as this there were too many impatient drivers and it was quite unsafe out there. 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 below the flood lights, 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 ‘go ahead at your best speed’ signal, since I saw Jatin and Sid rocketing off almost immediately. Now the rains were continuous and my rain coat tent was flapping at speeds in access of 40kmHr. Most of the times I was driving just fast enough to keep the guy ahead in my view. I think for the first time in our four-day travel I was experiencing degrading hand to eye coördination. I had enough reserves for that day but felt if we can reach a place close to Shimla with nice accommodation we should break. Jatin Sudi and Manish went ahead, Lovey and Sudi kept ahead for sometime, calmly I might add, finally they slowed down to my side, Sudi suggested that we must drive fast.

9:00 PM: The ‘Sudi Ultimatum’

Sudi in his quest to convince me threw some numbers at me, if we keep at this speed (40-50) we will reach Rampur only by 10PM, and if we go faster we might reach lets say, 20 mins earlier. I began calculating and my numbers were different. 40-50 is still an approximation, I said, add at least 20 minutes to 10pm for me its was a small difference so I said “you guys go ahead I will keep up”. They both were clearly not in the mood and I felt I was being pressured into driving fast (or was that really?) Sudi occupied my right almost near to me while Lovey was at back. Dear reader are you getting the hint, those bastards were gheraowing me.

I think all in all I did notice myself driving a bit faster than I could have managed probably because of doubling up of lamps, it made us see far and wide easily, or may be because I felt challenged ;).To keep myself busy with the monotonous drive I kept playing with Sudi’s wits by deliberately slowing and bursting up just to catch him off guard with his evil scheme ;). I watched him for quite sometime during the drive and there was something to be admired about his driving skill. Fact is, he could have easily out-paced me if he wanted, yet he kept to side. He raked up lot of respect points in my book as a group biker and as a driver that day, but seriously friend if you do this again I am elbowing you out ;) then may be not ;)

9:45 PM: Pal ‘mila’ Brandy

I was not able to deter Sudi’s determination but his old PAL did. We saw a man swaggering in pithiness standing near to his fallen bike. The moment I had my eyes on his frail and stumpy body standing near his bike I knew he’s drunk, he signalled us to stop. Sudi parked his bike close to him and the man asked Sudi to lift his bike which he did. And he started to thank Sudi for the greatest of all deeds, he even proclaimed that Sudi was his best PAL.

10:30PM Reaching the inglorious Rampur

I almost forgot to recount Jatin’s fight with enfield’s robustness, it continued that day as well. While were turning on a bend we saw Jatin standing near his bike, as it had turned out while turning at high-speed his head lamp conked. He was safe, Sid and Manish kept him company till we reached Rampur. The best part was that we reached Rampur at about 10:15 just near to my approximation and farther than Sudi’s ;)

I was glad to get off the bike, although took some convincing that we indeed are stopping here. Jatin came back with a bad news. The hotel near which we had parked was full. So Lovey and Sudi went off scouting the square(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 find it. After about travelling for a kilometre or two we came back empty-handed. I was completely pooped. I wanted a good night sleep. It was around 11:10 when Manish and Sudi came back. What they told was not funny, there were few rooms at the hotel but the hotel was dirty. Sid was restless for past few minutes he was interested in moving ahead to Shimla, which was about 120Km.

11:00 PM: The Rampur ‘Voting Scandal’

It was rather uncomfortable situation for all of us 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 vote!”. “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 it was decided to check out the hotel first

11:10 PM: The cockroach hotel

Dirty Hotel just above Ramupr Bus Stand. There were cockroaches running around in few rooms which we quietly skipped. The owner was a complete asshole though, we asked him to slightly adjust the AC room fare just to offset the dirty rooms where we could not sleep. Frankly at this time of year you aren’t going to use either AC or heater anyway. But he declined with an air of someone couldn’t care less. Of course he knew we did not have any other option. The hotel was a complete cheap ass one, looked like they never change a thing from past 15 years it was dirty to say the least.

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

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