Lahaul & Spiti – 5 “To Shimla and beyond”

Hill roads are designed such that they work best at counteracting your best approximations… always! – ‘Laws of hill driving’ – saargoga

Day5 – 31 Aug 2009 | Rampur – Shimla – Kalka – Chandigarh – Ambala – Karnal – New Delhi

I woke up at 5:10, and went out on the porch. I sat there for a while, watching the Satluz river and the morning activity over the bridge. Then I got out for a little stroll. The sky was in the mood for rains. At 6:30am I banged the doors of the rooms of other nomads. I was hoping to leave for Shimla early. But we were late and left at around 8am. The road was well-built and was about four-five Maruti’s wide ;).

From the start, I kept the lead till a sudden burst of rain stopped me. Learning from the last night’s adventurous drive in the rain, I pulled out a spare bungee cord and tied it like a belt around the raincoat, now I could speed up beyond 60 with ease. I caught up with 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. At around 11am, we were signalled by waiting nomads at a dhabha. Another parantha round ensued. Determined to be in the front this time, I took off with Manish while others were still packing their gear at around 12am.

8:10 AM: Of fog and rains

The continuous rains have made it difficult to move forward. We were slowing down and it kept getting colder as we approached Kufri. We had ridden in the rain yesterday as well, so the fog cover appearing on the road to Kufri was a welcome change. At Kufri, we stopped for tea while waiting for the guys to catch up. I came to know that Manish doesn’t drink tea, but as he finds out at Kufri why tea is such a darling. Considering delicate taste buds I was working on ;) I ordered lemon tea. 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 late comers decided to change ;) while Manish and I went ahead. Have I told you that I was driving very fast today ;) that is because I wanted to check out Shimla before leaving? But considering the time (1:30pm) it seems ‘दूर का ढोल’. After about 40Kms of the nice road with apple orchards alongside we halted. At 3:20pm 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 decide to give them the slip and we were glad to do that, as the traffic further up was non-existent. It turned out heavy vehicles were climbing the steep incline very slowly and that made the traffic crawl. During that time, Sudi had joined us and we crossed Shimla main city.

2:00 PM: Eternal wait at Shimla

Me & SudiSudi, Manish and I were waiting at Shimla for the rest of them to catch up. At that point I thought we were waiting time since all of us have to cross Shimla anyway, so it made sense to meet with them outside Shimla. However Sudi had different ideas so we waited for about half an hour, again I asked him to check on the guys, during the conversation they talked about taking a shortcut and waiting for us at a petrol pump. Finally he agreed to move further, so we moved to a new place and waited, I was not happy “Let us get out of the town first, it will be easy for them to find us”, I said. Meanwhile, Manish had taken a break, being busy on the phone that is ;) and finally after a while later Sudi finally said “so shall we move then?” I was glad. ironically as if that was supposed to happen, those guys were waiting for us just ahead at a petrol pump.

All in all we waited for more than 30 mins and it was 2:00 pm already. I have to travel back to Dehradun alone… so 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’. Considering that I am the new one in the group, it would be inappropriate for me to break up the group now.

Impatiently, I looked at Lovey and without exchanging any words i knew that he sensed my thoughts, as he also began to prepare for driving. 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 anger, I drove faster than I do usually, often touching 70-80Km/Hr. The road from Shimla to Nahan though excellent in surface quality had evident engineering problems especially on bends, the bends on hills are tilted in the opposite direction to the turn while these roads were rather flat.

We braked near Nahan probably 4-5 Kms ahead of it to change the wet socks the rain had stopped so we removed our raincoats 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 Lovey 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, unfortunately, Sudi had already notified his parents to return back home. So it was only Lovey and me and we decided to stay at Chandigarh tonight. After 40 minutes the rest of them finally arrived at the Dhabha and as they moved forward we wished them the final goodbye for the trip.

6:30 PM: Punctured plans

One thing I have often said to other 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 ;). As soon as we left my bike started wobbling, I looked back at Lovey and he confirmed. Again the typical hilly business acumen was on display, most puncture shops did not want to meddle with the rear tyre, for them it’s too much work, funny!. We found one puncture shop, the owner was an intelligent man, he took pride in his work and did a through professional job of puncture repair. For all the obvious reasons, I gave him more than he asked for.

7:30 PM: The fall

We managed to leave the puncture shop at 7:45 pm. As soon as we left I felt as if I was driving on a hard suspension. I was puzzled and thought maybe this is just a figment of my imagination, or maybe because I am tired which I was. I felt distracted from driving and couldn’t concentrate as much as I wanted to. I needed an urgent break so we stopped for a while. We might have traveled 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 wonder about that moment. As I saw myself nearing that turn, I somehow moved my left hand from the handlebar to under my helmet. Don’t know what but I had this urge to adjust the troublesome Bandana which had again managed to slip over my eyebrows.

Weirdly enough at that time I was actually fully aware that this was a stupid move on my part, but couldn’t control this urge to adjust the bandanna now. During that time I distinctively 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 moves. My bike tilted left towards the edge of road, which was a good 10 inches above soil, amazingly 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 had lost control of bike, so it went into analyzing overdrive. There was a car parked a good 20 meters ahead, and at this speed I would smash into it. I tried pressing the rear break but my body was not balanced enough on the bike to press it effectively. Now my mind directed attention towards the front breaks, my hand followed, 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…. _right now!_. While my conscious mind was in overdrive, the subconscious flashed a shocker “Shit!!! you haven’t fallen in the trip so far…, not now!… #$*##… it is done!”. It threw some other garbage which I was not able to decipher at that moment.

The fall… “It’s done!”

Suddenly both minds left me in control of the situation, it was a strange feeling, having two minds left and right and you making decision without consulting them. The slow mow began to fade as body was left in instinctive mode. I tried leaving the bike, but that would have left my bike bumping the car ahead, so I moved myself closer to bike and pressed the front disk-brake hard then immediately engine-braked at first gear. Unable to ride on the road, the thick rear tyre jumped over the edge of the road. The bike fell slowly towards the left, my left foot was still on the gear paddle between the bike and ground, the right foot was now reaching the rear break, but at this point it was of no use, we skidded over few meters before coming to a halt. The parked car was just a feet or two ahead.

The Fall … Recovering

I quickly got on to my feet. At that instance I felt as if everything came back to life speed. Vrroom… the overtaking car went past me, I could see a streak of break light probably of a bike further ahead, it might have been Lovey. I left thinking about the folks in the car, they must be thinking something stupid about me I thought?. Rejecting the thought I steadied myself, few seconds have passed but still I felt no pain? I nervously waited for the ‘here comes the pain!‘ moment, fortunately it did not happen. I had a minor bruise on the knee and little pain.

At this point i felt the nerves circulating blood in their full capacity, thump thump tump…, I could now feel the rush and jittery nerves. I pulled up the bike, thankfully there was no harm done, except for the bent foot guard. Within a few moments I was ready to ride again. The second gear didn’t slot in well and I had to press it hard to get it working ah… now I needed to see my probiking showroom soon ;). 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 10pm. On next day I was finally able to decipher the traction loss of the front tyre as well as the hard suspension of my fall. The front tyres were inflated by more than 3. and the back tyre were over 10, 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 some thing please keep it for our next meet, guys! believe me we _will_ have time to spare ;).

For Nomads – Gaurav Nawani

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

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