Now on to the topic of this post. I had been yearning for a long time to go out and ride – a craving that fellow motorcyclists would relate to and understand. After the accident (did I tell you about that? No? Well that’s an interesting post for another time). Long story short – I fell off the bike up near a forest up near the hills and fractured my collarbone so motorcycling had come down to a minimum following doctor’s advice & strict instructions from the family.
The only rides, in the recuperation period, were done on the TVS Jupiter, confined to local vicinity & mostly confined to milk & bread runs and the usual to & fro transport duties in the car as any self respecting husband would want to do.
No riding for the better part of the year made me keep faith in the future and wait for the moments. You see, for a motorcyclist riding & wandering keeps him grounded, sane and happy.
That’s about enough mindless banter.
Turn of events
Gaurav, my friend with the same name, got transferred back to Doon. Luckily he is a competent motorcyclist and he owns his Netchū bike CBR 250R. So there was a company and a responsible fellow motorcyclist with time on his hands – a perfect recipe for forging some riding memories, most of which have turned out to be pleasant and quite a bit of a surprise for me as a Dehradun resident.
With Gaurav and his knowledge of myriad riding friendly locales in and around Dehradun, I came to understand a lot more about my own city :-). So off we went, doing small, manageable rides, exploring nooks & corners of the Valley and sometimes beyond – Kalsi, Kimadi, Hathipaon, Bhadraj Temple; all were ridden to either by motorcycle or on the good old bicycle .
Mountains here we come
There’s something magnetic about the mountains. They kind of draw you to them, & then set right the balance within.
Every time I head out to meet the mountains , they remind me of lines from Namgay Doola – a story by Rudyard Kipling …
” ……the night had closed in rain, and rolling clouds blotted out the lights of the villages in the valley. Forty miles away, untouched by cloud or storm, the white shoulder of Donga Pa—the Mountain of the Council of the Gods—upheld the Evening Star.
The monkeys sang sorrowfully to each other as they hunted for dry roosts in the fern-wreathed trees, and the last puff of the day-wind brought from the unseen villages the scent of damp wood-smoke, hotcakes, dripping undergrowth, and rotting pine-cones. That is the true smell of the Himalayas, and if once it creeps into the blood of a man, that man will, at last, forgetting all else, return to the hills to die…..”
This I guess is partly true. I’ve always found a strong connection to the mountains. They have a calming and therapeutic effect on most people, & most definitely on me. They are massive, solid, unmoving (literally) & they make you realise that we’re rather insignificant in this whole scheme of things. So we ought to take our inflated self-images and stuff it. Literally. Though they may not say it in words, their grandeur and regal poise kind of conveys it to the seeker without having to speak.
To Maldevta and beyond
This Sunday saw us again hitting the mountain road. We thought of exploring the road less travelled (excuse the metaphor). The idea that came from Gaurav himself was to travel up north from Maldevta which is a popular picnic spot East of Dehradun. The narrow road twists & turns up the mountain, passing settlements with quaint names like Agarkhal & Majgaon, and after winding through a zigzagging twisty trip of seventy-two kilometres of Pine and Oak forests, spectacularly coloured mountainsides and small valleys, arrives at Kaddukhal, at the base of Surkanda Devi.
We started from Dehradun at around a lazy 11:30 am and left to Raipur and Maldevta far behind, revving up on a rather smooth (for the most part) & twisty tarmac. After having travelled a fair distance we stopped for a photography break…
After packing up from there and having travelled a brief distance we took a break for sampling hot & sweet hilly tea near a village called Ghena. There was a shack that doubled up as a tea shop and also sold tasty pakoras, and the idea of having tea upon a sunny hillside in the thick of winter was rather appealing and not one to be let go of.
So stop we did and chatted up the owner while he prepared tea and pakoras for us. The owner turned out to be a rather vocal and colourful character. He had been incarcerated in the infamous Yerawada Jail (mostly famous for Sanjay Dutt – of the AK-56 fame & also Ajmal Kasab).
Now this fellow, whose name I didn’t quite get, runs a tea-shop in the middle of the Himalayas! He talked quite non-stop, with a smattering of curses peppering his already colourful language. There were a fair bit of customers all of whom were listening to his jail-time exploits with amused attention & he surely didn’t disappoint – kept us all amused with his colourful tales from in and out of jail.
And he had an eclectic mix of customers for the audience – there was a couple on a rented bike, a location scout from Bombay looking to make his next short film in Uttarakhand, a couple of tourists in a taxi & the two of us out on a day ride.
Teas & Pakoras done, we proceeded towards Kaddukhal. On the way, just after a place called Majgaon, there was a photo opportunity. The village itself presents a scenic picture against a backdrop of imposing mountains.
Just as we were about to hit Kaddukhal, beautiful vistas of the Himalayas opened up. That’s the thing with riding in the beautifully unspoiled Himalayas – one just can’t move for 5 kilometres without stopping to admire the breathtaking (literally) panorama of the Himalayas. There was this hillside dotted with small houses all over.
Photography done and so was our longing for more beautiful Himalayan vistas somewhat, not fully satiated. We made to proceed further up to Kaddukhal.
Before leaving Gaurav proposed that after hitting Kaddukhal, instead of taking the usual Dhanaulti – Mussoorie – Doon route, we explore the Chamba – Narendra Nagar – Rishikesh – Doon route. It seemed like a good idea yet it wasn’t without its pros and cons. The good thing was that we get to explore a new route. The downers were that the route was longer by at least 40 km and it was going to get dark by the time we hit Rishikesh.
Nearing the shortest day in winters this would also be dark by the time we reach to Rishikesh. So after clicking this Vista of snow-covered peaks in the distance and reaching close to, we chose the Mussoorie – Chamba road, turned right & hastened to make a beeline for Narendranagar.
Reaching closer to 3 pm and after riding for a while, we crossed a small village by the name of Arakot. There was this presence of a little restaurant and it felt quite unite by the name of “Chacha sip-n-dine Restaurant“.
We flew past it and yet Gaurav stopped me and came up to tell me that he was aware of this very interesting restaurant & we decided to make an unscheduled stop mostly because we hadn’t had any lunch except for those Pakoras an hour or so back.
So much for making it to Rishikesh before last light. The menu was an eclectic mix of local Garhwali cuisine with regular fare available in most roadside Dhabas and restaurants.
But what Gaurav wanted was to have was Bhatt ki dal – a local hardy variety of Dal grown only in the Garhwal Himalayas. Unfortunately, that was not readily available so we had to satisfy ourselves with a Methi paratha and paneer paratha.
To talk about it Chacha himself; he is one colourful Guy – full of tales and worldly (sometimes unsolicited) advice. Not to take anything away from him – he is a warm guy just trying to eke out a living in the harsh barren mountains of Arakot. There we met a young chap who also doubled up as a waiter. He was studying in a local ITI learning about repairing electronics. On being quizzed, he told us about this grapevine right outside the restaurant, which produces black grapes in the summers.
All in all, the restaurant was better than the average restaurant in the hills, with the topping being the ready and unique availability of local Garhwali food and of course the interesting fun that Chacha dishes out dollops of all free of charge 🙂 ).
Having tanked up on delicious Parathas and Chai, we proceeded post-haste towards Narendranagar En route we found ourselves stuck in a small traffic jam in Chamba. Having negotiated it successfully, it was a dash towards Narendranagar and along the way, we encountered massive road widening till Narendranagar, probably a part of the all-weather road to Char Dham.
After crossing Narendranagar the sunlight had gone down and it was closer to 5:30, the light was wispy and one could see the faint outline of Winterline in the distance.
And we came to a fork in the road from which one road led leads the road to Rishikesh and another to Dehradun. This presented a dilemma, so we again asked the ever intelligent google map and it only showed to take the road on the right. This is a bypass that leads you to a town called Ranipokhari saving you approximately 11 kilometres from the traditional route of Narendranagar – Rishikesh. The road was well paved, devoid of traffic and twisty. It was beautiful even in the dark, just the kind of what a motorcyclist would relish.
The only downside was it had turned dark and we were doing very careful and sedate speeds mostly as I let Gaurav take the lead on his Honda. He tended to maintain higher speeds than I could manage on my Yamaha at times.
We soon hit Ranipokhari and then joined the Rishikesh – Dehradun highway. We turned right to the Jolly Grant Airport & then took the Thano road. After passing the airport entrance to our left we found a guy frantically waving with his cell phone light switched on in the darkness, bang in the middle of the road.
Doing fairly good speeds, we had crossed him. Having second thoughts we then stopped a little ahead and decided to turn around. We reached him and asked what was the matter. It turned out that he was an army guy from Doon who had come to receive his father from the airport.
In the darkness just as he was about to reach the Airport , in order to avoid hitting a biker who was coming on the wrong side without his headlights he had taken a hard right turn, wherein his car had gone off the road and toppled. It was only then that we saw an overturned Wagon R lying turtle in the ditch onto the right.
After confirming he had no injuries Gaurav calmed him down, advised him to call the police control room which he did, and then dropped him at the airport so that he could receive his father there.
The rest of the ride back was uneventful.
All in all, it was a nearly 200 km ride over 8 hours. (Screenshot – Google Maps?).
We traversed over a fair bit of good, twisty roads and witnessed beautiful vistas and panoramas of the Garhwal Himalayas. The ride turned out to be tiring yet extremely rewarding.
That we are lucky to be alive and fortunate to be experiencing such natural beauty in all its pristine glory is in itself is a cause to be thankful for the almighty about :-).
Until next time I go wandering.
-by Gaurav Hamal(post) & Gaurav Nawani(editing)