Friday, 26 October 2007

15,000 ft and below

15,000 ft and below

(For links to pics and video please scroll down but do read the blog for the whle experience)
What gift did you give to your mom on her last birthday? I gave her shivers for hers. 30th September 1955 was the year when the most beautiful woman on earth was born, 52 years her crazy son jumped off an airplane. I called her a day earlier and told her I had bought a bike. She was silent and then very upset that I had done something very stupid. I told her I was kidding and then told her that I was going TANDEM SKYDIVING. All she said was be careful and have fun. She is the best mother ever. She encourages me to live my dreams or just that she knows she cannot help it. We drove up to Lebanon. Not the one in middle-east but the one in Maine. Five Indians, driving in a German car in US to a city named after middle east country to do a sport invented in Europe. Sounds crazy? It is. It was me, Raghuraj, Abhishek, Veer and Amol. We left early morning to get there on time but had to wait for a long time to get on the plane. If you are going skydiving and your reservation says 08:00 AM, it probably means you will take off not before 01:00 PM. We saw the plane taking off, going around circles to gain altitude and then leaving behind small black dots all over the sky. Abhishek was really worried that the plane was not reliable and it was leaving debris behind. Soon these dots were getting bigger and finally he realized that they were not plane’s debris but skydivers. We could make out who were experienced divers and who were tandem jumpers. The cameramen came the fastest and landed with high speeds followed by solo experienced jumpers. Then came the tandem jumpers with two people tied to one parachute. I do not know what is more dangerous, trusting tow person’s life on one parachute with one of them expert or one person per parachute who might know little about skydiving. I prefer the later but chose the former for some other factors. Our names were finally called out. The first batch was Veer, Amol and Raj. They got dressed, prayed and got on the Cessna Airplane .Soon they were floating down like birds. I shot a few videos of them landing. Next it was our turn. My instructor was Paul and Peter would be my cameraman. I got dressed in a nice red jumpsuit. Got a video shot and got onto the airplane. Now if you see this airplane, it is nothing like the ones you have flown in. First, there are no air hostesses, no drinks are served on board and the good part is no annoying pilot announcements. There is a irony though. Whenever you fly in passenger jet, there are like a 1000 instructions for safety and all you do is stick to your seats. Here, when we were actually going to jump off the plane, no announcements. They could’ve said “You guys are gonna jump of an airplane, please tie the person behind you to yourself.” We got up to 15,000 ft. The last time I was at this altitude, I was riding my bike. It was in Spiti Valley. So different. Last time I riding on a straight road at 60 mph and this time falling vertically down at 120 mph. Jumped off the airplane. A lot of people might think I was scared looking at video but I was far from it. I was just trying to listen to the instructor. Anyways, it was much less scary than you think it is. We did a Barrel, which is basically flipping on the back. The ground was still far far away but I was approaching it fast. Then Peter (my cameraman) was shooting me flying below me. I was surprised how much control he had. It was pure ecstacy. The speed, the wind, the sound of wind, the beautiful green valley below and the sheer rush of adrenaline were at levels I had never experienced before. Jumping off 15,000 ft is less scary than being hung at a height of 200 ft which I have been in a few rides. After a great free fall, the parachute came out. I was suddenly being sucked up into the sky and once the parachute was open and I saw the ground, I was consumed by the earth. I floated over the green meadows and flew through the clouds, the whole experience was heavenly. Paul let me control the parachute for a while and I will say, I go the hang of it. I did pull it too hard once and took a sharp left turn but then got a hang of it. We landed pretty fast compared to other jumpers. The first thought I had after landing was ‘when should I do it again’. Got my DVD and my camera roll of the fall and hit the road. Thanks to Veer who let me drive his BMW 5 series, the end of the day was awesome too. It was a wonderful car to drive. SO ladies and gentlemen, if you want thrill in your lives, go skydiving, otherwise just visit my webpage to hear my experiences.

The pics of the adventure:
My Video of the Jump:

Lukan Environmental Consultants, LLP

It is funny that when a person arrives at a new place, he/she sometimes forgets the very passion that brought him/her there. It happens with me. When I went to DCE, the passion which took me there were computers. I wanted to be a succefful computer engineer and work in organisations like ISRO and DRDO. Once there, I did not do too well to make it into these pretigious institutiions because along the way I lost my vision, I also forgot what I felt as a programmer. I went into an abyss. For people college is the best time of their lives, for me they were the worst. I was lost in that place. It was not that the college was bad or anything, it was one of the best engineering colleges in India. I was somehow a misfit. I lost my vision which I came with but graduated with a different vision to be an entrepreneur.
When I came to Babson, I wanted to be an entrepreneur. The first year was very busy, I had little money and I got too intangled in the great experiences Babson had to offer and my vision for being an entrepreneur was dwindling. I love the place though. I have met some of the smartes, most visionary people I have ever known at this place. But somehow I was getting intangled in the web of classes and cases and parties. Then the Rocket Pitch 2007 invitation came. I firt ignored it but then when the final call for pitches came, this was the time I realised I had to buckle up, I had to take control, plan my time better and start my own company. I shot an email to my new friend Nakul (its funny how crazy people always find each other) that we hav to do this. Its time to change the world. So Lukan Environmental was formed.
Its a passion to do good not just for ourselves but do our 'half-cent' for the environment. In fact even we we are able to do 'half-cent' it would be great becasue then we need onle 200 people to do that and we will haev a perfect environment. Sounds too ambitious? It is. "Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars".
What is the company about? We are putting up our website up soon. Please wait and watch.

Sunday, 2 September 2007

Back to Babson

Coming back to Babson
August 10th - August 21st 2007
After a great summer in Canada it was time to head back to Boston. I was up for a surprise when I got back to my place in Wellesley. The house was now occupied by China. It was a total invasion. Not that I am complaining. I had three chinese girls from the in-coming first year living in the house. They were all excited to start the new life in a new country and a new school. Reminded me of my earlier days in Basbon with hope in the eyes and ethisiasm in everything I did. After a year, the hope is a reality and enthusiasm has given place to new ideas.
I met all my friends and it was good to be back. Its strange how the perception of home keeps changing. A place which was so alien a year ago is suddenly home.
Before the school starts there were more exciting things to come by. Germany trip being one of them. We were supposed to fly on Friday August the 17th from Boston. Got the VISA sorted out on Tuesday of that week and I had no idea what the trip had in store for us. On Friday, some truck driver decided to get a little drunk and drove his truck across the median on I-93 blocking the traffic at both sides and hence making sure that some of us missed our flights. Yes, I missed my flight. The airline said they could put us on the next plane for a minimal charges of $2,200 per person. After making all possible efforts to convince the airline officials that we need to get to GErmany at all costs, we decided to go back and talk to our coordinator at Babson.
On Saturday we decided to head to Boston instead of sulking in our rooms cursing ourselves and the airline. It turned out to be a great day. Four Indians hung out at Quincy market, ate various cuisines of the world, watched an Indian movie and ended the day with a spicy Indian dinner. Shweta's non-stop chatter, Balaji's profound thoughts, Pawan's never ending stream of (supposedly) knowledge about everything on earth and incredible GPS made sure we never had a dull moment.
On Saturday night we got an Email from our program coordinator that she had booked us on flights to Germany on Sunday. I do not know how to thank her.

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Lansdowne Trip

Lansdowne Trip

20th – 21st May 2006

Two riders, one destination, a never ending journey

“I want to break free..I want to break free”

I heard this song at a pub with friends and realized that I really needed to break free from the clutches of daily mayhem. For me, there can not be any better way but to go for a long ride with my ‘babe’, my bike. After my minor accident in March, my parents had freaked out and were on the verge of selling off my baby. I somehow managed to save my marriage and now asking them for going on a honeymoon with her would be a little demanding. Anyways, I bought myself a pair of good quality knee protection. And using all emotional blackmail, marketing skills, got them agreed. This time also I went with Vivek, my biking buddy with whom I had gone to Karnprayag. Same people, same bikes, same Himalayas but a different experience everytime.

Everything was planned out and since it was only a weekend, two day trip lots of preparation was not required. I just wanted a good night’s sleep but God always makes it a point to test my guts and patience. I was sent to Baroda for some god-forsaken inspection and came back at 11:30 P.M. through Ahmedabad. Quickly packed my bags, took a bath and went to sleep. Promptly got up at 3:30 in the morning, tied by bags on the bike and set sail.

Met Vivek outside his house and we hit the highway by 5:00 A.M. The weather was showing sure signs of rains but it was cool and cool breeze was acting like a icing on a cake for the wonderful ride. Took a breakfast break at Chittal Grand. The roads in that area a lot improved since January, the last time I went there.

We were not sure whether we had crossed the turn towards Bijnaur but Vivek was a little confident that we were on the right track.

Worst would be we would have to take the route from Haridwar which would be something like 70-80 kms. etc. We hit the road again and found the turn around 21 kms. ahead.

The upper ganges canal before bijnaur

Before Bijnaur, the road was beautiful, smooth like the legs of Yana Gupta, curves like Angelina Jolie and the green trees encompassing it gave it the beauty of Aishwarya Rai. So smooth was the ride, so good were the corners that I had already decided to come back again. We crossed the upper Ganges Canal and the view of the large catchment area was stunning.

The continued to be good and smooth with very less traffic but the wet roads reduced our speeds considerably. We reached the foot hills at Kotdwar and then the long winding road started. Its about 45 kms of narrow twisting and turning road. Most of the turns are of only 40-50 kmph grade. The entire way has dried Pine Leaves spread like a carpet made the road look like a door way to heaven.

The Road

We very comfortably reached Lansdowne at about 10 A.M. Its one of the quietest hill stations and is not visible until you are there. It is like as if Himalayas are wearing a green robe, with decorations of pine leaves with Lansdowne kept safely and secretly in a deep pocket, protected like a valuable treasure. It is in the Pauri-Gharwal region and is the head quarters of ‘Gharwal Rifles’. The town is very small but well developed with well-maintained roads and concrete walkways across the entire town.

Gharwal Rifles were instrumental in the 1962 china war. A board outside there mess said that had all regiments stuck to ground like this one did, 1962 would’ve been a totally different story. They take a lot of pride in the small town and have maintained it well and quiet a number of buildings there

We first went to a small lake there. Indians can do boating even in a ub I believe. There was hardly any water in the small lake but there were still some people moving around in pedal boats.

We met Mr Donald duck

In the evening we went for a short trek to ‘Tipin Top’. Had a beer each in before hitting the bed.

Had a great 10 hour sleep and then woke up in absolute silence. After having a hearty breakfast, we visited two famous churches the ‘St. Mary’s church’ and ‘St. Anthony church’. They were built in 19th century on request by wives of British officers for whom this place was a summer get away.

St. Mary’s Church also doubles up as a library and is laden with magazines and books on Gharwal Rifles. The interiors look very refreshing and for an atheist like me, the place was persuading me to start believing in god. I will once I am sure that people will never kill in the name of religion.

St. Mary’s church

I always wonder if only we could combine the architecture of Churches, the dedication of Sikhs, belief of Muslims, prayers of Hindus and create one common religion, the world would be a much better place to live. If only!!!!!

Then we went to the St. John’s Church. A mass was taking place and the nuns were singing songs of worship. The architecture was again medieval but very quiet and serene. One can just stay there and absorb the energy of GOD.

Saint John Church

Inside Saint John's Church

It was an enriching experience.

We then went back to our guest house, packed our bags and started our journey to home and with plans to visit ‘Karnvashram’, a sacred place hidden in the pines on a small hill. The route goes from kotdwar. It is a little away from the road connecting Haridwar to Kotdwar.

The road was bad and as soon as we left that road, it only got worse .They are re-building that road and the entire way is but a long pile of small stones. We anyways reached our destination and crossed the small stream to reach the temple. It is the place where Maneka wooed Rishi Vishwamitra and the place there Shakuntla gace birth to ‘Bharat’ who gave his name to our mother land. The panditji there was speaking English quiet well and was wondering whether we had come on trekking. He then told us a alternate route to go to Kotdwar.

Although there was no mettaled road but it was much easier than the other one and much shorter as well. We reached back kotdwar much quicker than we expected. The best part was riding on the round rocks on the river bed where your rear wheel goes on a tango with them without synchronizing with your commands. I had come problem in cornering as my bike started bouncing on high speed corners so I was lagging behind Vivek quite A bit.

Then I had a puncture after crossing Bijnor and it happened at 110 kmph. A little scary but I held the handle tight letting the rear wheel pass as much gas as it wanted, do as much tango as it wanted and braked slowly to a halt. I turned back as I had just passed the city and saw a puncture repair shop soon. The valve of the tube had come off and the tube was so hot one could hardly touch it. The culprit was a huge nail. If you ever run out of nails at your home, do not go to a hardware store, go and look around a puncture repair shop and soon you will have enough for months. The MRF shop nearby did not have a new tube and I had to go into the city to fetch one. After this we did not stop at all and rode all the way 145 kms. non-stop this time taking the Meerut city route. It was much shorter but passing through the city was bit of a pain and also more people around the city believe in moving perpendicular to the road that moving along it so you have to look sharply and be responsible for their lives because these people think they are immortal.

Came back home very comfortably at 6:00 P.M., all smiles.

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Manali Trip

This was not a biking trip but a road trip nevertheless.
Manali Trip22nd to 26th December 1999
End of 1st semester
Cool Mountain air
Heals the body ills
But only grouse and mountain binds
Can reach it
Beasts of the valley have no chance
To drink it

As 1st semester exams drew closer, we waited for them to end even before they began. We were already planning a get away to the Himalayas. The exams were going to be taxing. They’ll always be if you study at the last moment. Anyway, lets not talk about bad things in life. Me, Kartik, Ashish Ahuja and Vipul had plans to go for a vacation and were looking for more people and then Ashish backed out. That is when Naveen, the Ghisoo boy showed some interest. The first thing which came to my mind was “How many books is he going to carry?” Well, later we realized that he was just not a hard working guy, he was fun loving too. Now was the task of deciding the place. Nanital – too boring. Massourie – most had been there more than they had been to C.P. (so they claimed). We zeroed on Manali, to my discontent as I had been there earlier that year, but this time it was with friends and it was going to be different. Also, Girish, the timid (and stupid) Goliath (in India -Saabu), was now interested and said could get us a free accommodation at the IFCI guest house. Vipul arranged for a Sumo. The date decided was 22nd of December, although Vipul wasn’t very keen as it was a Thursday (after all he is a well educated Civil Engineer). We decided for a night journey. Vipul asked us to be there at bypass by 10’O Clock. We thought we’d save a fortune by not calling the taxi all the way to college. On the afternoon that day, Kartik came and said we had to be there by seven. Myself and Naveen rushed to the spot, a stinky, polluted one at the bypass. So much for the savings. This was going to be a long wait. It felt like eons. As Jain saab sat on his suitcase, reading some torn pages of an educative magazine, I brought Jalebis and some snacks. We had to do something so we started counting all the white Sumos that went past us. Has it ever happened to you that your heart pounds for a boxy looking car like Sumo? That day it happened with us. Our hearts soured as we saw one in the darkness of night and sank as it zoom passed. We counted around 150 and then gave up. Finally, after a wait of 4 unforgettable hours, the messiah arrived. Vipul was lucky that he’s still alive.The carriers were loaded and we set sail. Driving in the night wasn’t difficult as I thought they would be, rather we were going at a good speed. We reached the foothills and what initially seemed to be an easy climb turned into a tedious one. As the dawn broke, we could see the green mountains and that seemed to be one of the best sights one could see in this part of the country. One feature where the Himachal beats Uttranchal is that the Himalayas in this belt are far more green also, tourism is better developed. Anyway, in the morning we made a stop at a temple at Mandi. The view there is unparalled. The clear waters flow in the laps of a beautiful background of green heights. Our photographic expert Sir Vipul Gupta took two snaps and said would merge them. I think he’ll do it soon. There we met some gentlemen who told us that soon we’d find some snow. My hopes soared while Vipul got worried. One thing is there about him, it doesn’t take much to get him worried. Well, after that we looked for snow at every corner. We kept looking until we finally arrived at Manali in the afternoon. Soon we were fresh (in the cold of Manali, even looking at water makes you fresh) and were on the Mall road. I was very well versed with that road for reasons quoted earlier but still we kept myself busy looking at variety of people and the looking at the beautiful shops (and shoppers). Plans for next day were made. Rohtang Pass. Before going back to the rooms, we bought some reading matter. I cannot recall the name of the magazine but some of the illustrations were really great. My room partners were Naveen and Kartik. The nights were really cold and the extra blanket I had carried came in handy. Kartik although claims that he sleeps a lot, I’ve never seen him sleeping. He’s always the last one to go to sleep and whenever you wakeup, he’s wide awake. I think he was still in the examination mode, studying late and getting up early. Next morning when I woke up, bajju was watching TV and we woke Naveen and went for the morning tea. The major advantage with this accommodation was that it was pretty close to the Mall road. So the three of us walking (as the two other lazy guys were not ready to wake up so early in the morning) in the quite and cold streets of Manali had some tea at a small dhaba on the Mall. I think the dhabewala must’ve been a little surprised seeing such early customers. Being winters, we had to leave early for Rohtang Pass as it closed in the evening itself, fearing the snow blizzards. We got the lazy bumps move their butts and some how got them ready in time. At the Mall, the activities were on a full swing and it wasn’t hard looking for a Taxi. The most amazing experience was that of a Bengali couple who wanted to go but were backing out looking at five guys, more importantly Vipul and Saboo. We convinced Uncleji that we were engineering students and were decent. Wonder how is being an engineer a passport to decency. Raju bhaiya, our driver was an experienced one and the great journey became better after the delectable paranthas on the way. On our way up, we stopped at the frozen waterfalls. The three fatty guys also bought a pair of goggles each. The pass was even more beautiful that I had ever seen them before. The snow capped mountains at the distance were mersmerising. It looked so much close to heaven. When I look at all the photographs we took there, I want to have a SLR camera more than anything. Its no use taking photographs with our small cameras. What made the mountains look even more beautiful were the another of those beautiful creations of god. Since we didn’t have much money with us, we just roamed around in the snow and took a ride on the tube where you slide down the snow on truck tires. While we were appreciating the snowy peaks, which now seemed much closer, we saw this crazy guy who was getting himself shot in the snow without his shirt. “Paagal Hai!” everybody agreed. We all looked at each other. Why not try it ourselves? The plan was laid. Girish won’t do it (for obvious reasons). He was to be the photoghrapher. We put down out overcoats, which we hired on the way, quickly took of layers of clothes (only the upper ones!) and just giving two poses, dressed up again. All this took only about a minute or two and we never realized the difference. Still, we took a cup of coffee each and tried to get warm. Soon it was time to leave. While coming down, Rajju bhaiya showed us some scenery and we got some more places to our list to be visited next time. This day was well spent. In the night we had our dinner at the usual Laxmi dhaba. It was the best we could afford. One ritual, which we followed on all days at Manali, was of having softy. Daily after dinner we had a softy, trying for new flavors everyday. Next morning again same story was repeated. But today, we were to wake up the lazy ones. We banged their door for atleast 15 minutes but it seemed they were in coma. We always checked the Sumo and found a thick layer of ice on the insides. God knows how the driver and the helper managed. When we came back, we were received by Vipul, although still in bed but a little awake. From the few words we could understand, as he talked in his sleep, was that he also wanted to go. We packed our bags for a bath in the Vashisht Bath. It’s a hot water spring supposed to have medicinal qualities. Again, for obvious reasons, Our gentle giant was a bit reluctant to join us. Anyway, once he took of his clothes and entered the hot waters, he didn’t want to come out. It wasn’t that he liked taking a dip but for reasons which cannot be quoted in a document meant to be read by everyone. Later in the day, we decided to go to Hadimba temple and some more places. We took the Sumo and soon were climbing at steep slopes to the Hadimba temple. Hadimba was the wife of Bhima (a pandav). The temple is located in lush green coniferous forests. This forest is one of the best I have ever seen. When the shadows of tall trees fall on the moist ground, covered with moss, and you look at this picturesque scene from a big rock, the beauty just gets you. You want to come back again. I was tempted to go deeper in to the forest but it was closed for the public. We found a Yak’s skull which I wanted to take with us but everyone else felt it was disgusting. Also, no one at home would be too happy to see it. It was here I realized how capable Naveen was. He can hold astounding quantities of fluids in his body. We had to wait for a couple of minutes. Then we went down the Mall road on the banks of the Beas. After viling away our time there, we went back to the guest house. That day we dined at a very specila place which we love to call the hotel “Totta View”. This restaurant overlooked the entire mall and you could see all the beautiful faces without disturbing them. But the food there was a big turn off. The next morning as we went for our usual walk, I saw this unforgettable view. The white moon glew over the snow peaks. It was uncomparable. Really, never will man be able to create scenes as beautiful as those or anywhere close. No man made thing fascinated me more than this one. As for god, isn’t there Aishwarya Rai? What can be more breathtaking. Then we strolled to the monastery at the other end of the mall road. The monks were already awake and some of them were praying. The monastery was really beautiful. The silence in there said so much. Somehow, nature’s creations never leave you unastounded. I am saying this because of this beautiful grass leaf frozen in crystal clear ice. We tried to carry it back to guest house for our heroes but they were just not as lucky. Then started our journey back by the afternoon and left all the beautiful mountains and fun behind. Back to the polluted, dirty, congested but yet so nice Delhi. This journey wan’t as easy as we thought it to be. The fog made driving almost impossible. The helper looked out of the window at the road and guided the driver where to go. The slow yet steady speed and our sleep broke as the driver braked hard. The road had turned and we were going straight, right into a ditch. So were all the cars following us. The onward journey was going to be harder. Our lookout reported wobbling in the front, left wheel. The car was stopped at a dhaba where there was bare minimum light to assist repairs. As the driver took out the wheel, we were shocked to see that the wheel assembly had broken off from its place. I am very happy to be alive. I had egg bhurji with a roti. As the driver and the cleaner fixed the car, jain saab slept unaware of what was going on and woke up when the car was on the jack and went back to sleep for the better. Finally, juggaar technology, India’s patent technology, put the car back on the road. We just prayed that we reach home safely. This time we decided that the taxi would drop everyone home. I still remember the time at which I reached back. It was 5 in the morning and sleeping seemed to be the only option. I dreamt of Manali only.

Sunday, 29 July 2007

Spiti Valley Trip - Ride to the Top of the world!

They say life is not measured by how many breaths you take but by monetnts which take your breadth away. i can say after this trip, I lived a long life! 10 people, 1600 kms in 5 days, altitude upto 15,000 feet, a cold desert! I will write about he Epic Journey through the highest mountains of the world on a bike which would not qualify even as a small bike in the US market. Its not about the bike you ride its about how you ride it.

[Courtsey: Bunny Punia. This article was published in Bike India magazine.]
[Please visit to be a part of India's llargest biking community]
This is also paradox of life. Most incredible journwy of my life and I could not get time to write the log. Soon after the trip i got admission call from Babson and the trip log for the great journey never got finished. But I know Bunny has done a much better job.
A ride to one of the remotest parts of India, where tarmac is a luxury, where coming across one vehicle an hour is considered lucky, where normal tourist don’t dare to even venture out into. Sixteen people attempted to do a ride to this location, six made it back in time. Read on…

Anthony Hopkins, the old lad from the movie “World’s fastest Indian” said, if u don’t follow through in your dreams, you better be a vegetable in life, a vegetable like a cabbage. Most of us have dreams, have passions. Most of us are really mad about certain things. Like my colleague Varad More who dreams of the fastest ride across India on a Gixxer. I too had this one dream, one goal, which I somehow wanted to achieve this June. At any cost. And I did it. Yes, we bikers are a different breed, as I mentioned in some earlier issue, we can go any lengths to realise our passion.

3rd June brought together sixteen enthusiastic bikers, all ready to start a ride of their life. Nine bikers from Delhi, three from Bangalore and one each from Pune and Hyderabad along with two pillions set out as the sun tore the horizon on the beautiful NH-1 towards the Hindustan-Tibet highway, NH-22 with a feeling of joy and adventure. But things are not always destined to go on like you want. Day 1 saw one big crash, one rider falling ill and another one’s arm wound getting worse, which only meant that we could ride till Shimla, 355kms from Delhi the first day. What a pity! At night after dinner, we all had a meeting in one of the rooms and it was decided five people would head back, including two pillions, as it was raining ahead on the route we intended to take. This combined with one of the riders returning back after getting a call from his office meant from sixteen, the number reduced to ten from Day 2 onwards!

Something brings many of us back to the Himalayas. It’s difficult to describe in words, the answer lies up there. The guys from down south looked forward to the remaining four days, after all till date they had only seen these majestic formations in pictures, and always daydreamt of riding around here. We left the capital city of Himachal Pradesh by almost 11am, hours behind schedule to take the winding and steep roads to Narkanda, situated at 9000feet above sea level. Thankfully, roads were good and weather-gods were by our side. We rode down towards Rampur, which lies along the ancient trade routes to Tibet, Ladakh and Afghanistan. It used to be the capital of the mighty Bushahr Empire in the 18th century which had its borders well into Kinnaur. Today Rampur is one of Himachal’s most important market towns. This is where we got the first glimpse of snowy peaks in the background. The roads were almost flat here and we were down riding next to the Sutlej river. But it wasn’t long before darkness creeped in and civilization started vanishing. The 2005 floods had taken their toll on the road and bridges big time and tens of people were killed at that time. It was after a town called Jeori that the roads vanished, making us slow down considerably and ride in dark. The initial plan of night stop at Ribba was changed to Recong Peo, the district headquaters of Kinnaur. At this route, the last gas pump is at Powari and its advisable to tank up here.

At dinner, we all realised how much behind we were w.r.t our initial plan and how badly we needed to plan out things. With double thoughts in my mind, I dozed off, hoping for the best for the next day.

“All my life I wanted to do something big, something bigger and better than all the other so called bikers. I had waited months for this ride and it was now or never for me. I had to do this at any cost. But I couldn’t just break from the group and go ahead all alone. It was my responsibility to make sure every one rode together. I was in a fix…”

Day 3, Monday the 5th of June brought a wide smile on our faces. As we had entered Recong Peo at night, we didn’t notice something. What we saw from our windows blew us away. The mighty Kinner Kailash peak, towering above the town at a dizzy 19965 feet was covered in a blanket of snow. Clouds hovered around the mountains and the whole scenery around the town looked awesome. But we had to carry on and after we were done with the daily routine of tying our luggage and checking bikes, carried on. But broken bridges and no roads made things worse. Time flew by and it was almost an hour past mid-noon and all we had covered were hardly 30kms. We decided to break up and carry on further. Till early this year, from Kinnaur, it was almost impossible to ride across to Spiti due to the Malling Nullah, a mountain prone to landslides on hourly basis. But an alternate road had been constructed through Nako, around 11000feet high. The hard decision to send back the pillions on Day 2 seemed totally justified now as the terrain became very un-forgiving. When all hope was about to vanish, we were greeted by smooth tarmac roads few kilometres before Nako. Consisting of numerous loops, the tarmac was pot-hole free, civilization ceased to exist and all we could hear was the wind noise inside our lids. The bikes struggled to climb even the minutest inclines due to thin air but when you have breath-taking scenery to soak yourself in, you don’t need to complain. The bikes were performing well till now but group had broken up into two, ours with four bikes and the second with six. The new road via Nako was full of hairpin bends and the inclines made us come on top of the mountain and awesome views greeted us on every turn. But joy was short-lived when we took the first hair-pin after Nako to join back on NH-22. This was worst than we thought. A so called path was crafted out of the hills, with sand and rocks all around. The path was wide enough for just one four-wheeler to pass through and average speeds fell to hardly 15km/hr. Fear of tyre puncture and cuts creeped in and how we wished we all had tubeless rubber with us. No doubt, they are worth every penny in such sort of conditions.

We entered Spiti valley just as the sun was about to go down but still had no trace of the second group. Left a message at Sumdo checkpost to let the other group know that we would be stopping the night at Tabo.

The Spiti Valley forms a unique socio- physical unit of Himachal Pradesh. This rugged valleys lie at the height of (3000 to 4551 meters) above sea level and sweeping view of this magnificent Himalayan terrain are common. This magical land consists of a network of soaring mountains and deep valleys. With a population density of only 2 persons per sqare kilometre, Spiti is probably India's lowest population density area, along with Zanskar. Time stands still here and if you machine lets you down, you are left at the mercy of god. No kidding. Night was at the Monastry guest house and Tibetian food was gulped down with glasses of water, a very important factor to keep AMS (acute mountain sickness) at bay. This was essential as we were to ride as high as 15000feet the next day.

As we went to bed at 10, we were still unaware of the happenings with the second group. Did they make it or got lost in the numerous un-marked turns? It was well past mid-night when we heard banging on our “deluxe suite” monastry room. Fearing trouble, we four got up together and gathered to open the door, only to be greeted by the second group, which had unbelievably made it to Tabo after riding more than four hours in dark through narrow rocky roads! Talk about adventure! Stories were exchanged and it was assuring to know that all the bikes were still performing well.

“When you don’t have any human beings around for miles and the road surface threatens to rip the bike’s suspension apart, all you can do is pray hard and carry on…”

It was pre-decided the last night that those who would want to indulge in photography would ride only till Gramphoo, less than 200kms away, while others would ride till Manali, 250kms away, through two passes, the first being close to 15000feet high. Six of us left Tabo at half past six for the most difficult and at the same time the most scenic ride of our life. The first 47kms to Kaza, close to 12000feet high, took two hours. The road was cut along the Spiti river and all we had for company were mostly barren mountains with little snow on the top. Kaza is the headquaters of Spiti Valley and also has the world’s highest electronically operated fuel pump run by IOC! There is no pump till Manali, around 200kms away and hence it’s advisable to have enough fuel in your tank. After a good heavy breakfast, we packed along snacks and enough water to combat AMS and set out for the most enduring part of the ride. 200 kilometers, no roads, two mountain passes, no civilization, no cell-phone connectivity, rain and what not.

The roads for quite some time are ok but soon they change into our worst night-mares. Elevation increases gradually from 12000feet at Kaza to 13000feet at Kiato to 13500feet at Losar and finally 15018 feet at Kunzum pass. This is one of the most toughest passes in India. There is no road, lot of hair-pin bends, rocks and dirt and snow on the side of the road. We came across overturned trucks lying aside in the valley and numerous workers moving away landslides. At such altitudes, its best to keep sipping water and one should avoid exertion too. The bikes, including Karizmas, refused to go into 3rd gear and had to be kept in 1st for over fifteen minutes before we made it to the top. As I switched off my bike, the surroundings took me in. 20000 feet high peaks, covered in a white sheet, towering above us. Complete silence, just the occasional wind noise and the sound of the bells from a small temple where every one payed a visit. I took a bottle of water, walked up a hill and sat there for a while. I had dreamt of this for months, prepared for days and rode close to a thousand kilometres for this. My eyes were glued to my three year old Karizma. It once again stood by me on yet another Himalayan trip. 38000kms on the odo, worn out chain set and clutch plates, engine ready for an overhaul and broken side panels! And she still got me here. One of the million reasons why I am in love with her…

After a rest of close to two hours, our group carried on for the ride ahead. Unfortunately we had to bypass Chandratal lake because we were running outa time but vowed to come back once again soon. We crossed many small glacial zones and soon rode along a river with huge mountains on both the sides topped up with snow. Six of us again broke up as time passed by and it wasn’t long before I realised it. As I took another turn, what I saw overwhelmed me. In front my eyes lay a part of Bara Shigri Glacier. It’s difficult to explain the sight. White snowy clouds started wrapping up the hills around and then I saw something on my tank bag, they were ice-crystals! I looked into my RVM, not a soul in sight. I took out my bottle and took a sip. As the freezing cold water hit my teeth, it sent a painful shock down my whole jaw reminding me that I badly needed a root-canal. I popped a Dolamide and carried on. Some distance after Batal, noticed a small sheltered dhaba and decided to stop for tea and eggs. The place was very cosy and warm. Fortunately others joined in soon and we all feasted on omlettes and chai for a good hour.

The remaining stretch to Manali via Rohtang Pass was again the same routine. 2nd and 3rd gear roads, rocks and slush. This was where the exhaust from the Unicorn came off its mounting points as well as the cylinder head. As we touched the Manali-Leh highway at Gramphoo, I realised why no one does Spiti Valley. The whole route from Tabo to here demands too much from both man and machine. It will make you cry with fatigue and torture your machine to the limits. It was here that the second group’s Karizma had to be taken in a pick-up! Rohtang greeted us with clouds and walls of snow and we headed down to Old Manali for a well deserved warm bath and hot food.

“The journey had almost ended. We had been through heaven and back. Form 40+ degrees to 0. It was back to basics. No hi-tech cities, no entertainment. It seemed to have happened all so fast and now it was time to go back to pollution, traffic jams, electricity and water problems. Why cant I stay and live here forever?”

The ride, or I should call an adventure was almost over for us. The next day would be a boring 565kms to Delhi. The second group couldn’t make it to Manali and took a day more to reach Delhi. In the end, of the total sixteen people who started for this ride, six went back by Day 2 and only six made it back in time on Day 5. Three bikes had to be put in a Mahindra Pick-up on different days while Unicorn’s exhaust came off. Speaks enough of the harsh and unforgiving terrain we came across. Infact many riders rate this route technically more difficult than Manali-Leh due to the fact that the latter route is used by Army and kept in good condition. But the scenery, the Olympian Himalayas easily made it up for the torture our bikes had to go through and the ache in every part of our bodies. We took a thousand pictures, hundred of videos to cherish those moment forever. It was back to the hustle-bustle of city life, but it also meant planning the next ride! Been there, definitely done that. So was it all worth it? Oh yes, definitely worth every single bump, every single gear shift, every single turn.

Friday, 27 July 2007

Rafting Trip to Rishikesh

Rishikesh - Land of God!
The winters have started setting in. So has the urge to hit he hills. At xBhp if any season goes away without having taken the curves around the Himalayas, it would be disappointing. We decided not to go too far from Delhi considering we only had a two day weekend. To add flavor to the ride on the road, we decided to hit the waters as well. Not the ordinary calm swimming pool but he raging waters of the ganges. Dates decided: 22nd and 23rd October. Myself, Mr. CEO, Aditya and Vivek decided to go to Rishikesh and test the waters. Meeting point set was the Yamaha 1 showroom at 5:40 A.M. I reached the spot on time. No sign of anyone else. Some of the people passing the place were looking at me as if I was a brand ambassador or something for Yamaha since I was there in front of the showroom and was wearing my Yamaha labeled jacket. Only thing I could do was look at the beauties again and again. Anyways, Mr. CEO and Maverick arrived a full 1 hour late. We proceeded to meet Vivek whom we met at Mayur Vihar crossing. The journey started. On the very first curve, Vivek leaned the bike enough to generate sparks……..We took our breakfast stop at ‘Cheetal’. After having a hearty breakfast, we started ripping again. The only disadvantage of going to uttranchal are the bad roads in UP. The traffic was very erratic with sunny showing finger to almost every second guy. We reached Rishikesh by noon. It was late to do rafting that day so we decided to explore……Rode uptill the ‘chotiwala’ (which is very evident in the pictures posted), had lunch, arm wrestling (don’t ask the result from sunny), and lots of bonding. We then did a bit of off-roading and went upto the river. Did some photography and then proceeded to our camp which was situated 4 kms. Before shivpuri. The real hills start from rishikesh itself. So the ride upto the camp was most enjoyable in the lush green mountains and good roads. Vivek was great on the curves, he was riding the bike with utmost precision and taking the curves at optimum speeds, it was a learning experience for a first time hill rider like me……We over shot the camp and reached shivpuri. Again did some off-roading and went upto the river. It was great…The river was calm there, we had a full view of the mountains and there were babes…;-) There was sort of a sound coming from Vivek’s zma. The engine was not very smooth. We investigated, opened the filter thinking the filter might have come off when the bike fell….Actually when we had gone off-roading previously, his bike just skidded on the rock (at dead speed), no injury or anything just a little dent…..The filter was fine, although we noticed a bit of petrol there (can anyone tell why petrol came in to the air intake duct after filter????) The culprit was the silencer which got loose in the fall…Two nuts tightened and we were ready to go…..Reached our camp….had bonfire, stories, philosophy, photography (wid sunny and maverick wat do u expect)……….We went to our tents situated right next to the river…I had an amazing sleep with wonderful sound of flowing water outside….The morning was spent clicking some riding photos on the bikes….We went upto ‘Marine Drive’, the place from where the rafting starts in bus. Vivek, the most mature and the most adventurous of us wanted to ride on the roof of the bus which they refused. The rafting was great. The water was just right for rapids…If there is too much water, the rapids get very smooth, if the water is too low, they are too rough for comfort….In the first rapid we hit, Vivek fell into the water but his spirit was never wet, he was enjoying that also. Pulled him back into the raft and went on. Then it was time for ‘body surfing’. We jumped into the rough waters and floated on the waves. It was mind blowing. I realized one thing though that riding rough waters needs more skill and courage than to ride a superbike. Wonder what it means? Ask Sunny.Further down, we jumped from a cliff into the waters…….We’ll if you really wanna ask the experience…call Mr. CEO….. ;-) After finishing the rafting, went to the camp in a ‘Tata mobile’….Only Vivek sat in the cabin and the three of us at the back in the ‘diggy’ or the boot. It was looking like we were ‘Tsunami Victims’ and being rescued into a ‘refugee camp’…….Myself and Vivek decided to ride back the same day since we had office the next day. Sunny and maverick stayed at a friend’s place in Meerut. The UP roads get really bad at night. No one gives a ‘diper’ the roads are bad and the traffic is slow like a sloth.Reached back Delhi at 2300 hrs……Overall it was very enjoyable. Lots of riding, rowing, swimming and general masti. It was my best rafting experience till now.So Ladies and Gentle man, boys and girls…the next time you want to have a great weekend, try rafting.


I have uploaded the pics at an other location. THe pictures will be uploaded on this site soon.

Monday, 23 July 2007

My take on riding motorcycles

I, Dhairya Gupta have been riding a bike since 1997. I always loved to just ride the bike. Something just inspired me put my thoughts together what it means to me. When I started riding the bike, I had just got into Class XII. I was preparing for my IIT-JEE and had never even come close to as much studying as I was doing at that time. Finally I had a dream, a driving force which would make me push myself to the limit. But with great ambition, hard work, expectations came stress. They were the most stressful days and it was hard coping with it. But every time I would put myself on my Yamaha, kick start the 2-stroke engine and revved it, the stress would vanish. It was like being uplifted to new levels of ecstasy. The best part about having power the twist of your wrist is ‘freedom’. You are free from the clutches of the world, free from the cacophony of people, stresses of life. The ride upto my school or my coaching centre used to be a short one. But it had stretches where I would reach break neck speeds, ran the risk of colliding with an unexpected visitor in the road, the risk of life but just the feel of wind on my body was enough not only to dry the sweat but the tensions got evaporated as well. Does every person who’s riding a bike thinks the way I do? Not really. Like most other things, it could mean differently to different people. There are no right and wrongs in it. For most of the people in this country it is just an inexpensive, reliable and convenient means of transport used for commuting for work, visiting tens of clients in a day to meet targets, go out with the entire family to the nearest restaurant for a family dinner. These masses would very willingly switch to cars given chance and money to own one. They are right in there own way. Why eat dust and smoke if you could afford the luxury of a car. Then there are people who use the bike to ‘show off’ either in front of the opposite sex or to just be recognized in their friends. They might not necessarily like riding a bike but would show they are ‘cool’ and happening by seen on two wheels. This breed got a lot of inspiration and new recruits after movies like DHOOM. They normally do not care much about the safety and responsibility which comes with a bike. They ride without helmets because helmets are either to be hung on the arms, or on the helmet lock or even if they wear it, its only when they see a policeman lurking around. After all helmet hides there ‘John Ibrahim’ looks. Don’t they? They think they are immortal and look at safety with blithe. They are right in their own way, after all does it matter for how long you stay on planet earth. ‘Show Off’ until the show ends. Then there are ‘bikers’, for whom bikes mean everything. Bikes is the first and the last word in the dictionary. For them it is just the pleasure of being in the company of their steeds which makes them a different person altogether. They love their machines. They know that with great power comes great responsibility. They might ride fast, might do stunts but always keep their and other’s safety in mind, take all due precautions, they know how to control the bike. They are the breed which took the two wheels from just being just a mode of transport to an engineering marvel. Just riding on open roads consummates their very existence. I am one of those. Touring on bike. Probably this is the passion I live for now. When I tour on two wheels, I face the elements of nature in their raw form, feel the winds at 100 kmph., smile at each corner, concentrate on the road for hours on stretch, see miles being eaten up and experience blessedness. Its not an easily acceptable hobby. It enjoys maximum opposition from the family, astonishments from friends and awe from acquaintances. People say its stupidity to embark on a long voyage on two wheels given all the comfortable modes of transport. People just try to grab you and pin you down to their abysmal levels of mediocrity by saying it is not the best idea to cover 500 odd kms. in a day on a ‘bike’. But then who was last who felt really excited about going on a bus journey? Who was the last person who smiled, jumped with joy and felt elated after seeing a train which would take him on his holiday and when was last someone savoured Airlines food and did not crib about the long queues and procedures of boarding a plane? I think no one would have this answer because this never happened. When was last a biker was sad because he had to go on a trip on his bike? It’s a passion which is lived through the heart. Touring is an experience where the journey is the destination. You need courage and attitude to start a tour and brains to complete it successfully. Its matter of choice whether you want to live everyday like just another day or whether everyday means the first day for the rest of your lives. While riding my bike, the real person in me is unleashed, it tranquillizes the bad energies within me. When you ride on the roads, when every curve poses a new challenge, when you become a part of the nature, when the scenery fades only to re-emerge in a new form, when the smell of earth is more soothing than the most expensive of perfumes, when the rain pierces your body, when the journey is what you look forward to, when vehicles ahead soon become a spec on rear view mirrors, that is when you realise the power of biking. The smiles on the face of village children, the awe in the eyes of the eternal youth, the stare from the driver you just overtook, the thumbs up from the truck driver, the racing by the city riders in towns you cross makes every journey a memorable one. For every rider, the BHP matters but what matters most is the enthusiasm in the wrist twisting the throttle, the quickness in the foot shifting the gears, the force inside the body balancing the bike, the concentration in the eyes fixed on the roads and the strength of mind controlling all this. The torque is the driving force for the bike but for the ebullient rider it is the courage which pushes him to the limits of beautitude. Riding a bike spells freedom for the body and soul. Riding the two wheels is let out of energy within, it channelises the underlying thoughts and ideas, the deep rooted ambition. If we look around we hardly see any true biker who does not have a creative side to his personality, be it in form of art, writing, singing or any other. It does to me what music does to a lot of people, the absolute arousal of the cerebera. For me nothing would ever replace the passion of biking. Biking is insanity but then sanity is the virtue of the underprivileged.

A new blog to know everything about biking

I am starting this new blog for all bikers to get together and sahre their trip logs, pictures and discuss destinations.

I will also keep reviewing bikes and new destinations.

Even if you love cars, you are welcome too