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.]
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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