Come as you are!
In A Search of Absolution - Solo Ride to Heaven
- Vaibhav Sabharwal
- Vaibhav Sabharwal
….it had begun to snow heavily now, flakes hitting hard across the visor wetting it completely. Whatever was left of the so called road was barely visible. An eye sore had crafted nicely into picture. Carrying on further, just as I was negotiating another one of horrendous curves, to my surprise and astonishment, right there in front of me was…..
There comes a point in a man’s life when a vision, a distant dream, a long unachieved goal seems to take precedence over each and every aspect of his life. Where everything else seems so trivial, so unworthy! When he responds to the voice of his heart and ascends above all hurdles and obstacles to rise to the zenith of his passion to attain, eternal bliss!
This write-up deals with how, a display of valor, character, grit and determination can lead a person to obtain the forbidden.
Camera: 1) Casio Exilim 10.1 MP
2) Nokia N95 5 MP
I am Vaibhav Sabharwal, working with Infosys technologies ltd, Chandigarh. A resident of Delhi, age 23 and blah blah blah…the list goes on! What matters is the simultaneous love for Motorbikes and Mountains, which drove me to conquer the toughest terrains, highest roads where oxygen level drips to unimaginable values, where the only living beings you find around are wild creatures, no homo sapiens for kilometers at a stretch….solo!
I had this in my mind for a year or so, just couldn’t grab an opportunity.
Well the opportunity did come, and oh my, at what a time it did!
Some Excerpts when I told people of what I was planning to do:
“Dimaag kharaab ho gaya hai kya, paaglo jaisi baatein kar raha hai” …. : Said Sunil, a friend.
“itna aasan nai hai, you never make it” …. : Another friend.
“Bete kabhi gaye ho pehle....Nahi!!....kitne jaa rahe hai….Akele!! …. Na beta , kabhi na jaana, bahut khatarnaak raasta hai … mein kai baar gaya hu …. : The person at the tyre shop.
“Abey puncture vuncture ho gaya, kya karega…koi hoga bhi nai saath mein’ ……: Common line of many people.
And of course ………. “ Ha ha ha ha….bete khana kha le, bhook lagi hogi”……: My mom!
The Journey begins:
Day1: Chandigarh – Manali (310 km, 8 hrs)
“Where the hell are you man, I ve been waiting here for like an hour now!”….I shouted at Varun over the phone. “Only 5 more minutes, I am on my way”, he said.
All dressed up, bags packed, I was ready to make a move. Varun was adamant on flagging me off, the wait seemed never ending. Just wanted to jump on my saddle and ride my steed. “Alright, I here, come down”, screamed Varun.
Me before leaving:
After tying my luggage to the bike, a few handshakes and pat on the back from him, I was off. Steering through the crowded streets of Chandigarh and its increasing traffic, I made my way to Mohali. Cruising comfortably on the highway, I glanced at the speedometer. To my horror, the needle was stuck at zero and the meter wasn’t running either! “Shit, now what”, I thought. Peeped down at the front wheel, just to find out that the speedo wire had snapped! Pulled over to the nearest mechanic and got it fixed. “A failure, just at the beginning….Bad Omen”, I thought again
The bike at the mechanic’s shop:
Anyhow, continued riding through to Kiratpur where I had my lunch and moved on. It had started raining, so I took out the rain cover and tied it over the luggage. The rain was mild, so I didn’t bother putting in on the Rain coat. Huge Mistake, I was later going to find out!
Curved my way up the Himalayan ghats, till Bilaspur. Carried on, absorbing the scenic beauty and the natural fragrance, which had engulfed the environs magically. Wasn’t too keen on photography here. This was familiar territory as I had done this highway a lot. Passed Sundernagar and reached Mandi, where I stopped for a Butt Break and a few snacks.
Crossing Mandi, on to my favorite part of the Chd-Manali highway, the Mandi-Kullu stretch. Amazing road!
Well, it had begun raining heavily now, and I was cursing myself for overlooking the raincoat! No major incidents in the way, apart from one where a truckie gave me a wrong overtake indicator, overtook it, only to find a sumo in front! Tackled the sumo to avoid getting banged head on, and also managed to save myself diving into the Beas, bike and all!!
After 8 hours of smooth riding I made my way into Manali. “Hmm, familiar place”, I smirked.
Went to the same old hotel, as always. Here it is:
Got a decent room for Rs250, good running hot water and well lit. I needed to bathe badly, was covered in mud due to all that rain, and my shoulder hurt a bit. So finally,I settled down, made a few calls and went off to sleep. It was going to be a long, exciting day tomorrow.
Day 2: Manali – Sarchu (220 km, 12 hrs)
“Hell, where is all that sound coming from”, I shouted shoving the mobile off the bed and going back to sleep, only to rise in a few minutes after realizing what I had done! Picked up the mobile, it was running! Thank God! Gosh, Already 5 in the morning, so I got packing and was back on the road by 5:45. Fueled up my steed and got moving.
A sign which I had always cherished:
The road winded majestically into the valley leading up to the Rohtang Pass. There it was, hidden up there somewhere, my first of many passes to come. Little did I know that this would turn out to be the most difficult and treacherous!
The tarmac was pretty good as I left Manali and started ascending.
A few pics on the way:
After a few kilometers, the road condition started detoriating. My luggage was also giving me problems, as it was tied improperly. I stopped on the way 3 times because of this. Finally near marhi, a guy came helped me tie it properly . Soul Saver! The bag didn’t budge an inch after that!
Thick Mud, muddy water, stones, ROCKS….you name and the road had it. Found it really hard to negotiate, thus making it up to Rohtang in 2.5 hours! “Man, that was hard”, I whispered to myself. Had a bowl of maggi, and watched a few army trucks go pass. I was begin to wonder, how difficult is it gonna be. I had just come 51 km and I was really tired. Still around 430 km to Leh!
Army convoy at Rohtang:
After filling myself up to the brim, I continued riding. The roads had somewhat gotten better. The Rohtang Pass is the doorway to the Lahaul valley. Now, this was the beginning of an unfamiliar territory to me, as I had never been beyond Rohtang. But the joy of being all alone on my own riding till Leh was too overwhelming for any apprehension!
Descending the curvaceous tarmac, I reached khoksar.This was my first sight of the Chandra river.
A few pics from Khoksar:
The Khoksar Village:
Somewhere on the way:
After admiring the scenic beauty, I carried on to another village called Sissu. The good tarmac gave way to somewhat bad roads once again. (Only a trailer, the real spine-breakers were yet to come!!)
Road to Sissu:
Crossing Sissu, I reached Tandi where I tanked up again. This was the last gas station for 385 km! The bike was handling quite well till now, even on bad terrain. The air pressure was good and no rattling whatsoever. Though the average it gave wasn’t commendable. Rs250 fuel went in, a butt break and a few clicks, I was off again.
After crossing Keylong, it had started raining just a bit. Didn’t bother much, “happens all the time up here”, I thought.
Reached Jispa and then Darcha. Here it began pouring heavily. Had my major pass of the day to cover, the “Baralacha” meaning a Big Himalayan Pass at 16500ft. I had been warned not to do the Baralacha if it begins to rain as it gets mighty foggy up there. But anyhow I moved forward from Darcha, after having a nice hot cup of Lemon Tea
Enroute to Jispa:
On my way, I encountered this beautiful lake, the Deepak Taal:
Road to Zing Zing Bar:
A Stream flowing:
Upon crossing Zing Zing Bar, the road gave way to a top notch tarmac, tarred and all, right up till Baralacha. Even though it was raining, i didn’t face much trouble reaching Baralacha top.
Just before Baralacha, I came across another picturesque water body, hidden away in isolation, the Suraj Taal
Finally made it to Baralacha. Got off, took a look around, seeping the thin atmosphere. This is the place from where the Chandra and Bhaga Rivers originate, meeting at Tandi to form the ChandraBhaga, which is called Chenab in the J&K province.
Apart from the wonderful sense of accomplishment, a fear of the dreaded AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) also crept in, which is bound to hit you at these heights. But thankfully, no AMS….I was feeling perfectly fit and ready to cruise again.
Road to Baralacha:
A temple at B-Top:
I Descended the Baralacha to enter BharatPur, another small camped establishment in the Himalayas. Now, I was completely drenched because of all that rain and thus, very cold too. Bought a pair of woolen socks from here (Rs 80!!), had a peg of Rum (Heat inductor…not more than that..he he ) , and moved on to Sarchu, where I had planned to stay for the night.
View from the descent:
It was already 5, and the light was diminishing quickly. So I made a dash for Sarchu, which was like 25km away. The roads were pretty decent so, made it to Sarchu in no-time. Got a bed in a camp for the meager charge of Rs30. The lady there was pretty sweet, made dal-chawal for me and a couple of other bikers who had just arrived. Took my stuff in the tent, locked my bike and went to sleep. I was so tired, that the lady had to literally kick me to wake me up for dinner. Ate, had a fag, and dozed off again. Except for a little pain in the back, there was no further trouble. No AMS at all, thankfully!
Day3: Sarchu – Leh (260 kms, 9 hrs)
I woke up very early this morning, around 4:30. Looked out, yeah, the bike was still there!! Packed my stuff, and got ready to leave. Woke up the lady at 5, to pay her. Poor woman must be amidst a wonderful dream, shattered because of me! “Babuji 65 rupe ho gaye”, she muttered, rubbing her eyes. Paid her and was off again. It was a bit dark, so had to be careful. But just after a few kilometers, I witnessed a beautiful sunrise, clear sky and nice, lovely warm weather.
Just had to take this one:
The road to Pang was pretty good, was cruising at 70-75 and stopping en-route for a few clicks:
The Gata Loops:
View from Nakeela(Another High altitude pass) :
Upon crossing Nakeela, I faced traffic. A long never ending queue of petrol canters! Great, what next! Somehow, managing to overtake them, took me ages to reach Lachulungla ( Another high altitude pass).
To my utter disgust, my stoppage here, caused those dreaded petrol canters to cross me again. Hell, exquisite skill will be required, once again. But then, a small price to pay for witnessing heaven!
(To be continued)
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