As usual did an early morning start. Bade goodbye to my friend and headed out on the G.T. Road.
My memories are of the 2 lane undivided G.T. Road where the dabhas still had packed dirt in front with charpoys under the shady trees.
Today's Moorthal was a disappointment. Rampant construction and Vegas style neon boards.
After an hour of riding, I stopped for fuel. Decided to have breakfast at the same time. Bread, omelet and chips.
Post breakfast rode for long without break. Next stop would be a few Km before Jalandhar for nibu-pani and boiled sweet potato.
Around 1300, I was feeling tired. Stopped a few Km before Pathankot to rest at an abandoned shop. Couple of large slabs of concrete made for a nice resting place.
Lying there looking at the holes in the thatched room, I contemplated going towards Srinagar or taking a diversion towards Dalhousie for Sach Pass.
The choice would completely change the course of remainder of this trip.
Not one to bogged down with a "plan of record", I decided to ride towards Dalhousie from Pathankot. I guess the lure of mountains a day early or just taking the Cliffhanger road first was the deciding factor.
The road worsened as soon as the hills started and it would stay bad till I ended the day. It was like a precursor to the difficulties of Sach Pass.
Hitting the hills was good. I love the slow pace of riding in the hills.
In my bag, I had some left over chips from breakfast. Sat down at an overlook to enjoy darkness starting to set in over the lush green valley. The smell of the pines wafting down the hill rekindled fond memories.
I was quite tired by the time I got to Banikhet. The bad roads had taken a toll. Had tea with Maggie and then took a nap.
As I got ready to step out, a slight drizzle started. Tucked back in the quilt. The network was bad, so I had to be content with worrying about the weather at Sach. I did not want to get caught in snowfall up there.
I had big plans of going over the Sach Pass and crossing the Cliffhanger road in a single day. But the mountains have a mind of their own.
Left from the hotel a little later than usual. It was a cold morning and as soon as I found an open tea shop, I stopped for one. The visibility wasn't great. I was hoping that, as I gained altitude, things would clear up.
The route down from Banikhet to Chamera Dam passes through the picturesque landscape of rural Himanchal. Terraced fields dotted with village houses.
The sun was just rising as I reached the Chamera Lake. The morning glow seeping though the fog was enchanting.
Just above the dam, the road split into two. One going towards the dam and along the river downwards. For some reason I thought the road over the dam would be closed. So I headed down the river. Later I would find out that the road over the dam was open.
This road was terrible and after a while just became a trail. However, that was a kind of mistake I would love to make again.
The trail took me to a view point from where I could see the water cascading down the open gates of the dam. A pretty view for sure.
Up ahead, the sun lit up the mountainside turning the autumn leaves into gold . About a Km of trail riding and I join a road which was better. There were a few spots of tar here and there.
Crossing a bridge over Ravi, I got onto a better road. From there going was good.
The road was good and I enjoyed driving the curves. Driving high above the river, the view were lovely. So engrossed I was in the drive that I forgot to take the Koti bridge to join the Chamba-Sach Pass road. I also forget to fill up on petrol. Taking the back road, I eventually joined the Chamba-Sach Pass road at Badoh.
A few Km before Banjaru stopped to help an Enfield rider who had a broken clutch wire. After that Sandeep tagged along with me for the next few days.
In the process I forgot to check for gas which would be a pain later in the day.
After Banjaru, there was a check post where we had to make an entry. They also took pictures there.
Crossing the checkpost, the road quality worsened and then the road disappeared. The drive however was fun and back breaking.
Soon the climb to Sach Pass started. The vegetation disappeared and switchback after switchback followed. The temperature also dropped steadily. And, as I wanted, the skies also turned blue.
As I drove higher, the view became better and better. The roads went from bad to worse. It was mostly a wide trail with loose gravel.
Around 1245, we were at the pass. While it was cold, there was no challenge with oxygen.
After taking the customary picture, I helped myself to a bowl of hot Maggie. Then I explored around.
As I was looking around, a H.P. govt bus drove up. The passengers got down to pay their obedience at the temple.
Going back to the shop, I had a cup of coffee and few biscuits.
After spending around 35-40min at the top, headed down on the other side. As soon as I started, the fuel gauge started blinking. I talked to Sandeep and we decided that if I run out of petrol, we'll take some from his bike and put in mine.
A little way down stopped by a small pond to take pictures. The edges of the pond were starting to freeze. I felt this was a good time to cross as a few days later the going would get quite tough.
There was more snow on the other side of the pass, quite likely because it faced North. I found it more beautiful too.
On this side, road construction was going on at a good pace. The road was also more messed up. At one spot we had to spot for more than 30min while the JCB cleared the road after some blasting.
As the road descended, vegetation appeared. The road was still no more than a wide trail. My bike soon started sputtering. I borrowed half a bottle of fuel to make it till Killar where we brought fuel in black to fill the bikes.
By the time we reached Killar, Kishtwar was out of reach. Finding a room we dumped our luggage and then stepped out for tea. There was no internet in town. Fortunately the phones worked. Sat on the balcony and enjoyed the view.
Once it got dark, stepped out. Found a mobile repair shop where I got my camera screw tightened.
Also found out that the road to Kishtwar is closed at times due to blasting. So decided to head out really early in the morning.
It was quite dark when we left. Goal was to cross the Cliffhanger part before the blasting commenced. As we turned towards Kishtwar, there was a little bit of light.
Off towards the left, the route up to Sach Pass could be seen. Today’s route would have us follow the Chenab river all the way till Kishtwar.
The road, true to its name, is said to be one of the most dangerous to ride on. It is a narrow road cut high into the mountains. There is a steep cliff above and below the river. A slip means hundreds of feet down into the cold waters of Chenab.
Turning a corner, saw the road blocked due to a land slide. Rocks and trees halting our drive forward. There was nothing to do but wait.
Slowly vehicles started piling up on either side of the slide. Few trucks, a dumper and other vehicles. A bus came, dropped its passengers who walked to the other side and boarded another bus and went their way.
It was cold, so I started collecting woods. Others helped and soon we had a fire going. People fished out whatever they had to eat and shared – both food and stories.
It was well past 0800 when a JCB came and cleared the road enough for the bikes to go through. So much so for starting early.
After the initial stretch of bareness, the road went though some dense forest. In shade, with absence of sun, it was cold.
And then the Kashmir border. Technically Kanyakumari to Kashmir was achieved, but then the fun was just starting. At the border, had to register and show ID.
The police man suggested that Sansari bridge is a good spot for picture. Took the customary sitting down picture at the bridge.
As we climbed out of Sankari bridge, Sandeep’s bullet dropped it’s silencer/exhaust. We tied it over my saddle bags and headed ahead.
An hour later the much revered Cliffhanger stretch arrived. There was some road cutting going on for the Cliffhanger bypass. So we had to stop for a while. It was a nice place to stop. The sun was warm on the backs. Out in front the Cliffhanger stretched out in all its glory, the old below the new.
In a few years, rider may not be able to experience the old glory as the original stretch would close and new one opened.
Once the JCB moved aside, we were allowed to go ahead. At one point the loose debris was piled high and I lost my balance. Bike tilted to the right and I could not pull it back straight. Had not choice but to let it down gently. Slid my leg out from under and picked it up. No harm except for the bruised ego.
The Cliffhanger was all it was famous for and more. The narrow road with steep drop would scare any fainthearted person.
I personally was awed by how they would have gone about cutting this road in the days before modern machinery was available.
Having cross the most dangerous stretch, we were stopped by a blasting operation in progress. Waited for about 45min before we could proceed.
More road construction ahead meant that going was slow. Eventually reached Gulabgarh. There we got the Enfield repaired and had lunch.
A plain thali of roti-sabzi-dal was as fulfilling as we could find.
The road ahead was lovely. Still cut into the steep rocky hillside, it was well paved and a pleasure to drive on. Stopped a couple of times to admire the Chenab flowing down below the steep cliffs.
As we got closed to Kishtwar, the valley opened up. The hills were gently sloped with field and houses all over. As we were taking pictures, Sajid walked up to us and started talking interested by the KA registered bike. Mention of K2K list up his eyes and he was full of questions.
On leaving he recommended a hotel at Kishtwar. Dumping our stuff at the hotel, we went to the market searching for a place to eat.
The place was crawling with police & armed forces. So returned back to the hotel. Asked the cook to make some special local dish. So he whipped up an bowl of rogan josh.
A hearty meal and off to bed.