It all started over a cup of coffee. Its was time for biking again. Having taken no breaks for over six months prompted me to urge my friends to join me on a trip to explore three most exotic regions of Trans Himalayas. Getting the basic plan to work was not easy. Uncertainties are part of any adventurous trip, but weather irregularities could damper the whole trip.
While planning a trip is difficult, executing it is altogether a different ball game. Initial enthusiasm shown by my friends died down quickly as the the dates neared. In the end it was just two of us. Over the past few years, I have understood and coped with realities of travel. Only the most adherent travelers manage to take time out of their lives to travel, for the rest it is just a passing fad.
Route: Manali -> Kullu -> Aut -> Banjar -> Jalori Pass -> Luhri ->Rampur -> Sarhan
The Sick Rider
The crossed eyed man preceded me to the parking lot to help me push the bike on to the road. The little man dressed in night gown amused at the sight of two bikers packing up at dawn took multiple glances at his watch.
“Why do want to leave so early?” asked the crossed eyed man. I was in no mood for an explanation which resulted in my muteness to his question. Irritated by my lack of civil courtesy, he left us in a hurried fashion leaving my luggage in the middle of the road.
Complete silence befell us, as we loaded our bags on to the bike. Thumping sound of the engine echoed the street as we prepared to leave for long journey ahead of us. My friend leapt ahead on full throttle, leaving me behind. Few minutes passed before I could catch up with him. Our first destination was Aut, a little village few kilometers from Kullu.
Piping hot tea with aroma of freshly made aloo-parathas filled the air. While my companion was busy gobbling up every morsel of food on his plate, I was closely studying the reactions of three attractive college going girls who were cautiously discussing the arrival of two strangers to their village. It took them time to muster up courage to come closer to the parked bikes. Conscious of the fact that one of the girls caught me staring at them, I quickly retracted myself to drinking tea. My friend, chivalrous in his manners, proceeded towards the girls with smile on his face.
“May I help you?” called out my friend from a distance. “They are just curious, no need to worry” came a reply in harsh tone from an old man sitting next to the bike. The saffron clad old man was not amused at the sight of my friend trying to make a conversation with the girls. The girls realizing the situation backtracked to their side of the road. After breakfast, as I was getting ready to move ahead, a slim girl, pale in complexion with dark brown hair came up to with a water bottle in her had. It took a moment for me to understand that my water bottle has fallen off the bike and she was just returning it. I thanked her as shy smile ran away from her face. She put her head down and walked away from the bike. I did take a minute to comprehend the situation before I kick started the noisy engine.
Riding across small water streams and twisted roads, ascend to Jalori pass began. Throughout the steep climb I saw my companion fall behind. Three hours into the climb, we finally reached the top of Jalori pass. My fellow biker walked in a style which emulated a drunken man, showed signs of weariness. On probing, I realized he was suffering from fever. With temperatures soaring over a hundred, I knew that he would not be able to go forward.
Carefully considering the options, it was decided that my friend would be driven back to Manali by a kind stranger we met at the pass, while I would continue my journey ahead. Since the Kunzum pass was to be open in few days, my companion would drive through the pass and meet me at Kaza. With my only biking companion down, I prepared myself for long solo journey ahead of me. Humidity began to play important role as I descended the pass at snails pace. The downward journey seems lot harder with constant need to keep myself reminded that I was on my own.
My mental strain eased as I reached flat ground and riding became easier, however the strain on my brakes had caused enough damage to catapult me off the bike as rare wheels came to sudden halt. I held on to the bike to bring it under control. Moments passed as I sat on the precariously halted bike trying to calm down to counter the sudden rush of adrenaline in my body. I knew that I was in trouble, but did not know the extent of damage to the bike. I reluctantly opened the tool box trying to think of tool to be used to fix a problem that I had not yet found. The logical part of my brain started moving a few cranks and shafts to bring about the realization that the rear break has jammed the brake drums. Fidgeting with break wire, I was finally able to free up the brakes.
Shaken from the incident, I proceeded slowly to nearest town Rampur, in search of a mechanic. The mechanic did few more minor adjustments and before long I reached Sarhan for the evening. As I lay on my bed staring at the beautiful Bhimkali temple, strange sense of fulfillment engulfed me. I reached out to my mobile to check on my friend. His caller tone sang “On the road again – Willie Nelson” as a smile came over my face. I knew I was home.