Sunday, June 26, 2005

Day 1 : Noida to Shimla

Day 1: 26th June, 2005
I decided to leave early, before 5 AM to escape the searing heat in the plains and hit the hills before it got real hot. I planned to make it to Sarahan, 530 Kms from Delhi and spend the first night there. But I slept too late to wake up on time, and could leave only after 6. It was a pleasant morning. There was a cool breeze blowing and I thought it won't be a hot day after all. There were some signs of rains in Delhi. I was excited. This was my first solo trip ever. I really hoped I won't get a puncture and get stuck in a lonely stretch in Spiti. But being alone meant no one else to wait for anywhere, take breaks as and when you like, and the worst part, no one to care for you if you get stuck somewhere.

The cool breeze had other things in store for me... rains! It started raining before I hit left Delhi. I stopped under a flyover and put my cam in a polybag. Decided to ride... rain or no rain. The rains stopped once I hit the highway... good. There was that cool breeze again, clouds in the horizon, light traffic and I was happy. I thought of doing Ambala in record time. Every now and then, it drizzled and I rode through it, never slowing down once. Just before Ambala, I saw dark rain clouds looming in the horizon, almost as if the monsoons were in full swing. As expected, it started raining heavily. Rain drops felt like gravel against my hands and neck. Saw a dhaba and stopped. I was not fully wet yet.

As soon as I got in, I wished I had stopped at a better place. This place had a leaky tin roof, wet chairs and no protection from the blowing wind. Tea cheered me up. Had breakfast here and decided to leave as the rains slowed down. As soon as I touched the roads, the rains were back in full force. But I kept doing 90 to 95 in the wet roads, low visibility and light traffic. My bike had no qualms handling the wet roads at speeds on the other side of 90. The fun of riding in the rains starts only once you are totally wet, down to the last piece of clothing you have on your body. My shoes were filled with water, still kept riding until concern for my luggage made me stop at another dhaba.

Drained my shoes, squeezed water off my socks and wished I would have bright sunny weather for the next 4 days to come. But nature, as I found out later had other things in store for me. I started off again. It was only drizzling lightly now. Soon found a small traffic jam caused by a long truck that had dived head-on into a ditch. Its rear was raised high over the road, like the last few moments of the Titanic, before it broke into two. I had hardly done 5 Kms since my last stop, when in an effort to overtake a truck from the left, I hit a long pool of water and the water that I had drained some time back from my shoes were all back there.

There was another jam at the toll plaza. Kept going straight and turned right from Zirakpur for the bypass towards Shimla. I took another break here to drain my shoes and change my socks. All ready to charge again. Ever wondered how fast we reach Kalka once we have the hills in sight shortly after Ambala... and how painfully slow it is the other way? There were heavy traffic jams in Pinjore and Kalka and progress was slow here. Once I started ripping after Kalka, my bike started handling funny. Once it touches 45, the front would start wobbling. I thought it must be low air pressure, but why all of a sudden? Stopped at a petrol pump... the pressure was a bit low, but not low enough to cause wobbling. Stopped to show it to a local mech at Dharampur. He had nothing much to do. Checked the air pressure. It was low again! Filled up once more and continued on my way, but so did the wobble. Parked my bike on the roadside to inspect the front rim for alignment, and I noted a thorn stuck half way into a groove. Exulted at finally finding the cause of the wobble, I took it back to the mech and fixed the puncture. Now I was ready to rip again.

But sadly the wobble continued. This was turning out to be a nightmare. I could no longer slingshot out of turns. I decided to show it to the Bajaj service center at Solan. But being a Sunday, it was closed. I Hoped the Bajaj service center at Shimla would be open and continued on my way. Stopped just once and took out my cam for the first time.

Nothing was going as planned and I was already very much behind schedule. I reached Shimla very late, at 4 PM. only to find the service center was closed for Sunday as well. Called Yogesh to find out that there are no more service centers beyond this point. My only option was to spend the night at Shimla and visit the service center in the morning. The lowest quote I got for a hotel was 350 bucks in Shoghi... Its peak season now! Anyway, it was too early to check into a hotel yet. So I was wandering around aimlessly in Shimla when I found this milestone... Dhali 13 Kms. So I thought I'd check out that place. It was a nice ride there, not crowded at all, like Shimla. Found a hotel there (there weren't many in this town). 350 bucks again, but good enough for the facilities offered. Some water had seeped into my rucksack and I had to take out all my clothes and spread them out on the bed to dry them. The only view I had out of the window was the tin rooftop of the adjacent building, with monkeys perched on it. But it was too dark to shoot them now. Had room service bring in dinner. I had a bad headache now. Took some food, had a painkiller and hit the deck. It was a tiring day.

It was a disappointing first day of my first solo trip. I realized that being in a group would have slowed down the whole group. And that seemed to be the only silver lining in an otherwise disappointing day.

Distance covered - 400 Kms
Expenses - Food and accomodation Rs 510

Day 2 : Dhali to Jalori Pass

Day 1 : Noida to Shimla
Day 2 : Dhali to Jalori Pass
Day 3 : Khanag to Keylong
Day 4 : Keylong - Darcha - Koksar
Day 5 : Koksar to Noida

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