Day-2 : Kufri-Narkanda-Baghi-Sungri-Bahli
Distance : 104km
I woke up with some positive energy and refreshing thoughts. The mountains might have filled it in me. I managed to start at 7am as planned. I initially thought to avoid coffee and tea during the whole trip. Due to the cool climate, I felt like having one. Himalayan tea has some magic in it. It worked as an instant booster for me through out. Here I had the opportunity to give my first interview to the tea shop owner, who enquired about my where abouts. I felt happy after the first ALL THE BEST, I received from a stranger in the trip.
Later it turned to be annoying answering the same questions again and again. Kaha se aa rahe ho ? Kaha jaa rahe ho ? Akele ? Manali tak ?Kaza se hokar ..woh bahut uncha hai,chadna mushkil hai!!!!!!
The ride began with an exciting downhill. The gloves I brought the previous evening came as great help in preventing my hands from going numb. At Matiana, I had breakfast and headed to Theog. I used to walk at entrance of the every village/town I came across. I felt that analogous to a cow boy in Wild West, entering village on a horse for water. The village landscapes and setting also made me feel more like that. It became hard for me to control myself from comparing to Clint Eastwood in such situations. The hat being replaced with Helmet and Horse with my bicycle
In Matiana, I got glimpse of first apple orchards. They were covered with nets everywhere. Seeing an apple tree is also one of my missions to be accomplished in this trip.
Though road is undulating further I felt little difficulty in climbing, but definitely better than yesterday. Today, I learnt to use the gears effectively for a better ride uphill. Yet, I felt exhausted and pushed for a while in middle. The air and pine trees made me refreshed and I comfortably reached Narkanda by 12pm, my yesterday’s destination.
The person who advised me about route asked me to take rest, if I have reached any destination early. At Narkanda I was confused, if I should stay or move ahead. A cup of tea later,as light will be there for 8 more hours I decided to move ahead and ride till Baghi. The name Baghi scared me since beginning, as it sounded closer to Bhag-Tiger. I had feeling that a tiger might surely show up on the way and it will make me Bhag-away!
A kilometer later, I had to make first toughest decision of tour. I have to pick my choice between downhill to Rampur and the uphill to Baghi through jungle! Well, I have taken right and the real excitement began.
It is a constant uphill for 6-7 Kms. I was very confused, if I have to enjoy the beautiful views the pine trees are offering or be scared for any monkey or wild dog which may show up suddenly or worse the Tiger ! The place is absolutely calm and very peaceful. Vehicles are hardly passing in that route. I saw some people here and there, taking rest in between the pine trees and talking happily with their mates not caring what’s going on around. This ensured my mind that there might be no wild animal around and I pedalled ahead.
Slowly, the tarmac disappeared and the sand roads showed up. It’s a different experience for me to ride on them. My first off road ride and it’s on one of oldest national highways. After exhaustive uphill, a downward road appeared. I was happy that coasting along will take me to the destination, but the constant downhill gave me an adrenaline rush. With my downhill posture on bike, I felt like a pro MTB rider riding on trails! I hardly noticed anything around me and all my concentration was on controlling the bike and myself from falling down. I couldn’t guess that this is just the beginning.
Few kilometers later the downhill ended and last stretch uphill started. As I started climbing a huge vulture has just landed at one of the corner around. I was awe struck looking at the width of its wings extended. I couldn’t dare to take my camera there and click that as that is the first time I’m seeing vulture out in the wild. I pushed myself hard to climb quickly and entered village, like a cowboy again 😛
The Sand roads
It was 2 p.m. when I reached there. According to my itinerary I’m supposed to reach Bahli that day, which is 38Km’s away. I was very happy that I could reach at least half way through the planned route. Being exhausted, I had lunch first. I had to repeat the drill of answering all questions again. People here also asked more questions about bicycle. Kya isse chadayi aasan hoga ? Kitna hai yeh ? etc etc
Mobile connectivity is still there and I had opportunity to chat with friend in Chennai during lunch, who suggested me the route. After that chat, I headed to Sungri. All the roads are dusty and full of sand. Luckily, it didn’t rain while I was there, else mud would have caused lot of trouble. It was again an uphill ride till Khadrala, while the people passing on the road used to tell “ chadayi nahi hai”.
I stopped for tea in Khadrala. After the question drill, the people in tea shop narrated the glorious history of that village. How it used be a busy place while NH used to pass through that village, how the PWD rest house used be a main place of accommodation for Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi. These people assure me that it is a constant downhill till Sungri and warned me to check my brakes.
This downhill started right after the tea shop and I had to wear cold protection gear again. I could feel the chill in the air as I whizzed past the pine trees. I slowly got accustomed to the jungle route, stopped now and then in between for water or snack and moved ahead controlling my bicycle. Around 4.30-5 pm I reached Sungri. This time, my hands started to pain instead of legs due to constant application of brakes. I thought of stopping at that village, but that village is too small and I couldn’t notice any place to stay.
A beautiful house on the way,with a solar panel !
Bahli is only 18 Kms away, 10kms being downhill. I thought I could make it by the time it gets dark and went ahead. Here I faced extremely scary downhill. I could hardly stop my bike. I feared that either one of the wheel, rear rack or brakes will come out and I will surely fall from bicycle. I had to overtake many vehicles for avoiding collision with them. They used to think that I’m planning to overtake them to show my guts and blocked my way. I had to step down and control at many corners because of that.
My heart started beating normally, after I crossed bridge for start climbing to Bahli. Here I saw an apple tree for first time in my life. I was surprised to see them hanging so low and in open. I felt amazed to touch them while they are on tree. Only thing disappointed me is that they are all are green as it is the start of season and it will take two more months for them to grow. I didn’t dare to pick them up as they are the young ones. As one of the mission was accomplished, I marched ahead with great enthusiasm (It is an uphill: P).
The first apple tree,I saw in my life.
It is round 7 pm. The moon was already high up in the sky. Sun slowly began setting down. The sky turned into a beautiful stage for the magic show of colours. I witnessed the beautiful red and pinkish sky in west with orange reflections on east. All the colours with green trees around made me forget all troubles and fears I came cross during the ride today. The occasional bus heading to Rampur passing on slope of hill of opposite side added beauty to the scene.
With two more kilometers to end the day, I faced the first dog chase. As flat road started and I was in hurry to wrap up things for the day I’m riding with little pace. Two dogs which are sleeping on road side started to bark loudly and chase me .I shooed them with top of my voice, but they were not backing up. A loud warning from their master made them give up the chase and minutes later I’m in Bahli. Official destination as aimed in itinerary.
I got a room easily in the PWD guest house.I was very surprised at the low price at which it was being offered. Also, I was shocked to see myself and luggage entirely covered in dust. I had a quick hot water bath and finished dinner early. Cleaned all dust on luggage, cycle, washed few clothes and got ready to sleep. It was very cold there, and in chat during dinner with PWD caretaker I came to know that snow fall will be very high there during winters and last year an Israeli cycling couple got stranded for nearly a week.
A little calculation before the sleep showed that I rode 104 Km’s that day. I was more than happy and slept joyfully without any feeling of exhaustion.