Clouds ! It is going to rain ! It started with a raindrop falling on my forehead bringing me back to the reality from the fantasy world. I quickly wrapped a cover around the bag, pulled out the rain coat and wore it. Though the distance to Rohtang top become single digited, I lost hope that I will reach there and the increase in intensity of rain drops caused a bit of anxiety and fear in me.
Two more hair pin bends and the it started raining. I pedalled faster, but Mind it !it is one of the highest passes, so even my legs pedaled faster, I’m moving slowly. I started feeling much colder.When I thought it will never show up, just after a turn it appeared .
The Rohtang top. Standing with pride and crowned with snow. I wondered if it is the meaning of being Majestic.
My dream fulfilled, the reason I came all the way. There was snow all around ! Tons of snow and just snow. Even it is drizzling, my happiness was inexplicable. I thought how beautiful show white (Disney princess )would be looking. All the dirty ice blocks I saw till now, were nothing compared to the snow and beautiful white around me now. As if it is for me, rain stopped just for a while to enjoy the scenery all around. There are small green patches amidst the snow. I had no clue, if it is reality or if I’m looking at a painting. There was just happiness all around. People playing in the snow, sliding in it, throwing it all around. I was lost in thoughts seeing them all. Just to bring me back to reality it started raining again !
Everyone started going to Manali. Within five minutes I was there all alone getting drenched and I remembered that I’m hungry ! and damn !! there are no shops, nothing. It is only me there. The most confusing moment of my life. I was witnessing the most beautiful sight I ever saw and feeling sad at the same time. I started shivering more. The fog increased and visibility is getting decreased. I wore all the warm wear I brought and yet felt the cold. It was just freezing and my hands started shaking out of fear.
If I haven’t seen Into the wild movie, I would have fainted there.I looked around, and I saw a small and wrecked house at a distance. I thought I will stay there if it gets dark.
Just in minutes it was turned foggy like this.
View My Video
A small video showing the condition around.
Time was still 6.30 pm and I have a small hope left that I would get a lift. Tourists who are going down hesitated to give me a hike. To my despair only oil containers are going. Still thoughts are running in my mind, that I came so far and so high, yet there is a sad feeling that I couldn’t make it to Manali, the planned destination. I wanted to give a try and started pedalling , but due to rain brakes were not applying properly (rim was wet and slippery) . Since, it is downhill all the way to Manali,I didn’t want to take risk.
Morning, when I started my plan was, even though I reach rohtang top by 6pm, I thought I could make the rest of 50 Kms downhill within 2-3 hours before Himalayan Sunset at 8.30/9 Pm, but I never expected rain, as I was in rain shadow region past one week,
Back on Rohtang top, I started waving my hand desperately at every vehicle that passed. I just laughed as it turned out to be a thriller climax to a beautiful picture. As each minute passed , I shivered more. I lost hope and I started waving with two hands now. (he he , sign of loosing everything), and finally a truck stopped. I couldn’t even speak to them properly and they understood right away that I’m in a helpless position. They asked it would be Rs500 to drop me at Manali and I agreed readily.(of course, I’m almost ready to pay in thousands of demanded. Life is still sweet to me ) There are two of them and one loaded cycle in back and helped me to get inside cabin. They asked me remove all the rain coats and wrapped a rug around me. That warmth was so pleasant and cosy. They were bothers living near Mandi , doing Transportation business mainly between Himachal and Leh. The elder one scolded me for travelling alone and then cursed all cyclists and motor bike riders for going to Leh.
” arey, poora sukha rasta hai. Naa ped, naa kuch sundar aur sirf pattar ! Kya dekhne jaate ho aap log ? ”
I had no answer at that time. But they were checking upon me constantly if I’m alight or not. I was alright, but as the truck passed through 10-15 feet high snow block, I nearly cried as I lost the chance to enjoy that beauty. At the same time, I trembled with fear whenever he applied brakes in slopes, that truck may fall in valley. To add to this, there were big rocks all along the road that fell from the hills. I asked them about their driving experiences and how they were able to do it . Their simple answer is
” jeena hai , toh kuch karna hai “.. and when I looked puzzled, they said,,” aadat hogaya “.
He also told me, that he stopped just because I waved with two hands and he felt that I’m helpless.There was traffic jam, rain increased and with rocks falling I wondered how this journey would end. They asked me to sleep. I never sat inside a truck cabin before, but it was very comfortable there. There is even place for me to sleep. I slept without hesitating, waking up in between only to feel sad that I missed pedalling there. My heart beat came to normal when they woke me up telling that we reached Manali.
I was confused for a moment to decide, if I have to spend there a day or go back to Delhi. But since I reached Kunzum top, I was pissed off by the roads and conditions. Especially today’s experiences made to call it the end of first beautiful journey of my life. Those brothers enquired if there is bus to Delhi. There is one , which is about to move and they made me board into it. Ofcourse my cycle too was loaded on top.
Inside bus, there was another young cyclist (he is in 11 th or 12 th class), who pedalled from Manali to Leh and came back after falling sick to AMS. He was admitted to hospital there and was sent back by Army. They even packed his cycle. Later in our conversation , this boy mentioned that he cycled from Rohtang top to Kanya kumari last year and he was the youngest Indian to do so. He assigned my next mission , he eh . We both were lost in conversation for sometime. Since, I was tired, the bumps didn’t bother me from waking up from sleep.
It was a fresh morning next day. I’m on plains. I had two big glasses of Lassi at Kurukshetra to enjoy my victory. The plains, paddy fields, rivers and sugarcanes in Punjab are very beautiful. It was a very long journey to Delhi, but in bus going at that speed, it was thrilling after travelling in single digit speeds for long long time.
Beautiful fields at Kurukshetra
Me and Mohit Kapoor (Young cyclist )parted in our own ways in auto after reaching ISBT. I stayed for three days in my sisters home there. I ate rice and other south Indian delicacies to my fullest. This time I choose GATI to bring back my bike to Chennai for avoiding and hassle in airport. All those three days , all the trip used roll in my memory while I slept and when I woke up I used to think when will I get a chance to be back there.
But I severely regret missing Dharangathi, Sarahan,Kalpa, Dhankar and mainly Chandrataal. Even when I listen about Mud valley now, I feel sad that I couldn’t make it there. I only satisfy myself telling that there is always a next time.
Two more things I missed are the grand welcome Monk got on Rohatang top and that pride got after talking to condutor getting onto bus going to Delhi. The conductor in bus I boarded just gave ticket for me and cycle with no feelings in face and went away !
Even when I’m typing now, tears are formed in my eyes. This trip has changed my life in a permanent way. After coming back to Chennai, I became an endurance cyclist and started participating in events called brevets (long distance cycling events from 200-1200 km) and pedalled more than 14,000 Kms in past 9-10 months with 1000 km being one among those events. I wouldn’t hesitate to attribute all that power to the inspiration I got from mighty mountains. There was recognition at work because of this trip and even in life. I’m meeting different people from different walks of life because of cycling.
Those beautiful people, the valleys, rivers, mountains, sheep, cattle, dogs, chowmein, momos, HRTC buses, yuts and mostly the damaged roads, everything became part of my life. There is not even one day that has passed without thinking about any one of them. My manali- leh and Zuluk trip this year was cancelled as I got very busy in these events. My longing for coming back there grew even desperate now, but I have to wait for my time.
It would be very bad on my part if I stop this travelogue without thanking four important people that helped me for this tour.
1. Dheeraj Sharma and Devil On Wheels team – Believe me, I had no clue about anything about Himachal and forget Spiti. All the place names were tongue twisters initially. I didn’t even knew where to start or end. Thanks to selfless help of Dheeraj and others here, that many were able to visit those beautiful vistas. He gave me detailed itinerary for travelling in public transport, with day to day journey break up. At the point of asking him, it was still a back packing trip.
2. Monk – who works at xBHP. He went in the same route on cycle. When I had no clue about anything there, he wrote a very detailed blog and instructions for riding in Spiti valley, It became my bible for three months and I sincerely read it everyday morning. It boosted my moral confidence that I can indeed ride there.
3. Nobal Mohan – He is from Bangalore, who cycled from Shimla- Leh, the year before. After reading his blog and seeing pictures,no one could stop me coming to Himalayas by cycle. It was very inspiring and I can say, it made me courageous and prepared.
4. Prakash- when we desperately wish for some sincere cause, we will be definitely shown a path. While practising for riding there, I met Prakash accidentally in Chennai. He went several times to Himalayas on Cycle and travelled a lot over north east. He guided me with route and conditions, and after meeting him, I was very confident that I can definitely do it . If I hadn’t met him, I would have definitely missed visiting Baghi and Bahli. Taking diversion at Narkanda, to avoid Highway was his idea.If I was not much scared at Darangathi, I would have enjoyed more.