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Posts Tagged ‘Motorcycle Diaries

मेरा हिमालय और उसका क़ब्रिस्तान

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मैं पिछले कई वर्षों से बद्रीनाथ यात्रा पर जाता हूँ। एक भक्त के रूप में नहीं, एक बाइकर के रूप में। हिमालय मेरा आँगन रहा है बालमन से और जब-जब मैं अपनी रॉयल एनफ़ील्ड मोटरसाइकिल ले कर बद्रीनाथ गया, वही पहाड़ और वही पहाड़ी रास्ते मेरे लिए पूज्य और देव-तुल्य रहे, किसी भी मंदिर से ज़्यादा।

हाल के सालों में – 2012 और 2015 – ये दो यात्रायें की बाबा बद्रीनाथ के द्वार को। आप कह सकते हैं – ज़लज़ला आने के पहले वाले साल और उसके दो साल बाद। जो देखा, और महसूस किया, वो शब्दों में बयां नहीं कर सकता। सड़कें तो बन गयीं हैं, पहले से बेहतर भी है। पर सड़को से नीचे उतर कर देखो, तो पहले और बाद का भयावह फ़र्क़ पता चलता है।

इसलिए, 2012 की यात्रा का वर्णन तो आप मोटरसाइकिल डायरीज में यहाँ पढ़ सकते हैं, पर 2015 की यात्रा के बारे में लिख पाऊँ, वो शब्द और हिम्मत अब तक नहीं जुटा पाया हूँ।

Himalaya ka Kabristanकुछ दिन पहले दैनिक भास्कर अख़बार में जयप्रकाश चौकसे साहब के लेख में एक किताब का वर्णन पढ़ा – ‘हिमालय का क़ब्रिस्तान’– ये शीर्षक है प्रत्रकार लक्ष्मी प्रसाद पंत की इस पुस्तक का। पिछले दो दिन में ये किताब पढ़ी। केदारनाथ-काश्मीर-काठमाण्डू – तीनो जगहों की हिमालय-उपजित त्रासदी के बारे में एक निर्भीक पुस्तक।

अगर आप भी मेरे जैसे हिमालय से सच्चा प्रेम करते हैं – और न सिर्फ इसे पूजते हों और न सिर्फ इसे छुट्टी बिताने का मनोरम पर्यटन स्थल समझते हों – तो इस पुस्तक को पढ़ने की सलाह मैं आपको दूँगा।

इस किताब को पढ़ने के बाद मुझे एक बात याद आती है। 2012 की मोटरसाइकिल यात्रा के दौरान मेरा छोटा भाई नितिन भी साथ था – अपनी पहली लंबी मोटरसाइकिल यात्रा पर और पहली बार पहाड़ पर। ज़ाहिर तौर पर उत्सुकता ज़्यादा थी और सवाल भी। मैं हिमालय के बारे में जानता-पढ़ता रहता हूँ और सामाजिक-भौगोलिक जानकारियां रखता हूँ, एक आम पर्यटक से ज़्यादा। जब हम बद्रीनाथ पहुंचे तो अगली यात्रा केदारनाथ की हो, ऐसी बात होने लगी। बद्रीनाथ मंदिर के ठीक नीचे अपनी पूरी शान से बहती अलकनंदा के बारे में बात करते हुए मैंने नितिन को केदारनाथ के साथ बहती मन्दाकिनी नदी के बारे में बताया। ये भी कि कैसे पहले मन्दाकिनी नदी दो धाराओं में बहती थी – पूर्वी और पश्चिमी। और कैसे समय के साथ अब सिर्फ एक धारा में ही प्रवाहित होने लगी है। नितिन ने पूछा कि दूसरी तरफ क्या है अब? मुझे जवाब मालूम नहीं था, सो बात वही ख़त्म हो गयी।

मैं आपको बता दूँ कि जब अगले ही साल 2013 में सैलाब आया, तो मन्दाकिनी नदी ने सारे बंधन तोड़ दिए और दुसरे पुराने रास्ते से भी बह निकली – और उसे रास्ते में मिले घर, दुकान, होटल और न जाने क्या-क्या – अपने रास्ते में उसे मनुष्य का किया अतिक्रमण मिला। और वो उसे बहा ले गयी… पंत जी अपनी पुस्तक के बारे में इस बारे में विस्तार से लिखते हैं… उसे पढ़कर मेरी आँखे भर आईं और भाई से हुयी बात याद हो आयी।

अंग्रेजी उपन्यासकार कजाओ इशीगोरो के हवाले से लेखक ने लिखा है:

“जैसे शतरंज के खेल में जब तक हम अपनी चाल के ऊपर से ऊँगली नहीं उठाते, हमें अपनी ग़लती का अहसास नहीं होता, वैसे ही प्राकृतिक आपदाओं का अहसास भी अचानक ही होता है जब हमारी गलतियाँ अति कर देती हैं।”

2012 में मेरे पास इस प्रश्न का उत्तर नहीं था कि मन्दाकिनी के दूसरे रास्ते में क्या है। 2013 के बाद से मेरे पास इस प्रश्न का उत्तर नहीं है कि क्यों प्रशासन आंखें मूंदे रहा इतने वर्षों से लगातार फैलते अतिक्रमण पर। हमने नदी के रास्ते में अपना घर बनाया और अब दोष नदी को, कि उसने अपना वही रास्ता वापस चुन लिया, तो वो दैवी आपदा है?

मैं लेखक से पूर्णतया सहमत हूँ कि यह कोई दैवी आपदा नहीं थी। ना उत्तराखण्ड में, ना ही कश्मीर और नेपाल में। ये मनुष्य के लालच का परिणाम हैं, जिसे हम दैवी आपदा और हिमालय का प्रकोप और न जाने और क्या-क्या नाम देते हैं।

2016 – मैं फिर से तैयार हूँ मई माह में बद्रीनाथ जाने को। इस बार मेरी और नेहा की माएं भी साथ जा रहीं हैं। वो 2013 में नहीं जा पाईं थी – वही साल जब सब जल-मग्न  हो गया था। परिवार ने तब चैन की सांस ली थी कि वो दोनों उस साल चार-धाम यात्रा पर नहीं जा पाईं। वो चैन की सांस जो हज़ारों-लाखों परिवार नहीं ले पाए। हिमालय मुझे फिर बुला रहा है और मैं इस बार कुछ डरता हुआ सा, पहली बार ऐसा महसूस करते, जा रहा हूँ।

Motorcycle Diaries… Road to Ladakh… The Trip Is Ready!

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Road to Leh Blog

Trip is ready! June-July 2016… anyone joining 🙂 ?

Motorcycle Diaries. Road to Ladakh… Preparation Begins

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New Delhi – Ladakh – Srinagar – New Delhi. This one is the Holy Grail for all the bike riders of the world – 3200kms of the toughest terrain any biker can bargain for. Starting the preparation. Having done it already in 2012 as part of Royal Enfield Himalayan Odyssey, 2012, I know what it takes.

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This motorcycling journey would cover 3 mountain ranges, six passes and touch the daring heights of 18,380 feet at Khardung La  – world’s highest motorable road and brings you to Ladakh – the land of high passes.

Last time, I rode there I was 30. Now, I would be 36. Can the body sustain the ride? The weather, the oxygen or rather the lack of it, the terrain, et al? It commands a grilling fitness regime before you even venture into thinking about this Trip – both for you and your Enfield. Trying to stay true to it.

Despite the challenge it offers, there isn’t any dearth of bikers who have done this trip – you’d find so many of them, try searching on Google! However, my earlier travel to Ladakh taught me a useful lesson – every ride to this Himalayan abode will be a new test, an altogether different one every time you venture on it; it doesn’t get any easier with earlier experience that one may have of riding on to this absolutely stunning journey.

This ride can be a truly difficult learning experience – it tests you on much more than expert biking skills; it teaches many things too – about yourself! Every biker dreams about this Trip. Having done that already, I am daring to relive this dream yet again this year, and making it go real very soon.

“If you go to the Odyssey as a boy, you will return a man; if you go as a man, you will return a sage, and if you go as a sage, surprisingly you will return as a boy”. Those were the words with which Dr. Venki Padmanabhan, then CEO of Royal Enfield, flagged off the 2012 Himalayan Odyssey, 2012.

Am I trying to find that boy in me? Shall keep you all posted on this ride of a lifetime!

PS: Read here about more on Motorcycle Diaries

Written by RRGwrites

January 26, 2016 at 12:40 PM

Are You Geared For Life?

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GearforlifeI am happy to share with you all that yours truly’s ‘Motorcycle Diaries’ are now being featured by the ‘Gear for Life’ – a community floated by Wildcraft India. (Follow the link here: http://gearforlife.in/rishi-raj-gupta)

‘Gear for Life’ is a unique community that has been built for the engaging individuals in the domain of Outdoors. It is a platform where people can share their ‘outdoor experiences’ with like-minded individuals; a forum where all outdoor enthusiasts & domain experts can share their different opinions, experiences, ideas, tips & tricks, etc. In India, where the outdoor industry is still nascent though rapidly growing, a platform like GFL will help discerning individuals find a single space for information, sharing & interaction.

When they reached out to me last week, seeking my willingness to join and contribute, I was rather happy to share my experiences, which GFL would publish with an aim to inspire individuals and outdoor enthusiasts through stories of beginnings, achievements, learning and new experiences. It is through these stories that various enthusiasts can explore and try something new and different. They told me, ‘Gear for Life’ aims to capture stories that motivate and stimulate people pursue Outdoors. And you all know, ‘The Motorcycles Diaries’ were all pursued and written with the same aim. Hence, this collaboration appeared a great idea!

Whether you are an adventure and outdoor enthusiasts – who take to trails, off-roading, hiking, trek, etc., on a regular basis, OR you are an outdoor aspirant, looking to explore the outdoors – occasionally, ‘Gear for Life’ is your platform.

So, if you are ‘geared’ for life, do follow – http://gearforlife.in

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/gearforlifein

Twitter: https://twitter.com/GearForLifeIn

Written by RRGwrites

July 24, 2013 at 11:41 PM

Motorcycle Diaries. Road to Rezang La Memorial, Rewari…

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Just came back from Rewari, a small town of Haryana off NH-8, about 75 kms south of New Delhi. Though I have visited this place earlier too, today was special, as True and I got the honour of visiting the Rezang La War Memorial located here. A long cherished dream came true today…

For the beginners, battle of Rezang La is arguably the most revered one in the glorious history of the Indian Army. It was a day when ‘a Rajput led a battalion of Ahirs’ and led them so bravely against the might Chinese in the 1962 Indo-China war. 18 November 1962 – this date saw Indian Davids – 3 JCOs and 124 other ranks of the C Company of 13 Kumaon, led by Major Shaitan Singh fight the Chinese Goliath. And history has it; they fought the enemy with valour unparalleled. Only 14 survived, and by the official statistics, they killed over 1700 of the Chinese soldiers! So many bodies, that Chinese were required to fetch 25 trucks to take back their dead! And you must know, these warriors fought here without the support of artillery – such was the location. For this bravery, 13 Kumaon was conferred with several medals – Maj. Shaitan Singh was posthumously conferred the Param Vir Chakra. Eight more received the Vir Chakra while four others the Sena Medal.

Rezang La MemorialYou need to be a real enthusiast to ride your bike to the heights of 17000 feet AMSL, crossing the mighty Chang La in Ladakh, to reach the battleground Chulshul  – a small Ladakhi village – where this battle was fought. Commoners and tourists would know this area more so because of the inviting Pangong Lake (3 Idiots fame). However, some of us also know it for the war memorial that reads the famous lines of Macaulay –

Unlike one to Ladakh, ride to the Memorial at Rewari is very easy. This memorial is housed in a small compound located on the main road, close to the Bus Stand of the town.

Rezang La Memorial RewariRezang La Memorial Rewari4Rezang La Memorial Rewari5Rezang La Memorial Rewari3

This Memorial at Rewari was constructed by the Rezangla Shaurya Samiti. Locals I spoke with shared that memorial functions are held annually by the Samiti in collaboration with local administration and the Kumaon Regiment. These events are also attended by the family members of the martyred soldiers.

It was some feeling being there today… to read the names of the brave souls; each of them died a hero…

I am leaving you with a photograph I clicked at the War Museum at Leh during my earlier ride. Narrating what happened there, it is a chilling read for sure…

Rezang La Memorial Rewari7

Lest we forget, my friends…

The Ghumakkar In Me…

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True

2012 has been really exhilarating. It brought back the biker alive in me…

Just received a flattering commendation from Ghumakkar.com; the Motorcycle Diaries earned for me ‘Featured Author’ citation – a much coveted acclaim amongst the traveller’s fraternity. Ghumakkar is a well-known travel-website, which is home of many like me who believe ‘Travelling is Good’. They had earlier acknowledged the travelog series ‘Motorcycle Diaries. Road to Ladakh…’ as their ‘Featured Story’ in October 2012.

Vibha Malhotra, editor of Ghumakkar, wrote in the citation:

None other than our own Rishi Raj Gupta, whose Motorcycle Diaries have touched new heights both literally and figuratively, is the Featured Author for the month of December 2012. He is an avid bike rider and for him, riding a bike is one way of being one with your surroundings while travelling. He has climbed mountains, defeated difficult terrain, and worked his way through stark, desert landscape on his faithful companion, his bike…

Later, in the month of December 2012, Ghumakkar interviewed me and published the same. Read on…

It all began when in December 2011, Neha, my better half, who doesn’t take no for an answer for long, persisted and booked the new Enfield. However, as she ordered the bike, I still had some dilemma playing in my mind. Whether I’d be able to ride it to my fullest enthusiasm of old times or the hectic work-life would take over after the initial euphoria of a month or so? It was a tough one. Yet, when the desire prevailed over the dilemma, next big question was – should I go for the height of selfism – the single-seater option – one I always wanted to cruise upon?

Neha again came to the fore and supported the decision of bringing home the single-seater pleasure that I later named ‘True’. As I rode it home, I remember making a resolution to myself in January – I would ride to Ladakh.

For a much-employed professional like me and with the nature of the job responsibilities that I have, to many it appeared nearly an impossible task. 18 days off work! Not easy…

Well, I did keep the resolution, and how! You all have travelled to Ladakh with me on the Royal Enfield Himalayan Odyssey’. And not only Ladakh, I ventured on to many more rides this year – Pushkar, Badrinath, Munsiyari…

With Motorcycle Diaries clocking over 11000kms in 2012 till now, and readers & Ghumakkars being more than generous with their admiration, it feels really nice. It is wonderful to resume riding again just like the old times, humbling to receive accolades for these rides, amusing to inspire people for joining the league of leisure-biking, fun to be able to belong to the road, all over again!

Motorcycle Diaries have many more pages to come; that is something I am sure of…

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You can read all travelogs written under ‘Motorcycle Diaries’ here.

Written by RRGwrites

December 3, 2012 at 3:02 AM

Motorcycle Diaries. Road to Munsiyari…Birthi Falls

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Part 5 of the Motorcycle Diaries. Road to Munsiyari…

As we ate our lunch, my eyes didn’t leave the clouds that had started to darken the hamlet of Munsiyari. Panchchuli by now was completely covered with dark clouds. These are the ones that will rain, my instinct spoke with me…

Nitin and I quickly decided; we had seen all that was to be seen at Munsiyari in a day’s time, and we also wanted to save precious drive time for the coming days – the TV news had informed it was raining all over Pithoragarh. So, using the KMVN guidebook, I dialed in the Nainital booking office of KMVN guesthouses and sourced the number for the KMVN at Birthi. Readers would remember that I mentioned about this place in the part-2 of the series. I called Birthi KMVN to find a friendly voice answering it and confirming a booking. Voila! It was easy!

Birthi is a 31kms drive from Munsiyari. Sensing immediacy of rain, we packed fast, cleared the bills and started the ride at 3pm, bidding adieu to this magical town of Munsiyari. On hills, it takes about an hour to cover 30kms, and that’s what we planned. I didn’t want to get lashed in chilling rains one more time, so deploying all carefulness that we should, we rode faster than usual.

Well, adventure it really is, when you ride on the mountains! As we neared Birthi, the sunrays gave way to drizzling. Not again! Birthi was still few kilometers away and sprinkle was really getting steadier. However, this one time we go lucky. Just as we entered the guesthouse, it started to pour heavily. For the first time in three days, it wasn’t pouring on us!

Friendly smiles greeted us and guided us to the best room available. It was really nice – clean, warm beds, CTV with Tata Sky and a geyser; at only Rs.800/- per day, it was a real steal. We loved it!

By the time tea arrived, it had stopped raining and sun came back shining over hills.

Well, didn’t I say in the last blog that silence has a very pleasant sound of its own? You should come to Birthi to experience what I mean. A couple of days away from the madness of the cities, away from what some of us call life, are always welcome. Mountains are such heavens of silence and solitude. And when you get back from this heaven, you come away feeling saner, rejuvenated. You come back a better one…

There is nothing extraordinary about Birthi, at least on the face of it. It is a tiny village, with couple of shops on road and the KMVN guesthouse perched atop a hill, right on the main road. However, what breaks the silence and the dullness is the mighty roar of a waterfall, called Birthi Falls. This is what makes Birthi fall on the tourist map and makes it really a place worth visiting.

Located right behind the guesthouse, this one’s a 126 meters giant of a fall. The staff at the guesthouse guided us to a 200meter trek, which leads to the falls. Some walk it was, up the hill…neatly carved out stairs took us near to the fall. And here is what we saw! These images, I hope, demonstrate to you the beauty of these falls. I wasn’t sure, so I made a video. You can access it on Youtube at (http://youtu.be/m1fqUdPGBj8).

This one’s my personal favorite – on the rocks at Birthi! What a bliss!

Nitin and I really liked this place. Serene, quiet and captivating, as if we weren’t only 600kms away from madness of the metro called Delhi. The guest-house was really well-laid, with a pretty garden and a scenic view of the valley. This is a must-visit place and we were glad that we left Munsiyari and decided to spend a night here…

As I went off to sleep that night, I could very clearly distinguish the sound of silence, only to be broken by the sound of the waterfall. Felt really good…

Next morning, sun came out shining really bright. We bid goodbye to Birthi at 9am.

We didn’t really make a plan as to where we would halt for the day. The fun was in the ride and that we enjoyed that the whole day. Nothing really different happened, as we took the same route back towards Dhaulchhina. Nonetheless, I would definitely share this image we took at the coast of Ram Ganga, where we stopped en route…

Since we ate a heavy breakfast, we kept riding non-stop and arrived at Dhaulchhina at around 2pm. A small jaunt became our lunch-halt here. This is where we chalked out the plan for the day; we decided to ride till Rudrapur and make most of the day, so that the ride for the final day would be easier and shorter. I used my network to book ourselves at Ark Hotel at Rudrapur. Other than Radisson, this is a good option to stay at Rudrapur.

Some ride, it was! We rode almost 300kms this day, and it was 8pm by the time we reached Rudrapur.

Next day, we started leisurely at about 11am. I won’t bore you with details, as after taking you through the magic of Himalayas, describing a ride back home on the plains would be a tad bit too much!

What a lovely ride, these 5 days offered! We covered 1290kms over these five days, scaled an attitude of 2748 AMSL; crossed magical views of pristine beauty of valleys and mountains, snow-capped peaks, witnessed a river as white as if flowing milk, heard the roar of a mighty, 126 meters high waterfall from close corners and rode through the core areas of a wildlife sanctuary, amidst heavy rains…Simply amazing!

Till the next ride, wish you a happy and safe riding…

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‘Motorcycle Diaries. Road to Munsiyari…’ was written in 5 parts. You can read all 5 parts of this travelog here.

Written by RRGwrites

November 26, 2012 at 12:15 AM

Motorcycle Diaries. Road to Munsiyari…Ride to Binsar

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Part 2 of the Motorcycle Diaries. Road to Munsiyari…

For the mountain-rider in me, the hills of Kumaon have always been enchanting and luring. During last four years, I travelled in this land of hills almost like a religion – Kumaon always attracted me towards itself.

While holidaying at Ranikhet three years ago, my wife introduced me to Munsiyari – the Him-Nagari of Uttarakhand, she shared. Since then, I was longing to visit this place.

All these years, one or the other thing came in way of actualizing this wish. However, earlier this year, Nitin and I resolved we would surely ride our bikes to this destination in this year itself.

So, once the monsoons ceased to lash the hills and landslides gave way to safer routes, we planned the much-coveted Trip.

The total distance from Gurgaon to Munsiyari and back is about 1300kms, so we planned a 5-day trip. However, we froze only the first 2 days’ itinerary, thus:

  • Day 1: Gurgaon – Dhaulchhina/Binsar
  • Day 2: Dhaulchhina/Binsar – Munsiyari

For the rest of 3 days, we thought of various options – staying over for a day at Munsiyari, or travelling to Kausani and then Ranikhet, or staying at Almora and then riding back home…we explored various options and finally agreed to decide it en route itself – in the true bikers’ way!

Some homework helped plan the Trip. I took advice from Nandan Jha, a true Ghumakkar! His advice came really handy; he shared that we shouldn’t halt at Almora on Day-one and rather drive ahead to stay at the Binsar Eco Camp. He had explored this place earlier and mentioned good things about it on Ghumakkar.

We also planned in advance our stay at Munsiyari. From amongst the set of resorts(!) and hotels mentioned on the travel-sites, we zeroed down on Bilju Inn. Reasons were simple – this property had geysers installed in their washrooms – a rarity in the sleepy hill-stations of the Himalayas! To top it, we found that this was a newly constructed property and had large rooms at a decent tariff.

Armed with above plan, we started from Gurgaon on October 12, 2012 at 5:15am. Ride to Binsar was approximately 425kms; an early start was a must. We planned the first day well rather elaborately:

  • 200kms: Breakfast: Gurgaon to Moradabad (5am to 9am) (NH 24: via Garhmukteshwar/Gajraula)
  • 110kms: Lunch-break: Moradabad to Haldwani (9:45 to 12:30pm) (NH24 to Rampur / from Rampur NH87 via Bilaspur/Rudrapur/Haldwani)
  • 115kms: Final Destination: Haldwani to Binsar Eco Camp (1:30pm to 6:30pm) (NH 37: via Khairna/Almora)

Morning ride was really great! Weather was extremely pleasant, and turned rather chilly as we crossed Ghaziabad and rode towards Moradabad. With almost negligible traffic, we rode non-stop and took a brief halt at the Ganga-bridge at the holy city of Garhmukteshwar.

Our breakfast break came briefly after at 8:20am, when we stopped at the McDonalds at Gajraula. We had covered 150kms in about three hours – good start!

McDonalds is built right on the highway; around this place there are several other eateries too – Dominos, local players, so options are aplenty.

After a sumptuous breakfast and rest, we resumed the ride. Moradabad came in about an hour; roads till now were simply fantastic! We took the Bypass and reached Rampur soon after. From here, we rode ahead towards Rudrapur via Bilaspur.

Man! These were some bad roads! And bad they were for good 30kms! One really needed to look for tarmac from amongst potholes on this stretch! Negotiating this stretch rather carefully, we arrived at Rudrapur city by 1140am. Haldwani came shortly after at 1245pm; roads from Rudrapur via a forest range to Haldwani were really good.

As I always say during my rides, may God bless VG Siddhartha of the Café Coffee Day chain for opening so many outlets all over the country! At Haldwani, CCD was our lunch-halt. Sandwiches, brownies and coffee – this was real relaxation our bodies needed after a 300kms ride. And good food was a must to boost our spirits for the ride uphill – 130kms to Binsar. After all, you can’t ride empty-stomach!

We resumed the ride at 2pm. As we crossed Kathgodam, straight roads gave way to the serpentine roads of the hills. Though I had initially thought of taking the route via Bhimtal, Nitin rode straight ahead on SH87. Good chance, this was! This road was newly constructed and turned out to be a real smooth ride.

Here I must share with the readers that on our way back, we took the route via Bhimtal. Big error! Please avoid this route – poor roads and heavy traffic will make you forget that this route is shorter by 5kms! At Bhowali, both routes converge and we continued our ride on NH87 towards Almora.

I forgot to mention this earlier; as we resumed our ride from Kathgodam, the bright sunny day gave away to the cloudy sky. Around Bhowali, it started to drizzle and then came a heavy burst of downpour, as we neared the Kainchi Dhaam. This forced us to take an unscheduled break at a nearby tea-stall. Treating ourselves to a hot cup of tea, we wondered if rain would halt our ride so abruptly – we were still 80kms away from Binsar!

Our prayers were answered; the rain stopped in about 20minutes and we recommenced our ride. Minutes after, we arrived at the Kainchi Dhaam, where the famous Ashram of Baba Neeb Karauli is located. This is where Steve Jobs found solace during his maiden trip to India in the seventies!

Surprisingly, sun started to shine over our heads as brightly as if it never rained! With boosted spirits and some warmth back inside us, Khairna came shortly after. It is a small hamlet, about 96kms from Haldwani. This is the point from where roads to Almora and Ranikhet bifurcate; tourists and travellers love to have light refreshments here. The road ascends to Almora, which is about 33kms from here.

We reached Almora by 4:45pm. Whew! This was some ride till now – 400kms!

As we touched Almora, a signage declared Binsar to be 33kms ahead, on a road that diverted to the left. As we took this de-tour, we thought of it to be some kind of bypass to avoid the congestion of bustling Almora city. However, this wasn’t right; people guided us back to the heart of the town and then after several rechecks, we came back on our route to Binsar.

At 6pm, as we reached Binsar, sun was setting behind the mountains. This was some scene. And we clicked a lot of pics here! What a view it was!

As the sun was setting on one side, scary, dark clouds were looming from the other. Again, I could observe a few raindrops. You’d note some of them on the adjoining image too…

Scared, we quickly rode towards Binsar Eco Camp.

This is where it started to go all wrong!

As we entered the resort, we realized we have arrived at Binsar Eco Resort, instead of our destination Binsar Eco Camp! All this while, in our misplaced enthusiasm, we were chasing a wrong address! 20minutes wasted in this confusion, the managers here guided us to what we thought was the right address. Not to be…

Another 30mintues ride, sun had finally set and rain was looming over our heads! We reached the entry gate to the Binsar Wildlife Sactuary, where to our dismay, the forest gaurds told us that we have come on an altogether wrong route. They shared that Binsar Eco Camp wasn’t located at Binsar; it was at Dhaulchhina!

It was 7pm and drizzle was persistent. So we requested the guards to tell us the shortest possible route. That they did, and how!!

We were guided towards a route, which went through the wildlife sanctuary, just beneath the core-jungle-area (we were told this later!). Now, as we entered this lonely, scary track, came down the heaviest downpour one could imagine.

Well, I must share that I have travelled on some very lonely stretches; this was proved to be the scariest of all. Completely dark it was, we brothers rode our bikes non-stop in the only source of lights – the bikes’ headlights! This was a typical forest track, and rains made it all the more difficult to negotiate the ride. We stopped several times to check the signal of the phone – no respite. What made us ride ahead in this pitch dark jungle located upon the mounts in the dead of rainy night was the my belief/experience – people in hills don’t lie! After all, the guard had said that the forest track would end in 13kms and route to Dhaulchhina would emerge!

Bang on right he was! Just as my bike’s meter clocked 13kms, we came out to a neat tarmac. By now, we were completely drenched and shivering. And it didn’t help that there weren’t any signage that could guide us to either left or right. Fortunately, mobile phone’s signals were back and we called the Camp to locate the address.

30minutes later, amidst heavy rains, we arrived at Dhaulchhina, a hamlet where Binsar Eco Camp was located above a hillock.

We arrived inside the property to find it covered in pitch dark – there wasn’t any electricity and no power backup too! Well, I must say by now I was kind of irritated and lost my cool at the young Gaurav Mehra, son of the owner Mr. Kesar Singh Mehra, for not installing any signages of his property anywhere on route, right from Almora. Young, but smart lad he turned out to be! He quickly gauged the reasons behind my annoyance, conversed very politely, trying to dowse my displeasure. We couldn’t see much in absence of electricity; candles were all we had to quickly change into fresh & warm clothing! It was very cold out there!

We were guided towards a small bon-fire near the kitchen area; we desperately needed to dry-up our gloves and shoes at least; they were extremely necessary for the ride next day.

We chatted for an hour, about a lot of things. By now, some warmth had seeped in – both from the fire and Gaurav’s pleasant demeanor; we felt better. He shared that the right route to Binsar Eco Camp was from Almora towards Dhaulchhina, which is a distance of about 33kms and NOT towards Binsar. He also shared that the guards at the sanctuary’s gate guided us to take the track just beneath the core-forest-area, in order to save time! Some nerve-chilling revelation to us, this was!

Over dinner, we learnt many things about Binsar. Simple, vegetarian food came as a seven-course meal to us hungry, tired souls!

Almost immediately thereafter, we went off to sleep, praying for a clean sky the next day…

Ride to Munsiyari to be continued to the next blog…

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‘Motorcycle Diaries. Road to Munsiyari…’ was written in 5 parts. You can read all 5 parts of this travelog here.

Motorcycle Diaries. True at Munsiyari…

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Part 1 of the Motorcycle Diaries. Road to Munsiyari…

Just returned from a ride to the Him-nagari of Uttarakhand – Munsiyari. True and I covered 1290kms over five days, scaled an attitude of 2748 AMSL; crossed magical views of pristine beauty of valleys and mountains, snow-capped peaks, witnessed a river as white as if flowing milk, heard the roar of a mighty, 120 meters high waterfall from close corners and rode through the core areas of a wildlife sanctuary, amidst heavy rains…

It was some fun…

Leaving you with this magical moment of True standing tall in front of the grandeur of the Panchchuli Peaks.

Detailed Motorcycle Diaries of this Trip will follow soon.

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‘Motorcycle Diaries. Road to Munsiyari…’ was written in 5 parts. You can read all 5 parts of this travelog here.

Written by RRGwrites

October 14, 2012 at 7:27 PM

Motorcycle Diaries. Road to Ladakh…Riding Back Home…

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Part 8 of the Motorcycle Diaries. Road to Ladakh…

Day 13 to Day 16: July 5-8, 2012; Debring – Keylong – Manali – Chandigarh – New Delhi: This was the last leg of the ride. A ride that took us to the farthest off places. The places, where life appeared so different, surroundings appeared so serene, away from the chaos of the urban world, no phones, no emails, no meetings…we only answered the call of the mountains…

Since the route was more or less that same for a large part of this journey, I am skipping the daily details and writing the last part of the travelogue in one go.

All through the route from Debring to Keylong, the weather was pretty cold. Morey Plains, Pang, Sarchu, Lachulung La, Nakee La and the Gata Loops were all familiar now – there weren’t any surprises in the store en route, barring the fact that weather was dramatically icier this time. I kept craving for a hot cup of tea – such was the chill in the weather. With clouds over our heads, and rain looming, we rode almost non-stop and arrived at Bharatpur, which was our stopover for lunch.

Yet again, our break at Bharatpur was a long and tiring one – 4hours this time; some riders and the support vans were lagging behind. Once fed and rested, we all felt drowsy and lethargic! Rainy clouds were intimidating over our heads, and it didn’t help our morale that many of us had packed our rain-gear inside the main luggage! Dreading the impending showers, everyone passed this time really impatiently. However, we left only after everyone of us arrived and was accounted for.

Crossing Bara-lacha La, Darcha and Jispa, we reached Keylong by 7pm.

Next morning, much time wasted by at the petrol pump at Tandi – remember the legendary petrol pump I wrote about earlier – first after 325kms from Karu! Luckily, Sun God shone upon us with all its might, boosting our energies and the riders appeared all geared up for our ride to Manali.

After a largely uneventful ride for 45kms, we arrived at Koksar, which is the police check-post. This is the point from where a route goes towards Rohtang Pass and Manali and another one towards Kaza – the route we came from. Our wait was longer than expected here – men at the Police post appeared hell-bent on creating bureaucratic hurdles, something that we hadn’t face although our earlier journey. Moreover, the traffic appeared more chaotic than earlier – we learnt that there was huge jam all through the mighty Rohtang La!

Well, jammed it were. And it didn’t help that there was slush all over the highway. I had this fear looming inside me about riding in slush. And the bustling traffic didn’t help my apprehensions.

I am sparing the readers with details on what I saw at and around Rohtang – surprisingly, I didn’t find this Pass any tougher than Bara-lacha la. If it were not for slush and traffic, it would’ve been a smooth sail. However, I must say, riding amidst the clouds atop the Pass was some experience I would never forget…

After Rohtang, it appeared as if it were grand picnic spot all over! As if entire Punjab and Himachal gathered there! Eateries were aplenty on this stretch and so were the arrogant, abusive drivers! Honk, abuse, honk, abuse! Welcome to the neo-plains crowd!

Negotiating this heavy traffic jam, we riders descended Rohtang and arrived at Marhi, a small village en route. This was an extremely crowded place, with hordes of eateries and car parks. I was amongst the first few to arrive in here. This place turned out to be good fun! Our ‘boys moment was back! See for yourself.

Drive from here to Manali was easy – good roads and moderate traffic took us to Manali in next one hour.

Manali, a fabulous hill-station of yesteryears, is now a severely crowded and chaotic town. It appeared to me as Karol Bagh Market on a Sunday! So, I didn’t enjoy the place as much as I enjoyed the ‘Tandoori Amritsari Fish’, a superb preparation that I found at a small jaunt in the main-market! That made the day for me!

Next morning, we woke up to mild rains. It was a long day ahead – ride to Chandigarh was over 300kms. First 150kms, we rode non-stop amidst rains. The Beas River, flowing beside us, was at it roaring best. In fact, there was so much mist over it that one couldn’t possibly see the flowing water!

Good thing that roads were in excellent condition. So, despite it rained really heavily, we didn’t face any untoward incident and arrived at Bilaspur, our halt for lunch.

The State Guesthouse, located just outside the town of Bilaspur, just like other State-run organizations, was more than reluctant to host 60 riders! As if we wouldn’t have paid 🙂

Ride from hereon to Chandigarh can be divided into two parts – one, which is atop the hilly terrain, where we faced heavily loaded trucks riding at less that 20kmph and the other part, where the highway towards Chandigarh via Mohali – for over 80kms, was any rider’s delight. What a contrast of a ride it were!

The evening at Chandigarh was very relaxed; we were heading back home! Chats, dinner and drinks, not necessarily in the same order, went late into night. Discussions took place on all possible areas – Indian Culture, the ills of dowry, friendliness that biker-riders share on the road and car-drivers don’t, et al. No one even mentioned Delhi, as if we all wanted to avoid the ride’s end…some bonhomie this were…

Next morning was electric! This was the last day of our ride – 16 wonderful, eventful days were about to come to an end. Photographs and hugs were galore…kind of farewell before we wished farewell at Delhi…

Superb highway between Chandigarh and New Delhi took only 5-6 hours for us to arrive in at Gurgaon. We rode on NH-1 yet again! The same NH-1 that was also present at Leh! Riders, many of them, confided in me how they hated riding on such nice roads, they missed the ‘no roads’ of the mighty Ladakh! So true, it was…

A big bash at a South Delhi Pub marked an end to this glorious journey. The ride of the lifetime, it was. Royal Enfield team was at its hosting best, and we cheered every time a rider’s photograph was projected on the screen.

Late that night, when I was biding goodbye to my friends, a strange feeling of loneliness hit me. Next day wasn’t gonna be the same – no early morning ride, no Maggi as a staple diet, no fearing the heights, no looking forward to that next big Pass…

Words of Venky came back to my thoughts…“If you go to the Odyssey as a boy, you will return a man; if you go as a man, you will return a sage, and if you go as a sage, surprisingly you will return as a boy”.

Three months down the lane now, the echo of these words haven’t left my mind…indeed, the odyssey has had a casting effect upon me…

Odyssey came to an end on July 8, 2012. However, memories of the odyssey are etched in my heart and mind, forever.

Mountains are calling yet again…I am getting ready for the next ride…

Till the next ride, good bye and safe riding!

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‘Motorcycle Diaries. Road to Lodakh…’ was written in 8 parts. You can read all 8 parts of this travelog here.

Published during July-September 2012, this series of travelog – ‘Motorcycle Diaries. Road to Ladakh…’was recognized by Ghumakkar.com as their Featured Story of the Month, October 2012.

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