2017 was hell for me. I had not enough leaves to get myself a long trip. I was just waiting for 2018 to come and see myself getting my leave portal on company website get filled. I got 27 leaves for this year which was perfect as per the math I had done prior to seeing it online. Still less for a true wanderer like me. But being a corporate slave, you need to be content with what you get.
Spiti was revolving in my head since the previous year. I had heard a lot about it and its beauty through Facebook and Insta. A lot of my traveller friends had already visited this place and after seeing the pictures, it was a natural magnetic attraction and considered a sin to not visit this very beautiful district nestled somewhere in the corners of Himachal Pradesh. An unknown place to many. It was after this only I decided that this would be my first trip of 2018 and started preparing for it. The trip dates were decided from 23rd-1st April. The dates were chosen taking into the interest of other 2 people, or rather only single person. The third one runs a business, so leaves had nothing to do with him. The question was only of Bimal ji, our senior rider, I had to align the dates wrt his leaves. He has a government job and hence the problem. Soon the itinerary was prepared day wise and made ready. The main intention of our ride was to enjoy winters in Spiti, as winters in Spiti are just awesome. Winters give a different feel to the place and also we wanted to see how life was in Spiti during Winters. I had proof to show just in case someone doubted my beliefs. Spiti covered with snow blankets, that’s what my eyes wanted to see. This was also my first time going into snowy region and, until now in my life I hadn’t touched snow. I knew it was not going to be easy experiencing extreme cold and minus temperatures. Even experiencing my city temperatures during winters was a herculean task for me, which would not normally fall below 10 degrees. The preparation was done considering the extreme temperatures there. Both for ourselves and bikes. We had prepared for the worst even though it was March ending and beginning of summer season.
The flight tickets had been booked both for oncoming and return. This time we were going to start our journey from Chandigarh, to save travel days and fatigue and to start fresh. I opted to ship the bike by train after many consultations and research. Earlier my plan was to send the bike by truck but, somehow later as the trip dates approached, I ditched the plan as it was proving costly too me. Also, since this was my first experience of shipping the bike to a certain destination, I decided to go with the train route first.
So, the train option was finalised and I got a contact of local packer in Mumbai who was going to help me with this shipment process. The charge of shipping the bike through train was the cheapest of all the mediums of transport. You can find the detail procedure of shipping the bike on the FB blog page ‘The Journey’.
Bimal ji was going to send his bike through truck carrier ‘GATI’. It was his 2nd trip to Spiti, but in winters, his first. Last time also he had sent his bike through ‘GATI’ and hence he had decided to go with the same option as last time. Karan, the third guy, lives in Jalandhar which is just 150kms from Chandigarh. He was going to drive to Chandigarh a day earlier and help us with our unpacking.
So, now that the transport things was sorted out. It was time to pack our luggage and just wait for the day to come. I had prepared a small 5 min video of what all I was going to carry for the trip but, the video got deleted even before the trip could start. In the process of clearing the data in my SD card and be ready for the trip, I deleted the video along with the old content it had. I noticed this when we landed in Chandigarh and it was too late then.
Things I was carrying:
Clothing Side: 2 Big Thermal Jackets, 2 Paris of Inner thermals, 8 pair of woolen socks, 3 pair of riding gloves (Decathlon Wedze Sub Zero gloves, Normal Day Riding Gloves and fleece gloves) , 2 pair of Neck warmers, 1 Skull Cap, 1 woolen shall, 1 jeans. This is enough to protect you from the harsh winters.
Tool kit for bike repair, extra pair of tyre tubes, spark plugs, fuses, insulation tape, chain lock, binoculars( for spotting Snow Leopard), Jute Ropes for tyre grip ( we ditched the plan of using snow chains for our tyres as we later came to know that there was no snow left on the roads, but still kept the jute ropes), big plastic cloth to protect in case of light showers, LED torches, Toiletry stuffs, ORS sachet to prevent dehydration, Spike Guard, Power banks, DSLR Camera and GoPro etc.
Apart from this we also made our own Tour stickers and T-shirts just to double our excitement and also as a remembrance of our trip later on.
My Indigo flight was at 12:15am on 23rd and when I was about to leave my house earlier that evening around 10:30pm, I got a message saying that the flight has been postponed to 1:20am.
Shit happens everywhere, and so I did not pay heed. My flight was not a direct one and instead it was going to land in Delhi first and then there was a 4 hrs gap before I got hold of my next flight to Chandigarh. So the delay in the first flight did not deter me. My waiting time at the Delhi airport only got reduced. I landed in Chandigarh around 7:30am almost the same time Bimal ji landed.
He came via Air India flight which was also connecting. We headed afterwards towards GATI showroom in Panchkula to get his bike. The bike was safe and sound and only had a minor dent on the fuel tank which I think might have happened during loading or unloading of the bike.
And then, once his bike was made ready we both headed towards Chandigarh railway station parcel office to collect my bike. My bike too was damaged a little, the front left indicator mount had been bent which I corrected it there and then itself. I had called Karan on the way when we were heading towards the railway station to meet us there directly. Just as the bikes were being made ready, Karan arrived with all zeal and enthusiasm and we were even more desperate now to start out trip. The only thing limiting us was the fuel in the tank since there was none in my tank. Railways have a condition to empty the fuel tank before they consider your bike for shipping. The fuel was available with Karan, we just had to find the means to transfer it from his tank. After much local sourcing we got a plastic pipe which we used to transfer fuel. Once I ensured that the bike would start, I got all suited up and we were now ready for our trip to officially begun. The time was around 11:30am.
The first thing we did is to fill up our tanks and then headed straight for the mountains. Since Chandigarh is situated at the foothills of the mountains or the other way round, the Himalayas end at Chandigarh. It did not took us long before we could see the mountains approaching. Since it was almost lunch time, we thought of having break before we go any further. We stopped at a road side dhaba and had a proper lunch of Dal Makhni and Roti along with salad. The buttery Dal was just awesome. We were struck by the sheer amount of butter on the Dal, a remembrance that we were in a region where butter is almost used in every dish or without butter there is no dish. We paid the bill and moved on.
The roads were like good 4 lane highways but not the entire stretch. As we approached the base of the mountains the roads turned off-road. The earlier 4 lane highway expansion work was going on and hence the condition. The temperature was hot and hence we had not put any extra liner inside our jacket before we started from the station. The conditions of the road improved after a 10-15 kms bad patch. We were now heading towards Shimla.
The temperature started to get cold as we ascended and the weather turned like it was rainy season. We were greeted with light drizzle as we climbed up ahead. Our speed reduced till we exited Shimla.
Shimla was crowded with tourists and their narrow roads made the traffic even slower. The traffic was bound to be there since it was start of the summer season and the final exams have of students had recently been finished. We were taken back the sudden drop in temperatures and our hand literally started to freeze.
I was still using the day riding gloves and the sub-zero gloves were inside my saddle bag. Maybe I was lazy at that time not to open and wear them. I was just testing myself then. Since we had only done lunch and not breakfast, we stopped after Shimla to have something to eat for ourselves. We had a hot cup of tea along with grilled sandwiches.
We really felt that we had lost our energies and after that late afternoon snack it was all restored. The cold temp made us pee very often. Our days halt was at Narkanda as per the plan. We could now see mountains and only mountains everywhere.
The traffic thinned after Shimla as most of them, especially the tourists come only till shimla at this time of the year. The region up ahead still faces harsh winter climate and is not bearable especially for tourists. It is travellers like us only who venture ahead in the name of adventure and excitement. It’s not the fear but he excitement of the unknown. We reached Narkanda around 6:30pm and just at it started to get dark the temp dropped exponentially. We were literally taken by surprise. We were shivering now. Completely unexpected. The hotel stay was pre-planned and we had contacted the owner on our way.
Without wasting much time we quickly offloaded our luggage into the rooms. We got a good room for a pre negotiated deal of 1200 bucks. The room had all the provisions. Good thick blankets and provision to get hot water in morning. Looked like our hot water journey has just begun. Venturing out in the open without protecting yourself was near to suicide. It was that cold. Soon there was complete silence in the village. During our offloading of the luggage we could see some people over the bonfire but it was extinguished now and it was completely dark. Whatever light was there it was coming from the moon, the starts and the houses.
It looked like all of sudden the entire village evaporated. The arrangement at the hotel was only of stay and so we had to go to the central market place to find food for ourselves. Before we head outside, we had warmed ourselves comfortably with the Rum which we carried with ourselves. It gave us the required warmth and whatever additional warmth our thermals layers and jacket could provide us.
We got a decent hotel at the circle near the temple and ate whatever the hotel guy could offer us. Initially we had scrambled eggs along with bread for the start and then we ordered Chicken and Paneer along with roti for the main course.
Eating the food after a good drink was altogether a different kind of fun. In no time we headed back to our rooms and fell for the night. The night which was cold. Our earlier plan included visiting of Hatu Temple in the evening after we boarded our rooms but seeing the dark and cold conditions we decided it to postpone for tomorrow. Whatever thermals we had brought for the protection, it was all on us. The bags were empty. I put an alarm to wake me up early. I had different plans for the early morning. I was going to make a beautiful sunrise time-lapse and I knew without the alarm, waking up in this cold temp would be a challenge. With the excitement in mind we all slept with the thick blankets the owner of the hotel had given us. Day 1 of the trip had really went well……..