Day 1; July 5, 2015
Distance: 181 kms
Elevation: 1150ft to 8860ft
The much anticipated day was finally here. Day 1 morning.
PoshGoondas were anxious to get the ride underway. We had decided to meet for breakfast around 7.00/7:30am giving us ample time to have a good breakfast and then head back to our rooms for a final pack and gear check. Poshgoondas Roadtrip was finally about to start and we couldn’t wait to get going. Helmet, Pants, Jacket, Gloves, GoPro, Cameras. All check and ready. Carried our bags down to be collected and loaded on to the Back Up Vehicle -‘The Danger Road‘. The Backup Vehicle would follow us as the last vehicle in our ‘convoy’. It carried our luggage, some snacks, water and essential spares.
The Bikes – all variations of the Royal Enfield Bullet – were fired up and warming up, as we set up our Tank bags which housed cameras, spares gloves and what-nots. I found myself referring to my Bike as Steed and so it stood to be named.
We set out around 9:45am. We were pretty much excited. More than that, standing around in Gear in the warm temperatures was getting to be uncomfortable. We craved to get moving and let the air cool us down. We had been warned about the hot morning ride. The route was fairly ‘urban’, narrow roads, lot of traffic. This would be slow and warm ride for about 2hrs. We had to ride out from a busy section of Chandigarh and it’s Sunday morning drivers. We kept a tight convoy to our first stop – a petrol station – to fuel up. That done, we were truly on our way.
This was our first time riding in Indian conditions. So we did look a tad anxious and tentative. All of us, I believe, were using this time to get acquainted with our bikes. New or old, these bikes tend to show some unique quirks which become habit to the rider. Add to that getting familiar with road traffic and it’s weird nuances. We had to unlearn everything we knew about disciplined traffic. All within our own limits and being safe and secure. We were not in any race. The convoy soon settled down as it thumped along. Each rider within eyesight range of the rider behind. Vir and his Triumph Bonneville leading the pack. I dropped back initially, rounding up the pack from behind and I also wanted to grab the riders on my GoPro which was mounted on the left handlebar.
Around two hours into the rather uneventful boring ride, we were hailed down by the riders ahead to a small layby on a turn. It was Sam’s bike. The rear had a flat. This made for a good Chai (one of many Chai breaks we had over the next 12 days of riding!) stop at a popular spot. This was close to a popular weekend resort called Timber Trail Resort. And also a good spot for a break for the weekend warriors on their speed rockets from Chandigarh and Bikers cities for quick breakfast run up to Shimla. The hot Chai in the typical small glass or tumbler was a welcome drink. We were on a gradual ascent and the air was getting cooler with a few spits of rain. DangerRoad caught up with us. Examined the crime scene. Realized that this needed to go into a shop and they headed to the nearest town to get the tire (tyre) fixed. Meanwhile, Vir being well known in the Motorcycle circles in India, we briefly met a few groups riding through and had a chance to gawk at their mostly customized bikes. Tire fixed. Back on the road.
We rode on. Vir decided to stop at a spot surrounded by Eucalyptus Trees. Another nice break from the slow paced ride due to the weekend traffic. It was good chill for about half an hour. Kalpesh was having a rough time with the heat. Under the jacket he was constantly drenched. Every stop was used to change shirts. The wettest shirt would then be tied to back of the bike to dry out. At this stop too, a quick change of shirts happened as we quietly got that on a video. Memories!
Next stop Shimla. We stopped at the Royal Enfield Showroom to pick up a supply of spares and sundries. A good photo-op spot. Some downtime. And off again towards lunch.
Vir had promised us some nice hot fresh Stuffed Parathas. Just the thought of these put some extra pressure on the throttle. Parathas were as promised at Himalayan Fast Food. Places like these get you acquainted and familiar with the real India. The ‘restaurant’ was what Indians call a Dhaba. It’s primary purpose is to serve fresh hot food. “Restrooms” or similar such conveniences are not direct revenue earners. Thus they are either non-existent or if they do exist – in a condition and state – you wouldn’t want to send your best enemy! The surrounding trees and bushes are your best friend if the bladder is to be relieved! Welcome to India. #IncredibleIndia! Lunch done, we rode on. Our next stop would be our night stop at Tethys Ski Resort on the outskirts of a small town called Narkanda.
Poshgoondas rode onwards. Eager to get this 1st day out of the way. The boring day. I did catch myself thinking ‘We have 12 days of this? What the hell did we get ourselves into?’ Fortunately Vir and I go back a few years and I was aware of what lay ahead and I quietly reassured myself of the adventure ride actually commencing from the next day onwards. Just as we were thumping along spiffingly, the rain gods intervened. And just at that time we hit a railway (railroad) crossing. Traffic packed edge to edge. The gates stayed shut for an eternity and a day. When the train did turn up, it was once of those ‘never ending’ trains. Rattling on and on and on. While we stood engines idling, packed in by rain, cars, trucks and the odd cow. While I was geared up to ride in the rain, it was still prudent to stop somewhere to avoid some truck or car not seeing us and swatting us like flies. A forced stop turned into another Chai and Biscuit (Crackers) break. The drenched dry weather gloves were swapped out for waterproofs. At times like these, the importance of proper gear is highlighted. Just as suddenly as it came down, the rain stopped. Blue skies. White wispy clouds. Back on the road. An uneventful last leg brought us riding a last few kms of a winding gravel trail into a welcoming Hotel – Tethys Ski Resort. Welcomed by a number of bikes parked outside the hotel. We later learnt that this was a group of about 25 bikes originally from Mumbai/Pune and heading roughly along with our planned route. Truly a Biker Friendly Hotel.
Our rooms were in the newer wing of the hotel – all rooms around an almost private lounge area. Once the electronics were plugged in to recharge it was time for a personal recharge with some nice hot coffee and chit chat. Only to while the time away to the time for the fireside Sun-downers followed by a hot Indian buffet meal. All in all a nice day’s ride.
The ride from Chandigarh to Narkanda is mostly a blurred memory. Riding a motorbike for the first time in 20 years, and the crazy traffic with maniac drivers meant for most of the time I was too focused on the ride to be able to remember much that went by. However there was one incident that was highlight of the day for me.
The happened during a forced break about 25-30 kms from Chandigarh. We had just left the plains and started climbing the mountains when one of the bikes, Sam’s had a punctured tyre. We stopped at a Dhaba (roadside cafe) which seemed to be popular with bikers for repair and some refreshments. There were around 30-40 bikers kitted with all kinds of protective gear. Discussions about bikes and gear were only interrupted by sips of hot sweet tea. Then suddenly, everyone’s attention is towards the road (opposite side) coming down the hill. We all looked. And it was the strangest sight. A sadhu (hermit) dressed in what can only be described as a loin cloth and long dreadlocks tied over his head in a bundle was cruising down the hill on a Royal Enfield Bullet. He rode past all of us wide-eyed bikers with a casual wave, wondering what was all the fuss about and probably laughing away looking at our suits of armor – our Gear. It was a pity we did not have the cameras handy. This surely would have been one of those ‘Once in a Lifetime’ kind of a picture.
At the Eucalyptus Tree spot. It was at this spot that a memorable, humorous situation occurred. We had Fiona in our group, who stood out with her blond hair. This blond hair seemed to be a strange attraction for the local ‘Bwoys’ thinking themselves to be Cool Dudes. A car filled with four such cool dudes drove in from the opposite direction, looked at our group and stopped the car, got out and started walking towards our group. Quite the strong silent type act gone all wrong. Almost comical, rather. One cooler than cool Dude, walks up to Fiona and proclaims ‘I want to take picture with you!‘ While we stood amused, Vir went into a ‘stern mode’, looked at the Dude, uttered a few choice words and sent the Cool Dude – almost whimpering back to his car – and probably back home to mommy! #IncredibleIndia
After all the excitement of preparing for the ride, it was good to finally get on the road. There was a little anxiety since I was in unfamiliar territory and had no idea on the challenges ahead. Day 1 was memorable in that we rode through relatively crowded roads and had to get used to overtaking slow moving vehicles on a 2-lane road with relatively poor visibility to oncoming traffic. All of us gradually got used to the conditions (bike, weather and road conditions) and at the end of the day it felt good to reach a height of around 8,000 ft and start seeing beautiful landscape in Narkanda.
I woke up very early on our first day of the trip. Even the front desk staff at the hotel were sleeping, but I quietly slipped out of the hotel and went for a long walk. Right outside the hotel people were doing yoga in the garden. As it was Jambuda season, some young folks had climbed the tree outside to pick the fruit. I thought I will find some lari-ni chai (Streeet Chai), but no luck. After the walk, got ready and had lovely breakfast – I must say Fern Residency stay was amazing. All four of us had our posh goondas tshirts on, so photo session started right there. Once we had our gear on and checked out, it was time to select our bikes, Jatin and Rakesh got the two new bullets that were added to the fleet on prior evening. Anyway I got probably the oldest bike, only one which was not black, it was gold, and only one which had L missing in Royal and fi missing in Enfield. Not to mention the battery was so old that every morning rest of the trip the mechanic had to charge it – to get the bike going. It was amazing how he used two metal wires to connect the battery from another bike to charge the battery in my bike. But once it got going it rode like any other bullet and love its unique beat sound.
Started our journey from Chandigarh, had to getting used to all the heavy gear we had on – not to mention the summer heat, but it really protected me( a Floridian) in the mountains from the cold. The first day ride was on regular roads and with local traffic, which I have always loved. Every year I visit India I have to drive a vehicle – car or motorbike, than only my trip is complete. I love the challenge of no traffic rules. Main thing is to start honking, which we rarely do in USA. But I learnt very important rule from Vir as I was following him that he never overtook the trucks from the wrong side. One can say this was a boring ride but definitely it was still very scenic, more greenery and valleys and houses on hillsides. It was definitely a long ride and glad to end the day at a beautiful resort overlooking into the valley and scenes as mentioned earlier.