Saturday, February 14, 2015

Himalayan Raid: The Ice Run Trial at World's highest Go-kart track @9000ft

What better way to can there be for a solitary traveler like me to celebrate my birthday midst the grandest of the mountain's elevation point at 9000 feet? Nothing!! The place was chosen. Kufri in Himachal it was!
Me in the Kasauli Hills

Some insights about the place. It was accidentally discovered by the British in 1819. It was once a part of the Kingdom of Nepal. It has the world's highest go-kart track. It receives a very low sunlight and snowfall seems common till late Winters.

It was Wednesday evening when the trip started after a bike wash. The bike looked pretty spanking clean! Now as like a warrior is incomplete without scars, likewise a touring machine without some mud is incomplete.

A short GPS search gave me the route. It was Chandigarh, then to Shimla and then to Kufri. Shimla is connected via rail, although a Narrow Gauge line maintained by the Northern Railways. From there, it is 13kms by road to Kufri. However, I chose a better way to go in style. My beloved steed it was and the best way we like to travel - by road ridden down fast while catching the wind in my hair.
Enroute Chandigarh

Fillinf up somewhere at Haryana. Fuel price Rs56.93/Lit

The road to Chandigarh is the easy highway from North Delhi. However, near the Guru Teg Bahadur memorial, it gets ugly. Lookout for idiots running across the highway. Post that, its a very good stretch to test out your Superbikes and Supercars. Cars were doing easily 120+. Spotted a Triumph 675 Speed Triple, a few Harley's, a couple of RS5s, some pimped up Indian cars and a huge number of KTMs.

This road is so good that your speeds will automatically climb to triple digits, well there are some bad patches though. Very soon, just before Sunset, I managed to cross into Karnal. It was already dark by the time I reached Chandigarh. Hunger was crawling around the corner and to satisfy it satisfyingly, had a Samosa Chaat just opposite the Gurudwara at Ambala.

The road to Shimla is just on the semi-outskirts of Chandigarh. Its a right turn and you go straight ahead bolt on. This road is even better than the Delhi-Chandigarh road. A few kms off and the hills starts with this beautiful road curving around the beautiful foothills of the Himachali Himalayas.

The initial plan was to hit Kaza and come back. I was still thinking inside my helmet as I rode on the beautiful curvaceous road. I had a bit of time, but it was the hills and you never know what happens on the next turn. One town caught my attention and it was Kasauli. Its a cantonment town and around 12 kms off the route. As the lust to be at the place was creeping into my thoughts, the decision was made. I was stopping for the night at Kasauli, remembering from the movie The Kasauli cowboys.
Kasauli at Night

Kasauli in the evening - HDR via phone

It was one of the thinnest mountain road I had ever seen and it was probably in the same state since a long time. After around 10kms or a bit more, I had no potential left to reach Kasauli as the view of the perched town had already mesmerized me. I was camping barely 10meters off the road. The view of the town was really amazing. The photos could not do a bit of justice to that view.

It was Thursday morning now and the chirping of the mountain birds and woken me up. It was really the most beautiful morning I had ever woken up to. The golden sunrays was turning white with a very few clouds under the vast deep blue sky. It was one sunrise to feel and get lost in this beautiful world. I was about to click it but decided to feel the moment rather than click it.

Had a MRE pack for the morning breakfast. And it was already time to leave the place. Packed up my stowaway tent and off I was to Shimla. The shops were still opening and very few tourists were seen. The cold mountain breeze was taking me to heights as I climbed up the swirling roads. Soon I was past Dharampur and on.

Visited Kufri for a bit. Rode a Yak. It was a beautiful animal and so powerful yet so gentle. Visited fun world at Kufri. It hosts the world's highest track at over 9000ft. I could see the black ice and never dared to venture into it. Hardly I knew that I was going to ride in black ice for 10-15kms after sometime.
Yaks - The golden one was a She and was beautiful

More Riding... :P

To Kufri

Got out of Kufri and continued my route towards Kaza now. I just wanted to have it all, well in a single venture. Reached Kalpa by evening after crossing Fagu, Theog and Rampur. Camped in the nearby snow laden pines and bushes. Just after Theog, in a small town called Kumarsan, a road emerges to Manali. Its also the place from where the Sutlej river runs parallel to the road. I was not interested in going there as its reserved for the Final Himalan Raid.

It was already eveningish time around 5. The sunsets early as is the sunrise here in these parts. Quickly I set up my tent. I had brought all my warm gears and never thought that it would feel less. The temperatures were going low and low. I was amazed on how the Vodafone 2G was working even with the reception from a single tower. The night was uneventful. However, I thought of snow leopards, as they are common in these parts but sadly, I could spot none. After staying awake till 9PM trying to keep the fire burning and cooking a nice meal of Maggi I find a huge Himalayan dog sniffing nearby.
Had a bit of initial problems with the fire I lit in front of my tent.

Firstly I was scared to death on seeing it. It really seemed something else in that darkness and white snow with the bright moonlight in a crystal clear sky. In all that cold, my phone was out with just 8% batt remaining. That was all due to my tries to keep everyone updated via phone and facebook. I so wanted to pet the poor dog but discarded the idea.

After putting the phone on charge from the battery, I doze off in the cold ground of my tent all locked up to wake up to a another beautiful Himalayan morning.

It was around 5AM in the morning when the roof of the tent decided to crash-on on me. It startled me to my senses. Well, it had snowed, thank god for not snowing so heavily else I would had been buried alive. It was around 2-3 feel of snow and I had sunk into the snow till my knees. It was a tough walk back to the road somehow just with the tail bag. I was not in a mood to turn around for the tent tarpulin. I left it there. The river was all froze and due to the snow, it was hard to even make out that there was a river there, unless you knew on the first hand.
A Official Raid de Himalayas M800 stuck in the Glacier like snow

Maggi and Bread toast as breakfast

All black ice

Nearly whiteout..

What to do?

Snow laden fallen tree

Visor look through to the black ice'd roads

Went ahead to see my bike covered in snow. Was cleaning it up when I remembered to take a picture.

After an hour of cleaning and struggling with the bike for a bit as it won't start in that cold, I went on to the sleepy town of Moorang. Could not find any shop open to sell me some food so continued on to Spello.

Upon reaching Spello, I was informed that it was useless to go ahead. The roads are blocked due to extreme winter. My hunger was satisfied by a few omlettes and bread, total 4 to be exact. I just wanted to continue on the road. This is the road to China.

After going forward a bit, I found that it was all whiteout in front. The road was nothing but mud and asphalt with small patches of black ice. Took a walk and I find a small abandoned place and it was covered in snow. It was damn beautiful.
Point of Return
Icy roads
Snow on bike

Ek Selfie toh banta hai

Iced in the morning

Dude! WHAT THE F! Its snowing!!

The roads.. the tires...and The Machine.

Covered in snow..

As I saw, there was nothing more to do I turned back. No way I was going to tread anymore on the black ice anymore. While I was going off from the camp site, I couldn't help but got into a trap of black ice. Without experience and knowledge of how to control, I was scared. Nearly fell into the deep valley of Satlej on the left on using the rear brake to stop. The bike turned 180degrees!!
Snow covered stepped hills

More snow..

Even more


Some town in the valley

Getting clicked by a Icelandic tourist. I remember his last name only.. some sky or ski

knee deep snow walking



Enough done. Thanks for the pics. Now give it back!!

Tasting the snow - my bike

I love the Yaks

Street food for the tourists of Shimla

Beautiful roads

Further more...

At 8000 feet

Sunset while return

That shows my confidence level on the Himalayan roads probably

That shows my confidence level on the Himalayan roads probably

Beautiful perched houses

I started my return journey around 10 in the morning. The Sun was shining bright but it was dangerously cold. By the time I reached back to Shimla, it was nearing 3PM. I was riding faster, owing to the traffic free roads and the practice I received on covering the complete Uttaranchal. Shimla to Chandigarh was tiring however. By the time I reached back to Chandigarh's outskirts it was already around 7.

I stopped for a butt break and for food. I hadn't stopped properly since I left Spello which is close to 400kms other than fuel breaks. Gulped down food at a local small time restaurant named Deluxe near Ambala. By the time they served, I already had dozed off on the table. Upon waking up, the waiter boy was inquisitively looking into my face and asked, are you ill. I just said I was tired. In reality, Fatigue was all over me. By the time I finished my food and got on the bike, it was already 10PM.

Did not want to reach Delhi late night after 4. The roads were pretty awesome and helped much to keep a constant speed on the triple digits. Few trucks & buses were a nuisance and pros in blocking the road. Stopped soon at a Bharat Petroleum station to fill up and use the rest room to freshen up. When I got out, I saw trucks parked in such a great style. No idea how they managed to park that way, sticking tire to tire.

Reached Delhi at around 2:30AM in the morning while it took me another hour to slog up to The Northern Base, Noida. Some how I went up the stairs and dropped on my bed asleep. I realized in the morning that I had forgot to lock the door when the security guard came for an early morning check of the flats.

I learnt a few things in this trip like:
1. Never to brake on the black ice. Its dangerous. Use engine braking. (That's what I figured out)
2. No matter which part of the mountain you are, don't stay behind a bus. People at the rear, vomit a lot.
3. Ice in the refrigerator and naturally occurring ice are very different. Naturally occurring ice, tend to push up your body temperature without the feel of fever. You could be burning at over a 100degrees Fahrenheit and not feel like fever. That's how the human body works.
4. Foreigners can stay on ice and not get frozen. Dunno why.
5. People help a lot. Especially when you ask them to click you. Most photos of me posing were clicked like that.
6. Maggi and Eggs are the best meals you can have in the snow. Its not only filling but very enjoyable.
7. Braking on the snow takes 9 times the effort to stop. There are practically 1/6th the traction available even from the sloppiest surface like a wet tile.
8. Ice chains are useful for the traction on the snow. Still it doesn't provide the traction anything close to normal conditions on asphalt or concrete.
9. Greater the weight of the bike + rider, the better the ice chains work. For bikes, probably using a rope might do the job.
10. You see mud, slush or snow in the mountain region where there are possibilities of snow, make sure your speeds are below 10kmph. Black ice can appear when least expected and mostly go unnoticed.

See that beautiful road leading to this beautiful town buzzing with tourists

Beautiful curves

Sunset on the  Himalayan Terrain

Sunset on the  Himalayan Terrain

The Map

After the toll - Towards Delhi at Night

Finally back at Delhi