Day 1 to Day 3, Leh Ladakh Bike Trip: Trains, Chandigarh city, the beautiful Chandigarh Manali Highway

16 Aug

2nd July, Day 1, The Train Journey

We boarded the Paschim Express at 12:05 pm at Borivali. Called up my family and sister and said goodbyes.

Our three berths were at the start of a bogey and the other two at the other end. We tried to coax a family into exchanging their three seats with us. They were initially quite skeptical but after some more convincing they exchanged places with us and the 5 of us were together.

The pain-in-the-arse astrologer

Sharing the compartment with us was an astrologer from Mumbai. He had an opinion on everything other co-passengers or we did. From dishing out free gyan on the latest happenings in the religious world to saying how the youth doesn’t follow the Indian culture—he put all of us to sleep.

He even conned the TC by giving him some advice on his future and some to-dos for getting his daughter married. It was the first time I saw a railway TC pay money to a passenger!

Astrologer

Pictures courtesy Nikhil Bangera.

3rd July, Day 2, Early morning sunrise in the train, Exploring Chandigarh

I have always enjoyed waking up early in long distance train journeys and enjoying the beautiful sunrise sitting by the door. The wind blowing in your face, the acres and acres of farms and forests with the sun rising in the background amongst the silver clouds—it’s a breathtaking sight. After enjoying the scenery for some time, I went back to sleep.

Train

Woke up again, got fresh, had my favorite omelet bread breakfast and started listening to The Wall by Pink Floyd.

Just before reaching Chandigarh we met this Punjabi guy who was heading to Chandigarh to meet some old friends and family. He recommended some must visit restaurants at Chandigarh (Pal Dhaba, Birdy’s, food court at IT Park, and a few more) and also places where we could get cheap accommodation. While conversing with him we came to know that he was a dentist and was planning to do a post grad degree in dentistry by paying a whopping fee of 2 crore rupees at some university in Canada!

We finally reached Chandigarh at around 4:30 pm. Took an auto for Kisan Bhavan , which is like a dharamshala for farmers! On the way the auto guy told us he would take us to a better hotel that is very near to the railway station and took us to the Diamond Traders Guest House. After checking out the rooms and some bargaining, we got a pretty decent AC room for 5 people at just 1100 bucks. We dumped our bags, got fresh and decided to watch Delhi Belly.

We left at around 6 pm to explore the city. Caught a rickshaw to Mani Majra that has a famous mall and a multiplex. Reached there and found that all Delhi Belly shows were sold out. It was probably 10 years since I had been to a multiplex and found a show to be ‘housefull’. We then decided to head towards another mall at an IT park. Same story—all Delhi Belly shows sold out.

Pal’s Dhaba

We finally decided to fill up our tummies and went to Pal’s dhaba—a very famous restaurant for Punjabi and Mughlai food. It is located in Sector 28D and is a roadside, open-to-sky dhaba. We ordered the dhaba favorites — Chicken Masala, Butter Chicken, Dal Fry, Jira Rice, with the most awesome Laccha Parathas. The food is certainly not for diet conscious people as everything comes loaded with oil and ghee. And a trip to a Punjabi Dhaba is incomplete without having a lassi. We washed down the spicy food with one of the best lassis I have ever had in my life– creamy, filled with Malai, and served chilled.

Ranbir Kapoor hogged at this dhaba when he was shooting for Rajneeti at Chandigarh — http://www.mid-day.com/entertainment/2010/may/180510-Ranbir-Kapoor-Chandigarh-dhaba-chicken-dish-Rajneeti.htm

With our stomachs totally filled, we decided to walk down to the hotel. We then sat on the hotel lawn for a heartwarming cup of tea accompanied with conversations!

Chandigarh is a beautiful city with planned roads and sectors—we never faced any traffic, there is ample space for parking, parking toll for a two wheeler is just 2 rupees, and the local women are beautiful.

4th July, Day 3, Picking up bikes and the ride to Kullu

We got up at 9 am. I told Kunal to get the bike from the transport company’s warehouse.

Bikes at Chandigarh Warehouse

Nikhil, Sanjay, and Kunal returned in an hour with the bikes, all in a good condition. Jaipur Golden Transport did an excellent job of transporting the bikes. We started packing the bikes and finally began the journey at 12 am.

Running in my bike on the Chandigarh Manali Highway

My bike had done only 400 kms before the trip. I had done the first service at Mumbai and now I needed to properly run-in the bike. I therefore decided to keep the RPMs below 4-5 and the speed below 60 at all times till I complete the 1000 kms run-in period.

The initial few kilometers were straight highway roads where were cruising easily at 60 to 70 kmph.
Soon after the beautiful hilly roads started and that’s where my inexperience of riding on hilly roads started acting up.

Ghats

Getting stalled right in the middle of a hilly highway

On climbing a slope, the bike stalled as the RPM went down and I was still in the higher gears. I restarted the bike and tried to lift it off the first gear but just kept stalling it. So here I was…right in the middle of the road, on a hilly highway, with huge trucks honking at me telling me to move aside. Prado and I got down from the bike, took it to the side and I tried moving it again on first gear. After a few desperate attempts, I finally managed to move the bike and we started the journey again. From there onwards on all uphill roads I stopped and started the bikes  numerous times just to get a hang of it.

My metamorphosis from a noob rider to a highway star

We then stopped for lunch at a ‘true’ highway dhaba. We ate the most amazing Aloo Parathas with dripping butter and sweet curd. Food works like a drug for me, it lifts my mood and these Aloo Parathas somehow installed a lot of confidence in me. I suddenly started riding as if I was born on the hilly roads, I was in the right gears at all the time, took sharp corners, started overtaking huge ass trucks and cars, and
was humming:

Nobody gonna take my bike
I’m gonna race it to the ground
Nobody gonna beat my bike
It’s gonna break the speed of sound
Ooh it’s a killing machine
It’s got everything
Like a driving power big fat tyres
And everything
I love it and I need it, I bleed it
Yeah, it’s a wild hurricane
Alright, hold tight I’m a highway star

The entire day I enjoyed riding on the butter smooth Chandigarh Manali Highway. Although the roads are smooth, you have to be really careful while riding on the narrow curves.

Accident

We crossed Mandi at around 8:30 pm and after sometime we encountered this awesome 2.8 km tunnel at Aut. The tunnel was an absolute delight to ride in, especially at night where it was lit with bright yellow lamps. I was tempted to touch 100 on my bike but couldn’t as the run in period was still going on.

Aut Tunnel

We had planned to reach Manali but were very tired and decided to sleep at Bhuntar, which is around 40-50 kms from Manali. Found a kickass hotel suite that had two rooms, two bathrooms, and two huge double beds, all for 1200 bucks with the Beas River gushing down the mountains right behind our hotel. The room also had an open air terrace just next to it where I sat for 15 mins listening to music and just gazing at the sky.

More to come:

Day 4, Delhi Belly, leaving for Rohtang at 4 pm and getting stranded in the mud and rains at night
Day 5, Riding through knee deep mud, touching a glacier for the first time, the awesome ride from Rohtang top to Keylong
Day 6, Planned ride to Sarchu, crossing a river steam in my boxers with ice cold water freezing my legs, ended up staying at Bharatpur—a tented accommodation very near to Baralachla pass

The first three days, we clicked very few pictures as we were saving the memory card for the awesome journey to come, so expect more pictures in the next articles.

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2 Responses to “Day 1 to Day 3, Leh Ladakh Bike Trip: Trains, Chandigarh city, the beautiful Chandigarh Manali Highway”

  1. Vishal Wadkar August 16, 2011 at 7:38 am #

    Great!! Waiting for the next days…….

  2. An i P (@an1k3t) August 16, 2011 at 3:40 pm #

    Great read. Short & engrossing. Bring on the following parts soon.

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