A PER­FECT ROAD TRIP - UD­HAM­PUR TO ROHTANG PASS

Storizen Magazine - - Travel - by Pulkit Singh

There is some­thing that has to be said about hare­brained plans. More of­ten than not, they work out just fine. This is the story of two wan­der­lust-bit­ten young trav­el­ers who rec­og­nized not the whims of na­ture or the va­garies of high­ways. This is the story of the les­sons that they learned from their first bike trip.

The pro­tag­o­nists of this tale are Praveen and his self-con­fessed bet­ter half me. It was year-end and we were itch­ing to leave Ud­ham­pur for a va­ca­tion. Young that we are, reck­less that we may some­times be, we de­cided that wher­ever we go, it had to be on the hubby’s bike. Af­ter thaw­ing out many op­tions, we

WE HAD COV­ERED MORE THAN 100 KM FROM JAMMU IN ABOUT AN HOUR AN HALF. NOT BAD. WE HAD AN­OTHER 100 TO GO. WE REACHED MANDI, 107 KM FROM PALAMPUR, IN A GOOD TWO HOURS. THE ROAD FROM MANDI TO MANALI, AN­OTHER 110 KM.

ze­roed down on Manali. Praveen dusted his gi­gan­tic ruck­sack. It seemed big enough to carry half our home in it. The pack­ing of our travel kit is al­ways his re­spon­si­bil­ity, for the army does train its sol­diers to pack well. Civil­ians like yours truly stuff things in suit­cases and bags for the sake of trans­port­ing them from one place to an­other. In my hum­ble opin­ion, pack­ing does not have to be a work of art, a point on which the hubby dis­agrees.

So, he came to me with the ruck­sack. “I have put all my stuff and only one-fifth space has been taken!” This got us both ex­cited. I stuffed an­other pair of shoes, an over­coat, a few muf­flers, and caps. Let it be said, it was for the sake of fash­ion and not util­ity. The next morn­ing we left. The high­way from Jammu to Pathankot is a treat. Dot­ted with many dhabas, tea stalls, and lit­tle ‘know-me-not?’ towns, it of­fers a wel­come respite from the twisty, turny roads of the moun­tains. On Pathankot by­pass, near Mam­mun Cantt, we halted at Café Cof­fee Day. On a clear

day, you can spot Pir Pan­jal range from where you sit. We had cov­ered more than 100 km from Jammu in about an hour an half. Not bad. We had an­other 100 to go to reach Palampur, our first stopover.

The road from Pathankot to Palampur is a night­mare. Pot­holes and patchy bits take the joy out of a bike ride. How­ever, some­where along the way, Dhalud­hars run par­al­lel to the road. The beauty of the tow­er­ing moun­tains does take one’s mind off the road then. The sun sets early in the hills. We reached Palampur at 1930 hrs. It was deathly chilly, dis­gust­ingly damp and strangely de­press­ing. Af­ter a hearty meal at a dhaba in the mid­dle of the town, we felt proud of our first day on the bike. The next morn­ing we left Palampur at dawn. We reached Mandi,

107 km from Palampur, in a good two hours. The road from Mandi to Manali, an­other 110

I have put all my stuff and only one-fifth space has been taken!

km away, turned out to be the best leg of the jour­ney. Maybe it was be­cause the whole stretch was ex­tremely beau­ti­ful or be­cause we were wit­ness­ing na­ture in its rawest form, so un­touched with the greed of hu­man­ity. Maybe it was be­cause we were much more re­laxed. We will never know. The road turn­ing on the back of moun­tains, the truck driv­ers who al­lowed you to over­take them so eas­ily, the deep­est light blue sky and the dark­est green trees, the clean­est breaths of air, and the Beas that be­gan ac­com­pa­ny­ing us from Mandi trav­eled with us till Manali. Af­ter cross­ing Kullu, we were a mere 45 km short of Manali. The snow-topped moun­tains peep every now and then. There are lit­tle vil­lages with wooden houses char­ac­ter­is­tic to Kullu val­ley, hand­loom shawl shops and

lit­tle stalls with the raft­ing gear on the way. We reached Manali in the late af­ter­noon. The next day was spent in ex­plor­ing the town that of­fers not much to a sea­soned trav­eler. The shops are ei­ther eat­ing joints or Kash­mir em­po­ri­ums. The third day in Manali was a mo­men­tous day in our in­fan­tile mar­ried life. We were head­ing for Rohtang Pass, on our bike. On the way, our hands froze and toes be­came numb. There was snow ev­ery­where. Thank­fully, the road was cleared up. At Snow Point, 13 km short of Rohtang, the civil­ians are al­lowed to pro­ceed for a stag­ger­ing sum of two to three thou­sand ru­pees per per­son.

This is a nexus be­tween the po­lice and the lo­cals. We crossed Snow Point. The road was like a kuc­cha Rasta. 5kms short of Rohtang and the bike got stuck in an iced de­pres­sion. The road had a layer of ice and both of us were find­ing it

dif­fi­cult to re­main stand­ing. It was scary. While hubby and I were dig­ging through the ice with rough stones, men­tally I was tak­ing stock of the amount of food I was car­ry­ing. I re­al­ized that it was go­ing to be a tough choice- ei­ther we will per­ish for the want of food, or it will be due to numb­ing cold. If dur­ing the day it was -3 de­grees, we had slim chances of mak­ing it through the night. Help ar­rived in form of a jeep car­ry­ing peo­ple to Lahul-Spiti val­ley. Some­how we made it to Rohtang. The sight of moun­tains and clouds dwarf­ing un­der our height was worth the trou­bles. We sat down on the edge, had our mea­ger brunch of choco­lates, chips, bis­cuits and hot wa­ter. Par­ents on both sides were called and a few pic­tures clicked. Then we headed back to civ­i­liza­tion. I wish I could say that Rohtang was a lifechang­ing mo­ment for me. When you are sit­ting that high, with­out any­one around, you are sup­posed to re­al­ize the fri­vol­ity of this life and about its tran­sience. You are sup­posed to feel hum­ble. Rohtang for me was more of a re­minder of the life I had cho­sen. Six months back I was un­mar­ried, work­ing for the world’s best com­pany and al­ways a happy, lone trav­eler.

Now I was mar­ried, had some­one to share my trav­els with and much hap­pier. Rohtang was like the div­ing line be­tween the past and the fu­ture.

On our way back to Manali, on the edge of a cliff, we ate Maggi, the sta­ple cel­e­bra­tion/com­fort food of all those who were born in the 80s. Next day we started for Ud­ham­pur. We re­turned bet­ter ac­quainted with high­ways, sharper trav­el­ers, and most im­por­tantly in­tel­li­gent pack­ers. We re­al­ized we don’t have to stuff bags if there is space. That on bike trips less is more and that there will some­times be ar­gu­ments on what routes to take and where to stop for a meal. That it is all go­ing to turn out al­right in the end. Pulkit Singh is a ninja, she kids you not. She is also the founder of BlueSun­ride, a plat­form for non-com­mer­cial writ­ing. In her cor­po­rate avatar, she has worked with Magna Pub­lish­ing and Google. She quit it all to find her way around words. Yep, she is still lost. She be­lieves in the heal­ing process of sto­ries and ca­nines. Be­tween chas­ing af­ter her dog and her two daugh­ters, she finds the time to write.

On our way to Rohtang

On our way back to Manali

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