Riding “pillion” to the top of the world!

Starring: 5 bikes and 10 awesome people

So this was the trip Steve and I had been planning for a long long time now. Thought we’d do it in 2011 but plans did not fit in and so…. many many months ago began the discussions about “The big trip”. We went through the entire grind… [Wait, out here I shouldn’t say we… it was more Steve than I]….. researching the route, finding about places that we should visit and could visit… should cause the beauty of those places just call out to you and could because sometimes the most beautiful places aren’t open for people to ride into!

Over the months we drew out excel sheets, to-do lists, things to carry lists and through this entire preparation phase discovered people whom we now call FRIENDS! We did this ride with people whom we’ve known for years and people whom we met because of this trip just a few months ago. Introducing to you the cast and crew of TRIPPIN’ 2012. Yes yes…. a part of our planning was coining a name and designing a logo for our incredible journey. Thank you Nitisha for the wonderful design and Andy for help with the printing 🙂

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The Trippin’ 2012 flag !

So Trippin’ 2012 was planned as a 19 day long bike ride… starting from and ending at Delhi! And what did we cover in those 19 days… some of the most picturesque parts of India that lie between Ludhiana, Udhampur,Srinagar, Kargil, Leh, Sarchu, Manali and Chandigarh. In between these big cities and small towns that we passed are nestled numerous beautiful hills, full of life streams, menacing treacherous mountains, pure white snow tops, bitter cold deserts and much more. On most parts of this route we had roads and in some we rode on whatever surface lay ahead of us.

I m still wondering whether to go day wise while penning it all down here; cause each day had some little story to itself… or to pen it place wise cause well… each place is just so different !

8th June 2012 we reach Delhi late in the night, finishing a day’s work before screaming out aloud to everybody that I AM GOING ON MY HOLIDAY! We hit the sack soon since we began our 3400 km journey early the next morning. Destination: Ludhiana

The ride to Ludhiana was exciting and normal at the same time. Exciting since this was like my first time on such a long bike trip… that too one that I ve been dreaming and wishing to do ever since Steve did it the first time in 2008. Normal I call it now… because I guess it was one of the most plain riding days amidst the other 19… riding on the highway most of the time, seeing loads and loads of other vehicles on the road… simple but sweet! The sights of Punjab were quite something… green fields being harvested, brightly dressed people on the roads, the smell of basmati in the air, the sights and sounds of the many dhabhas enroute.  It was also on this highway that we experienced the first puncture for the trip; Philip’s bike.

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During one of the breaks on the highway
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Getting Philip’s bike repaired !
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YES ! I rode with white shoes 🙂
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Sellu and I.. and yes my tan has begun to show

As we drove into Ludhiana, our first stop was at this quaint little lassi place that Sellu [oh… that’s how I refer to Selven, my dear devarji] took us to. With some yummy lassi downed, we headed straight to our hotel to freshen up and wash off all the dust that had settled on us. We explored a small bit of Ludhiana in the evening… meeting a sweet old mechanic uncle… strolling through the CMC campus… and ending the night with some yummy Punjabi khaana. We retired to the comfort of our bed, to get some sleep before we moved ahead… Destination: Udhampur

The second day of riding saw us move more and more into nature. Beautiful roads that lead you into beautiful villages! It was a “WOW” moment for most of us & me for sure when I saw the first signboard that said Welcome to Jammu & Kashmir… the heart beat faster in excitement! I had never thought I would enter J&K… that too on a bike!

The state of J&K epitomises a totally different meaning of beauty… the same green grass, yellow flowers, cattle on the roads… all of this looks and feels different here. We took a detour that led us straight to Udhampur through a little forest; avoiding entering the city of Jammu. Just a little distance before Udhampur we stopped to have lunch at this simple looking dhabha. Little did we know that we were going to gorge on the food, as though we’ve never eaten in days. Simple roti, dal, chawal and bhindi… some mind blowing chutney and lassi to wash it all down… here began the story of our wonderful lunches!

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Ride out of Ludhiana.. J&K beckons !
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Prashanti and Prajeeth !
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Looks like I missed the W from the Welcome in my excitement !
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We made a quick stop to celebrate “Entering J&K” ! Chocolates and ThumsUp wohoooo !
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My jacket, bag and helmet get some rest while I celebrate 🙂
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And on that bike are Anant and Chetan !
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Lovely roads that led us to Udhampur

We reached Udhampur early in the evening and rode straight to the home of a friend from church – Andrew! Andrew’s hospitality touched the hearts of all of us. He opened up his home to 10 people he hardly knew…he fed us like royals and gave us such comfortable rooms to sleep in.

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Unloading the bike at Andrew’s place !
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And the beauties get some rest !

After some lovely food and lovelier conversation with Andrew and his grandmother, we called it a night! It was riding day again tomorrow. Destination: Srinagar

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With Andrew at his home in Udhampur !

Now Srinagar is BEAUTIFUL! And the ride to Srinagar… also BEAUTIFUL!  I remember reaching one point on this ride where I actually gasped at the beauty that lay ahead of me! I experienced what they actually mean when they say “take my breath away”!  A little before Srinagar, we stopped at a deserted village, looking for a place to eat. Here we got our first taste of local Kashmiri cuisine – Ghostabha and our first story of the horror of the war and fighting in Srinagar. The town was infact deserted as they were observing a bandh in honour of those who gave up their life fighting for the country 10 years ago.

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Enroute Srinagar
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Philip & Sharon !
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Break-time !
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The famous Jawahar Tunnel that ensures round-the-year road connectivity to the Kashmir Valley

We rode straight the guest house recommended by Andrew and there we met Nazir bhai; our host for the next 2 days. Nazir bhai is a very interesting guy. At one minute he is this really sweet guy, opening up his home for us to stay in, and the next minute he scares you with his instructions and suggestions! At one point in time, I was just nodding my head for all that he was saying because I could not comprehend a word; I smiled and nodded my head… that’s all.

Nazir bhai gave us this one big room, carpeted so comfortably for us to stay in together. I was excited; it was going to be fun to have all 10 of us in one room. After resting for a little while we ventured out to explore a bit of Srinagar. This is where things got a little disappointing to me. Here you are in this beautiful city, surrounded by the distant glimpses of snow clad mountains and the sounds of birds tweeting; the smells of fresh bread and meat cooking! Even as you admire all this beauty around you, there is something that is amiss and that something is the warmth of people! When you walk down the streets you can sense the stares that are following you and sometimes even hear the bystanders whisper something to each other! No one has a smile for you or a proper response if you ask them for directions. It is quite sad to think that political situations and social equations are so disturbed here that trust as a value ceases to exist! Amidst this sad realisation; we passed an evening in Srinagar! We went looking for a restaurant recommended by Discovery Channel but unfortunately no one could guide us to the place. After a not so good dinner experience we headed back to our cosy little home! Since we were not riding to anyplace the next day the gang stayed up late into the night playing many fun games of UNO. We stayed awake till the clock struck 12… It was Steve’s HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! What a place and what a way to spend your bday right????

We slept in a little late the next morning; making the most of an “off” day that we had! Some of the guys ventured out to bring us some authentic Kashmiri breakfast – girdha [kashmiri bread], butter and salted tea ! If eaten just out of the oven, I m sure this bread will melt in your mouth ! After lazing around for a little while we got ready to go on our Shikhara ride.

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Breakfast= Girdha, butter, eggs and chai !

Now this shikhara ride is an experience in itself! Sitting in these comfortable; beautifully designed and decorated boats, you get to experience the beautiful DAL LAKE! A two and a half hour boat rides shows you only a small portion of this lake; that is how big the Dal Lake is! As you glide into the water, hawkers make way to your boat, eager to sell you their wares. Oh and by the way… you will ALWAYS have some hawkers by your side throughout this ride… so be prepared for that! Halfway into the lake, our boatman took us to this shop on the lake, to get a taste of their special tea called Khawa. I found it a little too sweet but the others surely enjoyed their hot cup of Khawa!

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Nazir the boatman
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I don’t think I can give this one a caption !
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Sharon and I, with flowers that our boatman picked for us !
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The crazy 10 !

After our Shikhara ride we made our way into the town again. We decided to eat at the famous Mughal Durbar; another restaurant featured by Lonely Planet. We ordered for a Wazwan or what is known as a kahmiri feast. While a normal wazwan has over 2o dishes we asked for just a few that we could taste and see.  Did I enjoy the Wazwan?? Yes and No!!! Some of the mutton dishes were to die for and some of them too rich for my liking! But yes… please do try a wazwan when you are in Kashmir… it is worth it!

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At Mughal Durbar

We took an auto ride back to our room and here I HAVE to mention our auto wala ! He was the happiest guy I came across this entire trip I think. He had a fully decorated auto, a collection of some lovely Hindi songs from the 80’s and 90’s and a cheerful spirit! He smiled and sang his way through all the traffic and the diversions! End of the ride he left us all with a smile on our lips 🙂 Our happy auto wala!

Towards evening when the boys decided to ride down to the petrol bunk to tank up for the next riding day we realised that Anant’s bike had a snag and was refusing to start. All attempts to fix the problem yielded no fruit and the gang then split to go and find a mechanic who could help. Once the mechanic came the problem was identified, but for it to be fixed the bike needed to be transported to the garage. A vehicle was hired for this and the bike was loaded and taken away. Sharon, Prashanti and I spent some anxious moments waiting for some news from the boys about the bike after this. [Only post paid phones work out here and this meant we had just 3 working connections for most part of our trip]. A few hours later, all the boys returned, with all the bikes in running condition! An evening meant to relax turned out to be quite action packed!

Off to bed we went… preparing our minds for the next leg of the journey. Destination: Kargil

** Continued in the next post.. coming your way soon !

Published by poojithajawahar

I 'm Poojitha Jawahar. Out here in the city of Banaglore I live in a rented apartment, work in a PR firm, am in love with life ! I live life for the day and try to live it to the fullest :) Small things make me really happy and I m so thankful to God for the life He has given me and the people he has blessed me with.

20 thoughts on “Riding “pillion” to the top of the world!

  1. Wow !! I enjoyed reading about your adventure & the snaps are gr8 too.Waiting 4 the next blog.
    olivia

  2. This is an amazing blog.. Shit.. i had goosebumps reading and gazing at the pictures knowing that i was supposed to be there but missed by a whisker. Love your thoughts and your expression of the same… Keep them coming..

  3. That was amazing Poo! 🙂 Cant wait for the rest of it!! So exciting! My heart’s still beating super fast from the excitement. 😀 Felt like I was actually there.
    P.S.: There’s just something about the way you write,so personal and beatiful! 🙂

  4. Wow Pooja…the expressive lil girl i knew has captured so beautifully the sights….smells….fun….laughter …fears…i love reading your blogs and hope they come more often despite your hectic schedules….

    1. Thank you akka ! I ve been struggling to pen down thoughts nowadays !! I actually needed this i think… to BREAK FREE !
      PS : All credit to my writing goes to you 🙂 From whom I ve learnt so much !

  5. Poojitha, i like how you bring in every little detail:) it was a pleasure reading this! waiting for the rest of your trip!!!:)

  6. Excellent bike trip and blog. Me and my hubbie are planning to hire a bike at leh and visit surrounding places. Was wondering if the ride is safe there. Did you guys used to switch off engine downhill there? Need some tips, Kusum

      1. Hi Poojitha, No we havent gone yet, now we will be planning later this year. Would be great if you answer my query, Thanks, Kusum

      2. Hi Kusum
        We had done our trip just when the roads had opened up so there were practically no roads in certain places. The place is as safe as you would ride.. there are risks but I guess we just got to make sure we ride sensibly. We did not turn off the engine too often downhill..infact we hardly did that. Certain stretches where the road is good this should be possible I guess. Since we own an older model of the Enfield it was harder than for the new bikes !

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