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5 July: Ride from Chandigarh to Kullu

My first reaction when I saw 10.15 AM on the clock as soon as I woke up was “Oh shit!” I hoped to wake up by 9 AM at least as I was to ride around 250 KMS on that day and reach Kullu. Normally, with decent roads, I could’ve covered that distance in  3 to 4 hours but Google maps suggested I would take a minimum of 6.30 hours to cover this particular stretch. The reason was pretty evident. Taking this road meant I ascended altitude as I passed through mountainous terrain. To give you a hint of how curvy the roads looked, the maps displayed the road as if 2 snakes were having sex in multiple positions simultaneously.

Thanks to the Duke, I thought that even if I left started at 12 PM, I could reach Kullu safely by 7 PM. So I did some exercise in my room after 10 long days, packed everything and suited up. Since breakfast was English and expensive too, I chose to have it outside. English breakfast to me is as good as having nothing. Plus, it was Chandigarh after all, so Dhabhas had to be the place to stop by. My t-shirt got wet as I mounted my luggage on the D390, it was extremely humid outside and that meant I had get keep moving. My awesome mom had packed some sweets that could last several days and a lot of dry fruits, so I had some of that and checked out. It didn’t take long for me to get onto the highway. Surprisingly, there were more number of cars on the highway than I usually saw. Then I realised that 5th July was a Sunday, so there had to be people heading towards Shimla/Manali and returning from there as well. Fortunately, there were few diversions present for me to get lost, so I managed to stay on the correct path. 🙂

There were some dhabhas here and there but I waited for a good one to arrive. At 1.15 PM though, I halted at one to have brunch. Sometimes, it is wise to stop and eat at the best out of the average dhabhas available, especially when you’re hungry and if you’re new to the region. You never know when the next ‘good’ hotel could arrive. I’ve said this in an older post- I depend on my intuition to choose a restaurant and don’t usually go for one based on its looks/infrastructure. Aloo Paratha topped with Makhan and chai were ordered while I searched for a cool place to sit that wasn’t nearing the kitchen. I couldn’t touch the parathas for 5 mins once they were served as they were extremely hot. They were extremely tasty and filling after a while but they made my nose and eyes water as well! Since the dhabha owner didn’t have change to return, he gave me a paan candy which I instantly had. As I continued to ride, the candy tasted better and better until some mouth freshening saunf came out of it. I then regretted for not buying a box full of paan candies from him!

Food on chandigarh- kullu highway
Aloo, butter wala Paratha

The curves take me to Kullu..

The Highway leading to the mountain region got better, I was able to do 120 every now and then but only until a right turn arrived. The road carried on as a small bridge over the blue Nangal river and the there were muddy potholes everywhere! It suddenly seemed like I had teleported to another planet. A Harley Davidson coming from the opposite side with a fat guy on it, covered completely with mud and dust did a good job of convincing me that I was still on planet earth. As I treaded on, the curves began to show themselves so I parked the Duke, quickly mounted the action cam on it, connected it to my iPhone, switched it to 10 second image mode (it would auto- click 1 picture every 10 seconds) and carried on. I was determined to cut through corners like a ruddy mongoose. I took sometime to understand where exactly I was, nature of traffic in that area and then increased pace once the severity of the curves doubled. There was quite a lot of traffic, I would’ve ended up spending that night on the road if I was in a car! The ride got smoother and better along with the views.

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I must say that most truck drivers were extremely courteous whenever I tried to overtake them, they would guide me and would move as much as they could to give me maximum space! I always gave them a thumbs up (not that shitty soft drink!) after overtaking. But there were a few truckers who just didn’t care. I remember one instance when a truck driver struggling on an incline wasn’t giving any way for a very, very long time, primarily because he was partially on the wrong side of the road. The thing with trucks is that they need to be in the correct gear on an incline, especially the low powered ones. That is one reason why you see trucks speeding up initially before they begin to climb a slope. So the best way to piss a truck driver off is too overtake him first, then slow down when you’re climbing on an inclined road so that he slows down too (keep checking rear view mirror while doing this). Bring the speed down to about 10 kmph and the truck will literally come to a halt behind you. 🙂 I did the same thing until I heard the truck driver yelling at the top of his voice while I gave maximum power and took off, laughing inside the helmet. He must’ve created a huge traffic jam behind him 😀

trucks on kullu manali highway
Highway jammers

I enjoyed the curves for the next 2.30 hours till my tummy demanded attention at 4.30 PM. I wasn’t very hungry but something had to go in. Riding hard constantly on curves is like a good workout. I stopped at a hotel that didn’t have half the things on the menu so I ended up ordering cutlets and some lassi. The owner of the hotel kept pestering the waiter and then went away for a while. He was an asshole according to the waiter as he kept forcing him to work even when there wasn’t anything to do. I don’t know why the waiter was telling me all this, but I did make him feel good by saying I worked for an American company where bosses are worse, most bosses are the same assholes and giving back to them sometimes is important or you just need to look out for a better job. 🙂 Some guests around inquired about my ride and me, after which, I was back on the road. The roads for a small distance were wet, indicating that it had rained in that region. The mountain region is full of unpredictable weather, you really never know when it rains. Landslides are common too but fortunately, I didn’t witness any. For about 2 kms, the road was slushy and covered with red mud and in minutes, my boots, pants and the motorcycle were partially covered with red slush, The slush eventually turned into pink color after it dried up. I had never ridden or wore anything of the color pink since birth, so it was a bit embarrassing to be ‘adventuring’ around in Pink boots.

On the way to kullu
Them curves
On the way to kullu
Snacks halt
On the way to kullu sutlej river
Over river Sutlej

I didn’t want to waste any time by stopping as I was running late but some of the views were so amazing that I just had to get off the motorcycle and capture them on my phone. They got me late big time. There were slightly frustrating times when my head asked me to continue riding as I didn’t want to ride in such terrain after it got dark but my heart asked me to capture most of the jaw dropping views that came my way. It was not a very easy choice to make but I went on clicking pictures on the way till the light was dim enough to stop photographing. 🙂

Himachal sundarnagar lake kullu
Sundarnagar lake
Rives beas himachal kullu manali
River Beas
Enroute kullu manali
Trippy mountain view

As I soldiered on, it got darker. The mountain roads got narrower and I could faintly see a river by the edge but could hear it clearly. I then passed through the famous tunnel connecting Kullu- Manali and made a lot of engine noise through the mountains. It got pitch dark in a while so I maintained a pace of 70 kmph. A friend of mine form HMRA (himalayan monk riders association) frequents this route to LEH every year, I had taken his advise on the place to stay for the night which was on the outskirts of Kullu, on the kullu city bypass road. My pace dropped even more when I passed through small towns. As instructed by my friend, I took the Kullu bypass road but somehow headed towards Kasol. Since the hotel I was looking for was nowhere in sight, I decided to look for another one by the Parvathi river. There was a hotel exactly by the river so I inquired there but it looked deserted and a bit spooky too. I played with some puppies there and went on to look for another hotel. I came across the last resort in that area which was called Bhuntur, just opposite the Parvathi river. The board read ‘Mahshoo resort’. It seemed nice with a good parking area, so I bargained the room price at the gate itself. When the manager agreed, I checked in immediately. I couldn’t believe, the time was 10 PM! 🙂

Kullu outskirts Bhuntur
Stay for the night on the outskirts of Kullu

Thank god, I still had a lot of energy left in me due to the sheer excitement. I had Dal Chawal for dinner, interacted with the friendly staff there and made some calls. The climate got pretty cool but not ‘Himachal cool’. I didn’t make any plans for the next day as I wanted to ride to almost every place around so, I left it to chance to take me to a place when I started my Duke the next morning. Lightening struck the mountains every now and then, so I took a short barefoot walk outside and called it a night at 11 PM.

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