The thing about touring on a motorcycle for a long time and distance is that you lose track of both those variables. Suddenly, nothing really bothers you or matters, you won’t know what day or date it is and you won’t know about the distance you’ve covered until you look at that damn trip meter. You don’t have to worry when the next pointless meeting with your boss is arriving or for how long you will have to wait for the next weekend to arrive. With solo travel especially, you begin to like this kind of uncertainty and try to look for it every now and then. It is addictive. It is confusing. It is blissful. The uncertainty tells you something when you begin to live with it. It tells you that now, you’re actually ‘living’ and not just existing. That kind of uncertainty brings you back to NOW and you exist lesser and lesser in the past or future. Places like Kullu, Kasol, Manali- basically most of Himachal Pradesh perform an awesome job of amplifying that uncertainty, I sometimes forgot what time of the day it was and whether I should have breakfast or lunch next.
Since I had ridden quite a distance on the previous day, I slept as much as I could and woke myself up at 10.30 AM to the lovely views on the outskirts of Kullu. I went outdoors and walked barefoot for a while and then made some calls. Barefoot walking is good for health!
I ordered the usual breakfast item while I charged my cameras and phone and then packed everything up. The Duke was dirty but I like it that way. I relished the taste of those amazing Paneer parathas and lime pickle as I stared at the mountains. The hotel staff was friendly and they gave me a lot of advise on surrounding places to visit. That day was a Monday, but I assumed it to be a Tuesday. I thought of visiting Rohtang mountain pass which arrives on the way to LEH. Most images I had seen of it told me that it is a snowy and foggy place. Snow was something I wanted to capture in my images but Rohtang pass is closed on Tuesdays for maintenance. So the other place to visit around was the valley beside Parvathi river. It was one straight mountainous road from my resort that would take me through Kasol, all the way upto Mannikaran. These 2 places are mostly visited by 2 kinds of people- Kasol being visited by people from other countries, mainly Israel. Kasol and the surrounding areas is known for the growth of one of the finest weed in the world and also for some ‘trance festivals’ that occur there. Now you know why too many people are visiting Kasol these days 🙂
Mannikaran is revered by Punjabis as a huge Gurudwara exists so people go there on an adventurous pilgrimage. Mannikaran and Kasol are just a Kilometer apart. That gap between the two villages has hot springs by the river bank so you can expect a lot of mist being present along the road.
I decided to ride for 70 kms that day to Kasol, Mannikaran and then back to the resort. Even though I didn’t checkout, I was still in two minds of whether I was to camp by the river in Kasol or return to the resort. In case I decided to camp, I thought I would call the resort manager up, do a phone checkout and pay them the first day’s rent on my way back the next day (I assumed he would agree to that since he was friendly and cooperative). I lubed the Duke’s chain and fired the engine up at 1 PM. My Spartan riding pants were giving my bum a lot of heat. I wondered as to how I was able to tolerate them in Jaisalmer but when it came to riding around Chandigarh and Manali, they got horrible. My guess on that one is moisture. Jaisalmer was dry so the friction between the pants and my butt skin was less as I wasn’t sweating too much, hence I could move around on the seat with ease. The climate in Chandigarh was hot and humid enough to make idlis, with a little help from the Duke’s engine of course. Consequently, I was sweating at a faster rate which made my butt less slippery on the seat. Moisture locks all the butt hair coming in contact with my boxers, riding pant and seat, so the hair strands end up being pulled and act as a catalyst to pain. I bet not many would give you such detailed info on butt hair and riding. I had moved my body a lot around corners the previous day which passed a lot of heat onto my bum. I wanted to take my pants off at one instance and show my butts some windy, hilly views just to cheer them up! On a ride, your butt is your best companion, you gotta keep them happy but unfortunately, I wasn’t able to.
The ride on a narrow road by the parvathi river that led me to kasol and mannikaran…
Consequently, I was inclined to not care about lower body protection, wore regular denims and rode out of the hotel towards Kasol. The soft denims felt good instantly and after riding for just 200 meters, my lower jaw dropped. The views were staggering! The edge of the road had a drop of about a 1000 feet. The Parvathi river below was loud and active. I took a lot of breaks on the way to click pictures, I thought I was going to run out of memory on my iPhone. I took the wide landscapes shot on it but used my Canon 550D to get up and close with the clouds and peaks.
The road was surprisingly smooth every now and then for a region that experiences a lot of snow and rain. In a few areas though, the road was broken, wet and slushy which in my opinion and experience is an awesome ingredient to a flavor offered by Himachal Pradesh.
As I carried on, I was literally awe struck with what I saw. I wanted to do so many things at once with a surrounding like that. I wanted to trek that region, I wanted to go down and camp by the river, I wanted to sit on a chair and just stare at the mountains as I sipped chai, I wanted to have a house there, I wanted to talk to the locals and know how they lived, I wanted to…erm the list is actually very fascinating but long, so I’ll move on. Oh yes, I saw a lot of green stuff on the way that reminded me of a friend called Amol back in office. He knows about the quality of green stuff available there because he is a ‘green stuff expert’. Since he was eager to try Himachal ‘green stuff’ out someday, I took pictures of it and sent them to him immediately while he worked forcibly on a computer at the office. I later got to know that he was longing for the green stuff as he wasn’t able to have it that month due to domestic issues and my pictures weren’t doing him any good. 😀 BTW, I don’t do green stuff.
I fancied a snack at around 2.30 PM because I was a little hungry. At that point of time though, I wasn’t bothered about food very much because I was bitten by the Himachal bug. But, at 2:45-ish, I came across a large structure on my right that looked like a monastery. As I tried to figure it out, my attention went to a board that read ‘The Himalayan Village’ Hotel. Even before I thought of anything else, I went straight into the parking lot and decided to eat there! Almost everything about that place was Himalayan-ish. I went straight into the restaurant with my action camera and charger and found a good spot to eat. The ambiance was blissful as there was nothing separating me and the natural air around, only a wooden roof above me that saved people from the rain. The only downside was that my motorcycle was unseen, but I just knew it would be OK.
The staff there seemed a bit arrogant though and the food on the menu was quite expensive. Thanks to the heavy breakfast I had on that day, I ordered a sandwich and chai only. The order took a while so I took my DSLR out and clicked pictures of a cute little Himalayan Bulbul. Then I took my own sweet time as usual and relished every bite of the sandwich which was just enough to satisfy that small amount of hunger.
After about an hour, I was back on the road that kept having more and more slush on it, Kasol was hardly another 8 kms away. I went through the cleared debris of a landslide and then onto a crooked bridge, a stream of pure, fresh water passed underneath it. As I soldiered on, I came across a Shani temple in the middle of nowhere after which I began to see home-stays, hotels and foreigners. I was in Kasol. I went through the small town of shops, small cafes and people staring at me and my Duke with their mouths open. I was still in my bliss or should I say comfort zone, the views had me so intoxicated that I didn’t even bother to stop and interact with anyone. I suddenly didn’t want people around me. I looked out for a shop that sells adventure related items as I wanted to buy motorcycle knee guards. Unfortunately, there weren’t any. As I followed the misty road, there were tents by the river, I considered checking the tent area out while returning but I was also distracted by the swift and loud river. It was pretty aggressive, I wondered if the water ever over flowed and washed the tents away as it did look like a high possibility. The road got narrower as I saw so many punjabis around, many were on motorcycles but not wearing helmets! I reached mannikaran in a few minutes and then found myself at a dead end that was in the form of a taxi stand/parking lot, wondering if there was anything else to be seen around. I didn’t go inside the gurudwara since I couldn’t leave my motorcycle so I made a call and then headed back. It was 4:30 PM.
I cancelled the tenting plan too and the Parvathi river’s currents were too strong. My fuel Gauge displayed 2 points so I had to stop less as well. I realized how engrossed I had got with the views earlier as I couldn’t recollect any of the landmarks on my way back to the hotel, it seemed like I was riding on that road for the first time. It drizzled for about 2 minutes too, the weather was one of the best I had experienced. I stopped at a few instances when the sun showed up for sometime and then hid back behind the clouds. While I was clicking pictures at about 6 PM, I saw at a distance, a yellow motorcycle loaded with lots of luggage and standing beside it were two human beings. The rider immediately waved and I waved back too. Finding another motorcycle tourer in a place like this is like finding your own species on a different planet. I went upto them and spoke for a while. It was Harley and Sophia on their Suzuki and It had been a year since they were riding from Australia. That is one of the most amazing things you can do on a motorcycle. We chatted for a while about Kasol and camping by the river, our plans for that week, Mumbai and then went our ways. You just know you’re going to have a nice conversation when you see another motorcycle traveler! 🙂
I meanwhile hurried a bit because I saw a low fuel warning on the dash. I had no clue about how far the next petrol bunk was because I didn’t know my distance from town at that point of time. I did find a HP petrol bunk on the way but it somehow didn’t seem right. Choosing a good petrol bunk is like choosing a good eatery on the highway- you gotta trust your intuition! I crossed my hotel and went straight towards Kullu. I finally found a bunk there that was NICE! After topping up, I remembered about my hotel not having sweets. I like having sweets often like chocolates or traditional Indian sweets so I rode to a local shop and bought many, many chocolates. The view from the shop was outstanding, people living there were lucky to be breathing that air. As I clicked some pictures there, an old couple spent some time on that spot. The aunty inquired a lot of things about me and it was sweet of her to have asked me to be careful as a storm warning was issued in that region by the weather department on the previous day. Really!?
I headed back to the hotel by 7.30 PM, freshened up and asked the staff about other places around. They went on to tell me about other mystical stories that remain a part of that region’s history. On requesting, I was allowed to use the hotel computer to back my DSLR and phone pictures up into my hard drive. I ordered Dal chawal for dinner, made some calls and called it a night. I planned to visit Rohtang pass the next day that was supposedly closed for maintenance!