I woke up peacefully (late) as usual so I made sure I packed the luggage first and mounted it on the Duke. It was hot outside. Parathas were ordered and eaten, I made some calls and suited up. What I hate most about this trip is the number of mineral water bottles I bought to refill my hydration backpack and then threw those away. I threw them away responsibly but I find myself turning into an avid environmentalist these days, so every plastic bottle I use and throw makes me question myself and also makes me feel guilty sometimes. After all, plastic is the only thing that humans give back to earth. Ajmer- Chandigarh was on my riding menu though, I had information of the road ahead being good but little did I know that Haryana’s state highways were a maze.
During checkout, I was told that parathas were complimentary on Ashu’s orders, what a sweet chap! The Duke’s temperature gauge took only 2 minutes to reach 4 bars at idle, it must’ve been 32 Degrees C at 9.45 AM. I intended to take the 650 KM national highway 48 route, bypass Jaipur and go all the way up to the outskirts of Gurgaon, not enter Delhi, but instead, take the diversion towards Sonipat ,Panipat, Ambala and reach Chandigargh at around 7 PM. Traffic in Ajmer wasn’t a bother at all and I soon made it to the national highway, I was wary of the Tanga wallahs though considering what one had done to me the previous evening. 🙂
Reaching Chandigarh was quite a task…
NH 8/NH48 is a lovely road to ride on, you can win a race against time on it, but I didn’t want to race. I rode consistently for quite a long time. By the time I got back to my senses from the joy and excitement, I had reached Gurgaon outskirts. I saw a south Indian hotel approaching so I headed there for lunch. Idli- vada is one of the safest things to have anywhere and it had been long since I had that combo, so I ordered for one. Of course, tea was ordered too. The thing about tea is that it always makes me feel nice, I can have it with almost anything that is salty. I was 4 months old when my grandfather gave me a few drops to taste and since then, I’ve got hooked onto it.
After lunch, I topped my hydration pack again and started out. The heat was intense, I could see myself approaching Delhi but to my rescue, I found a diversion towards Sonipat and turned towards the state highway in order to get onto NH 44. I don’t intend to visit Delhi anytime soon, it’s a huge city full of traffic and pollution- two of my worst nightmares. As I carried on, I began to witness more agricultural lands on either sides but with too many diversions on the way. The road began to get narrow too, enough to fit just 2 cars.
I used an offline GPS app on my iPhone called maps.me. It is a free app and works well most of the times, but when it doesn’t work well, it’ll guide you into all sorts of crazy directions. The app took me on a road that had a dead-end in the form of a half built flyover in the middle of nowhere. The area was less populated too, as a result, it was difficult to find people around. Fortunately though, laborers under the half built flyover emerged after hearing the engine rev and I enquired with them on the route. They asked me to ride on a narrow path through the fields and make a right turn when I’d reach the tarred road. It became cloudy all of a sudden as I stood up on the Duke and rode off through the fields through a muddy, bumpy path. There were small houses on the way where ladies sat outside and oil- massaged each other’s head. They looked at me with surprise and curiosity. Buffaloes were tied to the houses and were having their share of lunch (fodder basically). The whole village was quiet and peaceful. I rode with utmost caution though because there were chances of me running over snakes on the trail, considering the green surroundings and high temperatures of the region. I don’t exactly know why but I’m not that considerate about running over people when it comes to riding in a populated city. Not that I’ve done it before, but I’m still a bit careless. 😛
I reached the tarred road and made a right turn. The road kept going and there wasn’t even a single sign board displaying directions. With some more guidance from the helpful locals, I reached a city-ish village where boys in scooters tried to race me. I let them win. They all gathered around me when I stopped to check the GPS app again, in case it worked properly. The app worked well every time I closed it and reopened it, so I took its help for a few more kilometers. The boys meanwhile had big smiles on their faces for getting ahead on their scooters. Then they began to ask too many questions, I answered some but since I had no clue on how much time I had lost because I was lost, I bid them goodbye and sodded off. As towns passed by, 2 old men guided me onto a road that would led me straight to NH44. I was so lost at one point of time that I passed the same street twice, I actually thought I was never going to get out of that area.
Finally, a signboard on the National Highway indicated I was not far from Sonipat. But since I had lost a lot of time, I gave it some beans and maintained 3 digit speeds. On either sides of the national highway lay extremely tall trees, agricultural lands and some other kind of greenery so the temperature had to drop a bit. Over and above that, dark clouds blocked the sun every now and then so the ride got extremely ‘pleasurable’. I would use the term pleasurable because the amount of relief obtained was very high, even if the temperature dropped by just 1 or 2 Degrees C. I then realized I had flown past Sonipat when a petrol bunk attender told me. As I rode towards Panipat, It began to pour heavily. I didn’t stop to put on my rain gear though as dark clouds covered only a small portion of the area. My prediction was right, but a short 5 minute wash under the rain had me drenched completely. I left it to the 3 digit speeds to dry my gear and rode on. Lush green surroundings do a good job in accelerating speed and time. Very soon, I found myself heading towards Ambala, the last town before Chandigarh. At 6 PM, I fuelled up and stopped at a small tea stall to enjoy tea and biscuits. As I interacted with the stall owner, I noticed many people on Royal enfields loaded with luggage heading towards Chandigarh. Lucky them, they were going to LEH Ladakh eventually.
As I continued riding, I stopped by to take some pictures of the habitat which best described that region and then carried on. The sun had checked out for the day as I approached outskirts of Chandigarh where it began to drizzle. I overtook the bulleteers I saw earlier and kept going straight into the city. I hoped to find a good hotel on the same road but couldn’t find any. A good hotel to me is one that serves good food, has tidy, non-smelly air-conditioned rooms, clean toilets and good parking! I expected to see plenty of hotels by the highway in Chandigarh but most were 5 star-ish. For me, it is like committing a sin if I stayed in a 5 star hotel on a solo motorcycle expedition. My idiotic GPS application indicated many hotels nearby but some were towards the interior of the city, so I decided to not waste any more time and headed towards a hotel which I usually stay in – Ginger hotel. An added advantage was that the hotel was not in the heart of the city. I reached within 10 minutes and fortunately, a room was available. I was sweating from head to toe as I unpacked my luggage and parked the Duke for the night.
A nice cold shower waited for me while I ordered delicious dinner. After all that, I had a jolly facetime call with people at home and they told me I had put on weight, what a compliment!
Later on though, I couldn’t go to sleep as I was excited about riding through the 150 KM long (approx) mountainous region next day, so I browsed a bit and put myself to sleep.