Such a lovely morning...nice N sunny....sunny?? Today...?? Shit!!!!! What time is it...??? Those were the exact sequence of thoughts when i woke up at 06.32 hrs for a flight at 07.30 hrs....
Alarm failed...uber call failed....dad called...again failed......and finally the Sun woke me up...
It took me 5 seconds to arrive at a plan B, and 10 seconds to convince myself to give the original plan a shot. Desperate call to my younger brother, the mad rush to get to the airport.... ....5 min into which I realized that my wallet is still napping in the cupboard......a frantic u-turn.... to collect it...and back on the road again...only to reach the airport in 20 min, rushing through the check-in (thanks to a few friends who had managed to convince Indigo on letting me in), and finally boarding the flight with all the passengers.....without making anyone wait.....
The adventure had begun with an adventure!!!
Wait, what adventure??
As you get older N older, you try to prove to the world or rather yourself, that age is just a number. So here I was, 5 years after the epic Manali - Leh - Khardung la cycling expedition, back on the cycle, this time attempting to ride an estimated distance of roughly 680 km, from Narkanda to Manali via Chandrataal and Spiti.
For those who thrive on data and facts, this is what we had planned
Roughly 680 km
Route - Narkanda - Sarhan - Sangla -(Chitkul) - Pooh - Nako - Tabo - (Dhankar) - Kaza - (Kibber) - Losar - Chandrataal - Rohtang - Manali
Max elevation - 4590m
Number of days - 10
Average age of the team - 42 years ( yea.. i was amongst the youngsters on the trip, and no shame in saying that sometimes it was tough keeping up with the people in the lead :) )
The trip promised to be a hell of a ride and the start definitely lived upto it.
In comparison, the rest of the day seemed pretty average. Seeing an airhostess being blessed by an elderly passenger in the aisle of the airplane,(rare event) changing planes at Delhi (done that a hundred times), met the other co passengers of the trip at Chandigarh (knew most of them) and finally boarded the bus to Narkanda.
A quick stop for lunch at Haveli restaurant, provided a glimpse into what was gonna be the norm for days to come. Scrumptious food and loads of it and washed down with Baskin & Robin's chocolate ice-cream. The probability of gaining weight at the end of the trip seemed rather high.
As dusk approached and we drove around the outskirts of Shimla, the nip in the air increased. Finally we reached Narkanda, our pit-stop for the next two days and were welcomed by Hrushi and AC (captain).
The day had been a long one, but after the delicious and simple dinner served, no one could resist the temptation of a moonlit walk in the cold, crisp air of the Himalayas.
The next day morning, after a hearty breakfast, we got to getting our saddles ready. Checking out the frames, putting on the saddles and bottle holders, checking the brakes - readying the brand new bikes was fun. Under the watchful eye of AC, all of us prepared our rides for the next 10 days and set out for a quick spin around the hills. We were supposed to do a simple ride of 20 odd km to Tani Jubbar - a small man made lake in the hills - a place next to Kotgarh which I had visited a few years back.
The ride to Tani Jubbar seemed pleasant, most of it being downhill through the pine forests. It did feel like this was going to be a cake walk, till we hit the last turn to the lake and that 200 mts of climb gave us a glimpse of what was gonna happen on the way back to the hotel.
A few photographs of the team at the lake (if you call that one) and we were back on the saddle, this time sweating it out on the road that climbed up towards Narkanda.
Once back, the cycles were given another check, knowing Captain, this was just gonna be the routine everyday and then we retired for a simple but filling lunch.
The afternoon was at leisure and most of us spent it lazing around. Shilpa joined us a tad bit late, but more eager than all of us to start the ride.
Some of us were eyeing a trip to Hatu peak. It's one of the highest peaks in the vicinity and a good hike on a nice day. But we had strict instructions to rest our legs, so we decided to get on a truck and hitch a ride to the top. I had been to Hatu some 2-3 years back in December, when I had hiked my way to the top. That day had been bright and sunny, the cold December air being warmed just enough by the winter Sun, however today there was rain in the air. It was a fun ride up the mountain through the narrow twists and turns.
The temple itself was shrouded in clouds with zero visibility of the area. We spent some time at the top, waiting for the weather to clear, but our chances looked bleak.
The ride back was even more fun, with the rain pelting down on us, we struggled to get under the tarpaulin at the back and hold it in place against the wind. Back in Narkanda, the Sun welcomed us and we stepped in the local coffee shop for some hot drinks.
Early dinner while watching Pakistan win the cricket match and all of us were off to bed - ready to hit the tarmac the next day morning at 5.30 am.