The beast roared furiously for the last time before thudding onto the already shaking iron bridge. I was skeptical and anxious whether I would be able to balance myself. The hanging iron bridge was shaking back and forth, yet the beast was strong enough to balance its speeding velocity and we were on the other side of the brook in no time.
On the way to Manali from Kullu
You must all be wondering what the hell I am talking about! Or am I stuck on the job of narrating a fairy tale with you all guys? Well the beast was none other than the massive Royal Enfield Classic 350 with all the torque to thunder its way up the picturesque yet the deadly roads of the Himalayas.
Manali had a deserted look..thanks to the gloomy weather
How I Got in
I had absolutely no clue whatsoever how the hell I landed up in Manali in this odd season and that too alone. It was hot in Delhi and I was dead f**ked up with my routine. The severe mid-autumn heat wave was getting on to my nerves! All I remember that one fine Friday I had said to myself “Man thats enough! I need a break for three days! I hurriedly stuffed my jacket, few clothes, sunglasses, the DSLR and a selfi stick into the backpack. I hardly looked like a traveler. Yet in the end of that eventful evening, I was surprised to find myself on one among the last few seats remaining in a Manali bound HRTC Volvo from Kashmeri Gate.
Day One at the Hadimba Temple
Day one in Manali began with a negative note. The Volvo had literally screwed up on its way between Kullu and Manali. It was already noon when I reached Manali Bus stand. To my surprise the busy hill station had a peculiar ghost-town look with hardly any tourists around. Probably the drizzle and the gloomy weather might have had its toll.
The Hadimba Temple
The rain had stopped and a chilled breeze was already sweeping the valley. With nothing to do, I decided to have a trek to the famous Hadimba temple. The climb through the shady rain soaked pine woods was mesmerizing. With nobody around it was fun to walk. The emotion of being alone was slowly gripping my senses. A kite was shrieking harshly way above the canopy of the woods. The spell was soon cut short by a speeding tempo traveller carrying a group of tourists which precariously whisked its way up towards the temple.
You go into a whole new world..when you are in Hadimba Temple
The lush green Pine Woods
The sun suddenly cropped its way out of the clouds. The brilliance of daylight peeped through the dark pine woods. The ancient temple exuberated its mysterious elegance and I was lost, mesmerized by the sheer aura of this place immortalized by lord Bheema and his spouse Hadimba Devi. The fascinating tale of love, spirituality and sacrifice made by Hadimba Devi and her legendary son Ghatotkach still inspires many people to lead an honest life.
Day Two: Rise of a Beast Rider
God knows how the hell an idea of riding an Enfield Classic 350 had crept in my mind. I had never ridden a bike on any mountain before. And it would be fair to confess that on that very morning when I decided to hire the bike for two days, it was either bound to be a stupid or daredevil decision and that too when I hardly had any friends around. The stake was probably high and I took it. In the subconscious mind the highly conservative middle-class part of me was constantly abusing my decision to sign the self-declaration form that was a necessity for hiring the bike.
Day Two: Good Morning Manali
The roar of the beast on its gears and the majestic thrust of velocity gripped my senses immediately. I forgot that I was on the mountains. My reservations were lost within seconds. The road ahead inspite of its numerous serpentine turns and stiff climbs looked like roads and the beast carried me towards the wonderful destiny.
Getting Geared up for the Day One Ride..With the Beast Enfield Classic 350
Destination Solang Valley
Destination Solang Valley
It hardly took five minutes to reach the outskirts of Manali. I was riding straight through the Manali Leh Highway with the magnificent Beas to my left. After crossing the Nehru Kund lying to the right and moving another 200 metres the highway took an upward climb towards the picturesque Palchan Village.
On the way to Solang Valley
Here the road bifurcated into two directions. The right one climbed further up towards Rohtang La and the straight one which at that moment I was riding took me towards the gorgeous beauty of the Solang Valley. I had to cross an iron bridge and after a few turns I was standing right in front of a lush green meadow sloping down from the lap of a woody mountain. That was Solang Valley.
Beauty of the Solang Valley
The mountains around me were covered by lush green pine woods and the distant view of the snow peaks touching the crystal clear blue sky made the moment too adorable. The breeze around the valley had an uncanny chill and it was fun to feel the morning sun with the icy breeze.
On the way back to Palchan
The valley during winter seasons gets entirely frozen and is a perfect spot for ski lovers, ice scooters, para gliders and other ice-sports. A rope way service takes you to the cliff where you can indulge yourself to have the taste of a guided para gliding experience.
I already had a thorough joy ride of this amazing fun in the December 2014. You guys should visit Manali during Christmas and I can promise it would be a hell of a ride and fun out at Solang.
Last time I had enjoyed hot pakoras and coffee in a small tea shop and it was fun to have the same. After a quick round of selfies and photo session volunteered by a casual tourist I pressed the ignition keys and the destination next was Rohtang La.
On the way to Kothi Village
The Ride to Rohtang La
After reaching Palchan once again I took the Leh Manali Highway which now climbed fast onto the huge mountains lying ahead. It was hardly another 2 Kms before I reached the beautiful Kothi Village which provides tourists a wonderful view of the entire valley of Manali and Solang. It was fun to stop the bike on a hairpin bend and shoot some selfies. The village has a small coffee house (Café Kothi) and on a lazy outing you can enjoy the mountains by sitting on one of the rooftop tables of this café.
Valley View..on the way to Kothi Village
Another 500m ride led me to the Gulaba View Point. I must say you would truly enjoy the view of apple orchards and the colorful woods here. The spot offers a truly majestic view of the Beas river flowing down from its origin up in the mountains of Rohtang La.
As I stepped onto the gears, the road ahead became more and more convoluted and it was a hell of a crazy serpentine climb for another six or seven Kms before I reached the Leh Permit check point. The centre from where I rented the bike had already made arrangements to ensure online booking of my permit to ride to Rohtang. After clearing my papers (on-line printout) I sped onto another round of serpentine climbs for another six or seven kms to reach the magnificent Rahala Waterfalls lying to the right side of the highway. The ride till now was unbelievable and the road truly qualified as a well maintained highway.
It’s a wonderful sight to stand under this amazing waterfalls. The snow white cascade of water gushes down from the walls of the towering cliff and it’s a hell of a sight to stand right beneath it and enjoy the youthful exuberance of the flowing water.
A Selfie Click at Rahala Falls
Ride to Marhi Village & The Frozen Water Falls
My next destination was Marhi Village. It was another 15 mins ride from Rahala Falls to the Marhi Village. The road now shifted its climb towards the formidable all grey mountain having a rugged look. A few Km ahead of Marhi village, I reached a place where the road was in horrible shape. It was hard to maintain balance as I had to balance myself on a base of loose rocks and mud. The place had clear indications of frequent spells of avalanche. God knows how the hell I crossed this messed up terrain.
The amazing Landscape near Marhi
The tough climb
The next 40 mins was really tough for me as the road ahead was literally screwed up with stiff upward climb and landslide debris, In many places there were hardly any signs of the remains of an existing road. I forgot to have a real look at the amazing changes in the landscape as I was seriously focused on keeping my balance. Luckily I simply followed the basics of following tourist cars ahead of me otherwise I would have literally. In many places I simply forgot to step onto the higher gears. It was just the clutch, the second gear and the brakes. Yet inspite of the impeding difficulties I promised myself to stop on one of these amazing hairpin bends for some photo shots during my ride down to Manali. Soon I crossed the famous Maharishi Vedavyas Temple on my right. I decided to move ahead straight to Rohtang as it was only going to be another 3Km ride.
Rohtang La Atlast
Rohtang La it was atlast. A huge yellow Border Road Organization (BRO) milestone welcomed me to the formidable Rohtang La (13058 ft above sea level).
Yet it was a disappointing sight everywhere. There was no sight of any snow. The mountain tops had an entire rugged and barren look. The charming Buddhist flags hanging from a pole on a nearby cliff fluttered but looked too dull in the backdrop of the grey mountains surrounding me. I was madly expecting a Khardung La or Chang La aura – alas it was not to be. Finding the parking place buzzing with tourist cabs, I decided to ride further ahead taking the Leh highway.
Welcome to Lahaul & Spiti
Another 300 metres ride led to witness an amazing sign board to my right. It indicated that I had just entered the Lahaul & Spiti district of Himachal. It immediately raised an electrifying excitement inside me. The sight beyond this road sign was now opening up into a landscape that was so familiar to me.
It rugged grey mountain range with their snow caps looked amazing in the backdrop of the crystal clear blue sky. They had an amazing resemblance to the landscape of Ladakh. There was hardly any presence of any plantation anywhere.
The Breathtaking Landscape
The only difference I observed was perhaps in the color of the rocks. These mountains had a deep greyish tinge whereas the mountains of Ladakh were either predominantly brown. It was truly a majestic sight and a perfect opportunity for me to oblige myself for some shots.
A Wow Moment
Somebody Crazy like me
After spending almost half an hour exploring the Rohtang top I decided to ride down taking the Leh highway towards what was supposed to be the way to Keylong. The road was beginning to climb down onto a serpentine trail into a deep gorge lying way below the mountains on which I was riding. I had moved hardly another kilometer before I came across a security checkpost. The officers asked me to return back to Manali as my permit was only upto Rohtang La and not further beyond.
The faraway snowcaps
I sighed. I knew I was disappointed. I reversed the bike and decided to stop not before reaching the peculiar igloo shaped Maharishi Vedavyas Temple.
Origin of river Beas and the Vedavyas Temple
The ride back to Manali: Maharishi Vedavyas Temple
To be frank to you all I had never seen such a peculiar igloo shaped temple anywhere in India. Yet there was something too holy about the aura inside the temple. Inside the temple I found a small spring oozed out a perpetual flow of water that was none other than the mighty river Beas flowing into a narrow brook down towards Manali. It is said that the great saint had meditated for several years in ancient times at this secluded place and the river Beas was born as a boon.
The Igloo Shaped Maharishi Vedavyas Temple
The Marhi Paragliding Spot
I successfully crossed the deadly avalanche zone with almost zero throttle and was riding close to the Marhi village. A small group of people had gathered near a bend of a cliff and were getting ready to jump off the cliff with their paragliding kit on their back.
The Paragliding Spot..near Marhi
I had already made a promise to have a break at one of these amazing bends which gave a spectacular valley view down and the surrounding formidable mountains. Among the eager group of paragliders I found a person to help me out with few shots of my own in the DSLR and the mobile.
The aura of this place instantly won my heart
The aura of this place instantly won my heart. I felt liberated and enlightened. This was probably the reason why the paragliders had also chosen this amazing spot to jump off and float endlessly in the backdrop of this amazing landscape.
Emancipation from my own limitations
I could not stop myself from taking my seat on a small rock on this cliff and spend some endless moments. It gave me the perfect opportunity to have an insight into my own life. It made me feel strong, self-conscious and self-aware of my present existence. At the same time I started to feel humble yet confident to take up any surmounting challenge.
I felt that I had the spirit of a rider deep inside. Perhaps the unexpected journey to Rohtang La was emancipation from my own limitations.
…to be continued