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Old 12th May 2018, 19:04   #1
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Default To the last village of India - Mana, Uttarakhand. Chronicles of a Lone Biker

Life is all about emptiness! One who has it, runs from it and the one who doesn't, runs for it! The cacophonous monotony of eat-work-sleep routine leaves a city dweller tired and exhausted. While it sucks all the energy and enthusiasm in once life, the zest for life diminishes to a point that one starts to wonder and question his existence! However, there are times when you bump into something that aggravates the entire situation and then...you start thinking. And when you think, you get all your answers. I got mine too!

While the above few flowry statements may be generalized, they describe me to a great extent. Especially during the period when the last time I had done something for myself was almost a year ago. And by "something" I mean something that gives me pleasure, lets me know who am I, something that describes me, something that friends and family know me for! Yes, riding to distant places.

Delhi was scorching during April 2018. The mercury was going north every passing day and was romancing with the 40 degrees mark. Office commutes had become intolerable as I prefer to ride down rather than feel caged for about 1.30 hrs to 2 hrs each way! Overhead water tanks seemed to be taking water supply directly from hell. All this while, I thought, there should be some place nearby that could give me an escape for a few days not only from this weather, but this daily routine too. A place away from the maddening traffic, a place that is still cool and not scorching, a place where chirping birds would wake me up in the morning! After all, I'm a wanderer... a restless soul. I need to unwind and get my chronemics in place every 3 months and its been almost a year that I rode to Bhutan.

With this thought, I retired to bed one night and while I was lost in the thoughts, I fell asleep. However, I clearly knew what that place is and where I would be heading to next once I woke up to a scorching morning. My Borther-in-law (BIL from now) had been working on a project in Mukteshwar, Uttarakhand (actually about 20km before Mukteshwar) where he intends to run a cafe and an adventure camp not only because of his own profit, but also to create more employment opportunities for the locals. He had already taken a temporary accommodation there and was living the dream of life. Since, the project had already begun, I was invited there many-a-times but some or the other reason kept me occupied.

Seeking an oppportunity, I planned a ride to Mukteshwar and then head on to Mana and Badrinath after spending one day here. This way, it would not be difficult to convince the wife (LOL!) for a ride and I would also have a chance to see the progress and the land bought over which I had been giving ideas since a while now. So here goes the story of these glorious 5 days, from 40 degrees to 10 degrees. Read on to know how I reached The Last Village Of India, Mana, Uttarakhand to find my emptiness!

Some pics to keep you guys busy!

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Old 12th May 2018, 21:11   #2
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Default re: To the last village of India | Mana, Uttarakhand | Chronicles of a Lone Biker

Day 1 | 20.04.2018 | The Escape | Delhi - Mukteshwar

There are times in every rider's life when the itch to ride reaches a level that one just decides to pack bags and venture out in any direction. Although I knew where to go, it does was a last minute decision. All thanks to the nature of my present job. It was just a short stint of about 4 days, to many it might seem like just another ride in the mountains, nothing too special. However, it was for me. For all the reason stated above. It was only a rucksack that I would be carrying for this trip, again a sign of a rushed up preparation, which would have all my clothes and tools and since the rear tyre was giving up, it left me a little unsure, hence, a puncture repair kit and a air compressor was also stuffed in.

With long and tiring days at work, I don't even remember when I last saw the sunrise. Maybe it was during my last ride to Bhutan. But today was different. Although the eyes were sleepy, but there were filled with enthusiasm and excitement. Woke up to a cool morning with a mild overcast in the sky. The weather looked perfect to ride and I knew by the time the temperature would rise, I would be in the lap of the Himalayas. Quickly finished the morning chores, tied the bag to the rear seat proceeding with mounting the tank-bag, donned the jacket and bid goodbye to the wife. It was time to hit the roads.

Getting out of Delhi on a weekday morning can be a task sometimes. And today was no different. Moreover, the Ghaziabad stretch is something that every rider from Delhi has endless stories to narrate about. The traffic there is simply horrendous. While the streets of Delhi were a breeze to cross, right before Kale Khan Bus Terminal, a lot of vehicles were seen coming back the wrong side. While it did leave me confused, following the heard came in as the best solution. Switched on Google maps and after some struggle and few turns, I was zooming on the newly constructed/widened road near Mayur Vihar.

And there came the bottleneck. The dreaded Ghaziabad bottleneck. It seemed that the fast paced city life wanted to leave an everlasting impression and didn't seem too happy for my escape. Just 80km into the ride and the senses were already tired. The body also begged for mercy and I was still struggling with crazy traffic including truck, more trucks, even more trucks, school buses, tractors, Gramin Sewa, two wheelers, and cycles alike. Hidden under the heavy armor a.k.a. riding jacket, the torso hid like a tortoise, even though perspiring, but willing to wait until its safe to come out!

Finally after much struggle, the road opened a bit and I could stop to rest my ailing body. Ailing from "city life", after all, this was supposed to be an escape. And now since the barriers were broken and the escape plan was successful, all that needed to be done was to run. Run as far as possible and as quick as possible to a place so calm, so serene that it could be a utopia for a city dweller, just like me. Stopped by the road side and relieved the aching muscles, back, neck and bum to be precise. From here on, it would be pure bliss, with minimal traffic and few of the best roads.

Moving on, while still lost in the utopia dream, the powerhouse wanted some fuel. I was hungry, and I was thirsty. Carrying a water bottle did not make any sense as the temperature would leave it boiling in no time. Yes, the mercury was rising, way too fast. It seemed like the weather, one of the elements that I wanted to escape from, wanted to give me its piece of mind one last time. So all I could think about this time was Burgers, fries and chilled Fanta from Mc Donalds at Gajraula, which was till about 60 odd km away from this place.

However, against all odds of being hungry and thirsty, increasing temperature etc. one this helped me remained positive, not the burgers, but the roads. Such fabulous, smooth roads and the company of this awesome machine which had a message in its exhaust notes "let's get the **** out of here, bro!". Passing Garh Ganga at Garhmukteshwar, it was finally time I stop by and have something. I was here at Mc Donalds! Went straight to the washroom and freshened up post which a delicious, filling meal was ordered and there I sat in a corner lost in my own sweet world where in the silence, the inner silence, was broken by a voice. "Where are you coming from?". Then started a crisp and concise conversation with few young Britishers who were very keen to know my mission. And then I was lost again. And that Fanta tasted like nectar to a butterfly!

While it would have been an obvious choice to spend more time in the air conditioned environment inside the restaurant, the other option to reach that place where no AC is required seemed more legit. After all, this is an escape...right? Good roads continued henceforth. However, the temperatures continued climbing. I was in no mood to rip the bike to triple digit speeds and rather consoled myself over the place and the ambiance that would embrace me with open arms starting right this afternoon.

It could have been easier choice to take the run of the mill, shorter and direct route to Mukteshwar via Rudrapur and Haldwani. But what's the fun going down trodden path. Since my rendezvous with Nainital, the place just keeps pulling me towards it. Hence, this time too, it had to be via Nainital, not that the distance would be increased many folds, just because of the love for the place. On the way to towards Nainital via Kaladhungi the heat was simply unbearable and per my style, I hate to stop at busy marketplaces even to buy water. However, it was just out of bounds and stopped by a restaurant, gulped in a bottle of cold water and mango juice and rested for a while. Once again, the air conditioned atmosphere in the restaurant was inviting, but falling sick was not an option. Hence was seated outside only.

This is the point where I leave the madness behind in actual sense as Nainital is only about 40km from here. And finally the photography session starts.

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While lost souls like me seek a place where its just me and no one else, the other kind comes to such places in search of thrill and adventure. Not that I frequent this route every month or even a quarter, but I've seen paragliding being done here for the first time. Though a short flight, the views are pretty amazing and one is left in awe. Couldn't click a picture of the activity, but I have this in the video. Next was a bird's eye view of the Khurpa Tal, one of the nine lakes in the district, hence the name, Nainital!

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Around 3.00 pm I was right besides the Naini Lake and the the area was already bustling with locals and tourists alike. Shot a timelapse and an info video before moving on towards the destination of the day. The action cam developed a glitch and the entry video in Nainital couldn't be recorded. Who knew this glitch would accompany me for the next 2 days! And it was only here since 6 in the morning, almost 8 hours later, that the word "pleasant" could be used for the weather. This looked promising! And this very thing would be a norm for the next few days.

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Bhowali was the next stop as the bike showed low fuel level. A detour and a tank full immediately brought up a smile on my face. I was smiling not just to see the tank full, but also to see the economy that the bike had returned. One of the best so far, so another benchmark for myself! Finally at around 5.30 I was right outside the Bhalu Gaad Falls, one of the major attractions in the area. Called up BIL and he was waiting just 50mtrs ahead.

As the jinx it has always been, there is not even a single day when I' riding and it Doesn't rain. While it pitter pattered on and off till the waterfall, it started drizzling as soon as I reached and the it was an ultimate downpour! Good thing, the luggage was already transferred to BIL's car else all I would have had with me would a a bag full of wet clothes. It rained so bad that a shelter had to be sought in an under constructing building when the accommodation was only few steps down below. As the rain stopped, what I saw left me completely speechless. Read on to know as I have less pictures and more to narrate.

Recollect the last time you went for a drive/ride to the hills. Remember the lush terrace farms? And the charming houses scattered across the place? What if you get to stay in one of those? Where just a bulb lights the entire household at night? And the clearest of night skies are visible? Sounds amazing right? This was the place that I actually stayed at for 2 nights.

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A tired soul so engrossed into his utopia that he forgets the worldly pleasures to stay at one of the most basic accommodations. Basically, just 4 walls and a roof! The temperature plunging down every passing second. Wearing a down jacket at this place instead of seeking respite in air conditioned room in Delhi came in as a pleasant experience. The temperature was going down by the second and it was time form "pakoras". Freshly pulled onions from the farm right next to the room were being mixed with the freshest of the ingredients for a snack most loved in such weather. And boy, I'm not sure if it was the excitement and the serenity of the place or something else that that was the best snack I've had in years now! Soon it was dark and we ventured out into the market.

Yes, you're right, the place is away from any such establishment such a market but I'm not finished yet. Traveled 15km in BIL's car as I fought with motion sickness which kicks even upon climbing to the ground floor from basement in a car. Although, when I'm driving, its never a problem. Strange, but this time I was a passenger. Shopped for misc stuff and some more snacks. The night was well spent chatting and just soaking up the lovely environment while rains kept company on and off till we were all asleep.

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The Makeshift arrangement. Onion fritters being served piping hot. This chap is Rajkumar, on of the staff members form my BIL at his Delhi office. Permanently stationed here upon his own sweet will!

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40 degrees during the day and now an attempt to keep us warm! Utopia!
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Old 13th May 2018, 10:38   #3
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Default re: To the last village of India | Mana, Uttarakhand | Chronicles of a Lone Biker

Thank you for sharing. In May 1975 I visited this place which was, if I recall right, some kms beyond Badrinath. The last few kms of the journey had no roads and one had to walk. I think we are both referring to the same village. Good to see that thanks to BRO there is now a road. I recall being told that Sage Ved Vyas sat here and wrote the Mahabharat epic. The village has clearly developed a lot. In 1975 my visit was with an uncle who served in the Army. And he told us to carry along with us (as gifts for the villagers) sewing needles, threads, chappals, packets of salt & sugar and small kerosene stoves with the kerosene. My cousin & I both teenagers then dutifully did as told and went with his Army driver on this hike. Nice to see things are a lot better now including a windmill.

Wish you many more journeys on your bike. Ride safe ride sure.

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Old 13th May 2018, 13:55   #4
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Default re: To the last village of India | Mana, Uttarakhand | Chronicles of a Lone Biker

Day 1 Vlog

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Old 13th May 2018, 20:54   #5
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Thank you!
this travelogue could not have come at a better time since I am planning my drive to Binsar later this month. Keep the pics and story ongoing.
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Old 14th May 2018, 19:31   #6
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Day 2 | 21.04.2018 | Into The Wild | Mukteshwar

The Escape Plan has been successful. It was yesterday that a tired soul escaped the fangs of the routine life, escaped to a place that puts him into the lap of nature, to a place yet not known to many, to a place which remains very different in every aspect, any time of the year, than his native place. I don't even remember when was the last time I woke up to the sounds of chirpy birds and howling winds through the Deodar trees.

It was 6.30 in the morning and was actually becoming difficult to sleep more, even for a minute. Wondered what to do. This hour of the morning is usually spent either catching up with more sleep or being lost in the thoughts of "to-do" list for the day. However, today was different, very different. All that was to be done today was nothing. Just soaking up the place and making the most of it was the agenda for today.

Gathered my lethargic body which had fallen to rumbles after an exhausting ride yesterday and moved out of the room. Wow! This place was cold and serene and calm. Exactly what I wanted and expected it to be. The trustworthy and humble, Rajkumar, also woke up and immediately prepared morning bout of tea. Although I usually refrain from drinking tea, but as today was different, it had to tea right in the morning. So there it was!

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Slowly the day started to begin and BIL and I went to his friend's hotel to freshen up. Water was just too cold here and being a lowest level of a basic accommodation, a geyser was a luxury. Drove up to the town but to find no electricity here due to yesterday's rain. Yes, it rained that bad! Now you know the jinx? Life could could get complex in the cities with a slightest of a hustle. And here the day goes usual as its all about bare necessities being met. We were offered a bucket of hot water each however, power was back and we could take a leisurely hot water bath. Not that I wouldn't have taken a hot water bath today if I was back home...if you know what I mean. Yes, the overhead tank.

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A breakfast consisting of some more tea and toasts and were were back to the main frame.

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Now was the time to see what was going on with the project and how far are we. Strolled around and got acquainted with the piece of land procured (more on this can be seen in the vlog for the day) and now was the time to head to the waterfall, the only attraction around here, and truly a majestic one.

The land on the ridge has a trail going to the smaller and more isolated waterfall which lies behind the main waterfall. So in no time we were walking down the trails that usually locals take and trust me if you're new here, please don't attempt it on your own as there are scores of dead ends and micro trails that basically lead you nowhere. A cute dog kept us company, very playful and much fun.

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The waterfall was visible at a distance. Not a huge one per say, however, it should be in its full force by the monsoon season. The hike took us about half an hour and I was gasping for breath, sweating and tired. Nothing new that I do, as back in the city, this can be done too, without doing anything. But as I say, today was a different day, I had an escape yesterday and I need to make most of it. Strolled around the place for a while and finally sat with an empty mind. This was it, here was my emptiness. I had no thought running in my mind, no reports, no orders, no phone calls. Just me and the sounds of the nature, and yes, sometime that dog which sought attention every now and then.

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The pool looked captivating and much inviting for a swim. It was difficult to hold on for a person who just loves open waters, pond, pool, sea or river. The thought of not carrying swimwear was immediately regretted. But its ok, I now have a reason to come back. Come back to this place which was not too far from Delhi and which offers me my emptiness. However, the fact is pretty accepted that this place would be bustling with tourists, come, maybe next 5 years. And I would be forced to go find another place for my emptiness.

The day processed quickly and it was lunch time and boy we were hungry! Meanwhile the trustworthy and humble, Rajkumar, had already prepared delicious aaloo-matar and chawal. And guess where the peas came from? Yes, right from the farm. The owner had them harvested and I could actually see gunny bags full of them ready to be sold at the vegetable market. Life is simple here, isn't it?

Rest of the day was spent loitering around, playing with the kids, teasing the goats and just soaking up the place.

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The weather grew colder and finally the labor was off work at 5. BIL had some work in Haldwani, next big town for everything that a farm land could not produce and that's all I have to say for t his place. Its hot, as hot as Delhi, chaotic and noisy, everything that's not the agenda for this ride. I refused to tag along, partially because of these reasons, but majorly because of motion sickness. By this line of this travelogue, it might seem I have been living here since ages, but it was only yesterday that I came here and the motion sickness would still catch me up. He left saying he would be back by 10.00 pm. Meanwhile I assured him chicken would await as he's back.

The trustworthy and I had time to kill. So picked up my bike with Rajkumar as a pillion and went to Dhari market, about 3 km from this place to get chicken and the "staple"only to know that the "staple" would be available only in Bhatelia. No worries, we had time to kill and were back in an hour with everything that we needed. And then I wore my chef's cap and began cooking.

Everything was normal, like cooking back in my kitchen, the only difference being, there was no kitchen here and cooking in the middle of a valley (yeah, sort of) was fun. It was just like camping in the wild. The chicken simmered on a larger version of a camping stove.

BIL was back by 10 as promised and the cit chat session continued till 1.00 am before calling it a night, actually a very cold night, and burning another 5 - 6 kg of wood to keep us warm.

Vlog for the day:


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Old 15th May 2018, 17:25   #7
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Day 3 | 22.04.2018 | To The Last Indian Village | Inching Closer

With such fun and frolic the past day, it was hard to digest the fact that it was time to bid adieu to such a lovely place. But I had something else on my mind too. While I could have stayed here for eternity, there were more places that I had my list of places to be covered. Its like being a child in a toy store, that wants to grab every toy in it even though not one would fit in his hand. Luggage was packed up already and morning chores were done in no time. Bathing was out of question unless I wanted to freeze myself up in the bone chilling water.

Sipping a cup of tea and hoping to come back here I prepared myself mentally for the long ride ahead. Almost 300km in the mountains and no idea about the road. Mountains can be unpredictable, you never know what lies on the next turn...but actually, that's the most exciting part, isn't it? Rajkumar helped me strap the luggage on to the bike. When its said "two to tango" there's a meaning to it. The luggage was strapped so well that it didn't budge even an inch in the next 302km that I ended up doing for the day.

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Bright sunny morning, balmy sunshine and the company of this gem of a machine, what could beat this awesome combo on a Sunday morning, only if yours could be better (LOL!). All I wanted now was something to eat as I was hungry, right in the morning which happens very rarely. Breakfast was planned at Ranikhet which was around 70 km from this place and I should be there by 10ish as it was around 8.30 right now, just the right time to have breakfast on a ride. And I exactly knew where to stop, Hotel Meghdoot, bang opposite KMVN, Ranikhet.

The state was slowly waking up for it's days schedule. That's how things go here, everything is laid back, and as its said again, do as the Romans do, I too was just gliding on the well built roads while Uttarakhand ensured a breathtaking vista at every turn. I can't remember when did I develop this habit of listening to music while riding, maybe the daily commutes had given me enough reasons to stay away from all the honking and screeching. However, today was different, infact, every passing second was different. The regular Atif Aslam, Sherry Maan, Diljit Dosanjh and the likes seemed way too inferior against the sounds of nature! Now the bluetooth stays connected only for calls and notifications.

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Being lost on the way something that everyone wants to avoid and to some it may come as a nightmare. I'm no different. However, this time I was more than happy to lose my way to Meghdoot Restaurant as the roads took me through pristine landscape devoid of any traffic. This also meant I would have no one to ask my way out. Internet connection was patchy, who needs it anyway? Relying just upon my instincts and faint memories from the last ride, along with help from the locals (usually the army as Ranikhet is a cantonment area), It was finally Meghdoot and hot paranthas to satiate the hunger. A Quick breakfast break and off I go again. The next town was Dwarhat about 40km from this place.

Temperatures were rising, but only as per Uttarakhand standards as Delhi was still scorching. The destination was far away. There were times that I was the only soul riding and nothing in sight for the next 10 km. If my bike wants to kill me, this would be just the best time to settle things.

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The weather was getting hotter and hotter. Good thing I did not carry water, else drinking it up from the bottle, which would have stayed tied on the ruck sac, would have been no less than a punishment. So the next purchase that I make related to riding would be a hydration pack. And this valley that I have been riding since the past hour doesn't seem to end. And it became unbearable. Throat was begging for some mercy and its been a while that I stopped and took some rest. bought water and mango juice from a small shop, still do not know what place was that. I mean that's the beauty, when I pass through this place the next time, it would come as an amazing feeling to see the same spot.

Gulping down 1.5 ltrs of liquid came as a good respite and the aching back and bum were relieved too.Roads were in a super awesome conditions and many-a-times the bike was running ignition off, saving fuel...and money! Around 3.30 pm I was around 40km short of Karnprayag, another holi town and too big to be missed. I had to good roads continued and soon I was looking for a fuel pump to refuel.

Around 10 ltrs of petrol at an expensive (as per Delhi Standards) Rs. 77 per ltr, finally made a stop after exiting the town in a hope to click good views of the town from a distance. However, nature threw tantrums as the sun was too bright and the environment remained hazy. No good shots clicked.

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As the evening approached, not only the distance to the destination became less, the temperature kept dropping too. and Suddenly after crossing Karnprayag, the roads became even better, A part of the Char Dham Project run by the Uttarakhand Government, which I got to know later. Some sections were in such a good shape that even the most modern highways would shy away against them. The clock was ticking and sun was going down the horizon rapidly. Clouds started hovering above in the sky, not like really bad one, but enough to drench me up just in case it rains, Joshimath is still about good 100km from this place.

Speeds remained in excess of 75 - 80 and sometimes reaching as fast as 120ish until I came to this place which I could not help but to stop and capture.

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The weather changed quickly, mountains you know, and it became so windy that at some stretches it became extremely difficult to keep the bike in a straight line and black clouds started hovering in the direction that I was headed to. Rains are something I loath, especially on a ride, and on most of the rides the weather gods ensure I reach the hotel drenched. Though I've found a way as a cheat code t o it, but still, wet shoes are something that I do not like to walk into my hotel room with. The action cam went inside the tank bag secured with waterproof liner, just in case.

But even if it rained, it was ok, as today was different. Mind was swirling with random thoughts, right from nursery rhymes to future plans and I kept talking to myself. Yes, I was tired, however, the drop in the temperature came as a fresh change and there was a sort of electrification to the soul. I could actually feel the difference in the energy levels. It felt like I was back from school on a hot summer day and just dropped by bag that weighed the weight of the earth on my shoulder. I realized the emptiness that I had in Mukteshwar was half cooked, more like being granted with it. However, there was more, and I was heading to that place. A place where there would be no one to ask for last minute reports, no one to question my whereabouts, no one selling me insurance policies and credit cards and no one reminding me of how fat have I become.

It was here, I was at Joshimath, with a slight drizzle, the sleepy little town welcomed me. As the norm has been, and every rider who does long distances must have experienced it, after riding for about 10-12 hours the biggest challenge is to unload the luggage. Exactly 302 km done today as I stopped right outside a hotel, more like a lodge, which looked familiar. This had been doing rounds across social media platforms that I use, showing how privacy is being breached at every step. Anyway, this place was Simran Palace, almost every website/app showed prices north of Rs. 2000, maybe the on-season rate. Negotiated a room for Rs. 500, unloaded the luggage and straight away went for a bath. The view outside was amazing.

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A warm water bath, and I felt so refreshed that I could ride for another 12 hours. But no, enough riding, it was time to soak up the place, the mountains and the snow capped peaks which seemed to be stone throw away distance, feel the chill and make it an experience, a memory to cherish for a lifetime. Ventured into the market to get myself the ration for the night as the town covers itself under the blanket of silence and darkness as the night approaches, maybe just around this time of the year. The evening was spent checking our pics from the day and watching youtube !



Vlog for the day:



Last edited by Eddy : 18th May 2018 at 09:03. Reason: Rule # 11
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Old 15th May 2018, 21:01   #8
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Day 4 | 23.04.2018 | To The Last Indian Village | Finally Here


The day was here. I was supposed to reach to a place so remote, not in literal sense though, that only a few dare to reach. Not that its completely disconnected from the outside world and is inaccessible, not that it has world of attractions, not that its a geographical sensation for the world, but for a wanderer like me, this place holds a special importance, a kind of proud feeling both patriotically and egoistically. The morning broke early. The attempt of setting up the chronemics right was working out in a positive way. Although I knew it would just be like a pain killer, a temporary relief, but it was worth a shot. All the new things learnt, wisdom gained and experience counted would come in hand at some time or the other.

The agenda today was clear, visit Badrinath, Mana and Auli, come back and succumb to the fact that it would be the same old life starting tomorrow at around 4.00pm, when I bid a final goodbye to the mountains and be the part of the rat race. Since it was a short 100km ride, although on unknown roads, to and fro, lazing around in the chilly environs is an experience not to be missed. While the town was slowly waking up for the day, children going to school, shop shutters being lifted, buses and truck plying on the road and everything else tried hard to convince me to think it to be all bustling. I laughed it out in sadness and disgust, not for this place, but my place! A warm water bath, and I was all fresh to visit the Last Village Of India, Mana.

I knew the town was closed, even the famed Badrinath temple was shut, I was an early bird. But no worms for me, more on this later. Left for Mana as clear blue skies and a bright sun greeted me up all the way through, through every turn and through every corner. Roads, well highway...no runway. Apologies for the exaggeration, but that's how they were. Not that I haven't seen great stretches of road, but this was a pleasant experience in every sense. The weather, though sunny, was chilly. So chilly that riding along a cliff where the sun does not reach was 3-4 degrees colder than the sunny part. The temperature difference was noticeable.

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Govindghat came in as a first halt as the stomach was grumbling. I wished to have breakfast at Mana, just a smaller caption of this dream that was coming true. Sipped a, not so delicious, tea here and rolled off towards Mana after a small chat with the shack owner about Vasudhara Falls, Bhimpul and Mana Village in all. The views got better and better with every turn and I was stopping every 5 minutes to click more and more pictures. After all, being so well connected via social media platforms, this had to look like a dream. A dream not to brag about "Been there...done that", but a dream to provoke, shake and jerk up thesleeping and famished souls back in the cities, just like me, to wake up and head to such places, after all, you only have one life to live.

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The streams seemed to be rising from the ashes as the snow had just started melting. The river too was just half ferocious, but the mountains stood magnificently, and everyone and everything seemed to be at their mercy. It was a deserted road, well to some extent, and only occasional rumbling trucks and passenger cars were seen on and off. The distant towns had just started seeping people rehabilitate. For those who're unaware, upper reaches including Mana, Malari and Niti here in Uttarakhand are handed over to the Indian Army as their forward location and people lock their houses and move to the low lying areas during winters which are usually harsh, and sometimes ferocious. Temperatures can dip to as low as -20 degrees during winters. Imagine the life of soldiers who spend 6 months guarding these strategic locations considering their proximity to the LAC. Imagine you wake up in the morning only to find everything frozen, right from cooking oil to eggs, let alone drinking water.

This begins my favorite part of the ride and a justification to the title for the day "Finally Here".

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This was like a kilometer before the village gate and I was there in no time. It was like a dream come true. Something only heard by the word of mouth, something only seen in pictures and read in books and over the internet. Certainly, I'm not the first to reach this place. I've had my fair share of "first to do", but yes, it was one of a kind experience. The sign board stood magnanimously welcoming everyone to "The Last Village Of India".

This was it. I was stopped by a guardian angel, an Indian Army personnel and was advised to head ahead as there's a permit required to enter the village, to be acquired from DC office, Joshimath. Ignorant, I had no idea what was being told. As per me, and everything else, one may freely visit the village and the permits are only required for the pass. Remember me being an early bird? So here and now, no worms for me. Since the village shuts down, it comes under the Indian Army supervision, hence the permission for the village too, which is easy to obtain, but I did not have one. still satiated, I vouched for myself to come back to not only this village, but the pass too!

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So I was allowed to click pictures here, and the Army personnel clicked mine. He wanted a couple of shots of himself to be clicked with the bike and board, which I humbly obliged to. staying alert in such a terrain is not easy, so if this small gesture brings a smile to someone, I'm all in for it! Post an informative session with the jawaan I headed back to Badrinath, 4 km from here and was there in another 15 minutes. Same here, the town was closed, the temple was being renovated for minor repairs. Parked the bike and headed towards the temple and there it stood as the main attraction. Being an aethist, had little to no interest in entering the temple anyway, but the architecture was worth appreciating. A handful of early birds here already, since the temple was supposed to be opened by 30.04.2018, they secured a place in a hotel or a guesthouse of their choice. I'm sure things would become chaotic once the temple gates open for the public.

... Continued in next post as the number of images exceed the permissible 30.
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Old 15th May 2018, 21:11   #9
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... Day 2 continued


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Spent about half an hour here and and since the dream of having breakfast at the last Indian Village remained unfulfilled, satiated with delicious Maggie (instant noodles) at one of the Shacks here.

The return journey was equally eventful as the sun was high up in the sky and changing light conditions had changed the place completely, atleast apparently.

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Came back to the hotel by lunch and I wasn't hungry. Ventured into the market for some mango juice and whiled away some time at the hotel room until the eyes became heavy and a deep sleep was just around the corner, ready to hit me anytime. Freshened up and started the leg 2 for the day. 3 in the afternoon and I was on the way to Auli. A ski resort, just 16 km from this place perched high up in the mountains accessible via cable car and a narrow road snaking through lush landscape.

I never thought these 16km would make such a world of difference in temperatures. You gain altitude quickly, once at the top, there's nothing between cold wind and you. Caught cold in just a short while, but was all worth it. However, a bit confused I was about where to exactly go and what to see? Stopped a passerby to know. "Auli Kahan Hai?" "Yahi Hai Auli". All I wanted to know was what to see and what to do and came to know nothing to see "as such", and nothing to do. I get the point, went up to some place, maybe the Auli Resort in actual. Nothing interesting here, however, the view from the road after that turn looked interesting.

Rode down a bit and parked the bike, and was immediately lost. Lost in a worls away from world, where the mountains stood, fresh breeze recharged your soul, all possible shades of green soothe your eyes and the sky bestows all the love. I would rather let the pictures do the talking.

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The half cooked emptiness that I found at Mukteshwar and which was thought to have been achieved at Joshimath was nothing as compared to what was being gathered here. I could stay here for a lifetime, one of the very few places I say that for. And this brings us to an irony, no matter how far I may go, how remote I may head, heart is Delhi! While this is now my preferred place to unwind in solitude, even the slightest thought of spending a lifetime here brings me to reality, the very irony that I talked about. As I was lost, the weather changed drastically and it was time to move back to the hotel, stock up the "regular" ration for the night and sleep. I head to the "routine" tomorrow, unwillingly though.



Vlog for the day


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Old 16th May 2018, 16:58   #10
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Day 5 | 24.05.2018 | To The Last Indian Village | The Homecoming


While this is the favorite part of the ride in any rider's life, including me, today was different. This ride has all been about doing something different. Though the escape was successful, I did what I wanted, maybe even more, this was the time I head back. Back to the fangs of monotony, exactly where I started from 5 days ago. Today would just be a ride back home and reach as soon as possible. So I'll keep this part short and concise.

I knew I would have to cover a distance of almost 300km in the winding roads, though well built, and the temperatures would go from less forgiving to punishing and once I'm about to reach, maddening traffic would test the lat bits of me.

As usual, the morning broke early, I had been sleeping well since the last few days and waking up fresh. Quickly freshened up without wasting any time and strapped the luggage to the bike, firm and solid. The bill was settled last night itself and I was all good to go by 6.30. Bidding the place a sad farewell I moved down towards Karnprayag. The place was still cold and the traffic was less. The roads were amazing and what fun it was leaning on the curves. Was doing some serious speeds as per the mountain standards, mostly north of 70kmph.


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Breakfast was planned at Karnprayag which was happily skipped as it was a little too early to have breakfast and no good place could be spotted at this part of the town. Good roads continued and I stopped for breakfast at Gaucher after tanking up, the bike once again returned a healthy 30kmpl+. Post a decent breakfast at Gauchar and one more drinks break I was at Rishikesh and it was getting unbearably hot and by the time I crossed Haridwar, it was just incredibly hot. I usually find this place to be hotter than the adjoining areas. Though the view of the massive river did try to make it up, I really wanted to succumb to the temptation and take a dip, however this would mean losing more than an hour, leaving the luggage at the parking and a post bath drowsiness.

I was hungry and thirsty, exactly like I felt while going to Mukteshwar. Stopped by a KFC, a pathetic experience and rode nonstop till Ghaziabad before it got dark, stopped for a water break and was home by 9 pm, dead tired, frustrated and exhausted.

Back to the materialistic world, it was initially uncomfortable to settle down due to the after effect of what I experienced in the last 4 odd days. After all, seeing people working hard day and night just to make the bare ends meet, it was like a self realization. A similar thing that happened to me during my Chitkul ride a few years ago. Sitting in an air conditioned environment discussing about the hardships that farmers face and people that die in floods while you sip your favorite scotch is easy, but you really need to venture out and feel their pain, and happiness. They anyway have little to complain and are happy and content with what they have. Having an ambition or an aspiration is not a thing to be frowned upon, however, such experiences teach us as to what we might take for granted, it might just be a luxury to some.

Vlog for the day:

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Old 17th May 2018, 08:24   #11
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Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to the Travelogues Section. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 18th May 2018, 09:02   #12
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Mesmerizing photos bullet_chacha and a wonderful crisp travelogue.
First you cross the border to Bhutan. Then you go to the last village at the border. You surely have some liking to the borders.
Doing these trips is one thing, doing it on a motorbike is another, and doing it alone takes something else. On top of that, coming back with so many pictures. Hats off!
Thanks for sharing! Wish you do more and more such trips and share it with us. I'm already looking forward to see your next one in September down south.


PS: Owning a Dominar but your TBHP Handle is bullet_chacha. I might have missed it, but can you please let me know the story behind it?

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Old 18th May 2018, 09:04   #13
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Lovely travelogue there, brings back fond memories of our trip to the Valley of Flowers in 2011. It was in Aug though, considering that's when the flowers bloom. So, the landscape was pretty different. The lush greenery is a sight to behold!

We had planned to visit Mana, but didn't pursue the plan after Badrinath given the adverse weather conditions and blockages due to landslides.

Pretty commendable of you to ride solo in such a challenging terrain, but must have been equally exhilarating.
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Old 18th May 2018, 11:00   #14
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Your travelogue comes like a fresh breath of air in this otherwise dull summer morning. The pictures and beautiful landscapes make me want to be there. And just probably like you, I have a fascination for 'borders' too! International or even state boundaries fascinate me no end and I am often ridiculed within my friend circle for my unnatural or unjustified enthusiasm.

Keep traveling and keep bringing us more of such beautiful crisp logs.

Regards,
Saket.
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Old 18th May 2018, 12:27   #15
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Default Re: To the last village of India - Mana, Uttarakhand. Chronicles of a Lone Biker

Wonderful travelogue ! That too on a dominar. How many miles have you driven this beast ? I also own one but do only weekend shopping trips .
I could see that there are not many after market travel accessories for this bike - what issues did you face while packing & loading ? Any suggestions to manage luggage on this bike with a pillion ?
How was the performance on the hills ?
Sorry for so many questions !
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