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Old 11th January 2022, 22:35   #1
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Default Revving to Jispa on an RE Himalayan & Aprilia SR 125

So where were we? Yeah, I remember I was narrating to you how a dream of riding to Spiti turned into a 2700 km Rajasthan road-trip, thanks to woman power.

Links to Rajasthan travelogues:
https://www.team-bhp.com/forum/trave...-i10-nios.html (A 2700 km Rajasthan road trip on a Hyundai Grand i10 Nios)

https://www.team-bhp.com/forum/trave...tory-more.html (Jaisalmer - camping, dunes, history and more)

Now, we still had five days to fiddle with. And I haven't been to the Himalayas for a year almost. Yeah, judge me, but mountains, err Himalayas are my oxygen. So while the woman power in the team left for Kolkata for Diwali, and her obedient husband followed suit, I convinced my friend/constant trip partner/personal photographer (lets call him A) to tag along to Himachal. The last time I was in Himachal was in 2017, and a lot of water has flown in the Beas and the Chandrabhaga since. So we decided, we will put our bu*ts to rest for few days at Jispa and the remainder of the times, we will make use of our kinetic energies if the cold doesnít paralyse us. With that thought, the HRTC Volvo bookings were done. However we had the rest of the trip unplanned so far - no itineraries, no bookings done. I prefer myself to be organised during a trip with everything near-finalised (Virgo traits). But I realised, this one was going to be different, especially because of the unexpected weather conditions.

On the evening on 2nd November, the two of us reached ISBT Kashmere Gate after negotiating the heavy Diwali traffic in Delhi, well before 8 pm, the departure time of our Volvo bus. It departed on time, dodged through the traffic like Need for Speed, and stopped for dinner at around 12.30 am. We got down primarily to have some tea, but ended up eating a wee bit. The HRTC driver continued to show his skills, probably even more because he was not hungry anymore while we started watching movies on our respective mobile devices. Notoriously, I haven't ever been able to finish a movie while traveling in a bus.

My friend woke me up at 5.30 as the bus made a stop at Sundernagar. The weather outside was quite chilly and we absolutely enjoyed a good cup of tea at the dhaba. Cut to half past seven or so, I could see the turquoise waters of the Beas with the lower Himalayan ranges in the backdrop at Mandi. Two hours down the clock and up the Beas, the bus came to a halt. Apparently the bus engine gave up and refused to start. Quietly, it was blaming the driver who went bonkers. We were told another bus was arriving in a while and we utilised the time to grab some more tea and maggi. Finally, when the sun was just in the middle of the horizon, we reached Manali, our stopover for the day. After satiating our taste buds at the Corner House (their spaghetti carbonara is amazing btw), we went out on the pursuit of hiring the bikes. Meanwhile, I was having conversations with a friend who often travels to Himachal at the drop of a hat. She connected me to few locals from Jispa for accommodation. I spoke to a couple of them, who initially committed a stay and then cancelled on me because water started to freeze in the supply lines. One of them was kind enough to connect me to Karma Cottages and it was sigh of relief for us as he promised us the accommodation.

Navigating through the bustling Mall road, we tried to hunt deals for the bikes. Our requirement was a bit complex. While I was comfortable riding any bike, my friend who rides a Vespa himself was specifically inclined on getting an Aprilia scooter. (He's a late bloomer and learnt riding a geared motorcycle just two months back and hence did not want to risk riding one in the mountains). After few failed attempts, we went into Two Wheel Himalayas on the Circuit House road, just next to the Canara Bank, where the ever smiling Deepak promised us he could get an Aprilia. I, who usually ride the RE Thunderbird 350X, was inclined to get the Classic ('coz I knew exactly how to ride it). But after two quick test rides of the Xpulse 200 and the Himalayan, I put my money on the brand new Himalayan. We got the formalities done within 30 minutes and went to Chai Chillam Bar to have some hot ginger tea. For the night, we parked the bikes in the paid parking area near our hotel.

The next morning, at about 8, we mounted our rucksacks on the bikes and started on our pursuit of clearer views and serenity, leaving behind the jostling Manali town and proceeding towards Jispa. It was about 90 kms from our starting point and Google suggested it should take us around two and a half hours. But we were absolutely in no hurry and decided to enjoy the vistas on our way. After crossing Cafe 1947 (we wanted to breakfast here, it was shut though probably because we were early) and taking the first U-turn on the Leh-Manali highway, we stopped for roadside tea and maggi. The mercury was hovering around 6 deg C or so along with gusts of winds, and the hot tea and maggi were just the need of the hour. On the U-turn above, we could see some traffic pile-up and on asking, we found out that there has been a land slide which the army is clearing up. I met a soldier and he recommended we take the bridge towards Burwa road and continue our journey. Wasnít a bad proposition, as this route, though a bit bumpy, was full of apple orchards. We crossed over to the Leh-Manali highway again, crossing the Beas just before Palchan.

The milestones reminded us that the Atal Tunnel was fast approaching. Riding through the tunnel has been my dream since it as opened up, and the child in me got excited and elated thinking of the same. I ensured that the GoPro recording is on and the two of us zoomed into the tunnel. Oh, what a moment! For the first couple of kilometres or so, the speed limit was 40 kph, way below the speed I usually cruise at. But in this tunnel, it was like a cult classic - it's slow but you enjoy every second of it. Soon we realised, it was just the two of us in the whole tunnel and there was no soul as far as we could see with our naked eyes. While this is amazing, it posed another problem to us - the cold was numbing, and the wind in the empty tunnel was literally battering us, obviously because there was no sunlight. I literally started talking to myself and sang in an effort to fight the cold. Even the four layers of warm clothing was failing miserably. At this point, the speed limit was 60 kph, but we could dare to ride faster, considering the fact that our faces will lose senses! After 15 minutes of riding, we could see light at the end of the tunnel. In no time, we exited the North Portal and boom, what a sight! In a blink, we realised we are in Lahaul and the high snow capped mountains looked as if we were in a different universe. The fresh snowfall about a week back made them look even more beautiful. What more - there were hardly any tourists because it was the Diwali weekend. Have you had the privilege to admire the Atal Tunnel with the mountains in the backdrop minus the chaotic tourists? Rare, right?

Revving to Jispa on an RE Himalayan & Aprilia SR 125-fullsizerender-28.jpg

Revving to Jispa on an RE Himalayan & Aprilia SR 125-fullsizerender-29.jpg

After warming ourselves with some tea, we continued our riding journey with the cyan coloured Chandra river accompanying us in parallel. Soon, we reached the quaint village of Sissu perched amidst the tall trees, which looked ruggedly beautiful even past the fall colours.

Revving to Jispa on an RE Himalayan & Aprilia SR 125-fullsizerender-41.jpg

We kept on crossing the small habitats, soaking in the gorgeous vistas around. I realised how inferior the camera lenses are compared to the gift of human vision.

Revving to Jispa on an RE Himalayan & Aprilia SR 125-fullsizerender-40.jpg

A lot of kilometres and multiple hairpin bends later came the famous fuel station of Tandi. Recognised as the last fuel station before Leh, this one sits at an altitude of 3200+ m. My friend A was in need to refuel as he was past the half tank mark in his Aprilia, I topped up just for the sake of it. How can one miss refuelling at such a famous station! What came few hundred meters ahead was the Chandrabhaga confluence. I have seen quite a few confluences in my life, but this one with the snow-capped peaks in the backdrop was boasting of uniqueness.

Revving to Jispa on an RE Himalayan & Aprilia SR 125-fullsizerender-23.jpg

The nature's palettes continued to amaze us while we kept on riding. A, who was riding for the first time in the Himalayas was enjoying it to the fullest, I could say. At about 12.45, we made a stop just before Keylong for another photo session where the tarmac literally appeared to run into the snowy mountains, with the Bhaga river flowing beneath.

Revving to Jispa on an RE Himalayan & Aprilia SR 125-fullsizerender-26.jpg

The roads approaching Keylong are in a bit of a bad shape because of the ongoing constructions and some new bridge being built. We took another stop just before Stingri, where the milestone read Leh was 354 kms away. So near, yet so far!

Revving to Jispa on an RE Himalayan & Aprilia SR 125-fullsizerender-25.jpg

Meanwhile, we also had crossed a police checkpoint where we were stopped for details. The policemen enquired about our destination, checked if we had a booking and let us go after warning us not to venture beyond Darcha because of the weather conditions. The riding for the day came to a halt as we reached Karma Cottages at 2 pm.

Revving to Jispa on an RE Himalayan & Aprilia SR 125-fullsizerender-36.jpg

Revving to Jispa on an RE Himalayan & Aprilia SR 125-fullsizerender-31.jpg

Rana, who was in charge of the guests at the cottage (I mean the two of us, coz rest of it was empty, given the unusual time of the year) quickly got the checkin formalities done and started preparing lunch. We are too hungry and the mixed veg curry, chicken curry and rice were hogged in no time. The cottages are located right on the banks of the Bhaga river, and a quick 7 minutes leisurely walk after lunch took us to the river. I always like riverside stays, it kind of accentuates the calm from within. The Bhaga was not in its full flow and we crossed over to the wider side and spent some time clicking photos and the rest, sitting on the rocks and absorbing the silence around. Nothing could be heard except for the sound of the river gushing through the valley. The sun's rays gleaming on the greenish water of the Bhaga was such a lovely sight!

Revving to Jispa on an RE Himalayan & Aprilia SR 125-fullsizerender-30.jpg

Revving to Jispa on an RE Himalayan & Aprilia SR 125-fullsizerender-37.jpg

With the sun starting to hide behind the mountains, it was getting colder and decided to take a walk back to our cottage and put our bodies to rest. The heavy blankets were sleep inducing and neither of us could ignore the invitation. "Sirji, chai ban gayi", we woke up at 6 hearing Rana knock the door.

We went out, had our tea and snacks and then found out three more bikers had checked in for the night. We sat together and shared stories while they savoured their Old Monk, and we, our single malt.

On the morning of 5th, after breaking fast and playing with the puppies, we thought of venturing out and exploring the nearby areas. We didnít have anything fixed in our minds when we met the owner of the cottages. We chatted for a bit and asked him for recommendations. Now, both of us have this urge of visiting monasteries while in the mountains. I especially find the monasteries to be absolutely calming (gurudwaras as well). He mentioned there are two monasteries, one called the Shashur gompa and the other is the Kardang monastery near Tandi. "Aaplog Shashur gompa ho kar aao, mazza aayega motorcycle par", he quipped. We quickly got ready and started the engines of our vahaans. The night before went well below the zero mark to -9 deg C and the seats of the motorcycles were covered in layers of frost. The forecast has snowfall, but it was not meant to be, though the high mountains around received fresh snow from the look of it. The scenes around were absolutely breathtaking.

There's an area just after crossing Gemur village which has boards of "Falling stones" but the view of the valley below was so amazing, we could not but stop for few photos.

Revving to Jispa on an RE Himalayan & Aprilia SR 125-fullsizerender-32.jpg

Revving to Jispa on an RE Himalayan & Aprilia SR 125-fullsizerender-35.jpg

Right after crossing Keylong, we saw a board for Shashur gompa, indicating we have to take the road up the hills to the right. The smooth tarmac was not replaced by narrow, steep, gravelly roads. "Do you fear heights?", I questioned myself. My left brain ignored, "Nah!" We kept on gaining altitude with every scary turn. As easy as it was for my Himalayan, which was powering ahead in its known turf, A's Aprilia was struggling a bit. No questions that Aprilia is a decently powered scooter, but it was simply not made for these conditions. We have relied on the Tripper navigation so far on this journey and it has worked quite well. The road to the monastery was more of a trail and after a while, Tripper mentioned we have arrived. This, with no sight of a monastery around. We could not find anyone around whom we could ask and confirm. We kept on riding and I was contemplating if we should go back because a glance at the valley below was making my heart skip a bit. That's when we met an elderly woman out of nowhere and asked her the way to the monastery. She assured us that we have almost made it and the monastery was just few bends away. Finally, we could see the fluttering player flags and there it was - the Shashur gompa standing taller, high up the hills, with the picturesque backdrop of the snow-clad mountains. The sky was a bit overcast, which made it look even more beautiful. "Shashur" in the local dialect means "blue pines", and apparently this Drugpa monastery was named so because it is tucked amidst the tall blue pine trees all around. Unfortunately the monastery was closed, probably due to the pandemic, but still it was worth the ride because of the spectacular view on offer. The month of June also sees the monks perform the Cham dance, the famous masked dance of the Lahaulis. "More reasons to come back again", I thought to myself. We clicked few photographs and had nothing much to do there.


Revving to Jispa on an RE Himalayan & Aprilia SR 125-fullsizerender-33.jpg

Revving to Jispa on an RE Himalayan & Aprilia SR 125-fullsizerender-34.jpg

So we started descending towards the valley. The descent was a different ordeal again because of the decline and the loose gravels, especially for the Aprilia. We negotiated the roads (or the lack of it) with utmost care and descended safely to the main highway. Our stomachs signalled it was time for lunch, so we quickly rode back to our cottage and informed Rana about our desire to eat. The story for rest of the day, evening and night was similar to the previous day sans the company of the bikers, and the single malt excelled with flying colours in combating the cold.

The next morning, it was time for us to ride back to Manali. After having a sumptuous breakfast, we basked in the sun for some more time. Rana requested me to take some drone shots of the cottages which he could use for advertising. I readily obliged in return of the amazing hospitality we experienced over the past couple of days. So next time, you see drone views of this cottage, know that it's mine

We started our ride back to Manali, swallowing the bitter fact that the vacation was over. The mountains understood our state of mind more than ever, and presented itself in an amazing postcard-perfect view for one last time.


Revving to Jispa on an RE Himalayan & Aprilia SR 125-yimg_4708.jpg

Revving to Jispa on an RE Himalayan & Aprilia SR 125-fullsizerender-38.jpg

Revving to Jispa on an RE Himalayan & Aprilia SR 125-fullsizerender-39.jpg
A parting shot of the machines that delighted us for the past couple of days

A moto vlog:
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Old 12th January 2022, 09:19   #2
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Default Re: Revving to Jispa on an RE Himalayan & Aprilia SR 125

Thanks for sharing! Moving thread to our Motorcycle forum.

Will add to the homepage this week .
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Old 14th January 2022, 11:58   #3
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Default Re: Revving to Jispa on an RE Himalayan & Aprilia SR 125

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Originally Posted by GTO View Post
Thanks for sharing! Moving thread to our Motorcycle forum.

Will add to the homepage this week .
Hi GTO, I was under the impression this would be under the Travelogue section since it's a travel story. Do let me know if such experiences need to go to the Motorbikes section going forward.

And thank you as always! Looking forward to seeing this on the homepage
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Old 15th January 2022, 12:49   #4
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Default Re: Revving to Jispa on an RE Himalayan & Aprilia SR 125

Wow, Amazing pictures! The pressures of life and work are not allowing me to do any roadtrips. I love living the dream through threads like this which make me feel almost like I was there.
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Old 15th January 2022, 13:42   #5
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Originally Posted by Ravi Parwan View Post
Wow, Amazing pictures! The pressures of life and work are not allowing me to do any roadtrips. I love living the dream through threads like this which make me feel almost like I was there.
Thanks a lot for the kind words. Hope you find the right way to juggle life with travel soon!
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Old 15th January 2022, 16:07   #6
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Default Re: Revving to Jispa on an RE Himalayan & Aprilia SR 125

Thoroughly enjoyed going through the post. Nice pics. Went through the video of your trip, and it enhanced the experience manifold, almost like being there in my imagination. Using a go-pro and drone for videography is a great idea and would love to see more such embedded videos in travelogues.
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Old 15th January 2022, 17:15   #7
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Default Re: Revving to Jispa on an RE Himalayan & Aprilia SR 125

Some wonderful snaps with breathtaking scenery!! Must have been a great ride through hills and valleys with snow capped mountains and rivers with lilting water flowing, in the background. I have one question, what kind of bike gears did you wear to face the cold and the wind.

Last edited by fawad0222 : 15th January 2022 at 17:17.
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Old 16th January 2022, 22:27   #8
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Originally Posted by ajayc123 View Post
Using a go-pro and drone for videography is a great idea and would love to see more such embedded videos in travelogues.
Glad you liked everything ajayc123. Makes me happy when someone feels as if they are experiencing the trip virtually. Mission accomplished!

Quote:
Originally Posted by fawad0222 View Post
Some wonderful snaps with breathtaking scenery!! Must have been a great ride through hills and valleys with snow capped mountains and rivers with lilting water flowing, in the background. I have one question, what kind of bike gears did you wear to face the cold and the wind.
Indeed, it was an amazing ride @fawad0222. So usually I ride with full riding gears, but this trip was an extension to my Rajasthan trip, so I literally had no space to carry my gears. Under usual circumstances, two layers of warm clothing, the warmer lining of the riding jacket and the riding jacket itself are what I found sufficient. But for this ride, I had to purely rely on three layers of warm clothing, a big fat padded jacket. I also used a muffler and bandanas to protect myself from the wind.

However, the problem is with the legs. I wore a warm layering beneath my jeans. And at times it didn't prove to be sufficient.
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