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Old 22nd October 2018, 13:19   #1
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Default Chanshal? Hatu? Wherever - Just ride! 1000 km in Himachal

TL;DR - The Shimla hills are beautiful. I set out to conquer Chanshal but facing an epic landslide, I beat a hasty retreat to Hatu for an epic sunset. In the end I managed 1000km of wiiide smiles over a 46 hour period!

TL;DR2 - And then I plan to do exactly the same over Diwali - but watch this space

As a consultant with a terrible work life balance (my bike did 200km last year, and I have taken 5 flights every week on the average last four months), I don't spare any opportunity to ride. After all, my bike was named Reverse Mid Life Crisis, right (RMLC - My Tricolor Honda CBR250R ABS)?

The plan:
The plan was to simply ride as far as I could in the two and a half days that I would get on the weekend. The plan was for Chanshal pass, a pass visited by few except the hardcore badge seekers, who seek to claim having conquered all that the Himalayas has to offer.

My friends and my wife asked me - Why Chanshal? I frankly had no answer. Does it have the best vistas? Does it have a picturesque river flowing alongside? Is it a really tough pass? My answer? Because its there and the rest I simply have to find out for myself.

Silly as that may sound, after nearly fifteen years of vagabonding on my bike, I have done the basics. Now it is simply about either revisiting old favorites or trying something new, even if it may not be as great as the best (Kufri hills!).

I flew back to Delhi at 3pm on 5th (Friday) from a hectic meeting schedule, and then got home and started packing. The benefit of being a solo motorcyclist is that you are like Ultron - there are NO chains / constraints on you. On top of it, owning a hassle-free barely-ridden Honda (CBR250R) ensures that I just dump the usual kit into the saddle bag and can be ready to embark on an expedition at half an hour's notice. Further, there was no wingman waiting for me, so I took the time to punch out a few work related emails and closed my laptop at the auspicious time of 5pm.

Motorcycling is anyways made for loners or lone wolves like me - till the advent of bluetooth headphones in helmets, you were always lost in your mind on any ride, regardless of the omnipresent view of your buddies ahead or behind you.

Except for a minor hiccup. I just discovered that I had no backup keys. The OCD person that I am, I cannot ride with just one key. I must always have a spare key of my vehicle readily available. I have never needed it in fifteen years on the road, but hey, there's always a first time, right?

So off I went to Chawla Key maker in old Gurgaon. They are a trustworthy shop with a fairly advanced machine. So finally at 645pm, I was ready to go.

As anyone who has ever spent an evening in Gurgaon can tell you - attempting to go from Gurgaon to Delhi and onward at that hour is nearly hell on earth. This is where I made the mistake that was to haunt me the entire weekend - I chose Google Maps - BIKE Mode.

I swear to God - I am a pacifist and a nice guy but three hours later I was willing to sucker punch the idiot who designed it. Why do you ask? Because bike mode is an aggregation of the crappiest routes on earth, where even the wrong-side driving delivery boys of Swiggy and Zomato fear to tread.

Instead of a 4.5 hour journey, it gave me a 3 hour ride alongside 6km of NCR's biggest drain, some utter slush at Bijwasan border, another canal near Delhi cantonment and nearly sent me on another canal near Narela - but by then, I was wiser, and my back was shattered.


Pit stop one: holding my breath at Najafgarh drain

Chanshal? Hatu? Wherever - Just ride! 1000 km in Himachal-imag6590.jpg

So yes, It works exactly as predicted. What it doesn't tell you is that you need the Mars lander to cruise through that territory at those speeds.


Chanshal? Hatu? Wherever - Just ride! 1000 km in Himachal-imag6591.jpg
Chanshal? Hatu? Wherever - Just ride! 1000 km in Himachal-imag6594.jpg

Upon reaching the Sindhu border at 9:45pm, I finally had my first morsel of the day (didn't I tell you consultants have rockstar work life balance, and those on keto diet are even luckier!) with some roadside egg bhurji.

Soon after, I found a trucker dhaba where I applied half an tube of Volini on my back and curled up fetally for half an hour to recover from Google's bike mode. And I gunked my version of Jet fuel aka caffeine shot to continue onwards. It tastes terrible but gets the job done in style. Highly recommended as SoS.
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From there on, the ride was quite fun actually. NH1 at night has less traffic on non-busy Friday nights, and I was able to hit Zirakpur by 1:30am, where I stocked up on some more keto friendly snacks (paneer and chaas!). Of course, my handlebar modification (CBR250 conversion: Clip-on to pipe-style handlebar) ensures that the CBR does not stress me one bit.


Light trails on the highway
Chanshal? Hatu? Wherever - Just ride! 1000 km in Himachal-imag659701.jpeg

Ambala cantt railway station : whose faster?

Chanshal? Hatu? Wherever - Just ride! 1000 km in Himachal-img_20181017_062154_634_1541275295311.jpg


Keto snacks? Paneer!

Chanshal? Hatu? Wherever - Just ride! 1000 km in Himachal-imag6606.jpg
Finally, at exactly 3am (god bless Oyo!), I pulled into Oyo Kenwood resort at Jabli (the location of the last McDonalds on this route!) for some much needed shuteye. Unfortunately walking into my hotel room reminded me why it was so inexpensive (~1700) because the damn room hadn't been aired in a few decades, and had a musty smell. But I was too tired and too much in pain to give a damn. So off I went.

6th morning:
Woke up at 8:30am. The hotel gave me some very yummy omelets so I got ready quickly. Of course, this was the time I had to face the wrath of the worst Parwanoo - Solan highway, where the amount of dust gives stuff competition to gurgaon's worst days. So I got dressed for battle! Rabb rakhaa..



The chaos and jams at Jabli

Chanshal? Hatu? Wherever - Just ride! 1000 km in Himachal-share.jpg


The rider!

Chanshal? Hatu? Wherever - Just ride! 1000 km in Himachal-ninjarabba.jpg

Last edited by phamilyman : 4th November 2018 at 16:21.
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Old 4th November 2018, 16:11   #2
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Default Re: Chanshal? Hatu? Wherever! Just ride! - 1000km in Himachal

6th Oct contd:

Today was going to be a REALLY long day. Unfortunately, I had a super critical client meeting on Monday morning, for which I had a 4am flight, so I was racing against hard constraints. I had to reach Gurgaon by 7th midnight, come hell or high weather. Being on the wrong side of 35 meant, my back was still vehemently complaining about Google Maps Bike mode. Google Maps casually informed me that it was 8.5 hours away. This meant, I would most probably ascend Chanshal in failing light and must ride for atleast 2-4 hours in darkness on unfamilar roads back to Rohru / Kharapathar with some potential for black ice (Chanshal is 3755m!) to have a realistic shot at reaching back home in time. Any delay and Chanshal would be beyond my grasp because I simply cannot delay the ascent till Sunday.

But first - I faced some 26km of cratered under construction / diversion roads just till Solan with some mad traffic. Hardly a good start to the day. A lump quickly formed in my throat. This was not fun. I told myself - Regardless of the outcome, tonight I ride as a man! (hat tip to the 3rd Battalion, 506 parachute infantry, US army)

Like all good consultants and road cyclists, I just dosed up on Volini and summoned my inner roadie to put mind over matter. For it is only the harder life that's worth living, as the Velominati remind us. The journey is what we crave - the corner is where the motorcyclist comes alive. To me, the destination is boring and slightly soul killing, for it means the journey is now ending - it is merely the U turn point.

So off I went. I stuck to the plan - making good time reaching 18km short of Kharapathar in 4 hours by 1:30pm ahead of the 4.5 hours Google told i would take. This was pretty much non-stop except the occasional photo / bio / volini break.

But something was wrong. At Kotkhai, 18km before Kharapathar, one major town - Google maps told me the road was closed, and asked me to take a side road through some villages. At the same time, I ran into a mudpot of a section that took 10+ minutes to cross. I checked with oncoming vehicles and local taxis who reassured me that the road was open and in good condition.

Except at 2pm, 8km short of Kharapathar, I ran into a mammoth live landslide that had just unloaded thousands of tons of mud on the road. Hats off to the local PWD staff who created a rideable section in an hour. The bikes were the first to finally make it through at 3:30pm.
Chanshal? Hatu? Wherever - Just ride! 1000 km in Himachal-imag6630_1541329170788.jpg
Chanshal? Hatu? Wherever - Just ride! 1000 km in Himachal-imag6631.jpg
Chanshal? Hatu? Wherever - Just ride! 1000 km in Himachal-imag6638.jpg

Crossing it, with small pieces of dirt falling by my side, I lost my nerve immediately. This was not good. I still had 3.5 hours to reach Chanshal and my energy levels were beginning to flag. Such rides of mine are always a mixture of pain, grit and a dash of foolhardiness and never-give-up self-belief. Unlike my Spiti ride (Ride to Spiti / Kinnaur in March 2016. Anyone game?), where I had no clue of what was to befall me - I elected to give up now. I was not that stupid to ascend this 3755m pass well after sundown with a fully loaded bike with nearly 200kg of weight, after my HVK AIM 2015 (Ride to Shoja & Mandi for a Snowy Christmas)experience, when I had been stranded at a stretch of black ice at 2400m.

Chanshal, I will return! I promised to myself as I decided to turn back. Except now I had too much time, and no good destination in sight. I contemplated Sarahan but that was too far, again.

So, I decided to ride to Hatu temple, which was 2.5 hours away, arriving just in time for sunset. Hatu has one of the most beautiful sunsets in this region and the hues are to die for. So, off I went with another dollop of Volini. Mind you I hadn't had a morsel since the breakfast at 9am, but the woods were lovely dark and deep, and I had miles to go before I sleep.

The only pitstop between Hatu and Kharapathar - this cute waterfall by the side of the road. On a leisurely day I might have waded in, but not today!
Chanshal? Hatu? Wherever - Just ride! 1000 km in Himachal-imag66462.jpg

The next 2.5 hours went by in a blur. I was powering through the curves like a man possessed, discovering new limits of my ability. Thankfully, I found no other bottlenecks and reached Narkanda (Hatu base) in time. There was only one fly in the ointment - I was getting delirious with cold. It wasn't just old age - it was plain old stupidity. Even though I planned to ascend Chanshal pass, while departing, the well-domesticated husband in me, wore the clean mesh jacket that was simply inadequate despite the addition of two thermal base layers and one more T-shirt. Inspite of shifting to the otherwise impeccable Cramster Tundra gloves my fingers were beginning to feel cold. Mind you, I am the same guy who once rode up high speed, wearing a mesh jacket and cut finger gym gloves, from Kullu to Manali at 10pm in early December 2006.

After a quick stop at a picturesque tiny lake enroute to Hatu, I ascended the peak by 6:30pm. Unfortunately, the presence of haze ensured that I couldn't see any peaks from Hatu - just some amazing hues.
Chanshal? Hatu? Wherever - Just ride! 1000 km in Himachal-imag66692.jpg
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Chanshal? Hatu? Wherever - Just ride! 1000 km in Himachal-img_20181013_191405_453.jpg

The primary target for the ride achieved, now I channelized my internal trucker riding straight back without a break to get as close to home as I could. My wife and son were returning home on Sunday evening and as much as I wanted to camp / stay overnight at Hatu, I wanted to spend some time with my family before flying out on Monday morning.

However, by now, my lack of fitness and my bad decision was really beginning to hurt me. By the time I pulled into Shimla downtown at 9:30pm I was beginning to get delirious from the cold, my hands were numb and my teeth were chattering. I was a mess - finding an affordable convenient hotel isnt easy in a new city. Thankfully, I had a stroke of luck.

My guardian angels turned out to be a group of bikers from NCR that had been negotiating with an economy hotel (Hotel Rashik) right by the highway. I was so miserable that my speech was halting due to my teeth chattering. I simply followed them into the hotel and asked the staff to give me another room at the same price, along with a heater as well.

There couldn't have been a better end to this hard day - a comfortable warm room, good food and a really nice bunch of bikers to swap stories with. The ups and downs of the day finally came to an end!

Last edited by aah78 : 7th November 2018 at 01:33. Reason: Edited on request.
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Old 5th November 2018, 19:53   #3
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Default Re: Chanshal? Hatu? Wherever! Just ride! - 1000km in Himachal

The last day was fairly straight forward - pack up and ride home! And so it was. I woke up at 7, and left in short order even though my modest hotel itself has a lovely view.

Chanshal? Hatu? Wherever - Just ride! 1000 km in Himachal-imag6689.jpg


The benefit of riding at odd hours are immense. For the first couple of hours, I had light traffic for company - a WIDE grin was permanently pasted on my face as I leaned my bike on every possible curve.

The Shimla hills were a pleasure to behold, with greenery everywhere you could look. Here are some photos.
Chanshal? Hatu? Wherever - Just ride! 1000 km in Himachal-imag6693.jpg
Chanshal? Hatu? Wherever - Just ride! 1000 km in Himachal-imag6701.jpg
Chanshal? Hatu? Wherever - Just ride! 1000 km in Himachal-imag6707.jpg
As an aside, I feel sad at the sheer treefelling and landslides that have accompanied the Parwanoo Solan highway construction. The landslides that have occured after the recent bad weather are jaw-dropping and a cause for worry. Here's only one photo. Every second turn was as bad.

Chanshal? Hatu? Wherever - Just ride! 1000 km in Himachal-imag6616.jpg

After that, the highway was fairly straightforward. Endless cruising at the speed limit, following which, I got home by 5pm to cap off a FUN weekend.

I hope to replicate it this coming weekend, when i shall escape into the hills for another 48 hours of madness. Stay tuned

Last edited by phamilyman : 6th November 2018 at 03:38.
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Old 6th November 2018, 06:39   #4
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Default re: Chanshal? Hatu? Wherever - Just ride! 1000 km in Himachal

Thread moved out from the Assembly Line. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 7th November 2018, 12:16   #5
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Default Re: Chanshal? Hatu? Wherever - Just ride! 1000 km in Himachal

That's a nice ride buddy. CBR250R is a go anywhere bike that will never let you down. I used to have one and had a lot of fun riding it.

Riding is so much fun, specially on the hills. I envy you guys staying in the north who have the option of exploring the Himalayas on their bikes. But then people in north are envious of us (Bangalore based riders) since we have a pleasant weather throughout the year which is such a boon for riding.

Keep riding and keep posting
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Old 7th November 2018, 13:53   #6
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Default Re: Chanshal? Hatu? Wherever - Just ride! 1000 km in Himachal

Quote:
Originally Posted by anshumandun View Post
That's a nice ride buddy. CBR250R is a go anywhere bike that will never let you down. I used to have one and had a lot of fun riding it.

Riding is so much fun, specially on the hills. I envy you guys staying in the north who have the option of exploring the Himalayas on their bikes. But then people in north are envious of us (Bangalore based riders) since we have a pleasant weather throughout the year which is such a boon for riding.

Keep riding and keep posting
Anshuman

Thank you for your kind words.

Best thing about BLR is the diversity possible within 4 hours riding time! That's unmatched. You guys are blessed. I have to fight traffic for eight hours for decent hills. That's no fun.


Plus rains are truly magical in your part of the country.

Last edited by phamilyman : 7th November 2018 at 13:56.
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Old 7th November 2018, 17:14   #7
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Default Re: Chanshal? Hatu? Wherever - Just ride! 1000 km in Himachal

Crisp and short blog with a lot of information. CBR has been my dream bike ever since college days. Venturing out into the unknown Himalaya is always a bliss and experience worth million drives on flat land. Keep travelling and sharing such wonderful blogs.
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Old 8th November 2018, 16:00   #8
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Default Re: Chanshal? Hatu? Wherever - Just ride! 1000 km in Himachal

The thing with sugar and caffeine is that though it can give you a temporary boost, if you push hard then the after effects can be scary as it can cause your body to crash without warning, I've personally experienced the following on my first long haul where we covered 1300+ km's in a day consuming a couple of canned Caffeinated Energy Drinks along with the usual meals and water;

1. Dehydration.
2. Disorientation.
and the cherry on top,
3. Hallucination.

So the best thing to do would always be to stick with the universal fluid i.e H2O when you're in the mood to push yourself.

After I'd forsaken health drinks while on the usual commute between Bangalore and Kollam I'd time my breaks between 250 km's intervals during which I'd pop a bottle of Frooty and some water but after 3 of those breaks the toll on my body would be so much that I'd crash on my bed when I reach home just after noon and would only wake up after sleeping for over 12 hours at the least.

Now, knowing better I minimize the number of meals I have and stick with only water for hydration purposes and it has a noticeable effect on my health be on/off the saddle.

BTW, Kudos on the ride and I do find your handle bar mod to good taste as I run a similar setup on my P220.

Cheers,
A.P.
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Old 8th November 2018, 18:35   #9
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Default Re: Chanshal? Hatu? Wherever - Just ride! 1000 km in Himachal

Quote:
Originally Posted by ashwinprakas View Post
The thing with sugar and caffeine is that though it can give you a temporary boost, if you push hard then the after effects can be scary as it can cause your body to crash without warning, I've personally experienced the following on my first long haul where we covered 1300+ km's in a day consuming a couple of canned Caffeinated Energy Drinks along with the usual meals and water;

1. Dehydration.
2. Disorientation.
and the cherry on top,
3. Hallucination.

So the best thing to do would always be to stick with the universal fluid i.e H2O when you're in the mood to push yourself.

After I'd forsaken health drinks while on the usual commute between Bangalore and Kollam I'd time my breaks between 250 km's intervals during which I'd pop a bottle of Frooty and some water but after 3 of those breaks the toll on my body would be so much that I'd crash on my bed when I reach home just after noon and would only wake up after sleeping for over 12 hours at the least.

Now, knowing better I minimize the number of meals I have and stick with only water for hydration purposes and it has a noticeable effect on my health be on/off the saddle.

BTW, Kudos on the ride and I do find your handle bar mod to good taste as I run a similar setup on my P220.

Cheers,
A.P.
AP,

Many thanks for writing in, esp your kind words on the handlebar. Completely agree. I use caffeine shots like a racer uses NOS in the movies - only once, and at the right time. I have experienced the worst possible downside of sleep deprivation so I completely relate with you.

I only use caffeine as a SOS to help me cover the last 1-2 hours (and never any more!) to get to my destination safely. The benefit of being a solo vagabond is that I am unafraid of sleeping in a roadside dhaba amidst benevolent truckers.

As a consultant, I have experienced the worst possible effects of sleep deprivation + caffeine - palpitations together with reduced decision making. So I have seen the cliff and stayed on the right side. As a motorcyclist, I stay MILES away from that :-)

On most of my rides (not today), I am on keto, so I am happy eating nothing and simply surviving on buttermilk, water and fresh lime soda all day. In fact, during my really late night runs with family, I barely consume anything except water till my desired pit stop.

You cannot let the body get into digestion mode and rob you of precious seconds of concentration.

Have fun - see you around on the roads someday!
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Old 15th November 2018, 15:27   #10
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Default Re: Chanshal? Hatu? Wherever - Just ride! 1000 km in Himachal

A nice report with amazing photographs. I am obsessed with the Himalayas. But being more than 1200km far from it, I can't plan this kind of short trips to Mountains. However, for me its a routine to be in the lap of Himalayas once in a year.

Chansal Pass is in my radar from a very long time. Thanks for providing inspiration for that.
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