Archive for August 2013

Day 6: Manali Productivity

I woke up in the morning with a pleasant surprise, the rain clouds gave way to bright sunny sky. I kept all of my clothes outside in the balcony to dry out. 

Since check out timing at most hotels in this part is at 12 noon, I knew that if at all a room was going to get vacant it would be after 12, yet, I didn't wanted to wait for too long and miss out on the room to someone else. Hence, around 11.30, I packed my bags and headed to Himalayan Country House which was barely 200 mt. from that piece of crap where I spent the night. When I reached there, much to my relief, Mr. Raju informed that he does have a room for me but since the guests checked out minutes before I reached, they were getting the room cleaned & ready for me. I had to wait more than an hour for it, but I wasn't complaining. The housekeepers had to clean & prepare not just my room but 7-8 more rooms for a French group. Since I didn't had a single grain of food in the morning at hell hole, I decided to have the breakfast at HCH's restaurant. The cook was nice and was more than happy to alter the recipe of their Spanish Omlette and add a few more ingredients as instructed by me, to suit my taste.

While waiting for the room, I learnt that the French group has 14 tourists and they were also there to ride to Leh. Apparently, HCH also runs a tour company where they organize treks and bike trips. After the checking in, I decided to get a bike wash since earlier day's Mandi to Manali ride had turned my bike's colour from black to mud.

While riding that 200 mt. stretch from that crappy hotel to HCH, I noticed that front disc brake was making weird noise.Their resident mechanic who was readying the REs before handing them over to the French group confirmed my doubt that the front disc brake is ruined and would need replacement for which I'll need to go all the way out of town towards highway where there are a bunch of bike shops. Couple of people in the area suggested that I should go to Rahul of Rahul Bike Service, as he is pretty good for all non-REs. He seemed like a genuine guy. When he removed the old brake pads, that's when I realized the extent of wear & tear the earlier day's ride had put on my brakes. I was as if the rubber on the pads never existed only. 

I'm holding both the brake pads - old & new. The above one (with rubber padding) is new one. The one below is the old brake pad.
Cost of changing the front brake pads was 160. He told me that generally he charges 200 (including labour charges) but because I came across as a decent person, he was charging less. I knew he was bullshitting yet I gave him 200 bucks and asked him to keep the change. The first thing that I were going to encounter after Manali was the notrious Rohtang Pass and I wanted a genuine mechanic to be just a phone call away if anything went wrong. I paid those extra 40 bucks to buy his loyalty. I took down his phone number and told him that the next day I was going to leave for Rohtang and if anything went wrong, I'd call him up and he should provide me technical support. He agreed. Why wouldn't he?

I was carrying a pair of Cramster city-riding gloves which are good only in city/warm conditions, since they have pores in them for ventilation. My hand would freeze if I wear them at Rohtang. While my bike was getting her spa treatment done, I met few bikers who were returning from Leh. I asked them about shoes and gloves. They told me about a particular type of cheap Chinese gloves called -20°C, which won't work at -20° but are good enough to get one through the snowcapped passes. Also gave me directions to the shop where I'd get gumboots. I had heard about cheap gum boots from many other people. I headed to the market and bought myself all of those stuff. 200 bucks for the gloves and 300 for gum boots. Sorted!

It was 7ish and since that the Spanish Omlette was the only thing I had, I was starving by now. I came across this small restaurant tucked inside one of the bylanes, in the market. As I wanted to taste authentic cuisine, I ordered Thenthuk. The soft-spoken, teenage Nepali boy who was my waiter told me that Tibetians (and Nepalis too) eat Thenthuk during winters; it keeps the body warm. It was filling but it was pretty bland. Most people who're not used to eating bland or Tibetian food, won't like it. I had to add a lot vinegar, chilli water and soya sauce to get a decent taste.

You'll get same type of bakery stuff throughout the Manali. There's a German Bakery in every lane, with the same kind of cakes and stuff. It seems, as if the entire Manali buys their bakery products from the same German fellow. While, my Thenthuk was being cooked, I experimented with a couple of more bakery delicacies. 
I tried this croissant thingy, I believe it was called Russian something, don't remember the name. It was sweet and chocolate layered between the bread alongwith coconut garnishing.
After that, I tried this salty thingy. Again, I don't remember the name but it looked like toy as you can see above. It tastes very similar to breadsticks. In my opinion, it would make an interesting 'biting' with drinks.
Thenthuk. Tibetians generally eat it during winters to keep their body warm.
While randomly going through the by-lanes, I stumbled upon this shop which was nothing short of a gold mine for biking and treeking gear. Fittingly, it's called Trek Shop. I bought a bag cover for my backpack. Over and above, I bought something that helped a great deal throughout the trip - jute covers for my shoulder bag and saddle bags. And while branded companies charge a bomb for mediocre quality saddlebag covers, these jute covers are not only inexpensive but they also do a great job of keeping the stuff dry 95% of time. We got chatting and he realized that I'm a serious biker and not one of the other amusing window shoppers who come to his shop only to ask the price of the gadgets. He hates it when people ask for discounts. He believes that when he's already selling great quality, self designed stuff at prices that's 1/4th of the branded, flimsy stuff; how can people expect him to charge any less? And, well, he's right, I think. I told him about the biking jacket that I was wearing at that moment, as well as about all other riding gear I had. Also informed him about the type of highend biking stuff being sold at astronomical prices to Harley & Ducati riders in Mumbai, and discussed marketing opportunities for his stuff in cities like Mumbai & Delhi. Here's a man who won't even give even Rs. 5 discount to anyone but when I asked him the price of this magnetic compass, he gave it to me saying, "It's complimentary for you, take it!"
And people think, I'm introvert. Ya, right!

I had thekthuk at a weird time, 7ish. Hence, I wasn't too hungry for dinner but I saw this cool looking place called Drifters' Inn & Cafe on my way to the hotel and got tempted to visit it even if for just half an hour. After dropping of all the stuff I shopped, back at my room I went to the Drifters' Inn which was a short 7-8 minute walk from the hotel. 

Great range of beer, good food, cool ambience and great music - you can easily mistake this place to be somewhere in Bandra. Added bonus - Wifi! Since I was all alone, I was sitting at one of those high chairs, ordered a beer and was enjoying the music while waiting for my food order to arrive. Two girls and a guy were sitting at the opposite table. We soon got chatting and I found out that they were from Mumbai too. They invited me to join them on their table; and I ended up spending rest of the evening with them along with good food and drinks. Unfortunately, I forgot their names and forgot to save their number too. All I remember is that two of them were a couple and the girl who was single was a Horticulturist. (If you're reading this, just want to let you know that it was a fun evening with you guys. Feel free to ping me!)

Till now I had only heard the stories but that was the first time I realized what being a single traveler means!

All in all, it was a great Sunday. Got all of my work done with respect to the protective gear, got my bike in tip-top condition and prepared myself with all the essentials to start the real climb up the high passes. 

Travel Tip: If you're a biker, trekker and/or an adventure frek; and if Manali features on your itinerary, even if you've not got all your gear, worry not, Manali has some great shops for adventure stuff. However, sometimes, they might've ran out of stock and it may take  a week or so for a particular item to arrive. Hard luck, in that case. But unless you're stuck up on a particular brand, you'll most likely find a substitute.

Day 5: Mandi - Manali, Madness

When I finally woke up, I realized that I was feeling cold despite being wrapped up in a thick blanket. The night before, I did set an shut down timer on the A/C but then later on, while I was exploring the A/C remote, I put undo the timer and put it on some stupid program mode because of which it stayed on the whole night. Turned off the A/C and within minutes I was normal.
(The above information was not really important, but since I'm writing the travelogue, I thought I might as well write it.)

I opened the curtains and realized it was raining cats & dogs. And dinosaurs & crocodiles. While waiting for the rain to subside, post-breakfast, I decided to stroll around in the heritage property and get some clicks. The restaurant had guns and knives on every wall, and the passage was adorned with these old portraits and other royal items. But my favorite one was the bar, with low ceiling, semi-circular beams and antique lamps; it looked spectacular.

The day time shadows creates a surreal effect.

"There were voices down the corridor,
I thought I heard them say..." ~ Hotel California

These gorgeous lamp shades adorned the bar ceiling. Each one is an unique piece.

Guns, above the restaurant door.

If there's a Zombie Apocalypse, this is place I'd want to hide out. Look at the amount of firepower this place has, man!

The garden right outside the bar has beautiful wrought iron seating, which is used for open-air, candle-light dinner. Unfortunately, couldn't dine there the night before since I was too tired.

There's nothing much to see in the town but if you're going to have a stopover at Mandi, before reaching Manali, and if the budget permits, I recommend staying at Raj Mahal Palace Hotel or at least have your dinner there. I didn't order much food so can't comment on that but looking at the standard of the hotel, I'm sure it'll be good too.

Finally, realizing that the rain was not going to stop anytime soon, I decided to make a move, nonetheless. Heavens had opened up by the time I tied the luggage and started the ride. About 10-15 km. down the highway I encountered a couple of bikers. I stopped by to ask if there was a problem or needed help. Turned out they were just sightseeing. After introductions we decided ride together all the way to Manali. We stopped along the way at many places to check out the breathtaking views and to get the clicks. 

These Bangalore brothers told me that they had booked a tent outside of Manali and that they don't mind accommodating one more person with them in the tent. But, they weren't as nice as they came across, at first. About 20 kilometers outside of Kullu, one of the brothers decided to start racing and started zooming away. Though he had a more powerful bike, I was able to keep up with him while the second brother lagged behind. The roads were slippery, it was still pouring and yet this guy wanted to ride like a maniac; probably to get rid of me or something. Since I had to stop for a refuel, I let him ride away, thinking I'll call him upon reaching Manali as he had already shared his number with me. But as expected, he didn't receive the call.

After refueling at Kullu, I carried further on those wet and broken roads towards Manali. The entire 115 km. journey from Mandi to Manali was rain-soaked. There was not even a single 5 minute interval for which it didn't rain. Also, throughout the journey, I was riding next to either a dam, a river or a gorge. And not to mention, the views were spectacular. Despite all the broken roads, rain and the fact that I was shivering by the time I reached Manali; I truly enjoyed the ride.

A friend of mine who started for Leh with his biking buddies just a week before my trip gave me a contact of one a hotel owner, one Mr. Raju and strongly recommended that I stay there. I looked up the name of the hotel - Himalayan Country House, on the internet and found lot of positive reviews about the place. I called up the person once I reached Manali. Unfortunately, his hotel was packed. I tried searching for a room for about 2 hours all over Manali but couldn't find a decent one. Most places were either packed or too expensive. Mr. Raju had told me that if I couldn't find a room, I should give him a call and he'll arrange something. Hence, I did so. He gave me a contact of another recently-opened hotel. Room looked decent, but the view was great and the balcony was a bonus. Since I was shivering and tired, I decided to check in.

View from the room
And then started my misery.

There was no hot water in the bathroom, an eternity and a tip of 50 bucks later, the sole waiter brought me a bucket of hot water. The bathroom already had soap and towels. After the hot bath, I grabbed the towel and realized it's cold & dripping wet. I hadn't even unpacked my bags where I had my personal "DRY" towel. And there I was shivering and cold. I somehow ran and grabbed the napkin from my backpack, dried myself, got into dry clothes and jumped inside the blanket.

I was starving since I didn't had a single grain of food since the morning breakfast. Ordered hot coffee to get my batteries recharged. The coffee was good, exacting to my taste - hot & strong. In fact, that coffee and the view were the only two good things about that place.

Coffee with that view!
The hotel's kitchen where the housekeeper stayed had entrance for opposite direction for which one is required to either shout at the top of the lungs or walk out in the rain and call him personally. After shouting for more than half an hour, his highness appeared. At this hotel, a menu system was unheard of. The guests are required to eat whatever they cook, since the expect guests to eat from outside. After more than an hour, I got the food served in my room - couple of pathetic tasting vegetables, okayish dal, few roti & rice equivalent to a family of 6. I had no choice but to kill my hunger with huge amounts of dal-rice. They charged me 200 bucks for something that you'd get for 30 bucks at a lowly joint outside Dadar station; and yet you won't eat it.

As if this wasn't enough, the hotel owner, who at the time of showing me the room and negotiating the price was all sweet and nice, decided to put me under more agony. Since I was feeling cold, I asked for extra blanket, the housekeeper told me that they don't have any extra ones left. Pissed, I decided to take this up to the owner, thinking, since he was nice to me earlier, he'd be helpful. On the contrary he started yelling as if he was a evil hostel warden.

Here's the conversation we had at 10.30 PM:

Me: "I need more blankets."
Owner: "But you already have one blanket."
Me: "But I need one more."
Owner: "All the guests in other rooms have one blanket only. If they can survive with one blanket, why can't you?"
Me: "Who are you to tell me why I can't survive in one blanket? I feel more cold and hence I want another blanket."
Owner: "If you can't survive with just one blanket then go somewhere else. We don't need guests like you."
Me: "Fine, I'll leave first thing in the morning. Screw you."

I called Mr. Raju and informed him about the incident. Since he had referred me the place, he was feeling guilty about the situation. He knew me only via my friend's reference and a couple of phone calls, never even met; it wasn't like I was a regular guest at his hotel or something, he could've easily told me that he doesn't want to get in this but he somehow felt responsible. He told me that that was the exact reason why he generally doesn't like referring other places because then when such things happen, his reputation & name gets spoilt. He told me that I should check out and come to his hotel in the morning and that he would arrange a room for me at any cost.

If you're traveling to Manali, do not, I mean, DO NOT stay at this place called New Friends Hotel (or something like that, don't remember the exact name) near Manu Temple, unless you wish to have the worst ever accommodation experience of your life.

Thankfully, I regained my body heat post dinner and one blanket sufficed. With knowledge that the next morning I'll be checking out and hopefully go to a better place, I went to sleep after exhibiting my wet clothes all over the room.

Day 4: No Vacancy

After a good night's sleep, I woke up to a wet morning. I woke at 7ish, hoping to start early but the rain made me have second thoughts. Fortunately, by 8-8.30, the Rain Gods got tired and dark clouds withered away. Surprisingly, it was bright and sunny now. 

By the time I got ready, packed my stuff and loaded everythiing on the bike, it was past 10. Aunt had prepared a heavy breakfast for me. It was nearing 11 by the time I got done with it, and the breakfast was making me drowsy. But I decided to carry on as planned and not to waste a day so early in to the trip. It's better to spend an extra day in cities like Manali or Leh than some place like Ambala where there's barely any tourist attraction. I started around 11.30, under bright the Sun.

I started from Ambala hoping to cover 350 km. and reach Manali but thanks to my super-late start and a wrong turn through the village in-roads (or should I say no roads) on NH-21 where I averaged 20kmph for 2-3 hrs, I only managed to reach Mandi by 8pm. My poor plight wasn't helped by the fact that I missed a left turn towards Swarghat and went all the way upto Kalka - which happens to fall enroute Shimla - which is in a totally opposite direction to Manali. Owing to that mistake, I wasted about half an hour doing a 20 km. u-turn. If I'm not wrong, that inner road was NH 21A - an offshoot of NH 21 covering all the villages upto Swarghat - from where the uphill climb (ghaat) towards Mandi/Manali starts. While traversing through that lost road, I landed up at a Jaypee Cement Factory. I have no idea how and why?

This was definitely not on the cards - A JayPee Cement Factory!
Not a very pretty picture to have in your rear-view mirror, but certainly an interesting one
I honestly think that NHAI should get rid of the codename - NH 21A, and must homologate it with its official - as-yet, top secret name - Mars Rover Testing Facility.

By the time I reached this quaint little town of Mandi, it was 8ish, dark and had started to pour. I start counting the hotels and guest houses, one after the other, looking for a place to rest my butt for the night. But, no luck. All occupied. It seemed, all of a sudden, all the bikers decided to stay in Mandi (which has traditionally never been a stopover for Leh bikers) instead of riding all the way to Manali. Well played, Murphy! I found one heritage hotel - Raj Mahal Palace Hotel, which had a room available, but it was super expensive, twice my budget. Since I was yet to reach Leh, I didn't wanted to spend a bomb on hotel stay, so early on in the trip, that too in a town like Mandi where I was barely going to stay for 12 hrs. I passed the offer. Again went out hunting for a room. After 1 and half hour, I realized there were no other rooms left in the entire town. Tired, dejected and drenched I returned to the Raj Mahal Palace Hotel and checked in to the last available room in the entire Mandi at 9.30pm.

After a hot shower, I decided to relax in my luxirious room. My companions - beer, starters & cricket match on the TV. While starting from Ambala, aunt had packed some delicious food for me, I had that post drinking and hit the bed. Next day, Manali!

Day 3: Commencement Of The Ride

The bike ride would finally commence. On Day 3. Sky was overcast. Started a little late than the scheduled time - a ritual that would last for the rest of the trip.

First hurdle: How the hell should I get out of the city limits and hit the highway?
The night before, I check Google Maps for Lajpat Nagar, Delhi to Ambala, and it gave a confusing route, completely different from Nokia maps. Called up few friends if they knew the route. Thankfully, one friend's driver directed me to the correct route. It lined up with Nokia Maps. Impressed with Nokia Maps' pin perfect location.

I had tied my backpack on the tank using bungee cords. Squeezed my mobile underneath the bungee cords and kept riding looking at the map till I hit the famous Grand Trunk Road, also known as NH1. It was nearing noon by the time I hit the highway.

Grand Trunk Road
Once the city traffic reduced and the road cleared, I opened the throttle. So did the clouds. I was well inside Haryana by this time. Stopped by at a tea/pan shop. It was situated right outside a factory and hence catered to the factory workers. I stopped there especially because there was shelter as well as plastic chairs where I can sit, take off my shoes and wear my rain pants. I also untied my luggage and covered it with the huge plastic bags I got with me. By this time, I was the center of attraction for all the workers who were enjoying their afternoon hot cuppa with a beedi. In fact, due to my biker attire, they were more amused than anything. I now exactly know how Mr. New-Animal-In-The-Zoo would be feeling when surrounded by the school kids on picnic.

One curious onlooker asked me which bike it was. I said, "Yamaha." Believe me when I say this, the way a Haryanvi villager pronounces a Japanese word like Yamaha, for the listener, it's an experience in itself. Though I heard him, it's still impossible for me to imitate that pronunciation. I love my bike and I love Yamaha. When he said "Yamaha" and the way he said it, for few seconds I didn't know whether to laugh my hearts out or shoot myself. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't in a state of trauma for next few hours. Nevertheless, by the time I got ready with rain pants and had covered my luggage in sheets, rain had nearly stopped. Took a couple of sips of water from the water bottle and I marched on.

Arrggh! Call police, fire brigade, FBI, CIA, someone. There's a red bug in front of my eyes.
Just a little ahead, this red bugger somehow managed to get inside my helmet from the minor gap between the visor and the helmet. There I was riding down a six-lane highway at a speed of 85kmph with this red bug just millimeters away from my eye. I some how managed to keep calm and stop my bike at the side of the road. Took my helmet off making sure I don't scare this bug and it doesn't punch my eye or something. Averted a fatality. Phew!
My POV inside the helmet when the bug was millimeters in front of my eyes.
About 50-60 kms. before of Ambala, I stopped by for fuel. Looking at all the luggage on the bike, the petrol pump attendant started asking me about my trip. Then he told me that he too loves traveling that he had applied to the Indian Govt. for the Kailash-Mansarovar Yatra and that he was one of the lucky few to get selected. We had a good 20-30 min. long chat he told me all about his trip. He took out a piece of paper from his pocket and showed me the entire breakup of the cost involved. The entire trip cost close to Rs. 1,50,000 (Rs. 1,25,000 approx - official fees and another 25k personal expenditure). It doesn't happen everyone that you start chatting up with a petrol pump attendant and he excitedly tells you about his upcoming vacation. Apparently, every year, thousands of people apply to go to Kailash-Mansarovar Yatra but only a 1000 odd people chosen randomly  by the Indian Government (almost like a jackpot) makes it. But it's not that easy. After you hit the jackpot, one needs to go through a series of tests, 27 to be precise, and only once you pass of these medical tests, you're given the green flag. Yes, that petrol pump guy told me all this. So you see, doesn't matter if you're an Engineer from a big city like Mumbai; someone working at the petrol pump in a small will know something that you may not. As they say, you can learn something new from every person you meet.

 For a petrol pump attendant, Rs. 1.5 lakh is a huge sum to spend for a trip, yet he somehow managed to gather that amount and spend it, that's truly commendable. When you meet people like him, you realize that everybody - rich or poor, big or small, have big dreams; everbody wants to travel, seeing the world and experience new things in life; some go the distance, some only let it be a dream while for some bad luck beats down their dreams to dust. He was one of the dozens of interesting people I met on this trip.

Soon, I entered Ambala, and without much of an issue I reached the destination - a family friend's house. Though I met them for the first time, their hospitatlity was amazing. Soon after I reached, the got for me a ton of stuff which they categorise as "light snacks". This included stuffed paratha, sandwiches, cream rolls, chi. popcorn, cheese cutlet and few other things. As if that wasn't enough, had rajma-chawal, among othe things, for dinner.

After that heavy meal, retired to my room with the knowledge that this was the last time I would be sleeping in company of family/friends, and that for next few weeks, my every night would be a check in/check out affair. 

Ambala Cant. was barely 2-3 km. away from their house. As I lay in bed, I could hear the sweet sound of MiGs and Sukhois taking off from the nearby air base. I was too tired since this was my first long distance bike ride in more than 6 months tut the sound of the fighter jets was too captivating. As if it were a sweet lullaby, I slowly drifted asleep. Poetic, isn't it!

Day 2: Escaping Delhi Heat

If you have read my Day 1 blog, you'd be knowing that I carried a ton of stuff all over New Delhi Railway Station. Here's a pic of my bike fully loaded, just to give you an idea of the amount of stuff I carried, and walked 4-5 kilometers (excluding hiking up & down the three-storey railway high staircase 10-12 times) in Delhi heat wearing a thick two-layered jacket.
Bike fully loaded
After an eventful first day at New Delhi Railway Station, instead of starting the very next day, I decided to stay put & rest, and start a day later. Also, the Delhi heat was killer, hence, I spent major part of the day indoors - in the air-conditioned (looking at the A/C's condition, not sure if one can call it that, but nevertheless.) room.

I had been to Delhi but always used public transport for traveling within the city. This was the first time that I had a vehicle with me. I always wanted to ride on Rajpath and around the India Gate. I rode all the way to India Gate oblivion of the fact that road leading to India Gate is closed for vehicles. Bummer!

I had heard about this place called American Diner at India Habitat Center. I went around looking for it but couldn't find the place. The heat and the traffic soon got to me, and I decided to return to my hotel. By now, stomach had started growling like a T-rex. Friend suggested that I should try out shawarma at this particular place in Lajpat Nagar. Must say, they was super delicious. Half the price of shawarmas we get in Mumbai and twice as tasty. And legend has it, they ain't anywhere close to the tastiest ones they make in GK(?). Yet, to try those.

Those shawarmas were only high point of my time in Delhi.

Off topic: By the way, Delhi, a cycle rickshaw at a petrol pump? Please explain.

In short, it was a slow and boring day. Exactly like this blog post.

Day 3 was when I started my actual ride towards Leh. First stop: Ambala.

Day 1: Delhi Disaster

Everyone thought I was crazy to even think about going to Leh, on bike, all alone. Well, guess what? They were right. I AM CRAZY! Because sane people never found glory. Or guts.  

A sane person never uttered the words, "I want to climb Everest" OR "I want to jump from 39 kilometers" OR "Let me see how my coffee tastes when I add last night's Rum & Limca to it." (Believe me, the last one did happen. *Takes a bow*)


After months of convincing my parents and weeks of planning, the day had finally arrived. I was going to go to Leh. On bike. All alone.

I had planned to start riding from Delhi, since there's no point in riding from Mumbai to Delhi and stressing the engine which was anyway going to take a lot of beating Himachal onwards, once I hit the hills. Hence, I planned to get myself as well as my bike transported via train to Delhi.

Boarded the Duranto Express on T-1. Unfortunately, I had the side berth. While buying the ticket, I ticked the column that said "Window Seat." But, the cheeky bastard that Indian Railway is, fulfilled my wish but with a slight twist - gave me a side berth. For a 6' tall guy it's impossible to even think about sleeping in the side berth. Thankfully, while I was adjusting my luggage, a couple (it seemed like they were a couple but later turned out they were sis-in-law & bro-in-law) walked in and were thinking of exchanging their upper berths with side berths. I jumped in their conversation and told them that they can have my side berth and I'll gladly take the upper berth. Problem solved. 
Or not. You see, the cheeky bastards (Indian Railway) have designed these new coaches in such a way that it's impossible for anyone less than 3 ft tall to sit upright on the upper berth. Earlier, there used to be enough space for anyone to sit, have food, read a book, work on laptop or just laze around. But now, to hide all the wiring, noise reduction as well as well for water proofing purposes; the height of the ceiling (or whatever is it's equivalent in the train) has been reduced by about a foot. And that 10-12 inches has made all the difference between sitting upright and sitting upright with your head chopped off. Hence, my plans of a peaceful journey where I'd have my own space at the top, where I could work on the laptop or just laze around were squashed. As a result, I had to spend every waking hour downstairs on the seats and listen to the blabbering of other co-passengers. Apart from few dumb bouncers thrown by the young wife to her hubby, it wasn't too bad.

Reached Delhi. Train halted at pf. no. 2. I got down my ton of luggage. 

Just so that you get an idea of what all I was carrying: 

1. Backpack - It had all the gadgets including my DSLR, laptop, chargers; as well as other important stuff like maps, scissors, locks, biscuits and other emergency supplies.
2. Shoulder bag - Clothes, toiletries & other stuff that people carry while traveling.
3. Saddle bag - Toolkit, engine oil, spares (clutch wire, head lamp, oil+air filter, tube), two empty cans for petrol, maggi cup noodles and some food stuff.
4. A huge plastic bag to carry my helmet, gloves, bungee cords (to tie the luggage on the bike) and other misc. stuff. 
5. Biking jacket. Since you can't (and shouldn't) fold it, I had no place to keep it and hence I decide to wear it, in this Delhi heat. Also note, the jacket comes with a removable second layer that is supposed to be worn only during winter. Yes, I was wearing both the layers.

Before I tell you about my misery, here's another piece of information, I think, you should know. 
T-2 Days: Since I was going to start my trip Delhi, I had to transport my bike via train from Mumbai to Delhi. And as everyone knows, dealing with government authorities, in this case Railways, is a big headache. And for such tasks, agents are always preferable. I too did the same. Hired an agent for packing and loading my bike at Bombay  Central Station. That son-of-a-****  convinced me to not to send the bike through the same train in which I'm traveling but it should be sent via another train - Rajdhani, which will reach earlier in the day. Gave me a ton of bull*** reasons. Instead of arguing with him, I gave him a benefit of doubt thinking this was his daily job and he'd know better which train to send the goods from. Big mistake!

So when I got down at New Delhi Railway Station, I was with a ton of luggage and had to fend for my bike. Well, how hard can it be?

Duranto Exp. arrived at p.f. no. 3. I was carrying 4 luggage and were wearing a two-layered jacket; add to that, the Delhi heat hitting me in the face after I had traveled in air-conditioned train for 17 hours. Brilliant!
I climbed the footover bridge and saw 3-4 TCs. I asked them where the parcel office was. After debate among themselves for few minutes, they decided that the parcel office is at p.f. no. 1. 
I headed to p.f. no. 1. Got down the steps and 50mtrs down the platform, I met another TC. Upon asking, he informed me that the parcel office is in fact, at p.f. no. 16. Holy mother of god! Kidding me? Turned out he was not.
I climbed the stairs and dragged the luggage to p.f. no. 16. Beyond it was the parcel office. Found it. *Phew*

"But where's the freaking bike? "

I checked in the huge shed, where I saw few bikes tied up. Nothing.

Someone directed me to the inside go-down. Checked go-down # 1. Nothing.

Someone told asked me to check out go-down #2. Went there. From a distance, saw 8-10 bikes parked. I thought, "Surely my bike will be one of them." 
Nope, wasn't there. By this time I was dripping wet. The table fan was ON. I stood in front for couple of minutes. Just then someone asked me to get going because it were 5pm and it was time to shut the gates.

I walked outside. Found a porter-kinda fellow who told me that if I told him my bike's registration number, for 300 bucks, he'd find it, push it out and get it to me till the exit gate. I tried negotiation for 100 bucks, he laughed at me. 
I soldiered on.

I inquired at the official counter about my bike. They asked me when did I transport it. Told him, the bike reached Delhi the same morning via Mumbai Rajdhani. One of the fellows informed me that since the bike arrived that morning itself (less than 24hrs), the bike would still be at the platform and won't have been brought to the go-down, yet. He asked me to check out the platform where Rajdhani arrives - p.f. no.3
Kidding me? 
Turned out, he wasn't.

So, I again climbed those grueling stairs, this time dragging both - the luggage as well as myself from p.f. no. 16 all the way to p.f. no. 3. Down the steps. One step at a time, walked all the way to the end of the platform number 3. As I was nearing the end of the platform where goods were stocked, I got partial view of few bikes lying behind those huge brown packages. Dropped my luggage on one of the packages and went to fetch my bike. IT WASN'T THERE.

Asked the police constable manning the luggage at the check post at the end of the platform. He gave the following pearls of wisdom: "Why don't you check the other end of the platform?" 
Great! That's all I wanted.

After taking a breather for a couple of minutes, I dragged all three of us - my luggage, my self & my pride all the way to the other end of the fateful p.f. no. 3. 

Finally!! Found it!!!

There she was standing in all her glory - wrapped up in jute bag and bubble wrap.

I took the receipt out of my pocket (which too was wet with my sweat) and showed it to the railway employee sitting at the check post. After noting down the details from the receipt, he uttered the golden words, "Go and get gatepass made from p.f. no.16."


Turned out, he wasn't.

I even told him to anyhow get the thing sorted over there only since I was too exhausted to walk all the way, but he wouldn't hear a thing. Looking at my state, he offered to keep my luggage in his cabin till I got the gatepass from p.f. 16. I couldn't trust a stranger, that too in Delhi, but I had no other choice. I thought, even in worst case scenario, if anybody runs away with my luggage from that check post, I should limit my loss. Hence, carried the backpack, which had two of the costiest stuff - laptop & DSLR, with me. Thankfully, nothing happened to my stuff. While all this was going on, I saw 4 guys with 'MH' registration moving their bikes out. I understood that they're also on bike trip to Ladakh. We exchanged numbers and agreed to meet at the exit gate. 

While they pushed their bikes via the outside route, I dragged my pride, anger and self to p.f. 16 and got the gate pass made.

While I was getting my gate pass done, on the next window, I saw another bloke getting his bike transported. I started talking to me and turned out he's a jawan in the army. Was posted in Leh and were going home. I asked him about "non-touristy" places which only the locals knew. He told me a few which I gladly noted down in my notepad.

Took the gatepass to p.f. no. 3 and sorted the formalities. Loaded & tied all the stuff on my bike and started pushing the bike towards the exit - near p.f. no. 16.

And then began the sequence of people asking me about my trip (looking at my loaded bike and my attire complete with biking jacket and gloves) which would last till I'd reach Mumbai, 43 days later.

First up, it was a constable who was manning one of the gates just before the exit gate. I showed him the gatepass and soon we started discussing about my trip. Since I was too exhausted and sweating like crazy, he offered me water. When he learnt that I'm an engineer, he started telling me about his son who's also doing engineering. He looked like a simple man, didn't knew much about the world. I told him about campus recruitment and job opportunities that his son may possibly come across. I guess, our chat gave him little hope that his hopeless son might do something in life, after all.

After him, met a bunch of agents (like the jerk who loaded my bike in Rajdhani) near the exit gate. They too started asking me about my trip. Some people, for whom the world is just their work outside railways stations, simply can't wrap their heads around the fact that someone would go on a bike trip just for the sake of traveling. Never mind.

I met 2 of those bikers that I met earlier, near the exit gate. They were waiting for their other friends to get fuel for them from the petrol pump. I had got a tiny 200 ml. bottle of fuel with me to get enough fuel in my bike to reach the petrol pump. I poured it in and started talking to them. One guy said he could smell petrol. I told him it probably could be because I just poured some in my bike. Then we realized that the fuel line that was opened in Mumbai to drain the petrol, I forgot to fix it back; and hence, all the petrol that I poured drained out. Bummer!

Thankfully, those guys were there with me. When their friends arrived with the petrol, they shared some of it with me too - enough to make me reach the petrol station. 
(If you're reading this, THANK YOU ONCE AGAIN!)

I reached petrol pump and got 500 bucks worth of fuel in the bike. Two days later, while riding to Ambala, I realized that that petrol was adulterated. I barely did 150 km. for nearly 8 litres of fuel. Ideally, I should be doing double that. And since my bike's petrol tank was totally drained in Mumbai, there was absolutely no chance of having received adulterated fuel from previous fills. Not only that, I bike kept misfiring and giving jerks for next few days till all of that petrol got out of my bike's system.

Trust me when I say this, do not, and I mean, DO NOT refuel from the petrol pump that lies closest to New Delhi Railway Station's p.f. no. 16. My personal experience says that they sell adulterated fuel.

At the end of it all, I now had to find the way to the guest house that a friend had booked for me in Lajpat Nagar. By the time I reached there, it was already dark - 8ish. 

I checked in and after a cold shower, collapsed on the bed!
Powered by Blogger.

- Copyright © The Khardungla - Skyblue - Powered by Blogger - Designed by Johanes Djogan -