Sunday 11 August 2013

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!

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