Addicted in love: Friday, May 05, 2006
the love of my life!
(written by AnuRAG Singh)
The three of us (me,vinay and PD) decided to go to a hill called Rajmachi on cycle – for that we had to first reach Lonavala which is around 100kms from Mumbai..we had earlier thought of going there by train..so friday nite we set out on our journey..we reached thane to catch a train to Lonavala..but alas the luggage booking was only done till 5 pm so we cudn’t book our cycles..so we had the option of taking our cycles illegaly..but it was ruled out considering the crowd that was there..we started looking for alternatives…we could have caught a local till Karjat and look for something after that…but as fate would have it, we missed the local
then we went to the bus stand but all the buses had stopped plying since it was 12:30 in the nite…the people there kept pouring us with suggestions…we finally decided to cycle upto a place called Panvel which was 35kms from thane and then look for something else…it took us 2 hrs to reach Panvel..on the way we saw DAKC…simply awesome
having reached Panvel we started asking the truck-waalas for lift..there was one nice fellow who stopped his gigantic truck just to tell us the directions to reach lonavala…he cud have given us a lift but he wasn’t going there
we kept trying…finally one truck stopped but he was also going somewhere else..and the main problem was that the vehicles can’t stop midway on the Mumbai-Pune express way..and Lonavala was like an intermediate point on the express way..so only a gaadi of lonavala could give us a lift..but that truck-waala decided to drop us at a point 2-3 km away from Lonavala after exiting the express-way..thats the best we had..we loaded our bikes in the truck and took off
it was a pleasure to ride on the express-way “one of the best roads India has ever built” i managed to take a nap while on the road
we reached Lonavala at 5 in the morning..thanking the truck driver we started with our actual journey…both me and vinay knew the way..but the starting points were different…we decided to take vinay’s route – it started from a lake called Tungarli.
the road wasn’t very friendly by the looks of it..but we had come for “that only the adventure and the bumpy ride.we started cycling there came a point when we had to carry our bikes on our shoulders to clear a patch which would lead us to a cycle able road…it was painful but we were enjoying it.the only concern was that the cycle shouldn’t breakdown…and the road seemed to be very much against any mechanical device with wheels….keeping all the worries at way we carried on with our business..there were times when we had to tow our bikes….in fact while going up almost for 75% of the way we had to walk on foot…the road didn’t seem to come to an end…and the rockiness kept on increasing.but amidst all the tensions we didn’t forget to appreciate the scenic beauty of the place…it can’t be described in words ..u have to be there to feel it
we would often stop..take some rest and snaps too..one of the screws of my bike had gone loose..and i had to check it every 2 minutes, to keep the cycle running
after 3 and a half hour of this treacherous journey we finally reached the village on the top..we cud see the astonished look on their faces…later on we were told that we were the first ones to come to that place on cycle…now it was time to give some rest to our aching bodies and the cycles too…we entered a house and decided to have our breakfast..they served us with Poha..it was sooooooo tasty…one wasn’t enuff…we had enuff of it to fill our bellies.and then decided to take some rest…floor pe hi flat ho gaye
par wapas bhi pahuchna tha isliye so nahi sakte the..delta rest lene ke baad hum log actual top ke liye nikal pade.it was the watch tower of Shivaji Maharaj from where he could keep an eye on most of his forts..it was just a half an hour trek to the top..top se view to kuch bhi tha.every other thing seemed so small.we felt like being on top of the world
top par thoda stunt marne ki fite maari par jab laga ki it was getting riskier we decided to climb down :DDD
the lunch was ready but we decided to take a bath first..there was lake abt 5 mins away from the village..mujhe to paani dekh kar hi kuch kuch hone lagta hai -aur itna saaf paani ho to fir kya kehna..:) we took off our clothes(well almost all of them :DD) and jumped into the water..the first touch of the cold water was soooooo rejuvenating!!
we spent one complete hour inside the water, trying to regain our energies and senses too try to catch some fishes too but they were too fast for us lesser mortals
after tht wonderful bath we had our lunch, we got to taste some of the local delicacies…it was 3 pm so we immediately set out on our way back – it seemed to be like any other day in that village..on asking one of the villagers he told us ….hum garib log hain, humare liye to har din ek jaisa hi hota hai.. fir bhi sab khush the. in their own ways…there’s a lot that we can learn from them..they live high but still they are close to earth!
sabko goodbye bolkar hum log nikal pade…it was a downhill journey for most of the path ..but the rockiness was the same…and we had to put in extra efforts to maintain a safe speed for our bikes….brakes maarte maarte haath mein pain hone laga tha…climbing down took us 2 and a half hr.
we reached the highway and we only had the option of taking a lift to bombay…had chai at the dhabba there…and started asking for lift…but the truck walas didn’t seem to very helpful in that part of the country no one stopped….:(
we decided to cycle to a place called Khopoli (8 km from there) and catch a local at 8:08 pm from there..it was already 6 and getting darker with each passing moment.the good thing about the road was that it was mostly downhill and that too a very steep downhill..we could actually go faster than the motorized vehicles
the only constraint to our speed was the miserable condition of the road..it was a national highway..a shame in the name of an NH!
anyways we continued with our biking…some truly amazing things were awaiting us….after going down for a while the NH merged with the Express-way for some 3-4 kms…bas aur kya chahiye tha…it was like a dream come true…to cycle on the express-way…no two-wheelers are allowed on it….but people told us that for that particular stretch we could take our cycles…fir bhi beech mein ek board aaya tha on which it was written “TWO WHEELERS AND PEDESTRIANS NOT ALLOWED” :)))
aur sone pe suhaga..raste mein humne ek tunnel bhi cross ki might seem like a small thing, but it was great for us
it seemed that luck was very much favoring us…it was sad to leave the express-way and get back on that shitty highway..:( we reached khopoli at 7:30 and we realized that we dint have much time to catch the train and the station was still far away..we kept on cycling-a bit faster then.
we managed to catch the train on time..with the final train journey our odyssey to the paradise came to an end! it was 10:30 when we entered the gates of iitb
well…we were satisfied..not just satisfied..we were happy for having done something like that…truly an unforgettable experience..!
(12 March 2005)
The forts in the Raigad and Sudhagad range are not that tough with climb not more than 1000-2000 feet. Mr. Sameer Kelkar, cyclist, marathoner, trekker and also IIT engineer, holds idea of climbing each mountain and each ghat of Sahyadri from Konkan with a climb of at least 2500 feet. For the mountains like Raigad, Rajgad and others which doesn�t have approach from Konkan, has alternate plan of combining cycling and trek. So this time it was Sarasgad and Raigad. We send a small pilot team from IIT on the same route, but they come back from base of Sarasgad.
Plan of Action:
Our plan one of the best on paper. We plan to get to Khopoli by first train. Get down at Khopoli and cycle about 37 kms from Khopoli to Pali by 10 in morning. Then have breakfast at Pali, and then climb Sarasgad and come back to the base by 12 noon. Have our lunch and then set off towards Raigad. We decide to take a non state highway, as shown in the road map of Raigad district, a total cycle of 55 kms to base of village Pachad. Reach Pachad by 6-7 in evening. After dinner climb Raigad, stay at Raigad top for the night. In morning come back to Pachad, cycle back to Mahad, then load our cycles back on bus top and reach Mumbai by evening or night.
Yes, the plan seemed to be quite hectic atleast for me. I had to constantly match with the pace and stamina of Sameer. We started off 12 th morning, catching the first train for Khopoli. For carrying cycle or luggage in train one needs to make a challan from station. However at Dombivli the window which makes challan opens late at 6 am. So I loaded my cycle without any challan. Sameer who took train from Kanjur had already made his challan. At Kalyan was caught by railway official and had to pay off 100 bucks (without receipt). Later came to know from fellows in luggage compartment, that 10-20 rupees would have done, or else one get concession of 60kgs luggage on return ticket. So it was learning for any such next trips.
We reached Khopoli by 0730, and luckily wasn�t caught again. After a little baggage adjustments, loading helmets and querying for the route, we left for Pali. Pali is about 37 kms from Khopoli, and to avoid the heat we decided to skip breakfast and “make hay when the sun doesn�t shine- 6 kms are on Mumbai Pune old highway and just before the express highway, one diversion towards Pali. Climate was good, and we hoped a good cycling day. We covered initial halfway milestone within an hour. A very short break for tea and water, we get back to our road. Though the roads were quite flat and good, they were constantly skirting and several ups and downs (I always enjoy going down!) But it was not late when the sun started showing its effect. Just before Pali, I fell back some 3-4 kms of Sameer, and got severe cramps in my legs. I should have drank little more water. It was hard for me to cycle. I somehow reached Pali, where Sameer was waiting for me. It was 1000 by then.
At Pali, we decided to have breakfast and much required rest to me. No sooner we had breakfast we left for climbing Sarasgad. Parked our cycles at the base house, and took trail leading towards top of Sarasgad. The climb to Sarasgad is not high but quite steep. It took my toll. I was never would able to catch Sameer. Each step for me was hard to take. And for the first time trekking in Sahyadris I lost my mental strength. Asked Sameer to go forward, I took my own pace.
Sarasgad appears to be beautifully built. The steps leading to top are beautifully hidden. There are two levels of construction which can be seen. By the time I reached first level, Sameer was waving his hand from the second level. I decided to rest there and avoid going to the second level. There is a small temple and few water tanks on the top. Sameer came down, joined me and we left again for the base. It was 1145 by the time we reached the base. We took our lunch, it was 1230 by then, so perfect according to our plans, apart from my cramps and bit loss of my stamina.
First setback for us. We referred Atlas maps for roads in Raigad. It clearly showed a small but cycle able road for Pachad, base of Raigad. This was about 55 kms, which we could have done the same day. We asked village people about this road, and none of them said this road exists. The route on which bus goes is about 100 kms from Pali, some 5 kms to the Mumbai Goa national highway, 80 kms to Mahad on the national highway and 24 kms off route from Mahad to Pachad. No way we could have done that on same day, and that too on congested national highway in the scorching heat. I had already exhausted and planning to return from here, it was only Sameer who forced me coming to Raigad. Finally I decided to take time to decide, by the time I may get well. We loaded our cycles on bus to Nagothane, some 10 kms from Pali on Mumbai Goa highway. Here we had to wait till 1430 to get a bus for Mahad. Bad luck this time too, bus was over crowded and we had to stand till Mahad.
Second setback, I didn�t get the necessary rest. I got more exhausted, and by the time we reached Mahad, I could feel the pain. It was 1630 by then I decided to back off, Sameer who showed no signs of fatigue, decided to cycle 24 kms to Pachad according to plans. Wasting no further time, we parted each other. I took 1700 bus from Mahad towards Surat, going via Panvel, Shil-phata and Thane. By 2100 I reached Shil Phata, 10 kms from Dombivli. It was another cycle of about 40-50 minutes for me in traffic to reach Dombivli. By 2200 it was end of my cycling and trek.
I don�t know how I could cycle the last 10 kms. At home, I could feel the pain in my leg again. May be it was strength I got from idea of reaching home.
We had a superb planning. And by the time I completed this report, I got feedback from Sameer who had climbed Raigad, and found the small 55 km road between Pali and Raigad. Sameer cycled back from Pachad to Pali and on his way to Thane on bus.
Sun took the toll, may be March was not the month for such expeditions. Drinking water to avoid de-hyradtion could have made me complete the route. About half liter for every hour is what recommended.
Transport like bus is frequently available on this route, apart from the Pali-Pachad by-pass. Maybe we should have given little more time on the route, completing the route in two days was a bit tough. Little more time on the route would have made it enjoyable. Raigad district have great roads to cycle and great places to see. Last cycle trip to Shrivardhan and Harihareshwar from Alibag has not yet faded from my memory.
Road map to future:
Though the cycling turned bit (very!) hectic for me and not enjoyable, it was a great experience. I was already prepared for the hardships, and it was the reason why I didn�t have my camera with me. I take this cycling experience as indication towards increasing my stamina, physical and mental, which is very much important towards enjoying life! No pain, No Gain! For these gains,
Nothing Else Matters!
Sarasgad to Raigad Cycling
(Written by Sameer Kelkar)
As I sat in the cargo dabba of the Khopoli train (KP1) on Saturday morning, I had mixed feelings.I was glad that I was ultimately going on the route I had planned a long time ago, but also uncertain of the route and whether we could complete it in the heat.Kaushal had joined me at Dombivli and we were headed towards a road between Pali and Raigad which seemingly no one had heard of.It was there on the road map which I had, but then the map also showed several other roads which I knew didnt exist.Soon all the tentativeness was gone as we started cycling from Khopoli at 7.20.We wanted to make as much distance as we could before it became too hot.Taking the left turn just before Madh,we went past the Pali-35 milestone.Cycling in the fresh, early morning was fun and we breezed along to take our first halt 17km from Pali, at 8.30, to take tea.The road was very good with few climbs.mostly it was flat.I reached Pali at 9.30, Kaushal came along 15 minutes later.He had had cramps in his thighs and needed a break.
Since we had had nothing solid since morning, we had a quick breakfast.I asked Kaushal if he would stay back at Pali or climb Sarasgad with me.He decided to give it a try. Sarasgad is a small, elegant fort which looms large behind Pali.The route is very clear � can be called a rajmarga� and climbs up steeply and quickly.The staircase near the top is very smart work and a great piece of mountain architecture.Kaushal waited under a tree just after the staircase while I climbed to the top of the Balekilla after traversing around the cliffs.It had taken around 45 min to climb to the top from Pali.Taking a look around, I got good views of the peaks around, most of which I couldn�t identify.We then hurried back down to reach Pali at the stroke of noon.
We then had an excellent lunch ( our photos just after the lunch show that we relished it ).Making enquiries about the road to Raigad, via Boravali and Channata, we got negative response from several people near the temple.They did�nt know of any such road.Next, we tried at the ST stand, but with same result.One conductor declared that only way to reach Raigad was through Mahad.One other fellow knew of the trek route between Sarasgad and Raigad, but not the road.It was 12.30 now and we had to decide quickly what was to be done.Kaushal was feeling tired and needed rest.Taking this into account, we decided to take a bus to Mahad.Changing the bus at Nagothane on the way, we reached Mahad at 4.15.Here Kaushal tooka Uturn by deciding to go back home that same day.I probably did�nt understand the extent of his tiredness when we had started from Pali.I had thought that 2-3hrs rest would do him good.The heavy rush in the bus did�nt help either.I decided to continue alone to Raigad.
The first 17 of the 24 km from Mahad to Raigad were perfectly flat, and I covered them in just over an hour.It took another hour to do the last 7 from Kolzhar to Pachad.That climb was very steep and my legs were already tired till then.I kept spinning in the first gear of my dear Hero Thunder.Just when I felt I was stretching it too far I saw Pachad.Having snacks at Hotel Deshmukh, I started climbing up Raigad.I knew it wasn�t much of an height after the 1000ft or so I had gained in the ghat from Kolzar to Pachad.According to my expectations I reached Raigad top at 8, in an hour or so, from Pachad.The MTDC resort was full, but luckily a double room was available at the Ropeway guest houses.They also gave me excellent food.A short walk in the beautiful starry night ended the day for me.I lay flat on the bed and fell far asleep.
Early morning I had to make a choice � whether to see Raigad fort and then pedal down to Mahad, or go and explore �the other road� to Raigad from Mangaon and see if it could get me to Pali.Doing both did�nt seem possible as I did�nt know how long that other road will take.I chose to explore that road, I could come and see Raigad sometime again.Speeding down to Pachad in 30mins, I had some quick snacks, packed some food and started pedaling at 7.I had been told that the road to Jijamata Samadhi continues to Mangaon(24km).Soon the road lost tar, and slowly changed from a stony track to a dirt track.It traversed the main Raigad mountain and took a U-turn to come on a mountain which can be seen from the Bombay-Goa highway.The complex nature of the Sahyadris in this part fascinated me.Instead of the �main range and cliffs� which I had seen elsewhere, these mountains were totally different.All the mountains I was crossing now ( including Raigad ) were disjointed from the main range and yet were 3000ft tall.
The road got down into the plains where there was a small village and a much needed tar road.I came to a fork, with one road going to Mangaon, and other to Nizampur ( both were at almost the same distance ).I reached Nizampur around 9.Here I asked for Boravali, and was directed towards a rough looking road.The 12 km (45min) ride to Boravali was mostly flat but rough.Here people told me that the road to Pali is under construction,but cyclable and estimated to be another 25 km.The patch between Boravali and a village called Amboli was horrible.the road was stony, dusty, up and down and it was extremely hot.I kept spinning till a sweet tar road greeted me at Amboli.This patch was particularly bad not only due to the physical condition ( of the roads, the cycle and myself ), but also due to the desertedness.I did�nt cross any vehicle except for a bullock cart in those 2hours between Nizampur and Amboli.I reached Pali breezing through the last 12 km in 45min.
The lunch at Pali was most satisfying experience.I was lucky that my cycle had�nt caused any problems during the entire trip.I was even luckier when I got lift in a tempo from Pali to the Joeshwari link road junction on the Eastern expressway, hardly 2km from IIT, where my sweet dirty room, and 2buckets of hot water awaited me..
mountains are to be climbed��.
3 June 2004-24 June 2004
Ladakh, also known as the land of rocks and passes has always fascinated people. The barren landscape amidst the four mountain ranges; the Great Himalayan, Zanskar, Ladakh and the Karakoram, have heights of valleys ranging from 8000 to 15000 feet and peaks upto 25000 feet and passes going upto 20000 feet. This region also has the world’s highest glacier, Siachen. Apart from all this the thing which attracted us the most was that it has world’s highest roads. The world’s highest motorable pass, Khardung-la is in this region. Many foreigners have tried to cycle on these roads, but very few Indians have tried this earlier. And there came the idea to cycle on the roads touching heavens and Manali-Leh State highway was the best to gain most out of everything.
The idea first came to Sameer Kelkar aka Sam (my IIT MECH junior, equally crazy about treks and cycle), who had been cycling for years. He had contacted people from Leh who were ready to arrange things for us for cycling in the Nubra and the Indus valley in Ladakh, right in February. I decided to join him then. But somehow we came to know of Countrysideindia.com who organizes tours and treks, who showed interested in organizing the Manali-Leh cycling at no profit-no loss. Opportunity walked to us!
In March-April we spent time deciding the iternary, booking tickets, deciding the budget, contacting persons in Manali and Leh who would be guiding us, cooking food for us in the way. After this was done, most important thing came was getting people for the cycling expedition. Many people showed interest, but not many remained. Finally we were a team of 5, myself, Sam, Prasanna (Sameer’s school friend), Ketan aka Kaka (Sameer’s Kaka) and Sherwin (Sameer met him on one of his treks). Finally this seeming to be set, we geared up our cycle, each had 15-18 geared cycle, mostly steel frame (heavy), only Sherwin and Kaka had light cycle. Transported the cycle (remember it was just before my last exam) to Andheri from where they were transported to Delhi and then by countryside bus to Manali, where they were stored in one of the countryside hotels.
So now our preparations were over, we had Tikam (who had trekked with well known mountaineer Harish Kapadia) as our jeep (support vehicle) driver cum guide, Tikku as our cook and Nema as his helper. Countryside provided us with tents, mats, sleeping bags, medical kit, walkie talkies, and oxygen cylinder. And a letter from Brig. Toley, Prasanna’s uncle, stating army people to help us in difficulty! What more is needed
Day 1: June 2, 2004
Early start for me for the trek, decided to stay at Sameer’s home at Villeparle, to avoid travel in rush the next day. Reached Sam’s home at midnight, some last minute discussions about the trip and a good sleep for a long journey ahead.
Day 2: June 3, 2004
After a sound sleep, refreshed and had breakfast at Udipi restaurant near Sam’s home. Sam at the last minute remembered that he had to pay his electric bill for the month. I paid the electric bill, while Sam packed his luggage and hurried to Bandra Terminus. Met Prasanna for the first time, was along with his dad (CEO Nirlep cookware). Alighted Paschim Express, Sherwin joined us at Borivali. Thus the journey finally began. 28 hours journey to Ambala! Thought the journey would turn boring, but the Sardarji in our coach had something or other to entertain us.
Day 3: June 4, 2004
Still in train. Seems to be a long journey. Sam and Prasanna busy reading novels and I left with sardarji! Reached Ambala at lunch time, had our lunch at the Dhabha outside the railway station. But still we had to wait for Kaka who was coming from Aurangabad, whose train would be arriving some 3 hours later. Ambala is too hot in June, but managed it with the hope of chill at Manali at night.
Kaka came at 1730, first impression, peaceful, jolly and happy person at the age of 35+ (my first guess, he ought to be a bachelor, which turned true later). Jeep for Manali had already come by that time. Put our luggages in the jeep and drove our way on the NH1 towards Manali (6700 feet). Had our dinner in the way. The travel gave us time to learn about each other.
It takes about 10 hours to reach Manali, but our jeep driver Naib Singh was again a great fellow, talkative and crazy about Mumbai. His talks about film industry, prostitutes on Juhu, Tarabai from Jaipur and all funny stuff entertained us. After a small traffic jam, couple of halts for our doses of caffine we finally reached Manali at 2 am. It took us a time to find hotel Kalpana, which was way up near the Hidimba temple, do the formalities and find a cozy bed. Slept by 0330 in morning.
Day 4: June 5, 2004
Not much to do on the day. Tried to get up late, but couldn’t sleep much, nice weather outside. Took charge of our transported cycle after breakfast. Transport hadn’t done much damage to them, as we had guessed. Took our cycle to Manali market. It took a lot of time to search for a cycle shop, finally got one. There is only one cycle shop near the bus stand. Serviced our cycle and they were now ready for the journey. Some shopping to complete the preparations, Italian food for dinner (Kaka’s fan of Italy except for Sonia ).
Day 5: June 6, 2004
Today was again a rest day. Decided to do some practice. Except for Kaka, who went to see the art gallery at Naggar, we all took our cycles to Solang, to hotel Iceland from where we had to collect sleeping bags, mats, medical and oxygen cylinder. Started early, weather not good, might rain late. Solang is 17 kms from Manali and to defy our information, the road was climbing. In fact I had tough time cycling, constantly on the first (least torque) gear and usually on foot (zeroth gear!). Suddenly the run-away-from-the-trek syndrome took me. It always happened on my long treks that the feeling of ditching trek came to me. But even this time I kept my patience to enjoy lots of things ahead. It took us about 2 hours to reach Palchan some 10 kms from Manali. Here we met Tikku, the cook and had breakfast at his Dhabha. Then took road to Solang, which was again climbing. In the way, while I was dragging the cycle, 2 children who seemed to be attracted by cycle took charge of my cycle, and helped me dragging my cycle through all shortcuts possible. Relief to me!
Took a look at the items at hotel which seemed to be in check, left for Manali after an hour. Weather had worsened by that time, might rain anytime. Now the way was all the way down for next 17 kms and 1500 ft. Was fun coming downhill, no pedaling required just braking at times to control our speed. It rained heavily till we reached Manali. Rest for next of day, some shopping and again some continental delicacies for dinner.
Day 6: June 7, 2004
Today we ought to start according to our plans. But it was raining slowly and steadily all the night. Nobody wished to cycle in the rains right on the first day. We waited for rains to stop till afternoon but rains didn’t seem to stop. Finally called a pickup vehicle, dumped the cycles in that and decided to go to our next stop Marhi (10800 feet), 35 kms all the way up to the snow point just below Rohtang pass. This way we missed a lot of climb, of about 2000 feet. By this we also avoided the heavy traffic on the Rohtang route. Decided to stay at the PWD rest house. Did some acclimatization walk and some cycling practice. Heavy dinner and good sleep to get charged up for the climb of Rohtang tomorrow.
Day 7: June 8, 2004
Weather was cleaned up today. We could see fresh snow on the top of Rohtang pass and neighboring peaks. We could also see the Hanuman tibba ridge. Road to Rohtang top (13500 feet) could also be seen. Road steadily climbed up, making loops and turns about mountain side. Only problem was of heavy traffic. Decided to leave early before the Santra-and-Bandras (Kakas name to the foolish tourists who come there for siteseeing and make the place filthy) come. It was 17 kms to the top and some 3000 feet of climb. Did that in 3 and half hours. There were about 15-20 loops in the road to the top. However the top was dirty and too much crowded, my plans to play in the snow were ditched. We left for Khoksar village some 25 kms down from the top.
Again the way down was good, here the traffic of santra-and-bandras had stopped, road looped and turned all the way down to Khoksar. We came down as high as we went up! While having our tea at Khoksar, some DD Ladakh chap met us, who took our addresses at Leh, saying he will shoot us for his documentary (which he never did).
We then left for Sissu(10200 feet), 18 kms along the river Chandra. The road along the river are very confusing, at times very near to the river and at times high up the river. We never understood why this was so, for we had to regularly climb up and down the road which was tiring. Camped at Sissu among the forest plantations near the river. On the other side of the river hanging waterfall could be seen and in distance we also saw the Sissu village. While others slept, I and Sherwin did some good photography of the region. Again heavy dinner and sleep for the next day.
Day 8: July 9, 2004
Our next stop today was Jispa (10500 feet), which in our information some 49 kms straight road (which turned out to be 61 and tiring ups and downs). Again after heavy breakfast we went along the river Chandra for 23 kms right upto village Tandi which was gradual down. Bhaga river meets the Chandra river at Tandi and flows as Chandra-Bhaga later. Road was then climbing steep for 8 kms right upto Keylong. KEylong is quite large town in the Lahaul valley. Got STD there.
Now the road from Keylong was again climbing with some rough patches in between. It was still 25 kms further from Keylong to Gemus and then few kms to Jispa. At Jispa too, we camped in the field near the river. Day was tiring and very longer than we expected. We did cycle for about 7 hours. Maggi after cycling and warm tents. We need some sound sleep today for the climb tomorrow. Also there were some news that the bridge nearby had collapased, might have to change plans a bit.
Day 9: June 10, 2004
After breakfast we left early, as we might have to spend time at the river near Darcha where the bridge had fallen. It was about 8 kms straight road to Darcha. Spend some time seeing the seen out there, jeep drivers were trying to make there way through the river, toed to the tractors, some drama going out in the cold water.
Our driver Tikam was reluctant to take risk with his jeep. Finally we shifted our luggage in the trailer of tractor and shifted to other side of the river. There after a long time, Tikam arranged for different jeep and driver for us.
Next stop was Patseo (12500 feet) which was 21 kms steady climb from Darcha. Roads were bad in between and weather too got bad the time we reached Patseo. Came to know that the metrological department at Patseo had forecasted subzero temperature at night. It’s going to be the coldest day so far! Again camped near the river, weather cleared up in late afternoon. Did some washing and then roamed about around the region. Treeline had ended and so one could see only soil, dull brown mountains and snow on the top. However, lots of birds could be seen here, most of them I could identify were rock thrush, also saw a small squirrel, first mammal apart from yaks and cows.
Day 10: June 11, 2004
Stomach upset toady Today it would be going to be the toughest day so far. We had to reach Sarchu today some 62 kms ahead, with Baralacha-la (16500 feet) in between. We started early. Steady climb till Zing-Zing bar of 9 kms and some 1500 feet altitude gain. After that we had a steady never-ending climb till the end of the pass.
As the altitudes rise above the treeline, generally 10000 feet, the oxygen decreases, and muscles don’t get enough oxygen. It somehow becomes difficult to do cycling. This was happening with us. About 10 kms from the top, we were literally dragging our cycle on feet. Even we felt the weight of the cycle while dragging. Also these passes are very treacherous; it seemed that we had only few loops to go to the top, when we reached the end of the loop there ought to be few more loops, and so on. At an altitude about 15000 feet, things suddenly change as oxygen level further decreases. We were some 5-6 kms from the top; I suddenly felt dizzy and was on floor. It took time to recover myself. Sam and Sherwin were with me, Prasanna and Kaka were far behind, both having problems with altitude. I somehow felt I couldn’t cycle any further. Hence took a lift from the tanker till the top of pass.
Felt better at the top, Sam came after a long time. It took him an hour to do 4-5 kms. Kaka and Prasanna did well by taking a lift from tanker straight upto Sarchu. No point straining oneself, when half the journey was left. We had lunch of packed parathas at Baralacha-la. It was Sherwin’s birthday, and no better place to celebrate. At altitude of 16500 feet, with snow everywhere, memorable! Climb was about 30 kms from Patseo and further 32 left till Sarchu (15000 ft). But the road now was all the way down. Losing height is such a fun (only when brakes are in control, else it’s most dangerous).
After few kms, we seemed to have entered the Ladakh region. Dry desert looking mountains all around. Camped on the plains of Sarchu near the river. Today was a great day, did cycling from 0730 to 1800 and reached an altitude of 16500 feet. Need a good sleep. Since all were tired we decided to change our plans, take a rest day by going only 20 kms flat to Brandy Nalla.
Day 11: June 12, 2004
Was a bad night for Prasanna and me. Especially for Prasanna, who was suffering from oxygen problem, had breathlessness and mostly allergy to Dimox. His eyes were swollen and couldn’t see. He was shifted to nearby army medical camp and was put on oxygen. I couldn’t sleep the whole night too. Was breathless, had nausea, could hear my heart beats the whole night. The long journey yesterday was too stressful to my body. In morning felt quite weak, couldn’t even lift my sack. Talked to team and decided to leave with Prasanna to Pang and if possible further ahead to Leh.
Took our jeep to Pang (15500 feet) some 60 kms ahead. Had to cross the 21 loops of Gata, Nakela pass and Lachungla pass (17000 feet) in between. This definitely couldn’t be done by us in this state on cycle. We did the better thing not troubling our team and wisely leaving to Leh. Army doctor at Pang gave medicines to Prasanna and then we took a tanker from Pang to Leh. Tanker used to be slow on climbs. Had to cross one more pass Tanglang la (the worlds third highest motorable pass, again some 17000+ feet). Reached place called Upshi some 40 kms from Leh in the evening. Tanker driver had decided to stay there for the night, so we too did. Got a dormitory to stay at Upshi. Prasanna and I got the necessary rest.
Day 12-13: June 13-14, 2004
Took a bus from Upshi to Leh (11000 feet). Spend lot of time searching for Splash Adventures who would be organizing our stay at Leh. However finally booked some other guest house. Hot water bath was so refreshing after such a long time. Took rest for the day. Prasanna showed to army doctor, and at night did visit Brig. G.I. Singh whom his uncle had referred to. He seemed to have got better after shown to the doctor. I feel the illness was psychological more than physical. Spend time roaming in the streets of Leh. Infact I knew almost all roads of Leh by then and also the shortcuts! It was season time in Leh, lots of foreigners and occasional Indian tourist could be seen.
Day 14: June 15, 2004
Unexpected arrival of the team, they were expected to come tomorrow. But they skipped the stay at Debring where no water is available, and the climb of Tanglang-la, which reduced a day. Good to find some company again. Shifted to the booked guesthouse.
Day 15: June 16, 2004
We decided to visit the Pangong lake, some 170 kms from Leh. Booked a jeep for that. Had to cross Chang-la, the world’s second highest pass (17800 feet) in the way. The valley leading to Pangong lake was equally scenic. More desert like appearance of the Ladakh region could be seen. Finally after 4-5 hrs ride we reached the lake. The lake is 4 km wide and 150 kms long, however only 1/3 part of the lake is in India, rest lie in China occupied India.
The lake was really beautiful! All shades of Blue could be seen in the lake. And the blue colour came up more beautiful with background of ochre yellow mountains and the competing blue sky! Walked for 2-3 kms along the lake for about an hour and finally made our way back. It was one of the beautiful places I have seen, really memorable!
Day 16: June 17, 2004
Again a rest day. Sherwin and I visited the Shanti Stupa, nice view of the city from here. Could also see the loops of the road to Khardung-la which I and Sam would be trying tomorrow on cycle. Repaired our cycle for the climb tomorrow. Took rest, did shopping, spend time at German bakery bird-watching Israeli flycatchers and British whispering thrush (Sherwin and Prasanna know better!)
Day 17: June 18, 2004
I and Sam left early at 6. We had planned to cycle the top of world’s highest motorable pass- Khardung-la 18380 feet. Rest of people had planned to do the Nubra valley in jeep. We did about 20 kms and some 4000 feet of climb in 3 hours. But again the 15000 feet level took us. We couldn’t cycle any further, both Sam and me, waited for the jeep just before South Pullu, checkpoint 14 kms before top, so that we could load our cycles on the jeep. We couldn’t cycle up the top, but at top we couldn’t resist temptation coming down. Sam cycled all the way down 60 kms to Kholsar, while I, Sherwin and Prasanna took turns on the other cycle.
Nubra valley is all at 10000 feet and is the most beautiful region in Ladakh. Initially road is along Shyok river right from Kholsar to Diskit and Hunder. In between, Nubra river coming from Siachin Galaciers joins it. We took jeep ride to Diskit and further ahead to Hunder. At Hunder one can see the sand dunes, more desert like appearance. Was fun playing in sand dunes. Kaka showed his artistic skills on the sand. A civilian can’t go further ahead of Hunder, all the region is under Army afterwards. We came back to Diskit and stayed in the Guest house.
Day 18: June 19, 2004
Next day we started from Diskit, crossed over the Shyok river and went upstream of Nubra. This road leads right to the base of Siachin glaciers. However a civilian can go only upto Panamic, the northern most point a civilian can go in India. There are hot water springs over here. Bath in sulphur waters was again very refreshing.
We had finished visiting Nubra valley very early, hence decided to get back to Leh the same day. On the top of Khardung-la Sam and me took back the cycles. Road till South pullu, about 14 kms, was again bad due to melting snow and glaciers. Most of time, we were cycling through streams flowing on water and all stones. After that the road was excellent. Had to tighten the brakes in middle. Sam’s cycle brakes had failed, brake shoes worn out, he had to ditch cycling and sit in jeep. I did my whole 6000-7000 feet cycling down, about 40 kms. It took me about 2-3 hours. At times I was competing jeep with speeds of 40. But the turns and loops were deadly, whole valley below and fantastic view of mountain range ahead. Going down from Khardung-la was like topping on the trip-cake!
Day 19-20: June 20-21, 2004
Took rest, reading book, again roaming in the markets of Leh. Spending time at bakeries and restaurants in Leh. Visited Leh palace. Transported our cycles back to Bombay.
Day 21: June 22, 2004
Took early morning flight to Jammu. Security checks at Leh airport were really strict, they made Sherwin to write with his ballpen to check whether it was really a pen. Reached Jammu early morning. Jammu was really very hot after the cool trip. Stayed in hotel near railway station, roamed in Jammu, spent some time surfing, reading book and slept early.
Day 22-23: June 23-24, 2004
Again the boring 30+ hour train journey, wont talk much, but worth experiencing 😉 Finally, excellent trip, an expedition I must say. Manali-Leh route was superb. About 4 huge passes in between, crossing over the Himalayas to enter the Ladakh range. Differences in landscapes could be seen after every mile. Had a excellent group, whom I knew only Sameer initially, but the team worked really well. I must say we spend lots of time planning things and finally it worked for us, though on the expensive side. But it’s the cost we were willing to pay for cycling on world’s highest roads! Altitude and the roads were risky business but finally it was all adventure. As Helen Keller says: Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all. Finally theres something out there in Himalayas which I find very exciting. I always found peace out there. Himalayas helped me get out of my mental strain. Gods, if they are, must be staying at such a place.
So I am back from heavens, in the end NOTHING ELSE MATTERS!
Success is never ending, failure is never final. – Dr Robert Schuller (22-25 Feb 2003)
“Are you crazy” this was the question most of the people asked us when we planned our cycle trip to Ganpatipule. For us this was an initiative as we had heard of people doing thousands of kilometers on cycle. We had planned just hundreds. Ketan (KT), Gaurang (Mowgli), Chaitanaya, Anurag, Anand (Kaa), Aranab (Tommy) including me were the group members. With midsem over by Friday, and ready to bunk lectures for two days, (KT had test on Tuesday, and Kaa got exams postponed with his dummy sisters marriage) all were ready for action.
On Saturday 22, we started early in the morning from IIT. We had accompanied with us spare dress, sleeping bags, cycle pump, spanner, pliar, puncture kit, glucose (petrol for us!) , medicines, photography stuff and ofcourse lots of enthusiasm. Early morning drive on Eastern Express highway, we reached patch of 22 kms. to Gateway of India, in one hour. Stimulating with hot tea, we boarded the ferry to Alibag which was waiting for us.
Our start was really great, all what we needed : natures beauty. Sitting on the hull of the ferry the titanic way enjoyed the sunrise; view of Mumbai city over the calm sea, sea gulls, and spotting of a small shark was really great. First time I saw the greatness of the sea. At one time we could none other but the sea, extending upto horizon in every direction. Within one and half hours our ferry landed up at Mandwa beach, some 19 kms from Alibag. Without wasting our time, we left for Alibag. At this time we had not tied our rucksacks to the cycle, but were carrying them on our back, which added to the pain of cycling. Hence by the time we reached Alibag, we were dehyradrated, especially me. I was so dehydrated that I had made all mind to ditch the trip. But some glucose, electrol powder and some will power pushed me for the trip. By the time we took our breakfast and tied the bags to the cycle.
Our next destination was Murud some 50-60 kms from Alibag. We could feel the beauty of Konkan region all the way. Tall coconut trees, Creeks in between, peculiar red soil, cool breeze blowing from seaside, small roads between villages, peculiar tiled roofed houses. Refreshed ourselves with Coconut water at a place called Rohadanda. There is a fort here, used as protection to Roha region. After Rohadanda we had sea constantly to our right hand side. In the way we had to cross small ghat to reach Kashed beach. It’s a small patch of beach, found many picnickers here due to weekend. Constant supply of glucose and water kept us going. From here cycling constantly for 2-3 hours we reached Murud. All group members didn’t have same speed. KT, Tommy and Chaitanya who had racing cycle used to reach first. So we had to wait a long till everybody reached. But we kept synchronizing as we proceeded. At Murud we reached by 5 pm, did our lunch then. Didn’t have much time to spend at Murud beach or go to the fort, as we had to catch ferry which takes us to the other side of creek. We just missed the ferry from Murud and so we had to leave for Alakdanda some 10 kms away to catch the ferry which leaves later. We all reached there just in time, loaded our cycle and sailed in the sea. It was time of high tide then, our boat yawed a lot due to the high tides, was a really nice experience. When we got down at other shore, place called Dighi, it was dark then. All of us were exhausted, and few had cramps in legs, also there was ghat ahead, so could proceed no further. Decided to stay in the village. Talked to the panch of village, showed icard to the Dakshata pach of village, finally got permissions to sleep in the temple compound. We were very much hungry by the time, hunger made me eat omlet for the first time in life, which was the only thing available in the whole village. At the end of the day we had covered 101 kilometers. We had planned to reach Shrivardhan that day, we had failed to keep up with our plans. Also we realized that we cycled whole day, but found very less time to stay and enjoy the nature, sole aim we were traveling for. So we accepted our failure and decided to cut our trip to Shrivardhan and return early. We were so tired that we slept very early (iitians are notorious for that), infact as soon as we laid down.
We slept such well that not even the aaratis in the temple which were played on loud speakers could wake us. We were reluctant to get out of the bed, but had to as we had to go further. The villagers, specially children enjoyed seeing us, as we packed our sleeping bags, mat, and rucksacks. We were Desi Fhirangi for them.
Shrivardhan is some 29 kilometers from here. The road is mainly ghat, one have to climb up for nearly 4 kms, then cycle the downhill. We made halt at village Borli in between. Everyone had coldrinks, I preferred a dose of caffine (only thing I am addicted to ). Borli to Shrivardhan was similar route, but sea shore was not seen even when we reached Shrivardhan. It was curtain raiser as we moved between the coconut trees and were suddenly able to see the sea shore. Shrivardhan beach was unoccupied as we reached there. First thing we all did was parked our cycles, removed our clothes and ran the fastest towards the sea and had a jump at the tide. Playing with tides, frisbie play, sand carving didn’t realized how our time went by. Found very difficult to leave the beach. Had lunch, best of the lunch we could have in our trip, homemade food, hot rotis, the owner found difficult serving seven hungry devils. We overate that day, and were very lethargic to start, so had some nap under a banyan tree. Enthu Anurag did some fight to search for gulab jam . Did some photography and finally left for Harihareshar another beach some 19 kilometers away. We were very lethargic during this run, but managed to reach the place by dark. Couldn’t see the sea, but could hear it. Went to the Hareshwar temple, did dinner and got a small room to stay. One thing which I always like in remote areas, and we fail to see in the city is the night sky. In childhood we were told about the adjective countless for stars, which would not be appropriate for people from the city. It is in such places one realize what do countless stars mean.
We changed our plan again, we had initially planned to return Mumbai by bus from here. We decided to cover the Borghat section by bus, reach Mangaon , where the Mumbai Goa national highway meets, and cycle all the way to Mumbai, which meant cycling 140 kms on the highway.
Got up early to catch the bus. Loading the cycles on the bus and tieing them was a painful job. The conductor was helpful, but not the bus. The gear box of the bus failed at Shrivardhan, which wasted our 2 hours, also more painful was that we had to unload the cycles, and reload them on a bus which had smaller roof space. Had a nasty quarrel with the hamaal there. But finally got through, reached Mangaon by noon. Repaired our cycles which suffered due to loading on bus, did lunch and started for Mumbai.
It was really very painful; cycling in the heat, after lunch and on highway. Every half an hour we had sprinkle of water to keep us cool, and drank water to avoid from dehydration. But we still managed a speed of 18-20 kms an hour. It was only after place called Nagethane, wind started to play role. Mumbai was some 100 kms from here, nearest destination was Pen 30 kms away. But there was such a wind blowing in opposite direction that our speed reduced. We required some 3 hours to reach Pen.
Time we reached Pen, it was dark. Traffic had increased and headlights of vehicles were on. I was to dehydrated, had nasty thigh and back cramps. Also had pain of glare of the headlights and felt it too risky to drive on highway at night. Hence decided to ditch the trip, with some 60 kms still left. Kaa and Gaurang had already ditched the trip at Hari hareshwar. Other four proceeded towards Panvel, and then Mumbai.
At Pen, I alone could not load the cycle on bus so bus option was closed, next train to Mumbai was at six in the morning. Tried getting lift from truck drivers for about an hour, but couldn’t get any. That left me waiting for train at Pen railway station (which means another essay “one night on a railway station” :-)).
Finally sleepless night in sleeping bag at empty Pen railway station, early morning train to Diva, alighting at Nilaje and cycling to Dombivli makes it sad end to the cycle trip.,/
Nevertheless, lots of things the trip taught me. Will power does play a large role in your success. I would have already ditched at Alibag with just 19 kms of cycling, if I would not have managed to gather some courage and will power, which forced me to drive 230-240 kms. As said by somebody expecting failure is nine-tenth part of a failure. Learnt to behave in a team. As individuals we wont be able to cover the distance. We complimented, synchronized each other.
Even in the end, I failed; the purpose of the trip was served. Was able to see Konkan area which I was very willing to see, encounter with nature was really very great: sea, the atmosphere, the greenery. Also was able to meet my country men in the region. So, in the end a happy weekend.
WHAT ELSE MATTERS!!!!