Respectfully, I passed the cows and post-pass, had an amusing bit-episode; calling them names. Star-cast included: Gang of Cows, Gabbar the motorcycle and yours truly.
Gravelly road returns. I ho-hummed and, carping, rode on. You must have heard, the thing about fate smiling silently upon you, etc. The gravel-road soon morphed into a rock-and-stones only road. I slowed down and proceeded. Foot-pedaled a bit. This road, this scandalous vile lay-of-a-road, wound serpentine, climbed and guess what… you guessed it! More rock-and-stones. Trick was to balance the motorcycle with the luggage.
I did one stretch, carefully gunning Gabbar where required. I did another. Then another. I halted briefly. A chill of fear ran down my spine. The added perspiration from the laborious ascent made for quite a giddy brew. I began wondering if this was where I should listen to my brains and turn back. No. I still rode on. I came upon a dicey stretch. Fair for me to pass, slowly. For a larger vehicle, even a minuscule miss or false drive? Downwards ho! All the way south. Unforgiving loose, stony mountain sides. Their unspoken unpredictable willingness to avalanche; a fatal drop. And to add to the villainy of the scene, a river. A mountain river, un-picturesque, flowing at the drop, withholding a silent menace within. Not the most hospitable of routes. A fall guaranteed you disappearance from the site. The river, a present and ready transport post fall.
I don’t know for how long, but I’m willing to bet I was there, screwed pretty nicely, for over an endless hour. Continuing my wobbly ride uphill, I did entertain thoughts of getting trapped on the mountain. Was there a better road and maybe… just maybe… some human beings somewhere on this witch-mountain?
Then, as if in answer, God shows up. A Santro was headed my way. I stopped on the side and waved it to stop. Most graciously they did. Vehicles commuting on the hill roads most courteously stopped when I waved, requesting them to. Two wheelers, too. I shared info about the road I was coming from and inquired about the road ahead. They said it got better. My heart leaped in joy; relaxed, relieved. Riding in a slow desperation to get away from that that daymare, Gabbar and I saw better roads. Still strewn gravel, the roguish road, but lent a better than the ‘only rock-and-stones will be served for road’ experience. We proceeded a few kilometres (to safer grounds, Phewpf! J) and halted. I’d done some 20-odd kilometres from the Tejam junction, 10 of which can be credited to la route crapuleux. 20 kilometres of HILL-HELL. But kudos to Gabbar.
Here, I must highlight Gabbar. Named after a Bollywood baddie, my 8-year old Royal Enfield Thunderbird was wonderful, to say the least. He joined, adding to the fable and lore of, one of India’s legendary motorcycles. I was so proud of him (always). A true treasure. Challenging roads post Thal? No Problem. Gabbar – MAJESTICALLY – overcame them. It got a bit emo (Sorry no weep-ies). This point, this halt would actually be an honest summary of our relationship and journey so far.
From my days of secret longing to own a cruiser motorcycle, to the cusp of purchasing one. The emotional exhilaration to Karol Bagh with Iqbal riding (as I didn’t know how to ride). From learning to manoeuvre the beast to a beautiful night lost in Gurgaon. My debut ride to Rishikesh with Mani (Haha, we still enjoy the memory of that one). Subsequent night rides with him aka Baba Belbase and. The Barapullah flyover, New Delhi. The out of hibernation ride, post India’s long awaited World Cup victory. A round trip from Chaupanki (a challenging ride). Yes, I do admit a few falls, but Gabbar ensured I was always able enough to get up and ride, again. Some great and some not-so-great memories. But anything, anywhere, listen up Nike (lol)….. Gabbar always did it.
Phewpf! Resuming. With the above mentioned, I at that time was relishing the relief. I waved down a biker with pillion and re-checked the road conditions. From that halt, we went to Shama. A little post Shama, I had a minor dizzy spell.
Immediate halt. More photography.
Then I rode on. The scenery was certainly arresting me at each hairpin. The roads kept creating a magic of their own. I soaked in the mental imagery of what I’d failed to capture. I bypassed Bagheshwar. Roads were being rebuilt, in aftermath the previous year’s flash-floods. Red clay roads. We negotiated this too. A few kilometres after Bagheshwar, the road (headed Nainital) became a beauty. We sped rapidly. By late evening I halted at Dev Rada (Dyorana on Google). A little beyond a place called Garud. 7 kms before Kausani. Pant Guest House.
A truly eventful day couldn’t have had a better ending. A fairy-tale ending. After a brief chat and checking the rooms, I decided to stay there for the night. Prakash Chand Pant aka Prakash-bhai (translates brother) was the owner. He acceded to my whims and gave me a double bed room for Rs.400. I had a fun chat session with two local guys, the owner’s friends, exchanging notes about bike-trips. Fatigue while riding can be hazardous. One seldom has the good fortune of meeting a good-natured, warm-hearted soul. On God’s green earth, caked with pollution, politics and many vile vices, one rarely chances upon goodness and even more rare is the acknowledgement and appreciation.
He provided me with a delicious home-cooked dinner, post which I dozed-off. Woke up at 8-ish. Had two cups of tea. Earnestly photographed the room well, to promote his lodge. A brief chat during tea illuminated his hardships, which he kindly shared with me.
Shortly post departure, I halted at Kausani and shopped out a neat muffler. Next stop was to get fuelled up. 30-odd kms ahead I had to stop due to a minor snag. A kilometer on, I stopped to gorge on scrumptious bun-omelettes and tea. Bhagtola. A quaint mesmerizing little place. A tad raw was the experience delicious though the chow was; the owners attempt to con me. Onwards, to Nainital with a bit of beauty n the beast thrown in. I passed some lovely by-the-river picnic spots (the stretches prior to Hawalbagh). The beast portion goes thus – 2-3 dogs charged at me that day. Most unusual, considering we generally do well socially. Top cap of my wildlife encounters, accidentally, I almost clipped some snake’s tail.
I saw the hardships. I witnessed stouter efforts made to embrace them. Roads around Almora were splendorous and soothing to ride on. Passing the Kwarab Bridge, I smirked wistfully. Jurassic Pt. Ganesh Dutt.
I renewed a recent acquaintanceship with Bunty-bhai, a mechanic who’d filled my air in my tyres. He guided me to a hardware store a little ahead to procure some nuts and bolts, for fixing the silencer. He fixed it, as it’d gashed against a part the chassis. I treated his little nephew to some chocolate. Later I halted at Chausali, where this delightful lady herded her goats quite sternly. She got me some tea and had me to buy some half-a-kilo of peaches. I felt mean as a bargaining customer. At her request, I humbly guided her son about his future (merely a few improve-English pointers).
By the time I got to Nainital, tail-gating another customized Thunderbird, mine started screeching madly. I located a mech to fix it. The tall and short of it. The mech gummed up the works. He discovered a different problem and didn’t fix the original issue.
This opportunity provided for me to soak in a bit of Nainital. I checked out an adventure goods store just next to garage, had a meal of egg-fried rice. With false assurance from the mech, I headed to Khurpatal.
A last round of photography done before packing my camera. Images were similar to ones online. Didn’t indulge here; tiredness and an unfamiliar deserted area. I passed another tal (lake) – Sariyatal; a non-commercial replica of Nainital. Riding on a nice road for (great to learn hill-riding on), an ever brief lapse concluding in an oops-moment. Kaladhungi, where the hills meet the plains.
From Shama to Kaladhungi, roads had been amazing. Post atrocious roads around Bazpur, I stopped at Rampur. Delhi roads paled at the sight of its princely ones. Back on NH 24, I stopped somewhere between a place called Zero-Point and Paikbara. Luckily (again) I found another Bullet mechanic, Islam (courtesy a Hafiz bhai, a sanitary ware store owner). A Rs.100 repair and the headlight was good. Darkness had descended. I rode on with breaks, doing a final 60-km stretch till J.N.U (Final fist-pumping). Ass-aching like hell. Back in Delhi. Back in the battlefield.
Malika Ma’am’s (Mrs. Virdi) words aptly summed up my trip and that was citation enough.
“Not many get to Munsiyari, only lucky ones do”
Thanks for reading and reliving the journey with me.