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Wednesday 5 June 2019

Rupin River Trek in Uttarakhand || Sutlej - Spiti River Bike Ride in Himachal Pradesh

05 / 06 / 2019

Myself and my cousin Sreejith initially set out to cross the Rupin pass which is a crossover trek from Uttarakhand to Himachal pradesh but after trekking two days and crossing Himachal pradesh at Jakha our foot adventure came to a halt. News was, a porter aged 17 died on the trail several days ago. Both forest department and police were enforced to prevent people from trekking on the trail. The scene was complicated and it was sad to hear as the porter was hit by a hailstorm rain when he was returning back to base village after dropping a group.
Whenever i set out on a long journey seeking adventure my ultimate aim is to be with the nature somehow. Plans may go wrong or itineraries can be messed up due to various situations and circumstances.I just don't give a damn, detour or re-structure the days accordingly without packing back and create some freaking awesome days you have already allocated from your pulled off days back home.

07 / 06 / 2019

Let me modify a movie name and tag this blog as " Trains, Planes, Automobiles, Royal Enfield and Foot" on the course of 10 days both of us were in a Mad Rush through the two states Uttarakhand and Himachal travelling more than 2000 km on mountain roads by Bullet and Bus with a multiple day of  trekking. We started our journey on June 5th, our flight was to Delhi from Chennai. Delhi Metro rail was super cool, thank God we did not opt by roadways to reach New Delhi Railway Station. Same night we boarded the train to Dehradun which arrived at 6am next day. Freshened up before reaching. After a coffee and snack we got bus to Purola. From Purola after lunch we took two more shared jeeps finally reaching Netwar by 4pm. Found a home stay for the night. Next day we got permission from Netwar forest check post to continue on the Rupin trail. The permits was just for two days to trek in Uttarakhand and once you cross borders you have to again get permits from Kwar on the Himachal side. Till Dhaula from Netwar there is a jeep track so we hired one and reached Dhaula by 30 minutes. There we met two other guys from Delhi. After some chit-chatting they joined us.

Dhaula was the last village with jeep road but as we climbed up the mountains till Sewa, there were several small villages on either side of the Rupin river. The valley views were beautiful as we could see the snow capped Rupin ranges on those huge mountain tops. While resting at sewa a boy approached us for a home stay he owns. 500 rs for four of us. There was no food available but he got us some milk and sugar and we had Maggie noodles. Next thing was setting up fire, till late night we did enjoy the cooking time of several tea sessions and Maggie.

08 / 06 / 2019

Last night i did not sleep well. I choose to sleep on the wooden verandah alone while the rest slept inside. There were two dogs down barking non stop the whole night gazing into the woods nearby. Might be some wild himalayan bear was around because the dogs sounded a bit frightened. Anyways i was enjoying the horror show until both the dogs in pitch dark suddenly entered the top wooden verenda and was running against me at 2am. I was hearing them barking and running against me. All i could do was to open my sleeping bag zippers and shout the hell out. It worked. I think they surely was frightened by some other thing. My shouts scared them and one was weeping near me. Soon the boys got up hearing all the noise and we checked the surroundings using torch lights for some time. I slept at the same corner till 6am. At morning when we inquired about dogs the boy told us bear sightings are usual here at nights and the dogs must have spotted one. After tea by 7 the river walk from Sewa till the Jakha roads were a bliss. We crossed the border by a wooden bridge into Himachal until we reached the mud road to Jhakha. Some local people and guides on the trail reminded us about the death incident and advised us to visit the police station at Kwar before Jhakha and enquire about the current situation. We thought it as a good idea because if we get the permit we can proceed the trek peacefully else if we were to return back by some officials on the trial on the coming days both time and efforts of pulling up a 15kg plus backpack would go in vein. Finally arrived at the police station at Kwar after a 30 min jeep ride. All the people at the station were friendly but the permits to the trial was closed. They would have helped us if there was a possibility but there was none. The only option was to go back to Rohru Dfo office which is 100 km away and apply for the permit with all charges payable. 100 kms up and down on the mountains will take two days of traveling. After this incident Himachal has set rules like any other state for trekking and this news was fresh and hot for us. Anywhere in Himachal was a freeland until recent times and there was never a permit issue is what i have always heard from the trekking circles but remind you things have changed. I had several secondary plans but the Delhi boys couldn't bear more twists. We were now at 2000 meters Asl. For the hectic day we badly wanted some kind of adventure madness. An old man guided us to a place called Chanshal pass @ 3700 meters which is on the way to Rohru - Shimla. Anyways all of us have to reach Shimla by tomorrow evening for further plans, they will leave for Delhi from shimla and we would decide something else. Anyways  we decided today we will reach Chanshal and camp.

The old man we met at Dodra had a jeep which carried all four us climbing the hills for the next 2 hrs. The drive entirely was off road and scenic. Others had Maggie from a small shop on the way but i wasn't hungry. As we gained altitude above 3000 meters all of the Himalayan ranges above these two states were visible. By 5pm we were dropped at Chanshal. It was cold and it started drizzling. There was a Maggie shop and we had tea. We couldn't ask more for today because it was such an amazing place to camp. While i waited for a Maggie others went down to find a place to pitch the tents before the rains pickup. When i went down, the tent were not sturdy enough to withstand the wind and dampness. Sreejith found another place between some huge rocks which would cover us from the direction of wind. By 7.45 pm tents were ready as we unpacked all of stuffs from the backpack. After an hour we climbed back through the green carpets to have dinner at the shop on the peak and had a stomach full of Maggie. Truly it tasted the great.


09 / 06 / 2019

The night was cold and tough but we slept in bits and pieces. At 6am when i stepped out of the tent the views were sublime. Sunrise between the peaks were a sight to behold for. For the next 4 hours time just flew away. It was grand just sitting there, roaming around and admiring the beauty of Himalayas. The only bus to Rohru will reach around 12pm so by 11 we packed all of stuffs, tents and mats and were ready at the Maggie shop after having breakfast which is again Maggie. Bus came but it was full. We had no other option. Our huge backpacks were placed on top of the bus and we stood for the next 5 hrs until we reached Rohru by 5pm. Sreejith was tired and showed no interest for another trek so i planned out a Biking trip on Bullet from Shimla to Kaza. We jumped on the next bus and reached Shimla by 12am. Rooms were full and a bunch of room guides were behind us. Finally we got room at the same hotel when i visited shimla last time, it was 1pm.
 It was such a tiring day of bus traveling through the mountains. Freshened up and had a deep sleep till 8am.

10 / 06 / 2019

I got in touch with Dimple Thakur who runs Shivay bike rentals. Royal Enfield is what i asked for and it was available at 1200 rs per day. I said i will meet him at the entrance of Rivoli road by 11am. Ive visited shimla before and know the place quiet a bit, even rented a bike for 3 days from a different person. By 10 we both said goodbyes to the guys. Shimla is full of shortcuts and the steep steps from our lodge to the mall road equals to a days workout. Visited the Iconic Christ church and got down to the other side. Dimple was there as we reached. At first glance i liked the Bullet. It was just an year old with 16k km on the meter and the no was 5904 which was my old car's number. As we were already running late i just asked Dimple, was everything in good condition. He said yes so paid the amount in full for 5 days. Along with the bullet and papers helmets, a clutch cable and chain lube was provided. The bullet had two carriers attached.  A copy of our original Ids and vehicle papers exchanged and our bike journey started by 1 pm.

A bullet ride through the Himalayas was always a must do in my bucket list but never imagined it would happen this way. First, we had huge backpacks which had to be tied on either side of the carriage. Second, i had bikes in college days but used only for commute. So basically i don't fall under the category of a rider in any sense. Third, The old Hindutsan Tibet road now known as National Highway 5 runs from Shimla, Kinnaur to Spiti valley. It runs along River Sutlej which flows from China in the name Langqen Zangbo and joins river Spiti flowing from the peaks above Kaza. Human settlements has always been on the banks of these rivers but cutting good roads across these innumerable snow and dry mountains is still a happening humongous task. Third, These roads to spiti valley is termed as one of the treacherous roads in the world so in all i was just hoping to have a safe ride the next 5 days. We drove past the touristy shimla Kufri, Theog, Narkand riding into the world of thick pine and deodar trees of Himachal. The primary route was to reach Kaza and return by the 5th day as we have booked our flights back to Chennai on 15th from Chandigrah. So either do Shimla - Chitkul- Sumdo or Shimla- Kaza without Chitkul both will be around a 1000km round drive.
Since we started very late today half a day is already lost. A break after 80km i noticed oil leakage from the gear lever. Our next town was at Kingal. Drove it without frequent gear changes till we found a mechanic. It was a small issue, the washer inside the lever was broken and needs to be changed but the problem was we need to wait for at least an hour to let the engine cool down. And after the long wait the mechanic removed the case and found out that the bag full of washers he owns doesnt have our washer model or size. Finally he fixed the broken one temporarily but if leak continues we will have to stop again in Rampur which is a bigger town. It was already 4.30 pm and we continued our ride till rampur. There was no leak so we decided to carry on enjoying the Sutlej river views passing Jhakri till Jeori. It was 7pm by now and we settled in a decent lodge which had a bar. Very conveniently we ordered some special dishes of Chicken with Beer for the night.

11 / 06 / 2019

Today the plan was to start early by 7am and turn right from Karcham to Chitkul and return karcham to reach Nako. But Sreejith was a bit unwell and we decided to start late. Finally by 12.30pm we tied up all the stuffs and started.Yesterday it was all riding down from Shimla to Jeori at 700 meter Asl.

After deviating from Karcham the road towards Sangla entering Thukpa valley was bumpy and narrow. It was drizzling and our rain jacks covered the upper body but pants were wet. We stopped at a couple of places to warm up our pants as they were quick dry materials but again riding against cold winds and wetness in higher altitude was a freezing. We reached Sangla, the end point of Rupin pass trek. If we had done the trek, 2 days later we would have reached the same place. After lunch we did some shopping at the small town and started riding to Chitkul which is at 3500 meters. It was still drizzling and every drop was like ice piercing into your skin. We both were enjoying the ride so much. As we gained altitude above 3k meters the quaint villages with full of apple trees and snowy peaks all around was a scenic drive.

We reached Chitkul the last Indian Village nearing China border by 5pm. Civilians are not allowed to cross further up but we just rode some more along the muddy Baspa river to reach a tented cottage. Since we carried all tents and mats they were glad to provide the space for pitching tents. The place was awesome to camp, baspa river was flowing just metes away but Sreejith was not all well and wanted some warm place to rest. So we came back to the village which had many home stays and lodges and got a fairly decent place for 1500 rs. It was already 7pm and decided to take a small nap till dinner. Had rice with Dal and some breads i felt like missing south Indian food now. In the middle of the night my head was wet and cold, upon checking there was a leak in the ceiling. We had to move the entire cot away and sleep. 

12 / 06 / 2019

 We got up early by 6am. The valley was magnificent. Yesterday evening half of it was cloudy but today the huge mountains with volumes of snow felt as if they were the perfect border barriers of our country.
After breakfast and Specially made coffee by a group of Israelis who were chatting with us from morning we again tied up all our stuffs back to our engine and kick started as self start wont quite work in high altitudes at 8am.

Reached karcham by 12pm as the road back was slushy at several places. Deviating to visit chitkul yesterday was a wonderful experience. After a tea break we drove past Kalpa, it began to rain. There was nowhere to stop, we were drenched until we found a small shed. Covered the bags with plastic sheets and took shelter there for nearly an hour. There was some leftover wooden pieces which was put to good use by sreejith. He cut those into small pieces and put up fire. Whenever an army vehicle runs across they would stare into the smoking shed but none questioned.

 Wiped out the water from the sheets and the ride for the next two hours till we reached Pooh was dangerous and scary because every 5 kms there would be an under construction stretch where roads are too narrow and slushy of rains and an area which is prone to landslides. One slip to the right, we would be flowing in pieces into the fierce Sutlej river. Above all, the most scary thing is small rocks falling from above. We did see signboards saying " Do not stop, Shooting stars " but when i saw a small rock falling some meters before the bike while riding it got on our nerves. Each time when a bad strech came we tightened up our helmets and hoped not to be the unlucky chaps who broke their neck while their Biking trip. Reached Spello at 3pm and stopped for lunch. Had some tasty Mutton Chowmein with omletts. After a small break our next stop was Pooh. In between there was a huge traffic jam. Hundreds of vehicles piled up on both sides. We bikers have the liberty to cross everyone so we did cross many vehicles to see a group of people dancing and singing with drums and instruments on the road. I first thought it was some temple functions or some protest. Sreejith joined the dance as i filmed the dance. It was a marriage group returning to Kaza. They were enjoying the traffic jam as everybody joined them forming a huge group dance.
   Towards reaching Pooh the landscapes were changing. The mountains were getting drier and we have reached the spiti zone. BRO ( Border Roads Organisations ) is everywhere and it may have taken them years of building these roadways to these levels and might take more such years to complete the entire highway. Most of the workers are from UP and Bihar. It is tough life for them. Navigating through the tough terrain we reached Khab sangam. Conflunce of the two major Himalayan rivers Sutlej and Spiti.

The next stop from Khab to Nako was under construction. Most of the roads were raid of small gravel stones and mud. It was tough to ride and every excess turn would skid. It was risky to raise the speed. Huge Himalayan peaks started to show up because Nako was almost 3700 metes Asl. The last 2 km had huge road jams. By 5pm we somehow managed to reach Nako. Another 100 km to Kaza but our time was limited because with just two remaining days it was only possible to drive back to shimla.

Nako had a lake, a monastery and a beautiful clean village with stunning views around. We found a good room for 1200rs and after keeping the luggage parked our bike safely and went for a walk to the lake above the village. Never expected such a big and clean lake on top of this mountain. Walking paths laid around the lake the place was calm and beautiful. Back to the room i wished i had one more day so i would have reached till Kaza but our deviation to chitkul was also a beautiful memory so not much of a loss either. Still wished i had a day more. We had Bread omelette and chowmein for dinner and slept the night peacefully.

13 / 06 / 2019

Alarm rang as usual at 6am, we ran to the top floor of our building to watch the sunshine kissing the Himalayan peaks. Every evening we end up staying at a new place but dawn has special tones to offer if you are awake to catch it. After packing up we went to visit the monastery but only the temple is active now and we did not want to wake up any sleeping lamas at that time. Took more photographs walking till the edge of the village and surrounding and came back for breakfast.

We had a long way back and my plan was to ride maximum today so we will have it easier for tomorrow. By 8am at the center we bought some additional 5 liter of petrol and had plans to ride till Sumdo 40 km ahead and return but some intuitions made me not to, so after 5km we returned back to Nako. The way back till khab had very few vehicles.
At 12pm we stopped at spello for tea but had more chowmiens out of hunger. Since we were not ready for a bike ride and didn't quite have the perfect attire like a covered up biker from head to toe. Both of us dehydrated quickly very often.Must be because of the winds. Both of us required so much of water and food to maintain normalcy. i thought we would settle today at rampur which is again 130 km. Without much breaks we reached rampur at 5pm but the weather was warm and i  wanted to settle somewhere colder so the ride continued till Narkand. By the end of the day it was a 270km mountain ride which was heavy. 4 days of continues riding has made my body and mind aching but never mind we just have 60km more drive tomorrow to shimla . There were no rooms available so we went to the Pwd guest house to enquire if any rooms were free. They guided us to a nearby home stay run by Mr Swamy the bachelor. We finally had food from them and settled there.
The place was calm overlooking a beautiful valley of thick pine forests and mountains. Next day there was no rush so we took more time vacated after breakfast by 10am. By 12pm before reaching Shimla i had one last plan. To visit the shimla water catchment wildlife sanctuary. Last time when i visited shimla i couldn't visit the place so thought to give a try.We can walk or cycle through the 7km forest mud roads. So we kept our bags at the forest office. Cycle charges 400rs per head were too high for basic gear cycles. So we went for a 5km walk up and down. We spotted some birds like Black Bulbul, Asian Koel, Accentor and rufous treepie and some butterflies as well.

After the walk we repacked our bags and by 5pm came back to shimla and handed over the Royal Enfield back to Dimple in good condition. The no 5904 has many many memories to cherish now. We headed upto the bus stand next, had lunch again, the same old chowmien. By 7.30pm we were on the Chandigarh bus which dropped us at 12am. I had already booked a room so we reached there by an ola. The room was good comparing to what we have been staying for and after freshening up its peaceful sleeping time again. After breakfast next day by 11am we left to Chandigarh Airport to catch our Chennai flight at 2pm which had a stop at Hyderabad. We reached Chennai by 7pm. All was well, i am back with my wife and son. It is the same with you Rupin, i will feel you, pass you and write stories about you soon.