Sunday, June 06, 2010


Boss had left for France for a few days and we planned our trip alongside his, of course without letting him know of our plans. I left the bike at IMTECH and Anuj brought it to my place in the morning while Harman and I were ready to move off. Unfortunately I accidentally carried to key to the instrumentation room with me and therefore we all had to go back to IMTECH to return it. I had had a glass of milk till the time we reached Solan where we had a cup of tea. A funny incidence occurred here. Three ladies were walking past us hauling a good amount of luggage. No sooner had they neared us, one of them let out a terrorised shriek, left her bag, ran and took cover...from a harmless little cow that just happened to be heading their way. We laughed so loudly that the cow got scared and quickly moved away from us. Embarrassed at first, the ladies joined us in our laughter session. Past Solan it started to feel hot and it was no surprise to find Shimla quite hot, just as we’d been reading in the papers. We kept riding nonstop till we were stuck in a jam near Kufri. This is a fairly common occurrence. The engines were quite hot from the constant climb and we’d covered more than a 120kms. Here we stopped as Harman felt his bike was overheating. This place offered no respite from the heat and we stopped at what looked like an ancient tea shop. The walls were dirty and muddy. The wooden benches, stove, kettle and other utensils could’ve passed for ancient relics and the owner, who walked in a little later could’ve passed for a comic character. Slim, straight, wrinkled, weather-beaten face holding big gaunt eyes, his hair were grey and eyebrows jet black. We chatted with him for a while and he told us that of late there was an intense water shortage in the area and he didn’t even have water to sell tea. He said he only made sweets of late and they sell quickly. Judging by the condition of his utensils, I reckoned that if they didn’t sell and were consumed very very quickly, they’d probably cause food poisoning. We moved on but soon my bike started to give off strange vibrations that I could sense on the foot peg. Earlier too I felt like something was wrong with the bike as I sensed strange vibrations in the handle and thought it to be some problem with the front wheel. We stopped and sat down to diagnose the problem, took the chain cover off and it became better but something wasn’t quite right and it was most irritating to convince the other two who weren’t actually riding my bike but had all the opinion in the world about how I was hallucinating. Anyway, I thought it best to shut up and move on and just wait for an accident it was in the offing. My biggest fear was of suddenly losing control on a turn or while crossing another vehicle...hell no! on these roads losing control could mean serious trouble in any situation. Thankfully nothing happened. Narkanda was cool, but we thought it was boring so we moved on while asking people of what lay ahead of us. It grew quite cold by now and despite the leather jacket, my naked fingers weren’t happy at the absence of gloves. The road grew from bad to pretty bad but the picturesque milieu made us let go of our apprehensions. We reached a place called Jarol after a very steep climb. This place had a small lake and surrounded by dense conifer cover, it looked very beautiful. There was quite a rush at this place, almost all of them localites. There was a fair in progress and we could hear a ruckus from behind the trees. We decided not to investigate; anyway all the local lads were consuming alcohol and taking drugs right in the open everywhere. We decided to go off road and rode up to a village, then past it till we stopped at a place where we could park the bikes. It was cold and cloudy and we could clearly see the snow capped Himalayas on one side. Harman thought it was a great idea to camp at that place. I thought not because firstly we were ill-prepared for the cold and secondly, I’d never stay outside without having the details of the local fauna. Later we came to know that the place was inhabited by small bears. Small or large, a bear is a bear. We rode down from Jarol and took a improperly paved road that moved into an inhabited area. Here we kept inquiring about a place to stay the night but in vain. People were really nice but owing to the Village-Fair all guest houses were booked. We then stopped to click picture of the setting sun; it was a beautiful surreal sight and we let our cameras lose. Realizing that the sun would set in a 15-20 mins, we set off on our room hunt. We tried the PWD and other guest houses but without luck till we ended up at a hotel that was locked from outside. There was a house close by and we inquired about the hotel owner from the inhabitants of that house. Indeed they had his number and called up to the hotel. After much haggling, we settled at 900bucks a night for a small but decent room. We settled in and the view from the balcony was fantastic. The sun had set and darkness was falling. The sky wore many shades ranging from deep red, violet to black and the hills were dotted with lights. We clicked again. It was cold and we opened the bottle of gin and had a few. The sumptuous veggie dinner was served by the hotel owner himself, his aides were on leave. We went to bed and must've slept for 3 odd hours when the sound of tap water in the sink woke me up. Anuj, thirsty from alcohol had woken up to drink water. Harman woke up too. Before we knew it all three of us were wide awake, though still huddled into the heavy quilts, in the pitch-black, cold, breezy room with the open windows. I don't know what came over us but we started to crack jokes, a make believe situation with the three of us as Haryanvi Jaats named Ombir, Rajbir and Satbir. It was like whose-line-is-it-anyway. Somebody would say something and another person would carry the situation forward and what turned in to an unending series of dirty dirty jokes. I laughed till I felt anoxic, it was terrible, I was gasping for breath but couldn't stop laughing. My lungs, diaphragm, abs were so fatigued from laughing for so damn long but I couldn't stop; hysteria ransacked the room. God knows when we slept but I woke up early next morning to the sweet sounds of the birds. It was still a little dark. I went and stood in the balcony and took deep breaths as if trying to absorb all the beauty of the place into my body. It was quite cold but I braved it for a few early-morning snaps. I went back to bed and was rudely woken up after a few hours by a volley of almost-hard hitting punched on my back and chest; Anuj, who we didn't let sleep the previous night, was taking his revenge.
We all took a shower and went riding to Saroga, three kms of which was a steep, unpaved path. We reached a dead end and came face to face with a local woman guarding her apple orchard. We talked to her for a long time and she told us that she worked hard to send her son to Chandigarh to study but he wasn't doing well in studies. She told us that she had to regularly drive away very persistent and dangerous troops of monkeys and occasionally bears as well. She stayed there alone in a small shack during the day and hired Nepali boys to guard the place at night. She asked us many a time to sit with her over a cup of tea but we politely declined. However we did walk into her orchard and got up close with the baby apples. We found an orchard on the way that still had cherries on their trees and enquired about the price. We bought a few boxes of high-class cherries, ones that aren't sold in the market but sold to big Hotels.....

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