Narkanda-Hatu: The Road I Must

18th Sep 2016

18 December 2015

Photo of Narkanda-Hatu: The Road I Must 1/1 by Mohit Bhardwaj

I was unemployed for 6 months now. had no clue where I was going and out of whim, i decided to ride to Narkanda. it is a town 65 km from Shimla at an altitude of 2708 meters on the Hindustan-Tibet Road (NH 22) in Himachal Pradesh. so I made few phone calls to check if the road was open and got a green signal from everywhere. so me and my brother on my bike and 2 of my friends on a separate bike headed towards Shimla.


Photo of Narkanda, Himachal Pradesh, India by Mohit Bhardwaj

It was a beautiful morning. Bright and sunny. we rode real fast and reached Shimla in 2 hrs 45 mins. took a halt and headed towards Narkanda. At Kufri, things turned real bad. we were novice riders and didn't notice the layer of ice on the road. we slipped while climbing a slope. now this fall wasn't that bad as we were slow. we decided to head back to Shimla, park our bikes there and hire a cab. while returning back and taking a sharp turn my bike slipped on black ice. it was a terrible fall. me and my brother skidded for few meters and were lucky that no vehicle was approaching from the other side. my brother's visor broke and what else ? he had his DSLR in his hand as there was no space in the bag. yup, you guessed it .it broke with that broke me and my brothers heart. we were morose. how quickly can depression take over I realized back then. The morale was down. we stayed in Shimla and rode back home the next day. it was the only terrible trip I ever had. This also made me scared of riding on the mountains. hell I was scared making a right turn in the city. I cursed my bike for not being a good machine and made excuses and blamed everything but myself.

Photo of Narkanda-Hatu: The Road I Must by Mohit Bhardwaj

Fast forward 8 months.

I got a job in April, the salary wasn't much but I was getting by . No trips just working 6 days a week sleeping on Sundays and bam!!! its Monday again. Living in Chandigarh one always find these mountains staring at you. They reminded me of the horrible trip I had and my camera, the bruises, the dents and scratches on my bike. The 'what ifs' and how different things could have been. 8 months of ''should have kept the camera in the bag somehow'. what if my brother wasn't wearing a helmet or what if a car had approached from the other side of the road. these things haunted me. this was the brick wall I had to climb or smash cuz it was keeping me away from who I really was and what I cherished and loved the most.

28th august with 500 bucks in my pocket I just took my bike out and went towards them. 10 km into this trip and my battery exploded (god!! so much drama). I hadn't checked the water level so it was running dry for quite some time and exploded, with that all my electricals died. Side cover flew on the road. Good Samaritans dodged the cover and I'm grateful for that. At that point, i just gave up. i was sick of my monotonous lifestyle and was hoping this trip to be some sort of respite but this happened. I almost cried. I was not sure if the bike would start but somehow I push started it and just went home. beat up.

A good friend of mine said that I might be a part of a conspiracy by the universe (crazy talk. i know). something better was planned for me and maybe the mountains did not want me to be amidst them on that particular day. I was not going to stop now. I started it and have to end it. I thought about riding to Narkanda 8 months ago. I have to be there. why ? some may ask. it's because I can. I just have to. So i got my bike fixed and then 3 weeks later 18th September (This date looks familiar. coincidence ?). That was the day.


Photo of Narkanda-Hatu: The Road I Must by Mohit Bhardwaj

I was so anxious I couldn't sleep. 4:30 in the morning I stood up, packed a water bottle, sweatshirt, windcheater some fruits. 5:30 AM I began. I rode continuously just wishing nothing goes wrong. it was cloudy. I rode very slowly and cautiously maybe too wary. few km after Solan I saw few villager carrying a pulgi. In Himachal people believe in deities and in many parts the believe that they reside in these Pulgi's . greeted by a deity dancing his way to his temple was a sight I won't forget. I took a couple of stops to stretch my legs. Reached Shimla around 9:30 AM rang mom up telling her that I'm still alive and going strong and started moving towards Kufri. As I reached Kufri I had planned to stop at the place where I had that fall. At that point I realized what facing fear was.

As I was riding towards that place I became wary of the water on the road. 20 degrees and I was scared that that the water is probably frozen.I reached the place where I had that fall. standing there I could visualize everything like it was just happening right there and then in front of me. I can not explain what I felt standing there. it was a cocktail of emotions where I was happy, scared, sad, angry, and content at the same time. The fear I had was abating and as a rider i was growing.

while riding I was wondering how people tend to give names to their bikes like the beast, the bull and what not and romanticize their relationship with the machine. I once read a book where the biker went Lil overboard and it just grossed me out. never turned a page again of that book. This never appealed to me much. but I do believe in having a connection with the bike. when a rider and his/her bike work as one unit is when that connection happens. when you know how much lean will turn your bike a certain amount and what Gear to drive on a particular slope ascending or descending, what speed to corner a certain curve. when stuff like this becomes second nature to you is when the connection (magic) really happens.

After crossing fagu I could see apple orchards. there were few trees with small apples on them. as I was gaining height the view was getting better and better and better. one has to be careful while riding up there as the view is so enchanting that it can make you lose focus. and losing focus up there might not turn out well for you. just stop your bike and give them the attention they deserve and then resume. I rode continuously and reached Narkanda at 11:30 AM. clicked a pic texted my friends and headed towards Hatu peak (3400 meters). The road to Hatu peak is quite gnarly. it was 6-7ft wide with regular, very steep, ascends and descends. That 6 km stretch really tested my mettle and somehow I conquered.

I was there. I just sat there and took long deep breaths. The air was cleansing me of my fears. with every exhale I was letting go all the 'what ifs' and questions that bugged me for months. it was finally over.

I once read somewhere 'you don't really cross a mountain, it just lets you through'

I was glad that they let me through this time. I spent some time there clicking pics and just gazing towards the range I aspire to ride on. oh, the view !! the mighty range !! how badly I missed my camera then only I know.

I went back to Narkanda and as I was having my lunch I saw clouds building up. 5-6 hours of riding took a lot out of me. my tired mind wasn't coordinating well so I ordered a strong coffee gulped it down and began my journey back. while riding back I saw these biker groups going towards Spiti perhaps. I gave them all a thumbs-up wishing them good luck and they all reciprocated. Leaving the valleys I just promised myself that when the time is right and I am fully prepared. I will come back again and scale further.

The road awaits.

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