12th Aug 2016

Engineering taught me, everything great happens late night. There I was trying to find out work done with thermodynamic equations tossing my coffee in fresh monsoons. Sounds cinematic universe, right? But it wasn’t. Indeed needed a fresh perspective to come back upright, so it turned out yet slowly.

Wind passed my pages to the bookmark saying ‘Road to nowhere, twist and turns but will this never end’ and BSNL decided to give my rights back; “Himalayan Circle it is” said my notification drop-down menu showing my partner in prime’s name as a sender. And within that period I ended up drawing a rough sketch of Royal Enfield Bullet instead of the demanded answer. Dots just got connected. Took up to wander in middle land- Spiti Valley, Kaza.

Civilization and 4G connectivity gets zoomed past on every mile on this circle and then you start to feel the foundation of the therapy. We took the Shimla route to prevent permissions chaos at Manali. Shimla was no different than New Delhi at 8,000ft but can be considered to halt at night. Gasping the adrenaline of roadtrip, we left for Rampur (130kms, short run to compensate the previous). Was that an expressway at valley with river aside and happiness (Conquerable Corners) or what? Cheers to the state government to cultivate that 40km stretch before Rampur. Young, wild and free. Taking a stop at Rampur is no bad. Good availability of home stays and hotels else you will get in either at Kalpa (112kms), Spello (140kms), Nako (200kms) or Tabo (250kms) nothing in between; Now it totally depends upon your riding capacity. We checked in at NauNath Heritage and never expected such a delicious food in such a small town. Biryani with beer made our night. Sharing The Enfield thump with the clouds and green air prior to chilling made us stop at Narkhad in between and embrace the beauty. It conveyed the brotherhood and camaraderie of the tribe itself.

On such recovery journeys listening to your favorite tracks before you ride, brings a change in your thought process. Opening minutes of the ride demand time to get into the rhythm but all of the sudden it’s a tunnel of vision. All of this harmony of life just goes off and you are automatically in tune with your engine, your bike. For me as rider, when I get on, my arms are set in position you are one; does give me a very spiritual sort of connect so it’s a constant meditative peace that I am in. That’s the tool for my inner peace.

We settled to ride up to Spello the other day and called it a night, kept another 160kms to Kaza for the sunrise. On route before you arrive at Pooh, you will find yourself getting certified by BRO (Border Roads Organization) for travelling on “The Most Tremendous Road of The World”. The most thrilling roller coasters don’t have tracks. Govt. tend to invest on tarmac stretch and underpass water crossings but natural forces fancy different arrangements to maintain the uniqueness of the route which made riders to question us “Your first bike trip and you are riding on this route, why? Why not to Leh? ” with a bombshell expression expecting a strong ground, we smiled. Me and my travel companion never came to any second thought during planning phase, for all the odds and even we just cared to do it.

Royal Enfield customers take pride in their machine’s exhaust note, get it customized to personal preferences and that’s good. But I wager, the peace you find on the route to Nako (Spello- Nako- Tabo- Kaza) would let you throw away this sound and ride bicycle instead. Whatsoever is on your itinerary, spare few minutes alone and let the winds up there do their thing to you. Nako Monastery (1025 AD) and Nako lake is what this village located near the Indo-China border has to offer you. Magnificent landscape when you land at the helipad. Dhankar Gompa from 12th century still stands there – one of the world’s most spectacular settings for a gompa (Monastery). After a long ride from Nako to Tabo, this is place to sit and take a deep chill. Temple inside really does give you a feel of sitting away from the world. Good vibes only. We kept our gigs and headed on to our destination.

Lost and found. 1km -Kaza communicated the milestone and a Hindi poetry took over my mind.

“Pighle neelam sa behta hua yeh samaan, neeli neeli si khamoshiyan, na kahin hai zameen na kahin aasmaan, sarsaraati huyi tehniyan pattiyan;

keh rahi hai ki bas ek tum ho yahan, sirf main hoon meri saansein hai aur meri dhadkane, aisi gehraiyan, aisi tanhaiyan, aur main sirf main;

apne hone pe mujhko yakeen aa gaya.”

Camping at world’s highest hostel with frolic local music and bonfire under clean night sky; made my bucket-list shorter. Stay at Zostel made it happen with lively hospitality, yummy foodstuff and enthusiastic travelers. Don’t google anything else, just stay here. Now you may also be facing difficulty to get your travel inquiries solved. Search for ‘Spiti Holidays’ to know what all you can experience (That’s what they do the best, I am just a traveler how wanders) and ‘Devil on Wheels’ to know everything else. They have enough information to share. And leave rest on to the circumstances. Kunzum Pass and Chandratal, sorry but oxford dictionary still need to mature and help me explain you about them. Different world or may be partial heaven. I guess, I have to backpack and navigate to them again to bring out something on paper. Better to see something at once than to hear about it a thousand times.

Poor road conditions get trending when you google or ask people in general about the route. Yes it’s bad, believe me at some moment you have to make your own path, but then it’s all about how you perceive it. For me, it held my spirits strong and taught me to keep the force going on, even when real life gives you such rough patches. RE Bullet did a fine job. We took hard work from it, jumping over the rocks, crossing deep freezing water, clawing over slippery yet soggy dip roads so that thrill never stops. And somehow I managed to take back my breath before drowning in rooted and wide cavity under water crossing. Instead it was good, you tend to encounter your death so close, end up learning practical off-roading skills, living out of your comfort zone which we always tend to resist, getting opportunity to watch how natural forces are helping you to get through; and that’s why we take a roadtrip. Don’t we?

Photo of Spiti-fied  1/16 by Umang Jain
40kms stretch before Rampur. Phenomenal!
Photo of Spiti-fied  2/16 by Umang Jain
Favorite parking space for traveler. On route to Narkhand.
Photo of Spiti-fied  3/16 by Umang Jain
'Welcome to Lahaul and Spiti' says the bridge
Photo of Spiti-fied  4/16 by Umang Jain
Uncertainties on roadtrip. Best part.
Photo of Spiti-fied  5/16 by Umang Jain
Photo of Spiti-fied  6/16 by Umang Jain
Nako Village and yes that's the lake
Photo of Spiti-fied  7/16 by Umang Jain
Photo of Spiti-fied  8/16 by Umang Jain
That's Pooh if you can see, if not better travel
Photo of Spiti-fied  9/16 by Umang Jain
Getting my certificate
Photo of Spiti-fied  10/16 by Umang Jain
Hell Yeah! 1km it is.
Photo of Spiti-fied  11/16 by Umang Jain
Hostel Zostel
Photo of Spiti-fied  12/16 by Umang Jain
My travel machine which brought me back home safely
Photo of Spiti-fied  13/16 by Umang Jain
Photo of Spiti-fied  14/16 by Umang Jain
Photo of Spiti-fied  15/16 by Umang Jain
Key Monastery
Photo of Spiti-fied  16/16 by Umang Jain
Photo of Kunzum Pass, Dhar Thachakarpo, Himachal Pradesh, India by Umang Jain
Photo of Kunzum Pass, Dhar Thachakarpo, Himachal Pradesh, India by Umang Jain
Photo of Kunzum Pass, Dhar Thachakarpo, Himachal Pradesh, India by Umang Jain

Road to partial heaven

Photo of Kunzum Pass, Dhar Thachakarpo, Himachal Pradesh, India by Umang Jain
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