Day 14, Marathon ride to home (June 7th ‘14, Udhampur); Distance Covered ~2900 kms It was decided to move out at 9am next morning but the fatigue caught us badly resulting in delayed start. After breakfast & refuelling our bikes we headed for home (Delhi) at 11am on the final day of our quest, with around 650 kms to ride. We all were fervent to get back home and thought to take breaks after covering longer stretches. It’s easier said than done. The hot weather & scorching sun made it extremely difficult to ride for more than 45mins. at one go. We bid farewell to the hilly roads at Jammu and were back on the plain highway post that. It helped us to cover around 80-90 kms every hour. The rising temperature which went well beyond 47 degrees was testing our patience & endurance levels as well. It was becoming impossible to ride without drinking water after every 30 mins & seemed that the water was evaporating from our bodies. The heavy riding gears was causing lot of discomfort, but didn’t even think of riding without them. At times after being impatient, I was riding little faster than the remaining 3, only to slow down & wait for them to arrive. Perhaps this was an advantage that a 500 cc bike had over its 350 cc counterpart. We were easily clocking around 120 kms while the latter was finding it difficult to cross the 100 km/hr mark. However learning from previous day’s incident, we ensured to drive together with our speed hovering around 90km/hr. During our breaks we took updates from Amit about Ishwar’s release & were delighted to know that they were set free around 12pm. At the start of the day’s ride, Nishant had suggested to stop for lunch at Haveli restaurant at Ludhiana by around 3pm. We had reached the venue around 45 mins late with Amit, who was accompanying us throughout. During our last day’s ride it would have been wonderful to ride with all riders together in the similar way we drove on this route 12 days back. This couldn’t happen as few riders did not bother to stay back & support during the exigency, some had to stay back with Ishwar & those who started together from Udhampur were scattered, perhaps due to more frequent breaks taken by some riders. However within a span of 30-45 minutes every one had arrived at the restaurant, tired, drenched in sweat and exhausted. Came to know that Ebrahim & Sunil had lost their way while Mrinmoy, Ankit & remaining Nagpur team who were riding together reached as soon as we had reached. Maneesh shared his incident where he had met with a small accident when a bike had abruptly hit him. Thankfully he was lucky to not fall on the road like the other guy who had hot him & he accelerated away from the scene to avoid any unfavourable situation, like the previous day. In fact during an informal chat with the police & army officials at Srinagar, we realised that if we had ran away from the spot, we would have saved ourselves from the trouble. Maneesh understood this & did not bother to stop at the spot and rightly so because he wasn’t at fault either. At Ludhiana, getting into the air-conditioned restaurant seemed to have injected new life into our bodies & after getting refreshed over sumptuous lunch we left within an hour. While leaving some of the riders began to contemplate riding the entire stretch uptill Delhi that night. Finally some riders halted at Ambala and it was a sensible decision because stretching beyond the point when your body retires is dangerous. However we 4, Nishant & Varun rolled ahead & were determined to go all the way. While leaving the restaurant Tarun & Anuj requested us to stay back at their home at Panipat. It was getting late & we were getting signals that our body fuel was draining out fast. However the ride at night was more comfortable & easier than riding during the day. We kept taking breaks at regular intervals and for water, stretching our muscles and refuelling our bikes & stopped at Panipat toll where we bid farewell to the brother duo with whom I had enjoyed thoroughly and formed the foursome gang. We decided to move towards Delhi & not to stay with them as we also wanted to reach our home & sleep there. So we parted after hugging & thanking each other & hoping to get on a new ride sooner. Maneesh & me left for Delhi along with Amit. We had reached Delhi border at around 1am & by then I had already dozed off couple of times, so had to stop to wash my face & get refreshed. The last 20 kms appeared like another 200 kms & was not getting over quickly. At Mukarba chowk we finally bid goodbye & headed for our home, sweet home. Riding for ~650 kms was extremely tiring but within i was excited to bring back enough memories & stories to share with everyone. In the words of Ibn Batuta, “travelling leaves you speechless & turns you into a story teller” which summarises my 14-day expedition aptly. The experiences from even the smallest distance travelled, the mesmerising sight of the hills, the tranquility of the lakes, the roughness of the rocky hills, the potholes, the treacherous terrain of the passes have left a permanent impression on my mind and I will cherish it lifelong. As someone said- “In the end we regret the chances we didn’t take.” And this time thankfully it took the chance and got on board to live my dream. Not only I joined the trip, I celebrated it throughout. Today as I sit down to watch the pictures & get into introspection mode, I realize that this journey has changed me to certain extent. The very thought of getting on the trip after quitting my job was something that I wouldn’t have dared to do few years back. Thankfully I did it without any regrets as the experience gained on this trip is monumental & will treasure it till end of time. Some of my friends acknowledge & appreciate it while some may consider it utter foolishness. I am able to appreciate the smaller things we see every day and have become adaptable to the extreme situations/conditions such as crossing the deadly stretches in the wee hours & enjoying it rather than cribbing about it or being happy about having Maggi for lunch & not blaming the organisers for a proper lunch arrangements & many more of such instances. This trip also had reinforced my self-belief and has strengthened me to take on the challenges head on & without being anxious of any situation. Perhaps my accident on Day1 had made me stronger mentally & made me believe that even though everything may not go our way, but with determination we can make our way to the top. The scenic locales, rivers, lakes, have made me fall in love with nature & now would not object if Subha (wifey) wants to place some plants in our balcony, which I had strongly resisted till now. I had shared a room with 2-3 riders who snored dangerously & even farted and thankfully learnt to adjust to every situation instead of cribbing about it like some of my fellow riders.As riders, we needed to understand that being on a road trip there would be several ups & downs & we should be ready to accept it with a smile. Perhaps this contended attitude was the key to enjoyment & rediscovering ourselves. Unfortunately most of my rider friends from Delhi were found to be less accommodating to changes while friends from other parts were quite cool about the adjustments. I do not want to start a regional war by making this statement but, unfortunately, this was experienced and my belief that riders from Delhi were more adaptable was changed. However that does not change my equation with them & my bonding gets stronger every time as I revisit the days spent with them. In the words of Tim Cahill – “A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles”. I am proud that I have more friends now & together we have covered >3500 kms and have stood by each other in testing times & even to get clicked together at a scenic locale. This trip has also made me realise that India is more beautiful that I thought it was. I would surely want to travel more & see the unseen than lusting for a foreign location. The wanderlust has seeped deep into my blood & my quest for travelling on my Royal Enfield is going to take me far into the unknown territories, making me meet new riders/travellers, sharing & learning from their experiences. Henceforth I would perhaps travel more to enjoy the journey rather than the destination. Lastly, I cannot end without thanking the superb team of Royal Bikers- Amit, Manu, Varun(s) & Nishant. Thanks for making this ride ‘The Ride of my life’. We get better with every experience & wish that the experience gained in this trip will help us burn our tyres for many more kms. We should not be disheartened by the unpleasant incidences but be happy that we braved them, took them head on & came out with flying colours. Fellow riders- Manoj, Dhiraj Patil, Anant Singh, Shivaraju Mariyappa, Anurag Sharma, Rohit Mantri, Mohit Sharma, Gopal, Ranga Rao, Sunil Bhatija, Manish Bhatija, Ebrahim, Navin Bhatia, Mirmoy, Ishwar Hingorani, Anurag Chaurasia, Amit Ganotra, Chankey Raj Singh, Ankit Rathi, Amit Bhatnagar, Rahul Mohan, Pramod Gupta, Samir Abrol, Vikas Garg, Jai Prasad, Kamal Thakur, Saurabh Saxena, Pardeep & remaining ones for being a sport & I am glad to be on this ride with each one of you. A big thanks to my foursome gang - Anuj, Tarun & Maneesh with whom I have conquered the hills honking our signature tune (which now has been patented ;) & only we will be using it). The families of every rider deserves a bigger round of applause for allowing them to join the ride covering the some of the most dangerous routes and helping them living their dreams. Kudos to you guys. Not to forget, my family, friends for your support & encouragement. Papa, I will be with you in the next trip at any time you call me, provided the destination is in India. And above all Subha, my super wifey, for being the best friend & pillar of my support. It wasn’t possible if you had not got me this bike, encouraged & kept poking me about my ride & its preparations, getting my ride list ready, packing & many more…Love you for all that & wish you join me on the next long ride to experience the magic together. In the words of Buddha- “Its better to travel than to arrive” and I wish to travel till It arrives. Check the Trip Album here- https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10152082156426511.1073741828.556181510&type=1&l=440be322b7
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261 Kms from Udhampur
Best time to visit - January,February,March,October,November,December
If you can explore one place in India, let it be its capital, New Delhi. This modern city offers everything that a city traveller could possibly want – chaos, quiet, spirituality, history, culture and food. Delhi is said to be one of the oldest existing cities in the world. This ancient city never stops growing. The Mughal and British, the two main empires who invaded the city, have left a deep mark on its face and infrastructure. Their monuments and mausoleums lie scattered across the city, such as India Gate, Jama Masjid, Humayun’s Tomb, Qutub Minar, Purana Qila and the Lodhi Gardens. The iconic Red Fort or Lal Qila, built of sandstone, has been standing tall since 1648 and was the brainchild of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. You can participate in the celebration of modern Indian art at Akshardham, a wondrous house of worship. The colossal, Lotus Temple is a centre of Baha'i faith and is a peaceful refuge from the breathlessness of the city. The city has a rich and colourful character, which is visible in its chaotic bazaars such as Janpath, Sarojini Nagar, Dilli Haat and Chandni Chowk – all heavens for shopaholics. You may splurge at the high-end restaurants and pubs all across Delhi, but do not miss out on the street food. Connaught Place, Chanakyapuri and the Parliament Street stretch, everything contributes to the grandeur New Delhi is. If you’re touring Delhi, Paharganj is a good choice for inexpensive lodging with good connectivity.
180 Kms from Udhampur
Best time to visit - February,March,April,October
The land from where once an ancient trade route to China would be embarked on, Manali is an abode for modern creativity now as much as it for withdrawal and adventure in the majestic mountains. From offering hostels, hotels, co-working spaces to the cave where once Arjun, the Pandava king had supposedly meditated (Arjun Gufa), Manali is no less than a global village. The mighty Himalayas have inspired many foreign settlements here, giving rise to popular European and Israeli cafes, restaurants and hostels, providing one a consortium of around the world cultures. This town is a true haven for adventure junkies who can indulge in river rafting, paragliding, camping, rock climbing, rappelling, zorbing at Solang Valley and Aleo. Manali has an array of breathtaking treks and sights for its nature lovers, for instance the Patalsu Peak, the Deo Tibba basecamp, Jogini Falls and the Rahala Falls. For all the solo riders out there, cruise your way through the snowy alley of Rohtang Pass while those who wish to travel back in time, can indulge in the exquisite display of culture and heritage at the Museum of Himachal Culture and Folk Art. Restaurants and cafes such as the Khyber Pass, Johnson's Cafe, La Plage, Drifters' Inn, The Hangout attract foodies for their culinary justice to everything from Thai to European cuisines and even some live music. If all this is too over the top for you, then reconnect with simplicity at Naggar Village, which is home to waterfalls, a beautiful castle, an art gallery and locals which have many stories to share and a cultural heritage to take pride in.
186 Kms from Udhampur
Best time to visit - January,February,March,April,August,September,October,November,December
A quick getaway destination for Delhi-NCR residents, Mussoorie or the 'Queen of Hills' is the most favoured place for anyone battling urban heat. It remains quite crowded from May to July, as popular hotels and hangouts such as Mall Road, Mussoorie Lake, Kempty Falls and Gun Hill remain pervaded with tourists no matter where or what you may set your eyes upon. But if you carry the spirit of an explorer within you, Mussoorie can surprise you in many ways. For instance, if you curious to check out where the man who Mt. Everest is named after, once lived, you can reach the house and laboratory through a picturesque 4 km walk from Library Bazaar or Gandhi Chowk. Ditch the customary visit to Kempty Falls and take an uplifting trek to the quiet, serene and crystal clear Jharipani Falls instead. Mussoorie, when mist free, provides frame-worthy views of the Himalayan ranges, which can be enjoyed at points such as Lal Tibba, Nag Tibba and Camel Back Road, all of which need to be trekked or walked to, with the effort being worthwhile. Devalsari, a village quietly burrowed 55 km away from Mussoorie, is the gateway to the Nag Tibba trek and a location perfect for seeing beautiful butterflies and birds in the heart of nature. For those curious to delve into Himalayan life, history, art, culture and spirituality, Soham Heritage and Art Centre gives exquisite displays of the former, through various artefacts. As for foodies, restaurants such as Neelam, Imperial Square, Meeting Point Cafe and Casa Mia bakery do justice to North Indian, European and Tibetan cuisines and also offer delicious cafe knick knacks and drinks.
245 Kms from Udhampur
Best time to visit - April,May,June,July
Scenic and serene, Kinnaur in Himachal Pradesh is perhaps one of the most unexplored places in Himachal. Passing through serpentine roads, refreshing, lush greenery, the district is a delight to explore. Though travellers looking to enjoy a luxurious holiday may not have a great time here. Kalpa is the first village that greets you when you enter Kinnaur. Reckong Peo, Nako and Sangla Valley are some of the villages and valleys that make up Kinnaur district. A journey to Kinnaur is marked with adventure and also an unpredictability that comes from travelling so high up in the mountains. The people in all the villages are very warm and welcoming and are open to sharing their way of life with travellers. Do plan a long trip here, since Kinnaur district can easily take up to 2 weeks and it's best not to hurry your way through this spellbinding valley.
160 Kms from Udhampur
Best time to visit - February,March,April,May,June,October,November
Barely 4 km away from Dharamshala by foot, the hill station of McLeod Ganj is home to many majestic monasteries, delicious smelling kitchen cafes, video rental shops, western food cafes, trekking companies and wall to wall stores selling Tibetan souvenirs and many more goodies. Also known as Little Lhasa and the abode of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual influence and its mystical green hills mark McLeod Ganj as a significant tourist destination and a major traveller hang-out in the Kangra Valley. A 5-minute walk south of this town will take one to the Tsuglagkhang Complex, which comprises the official residence of the 14th Dalai Lama, vibrant monasteries with beautiful murals and even a bookshop cafe that goes by the name of Namgyal Gompa. Tourist activity after monsoon picks up, after October, with February March being pleasant months to visit the hill station to witness the Losar Festival or the Tibetan New Year being celebrated. This compact sized town is best explored and enjoyed by walking or trekking. Intriguing short walks around Mcleod Ganj include one that goes 2km east to Bhagsu which leads one to a waterfall and a temple. The most well-known trek, 8 km starting from the town, is to Triund, a snow-flanked and serene camping spot from which one can also travel 5 km ahead to reach a charming little forest rest house. With many many hipster eateries, the food here is some of the best you'll find at any mountain destination.
88 Kms from Udhampur
Best time to visit - January,February,March,April,May,June,October,November,December
Once known as Shyamala, synonymous with Goddess Kali, Shimla has been a summer retreat long before India even gained independence. This famous hill station similarly has a lot of places and things to see untouched by time. For instance, take a vintage joy ride from Kalka station to Shimla in a charming toy train that will take you through towering Deodars, hills and villages. Shimla truly comes alive during winters when a blanket of snow covers it all over making every nook and corner gleam and glisten. One such place is the ice skating rink (natural ice) near Lakkar Bazaar that opens from November to December. More winter sports include skiing, which can be enjoyed 21 km from Shimla in Kufri. Adventure activities such as rafting at Tattapani or a trek to Shali Tibba and Pabbar Valley are also worthwhile experiences. If you are fond of haunted stories and interested in having your own spooky adventure, you'll love Shimla. A lot of people including the renowned Rudyard Kippling (in 'My Own True Ghost Story) have written various eerie stories set around Shimla. A place known most for giving many people the jeepers-creepers is the Charleville Mansion. Another time travelling portal is the antique bookstore, Marina Brothers, located on Mall Road, which is truly a reader and collector's paradise. There are many luxury and budget hotels here, meaning you'll never fall short of options. Popular places to eat include Wake & Bake, Ashiana, Cecil and Minchy's that serve commendable Indian and multi-cuisine dishes and delicious gourmet food.
186 Kms from Udhampur
Best time to visit - March,April,May,October,November
Dehradun is easily one of the most popular hill stations in India. Though easily accessible by all modes of transportation, taking the road would be the best way to experience this heaven. The drive will take you through dense forests on the hilly road and if you're lucky, you might even see a wild elephant or leopard pass you by. The fresh and dewy hill air will infiltrate your lungs and put you in a great mood right away. In terms of things to see, there is Robber's Cave, a river cave formation and Sahashtradhara, which is also a stunning sight of nature consisting of sulphur springs. But more than its sights, Dehradun is the perfect place for a family getaway. After all it has everything that you could need for a relaxing holiday. The town has many vintage bookshops (Natraj Publishers, The English Book Depot), college campuses with hilly backdrops, architectural marvels (such as the Forest Research Institute), alleys filled with quaint restaurants, adventure sports gear shops and forest resorts and hotels to fit every budget. Vishranti, a resort tucked away discreetly in the Sal forests of the Doon valley, deserves a special mention for its beauty and luxury. The city is a haven for foodies as Dehradun offers a lot of variety and affordability in its cuisine. Restaurants and cafes such as Doon Darbar, renowned for devour-worthy Mughlai dishes and The Buffet for its mouthwatering burgers, cutlets and coffee, are popular options.
118 Kms from Udhampur
Best time to visit - March,April,May,June,July,August,September,October
A kingdom that has risen above disasters like the 2010 cloudburst and is still able to magnetise a plethora of tourists and travellers every month to it, even when the mercury dips below sub-zero levels. This former capital of the Himalayan Kingdom of Ladakh is chiefly dominated by the ruined Royal Palace of Leh and the eternally serene Pangong Tso, Tibetan for 'high grassland lake', which is spread for 134 km from India to China. If you're someone who loves travelling unconventionally and is interested in the lifestyle that thrives in this high altitude desert, you can stay with locals who have turned their homes into 'homestays' and are open to interacting with non-natives. For a more spiritual and mystical experience, one can also spend the night at monasteries such as Thiksey, Lamauru or the Hemis Monastery, where you will get a chance to interact with Lamas (Buddhist teachers) and learn all about their lives and what they preach. For more visual and audio insights and treats, one can attend the 6 day Ladakh festival, a multihued explosion of Ladakhi culture and tradition, celebrated annually in the month of September in Leh's villages. Leh can always keep you entertained, for instance, with trekking (frozen river trek to Chadar, Padam to Darcha trek), mountain biking, skiing, camel safari, paragliding and even having your car pulled uphill by the magnetic force at the Magnetic Hill. Foodies will get no better thrill than eating at the highest cafeteria in the world, Rinchen Cafeteria. Other popular cafes such as Gesmo, Nirvana Garden, Cafe Jeevan and Norlakh are a must to go to for their lip smacking Italian, Himalayan and local dishes.