Monday, May 25, 2009

Delhi-Leh-Delhi Bike Trip - June 2009

2.5 years of my marriage had given me virtually everything I could have asked for, a loving wife, an adorable son, decent job, and above all a new found friend that I could confide in, and relate to – Sandeep (my Bro-in-law). One of the main reasons for our bonding (me and Sandeep) is that there is not much difference in our age – me 27, he 25; and the passion that we have for travelling by bikes. Sandeep has seen his college days in Hyderabad against traditional me, who has been in a joint family throughout. However, our passion for travelling is same. No wonder we did a bike trip to Hastinapur way back in May 2007, he on his Avenger and me on my Pulsar 150 with pillion riders.

Both of us have always craved to travel to Ladakh on our bikes. Thankfully to my new lifestyle (aka marriage and then kid), I could not have thought of leaving the family and travelling so far on bike. Add to this, the normal reaction of a joint family is “Are you guys nuts? Go by air, and then hire a taxi.” Alas, to some people travelling on a two wheeler for a long ride is as close as it gets to insanity.

Lets accept it! A middle class family man who is settled in his life with a family is not supposed to even think about doing a bike trip to Ladakh. I am sure most of us will agree with me. But then there is a desire amidst all of us, something that we always want to do. At times, I say to Sandeep if I could be the stunts man who drops on his Karizma from the helicopter in the Hero Honda ad, and he just laughs away in his traditional way, and utters, “Nysh”.
Travelling by bike to Ladakh may not be such a big deal for people who have done it many times, but for an average middle class person like me, who has always led a simple 9-5 life, it is going to be an adventure of a lifetime, which will give me moments to cherish, and above all a sense of accomplishment to prove to myself that No Dream’s Big.

It was already April 2009, and I and Sandeep had already made up our minds on visiting Ladakh this year in the second week of June. It took a lot of persuasion to convince everyone that we will be safe on bikes. My wife, unexpectedly was my biggest supporter for this trip, and that was a pleasant surprise.

The next challenge for me was to get the leaves, which were getting a bit difficult to get due to the recession. I kept on trying, my leaves were rejected once. By now, it was the first week of May 09. Tension was mounting up, since we have to plan extensively, and Sandeep was getting all the more frustrated. His office is cool with leaves, but he couldn’t have applied them before mine were approved. As luck would have had it, it so occurred that my LTA was now due in the company, I applied for those leaves against my travel plans, and somehow they got approved! It was 6th May 2009, a day before polling date in Delhi, and I had not broken the news on my leaves being approved to Sandeep. The evening traffic caught me and I took over 1.5 hours to travel the distance from my office to residence which I normally do in about 35 minutes. Needless to say, I was exhausted as I reached home. “Awesome” is what Sandeep yelled the moment I broke the news to him. It is now less than a month that we have in our hands for our maiden trip to Ladakh.
The purpose of this write-up is to provide you the first hand experience of 2 novices who have planned to visit Ladakh for a 9 day period from June 6-14, 2009. We intend to provide a detailed costing and the stuff that we will carry and our experiences with the same.


The Preparations

Since we had more than a month at hand, the following details of the things we did are not consecutive days, but just the number of days that we stepped out preparing for our trip.

Day 1 : Trip to Okhla & Karol Bagh Total Cost till now : Rs. 2,830

We were so sure that our leaves will be sanctioned that we decided to even buy stuff beforehand! That is how excited we were to visit Ladakh. The firsts on our list were:

1. Camping Tents
2. Sleeping Bags
3. Saddle Bags – These are luggage carrying bags that are strapped on either sides of the saree guards on your bike with a flat belt on the top. Convenient since a passenger can pillion ride simultaneously.
4. Foot pump
5. Puncture repair kit
6. Knee and Elbow Guards - Safety

So, with help of BCMTouring travel guide, we took a print out of places where this stuff would be available in Delhi, and called up everyone on the list, and this we what found out:

1. Camping Tents – Available with everyone on Rent
2. Sleeping Bags – Available on Rent
3. Saddle Bags – Not available on rent, have to purchase
4. Foot pump – Have to purchase
5. Puncture repair kit – Have to purchase
6. Knee and Elbow Guards – Have to purchase

Our first stop was at Carabin India in Okhla Industrial Estate. The place is tricky to find, and easy to miss since there are no signboards there, even on the front gate. We circled the place twice before actually stopping at the gate of the place, which somewhat seemed to be shady. Sandeep said, “Are we actually going in there?”. I said, “We have not travelled 20 kms in this hot weather on our bike to actually not even visit the place once!”. Boy, was I right? The place inside has decent stuff that you would require for an adventure trip. For bikers though, not much. The manager, Mr. Vijender was very helpful, and gave us a detailed price list of items. We decided to hire the Camping tents, and the sleeping bags.

There were more coll stuff to choose from, including a burner with fuel in a small can that can be used for 3.5 hours. The catch is that while the fuel can is only 150 bucks, the burner used for flame to be attached is whopping 1.5k, but it’s a worthwhile thing to keep, especially if you are a DIY kinds. Carabin also had utility sippers in attractive colours with a hinge on the front ends that can be tied to your waist while rock climbing, river rafting or even bikes to the saree guard.

Next, we decided to head towards Karol Bagh. I have been born and brought up in Delhi, but this would be my second trip to Karol Bagh, and I was clueless about where to buy stuff. People say you can find and purchase everything from this place, but the trick is to know the right shop. We stopped at one of the shops to inquire about Saddle bags. One thing that I sincerely admire about the person there was that though he had no clue about what a saddle bag means, he was continuously trying to understand what it is. After 5 minutes of our explanations, he came up with what looked like two suitcases that are usually put into the steel frames on the either sides of a Bullet. He then asked his boys to get two leather belts, with which he attached the two bags, and kept on the back side of my Pulsar. Me and Sandeep quietly, without saying a word, took that creepy jugaad off my bike, and pushed off.

Almost all shop owners lure you into their shops as you pass by in Karol Bagh, thinking you want to accessorize your ride. We finally went into another shop, and this guy was hell bent on marketing stuff that other people sell!! Isnt that weird?
Me : Do you have a saddle bag…
Owner : Haan haan (Yes, of course)
Takes out another of those jugaad thingys.
Owner (with a sense of sheepish smile) : “Yehi hain na” (This is it?)

Sandeep meanwhile has already pressed the self starter button on my bike, ready to push off. I don’t know why but I again explained this guy what a saddle bag means. So, he says wait for 5 minutes, he will ask his boys to get from godown.

Me: Sandeep, come inside. I think he knows what it is.
Sandeep comes running over, almost toppling over the bike in the hope that we might have struck gold this time.

We take this opportunity to ask the owner where to find puncture repair kit, and foot pump. He guides us to a place nearby. So we decide to visit that shop first till the time this guy gets his saddle bags. We ask him the price, he quotes 1.6k and we tell him we’ll be back from that shop. Turns out that the shop he had guided us doesn’t keep that stuff. Pissed off, a name comes to my mind that I had read in one of the travelogues – Chopra. This shop, apparently, is on the Arya Samaj Road, abd not very difficult to locate. From the outside, it looked like a helmet shop but we were amazed to see it had a lot of stuff.

We met one of the guys who is also visiting Ladakh this year with Group of Delhi Superbikers (GODS) group, who was purchasing a helmet. The dude also shows us his wound on left elbow urging us to take a knee and elbow guard – thanks buddy! Mr. Chopra (shopowner) tells us that Dr. Taneja, the founder of the GODS often refers people to his shop. Me and Sandeep were quite happy to be at the right place, at last. Here is a list of what we bought from Chopra’s:

1. Saddle Bags – 1.2k. This is his in-house production. We wanted to buy Cramster, but decided to buy this stuff, since it looked good (especially quality), the material is also waterproof. Will keep posted on the quality in the travelogue, and then put my recommendation. BTW, to buy Cramster, we would have to travel to Kamla Nagar or South Campus, none that we were willing to do.
2. Knee and Elbow Guards – 1.2k for 2 sets of Knee and Elbow guards.
3. Bungee Cords – Rs.80

We wanted to purchase a tank bag, but it wasn’t available at that time. We were guided to the nearby shop to purchase the foot pump and puncture repair kit.
1. Foot pump – Rs. 350

Since we do not have tubeless tyres, it is advised by shop keeper that keeping foot pump is enough. The other solution he gives is carrying a liquid tube which is filled in the tube that seals the leak instantaneously, but we are not very keen on it at the moment.

Here is summary of our expenses incurred to date:
1. Saddle Bags – Rs. 1,200
2. Foot pump – Rs. 350
3. Knee and Elbow Guards – Rs. 1,200
4. Bungee Cords – Rs. 80

Satisfaction of initiating our plans – Priceless!!!

Had a wonderful sleep that nigh dreaming about travelling to Ladakh.

Day 2: Preparation of Checklist of Stuff to carry & Itenerary

After reading through innumerable articles and applying our common sense, this is the stuff we intend to carry:

stuff:
- Tents (40rs/day at carabin on rent or 3000 to buy for 2 ppl)
- sleeping bags (25rs/day at carabin or 1300 to buy)
- saddle bag - should be waterproof (chopra auto shop - 1200 bucks, local company)
- bungee - rope to tie bags (same shop - 20/each)
- knee/elbow guards (same shop - 600)
- warm clothes
- sweaters
- jacket
- gloves-water proof
- warmer (inner)
- monkey cap/muffler (for neck protection)
- rain coat
- bags - should be waterproof
- tank bag - for handy stuff
- camera with lot of space/battery
- Toiletries like small soap, paper soap, shaving kit, small toothpaste, mini mirror
- Chain and lock – to secure bikes at night
- Needle and thread, matches/lighter, Mseal, feviquik, small pair of scissors, swiss knife
- Take 5-6 passport size photos
- identity proof (5-6 copies)
- Small torch and related batteries
- A newspaper, tissue papers, rubber bands, tooth picks, safety pins, ball pins
- Pocket diary and pen/pencil to record expenses, important milestones, odo readings
- Glucon-D and dry fruits
- moisturizer/lip guard

Friday, May 30, 2008

Chakrata Trip

Another weekend. Another trip. Me, Abhinav, Sourabh and Jagan took off to a splendid weekend trip. A hill station which is not heard of, a place that is far from civilization, thats Chakrata.

We started around 6:00 and our first stop was Paonta Sahib Gurudwara. We did not plan to go there, but because it came on the way we just went to pay a visit. Ate in the 'langar' too after a longgg time, it was fun.


Behind me is Paonta Sahib Gurudwara


First view of hills


Roads were bad, so we were too happy to reach and hot tea greeted us :)


On our way to Sun, at the end of the road...


After a longggg day of driving, what more does one need...a quilt and a chair :))


But thanks to some guy who had 'booked' the chairs, that we found a new hangout..on the top of the hotel :)) .. who likes boundaries ;)


Oh!! and Maggi and Pasta


We opened the room, and sun welcomed us..


View from around the hotel


Sleeping beauties :P


Getting Lost is sometimes by choice..


The fall of Troy :P


Not tired, just posing :P


Him too!!


Trek!


Waah! kya photo hai ;)


Was he really clicking us? or his shadow :D


Find Jagan in the photo, if u succeed? ask him for treat :D


More Trek!!


Break!!


That tiny building in the picture is our Hotel!!


Bade chalo!!


Dude! wait for us..


Those are polo grounds. Britishers used to play there..


woah!!!


Pics are funny!!


It still has room for 10 people?


Tiger falls!! (not literally :P)


No rains since long and this is the flow, what would happen in Rains!!


Thanks to local Elections, every damn shop was closed! we were lucky to find MAGGI!!!


I can give 1000 bucks to go here again...ok you win, 2000 bucks


Just cant have enough!!


Went to hotel Snow view just to have pakoras, and it was raining. Ah! dont remind me of the time..


Snow peaks were actually visible (ah! we need more optical zoom), so we know how Snow View hotel got its name eh!!


Drive back to Delhi was fun...we just saw 3 vehicles in 2 hours and 50 kms.


Hills and hills...


And more...


He believes he can fly..do u?


Jeeyenge saath saath..girenge saath saath :P

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Vaishno Devi

Vaisno devi

People find it amazing when you tell them that you stayed in Delhi for years and did not go Vaishno Devi. So as soon as my di asked if I would be interested I said yes. Best thing was that Bhanju the great was also coming so four of us (both dis, jiju me and kiddo) boarded a bus and started our journey to Jai Mata Di. The best part of the journey was about to come, the conductor started a movie we would have never expected in our wildest dreams - Nache Nagin Gali Gali, by God what a movie it was. Thanks to him that I got reminded of my college days as I started shouting 1-2-3-4 "band karo ye atyachar" (stop this torture). Finally after some resistance from me he had to give up and he stopped the movie (huh!). The rest of journey was smooth.

Around morning when we were passing Jalandhar the weather became awesome, it was rainy and green all around. The rest of ride was great, the roads in Jammu were in good condition and I felt like driving too. I knew it was a long shot so I didnt ask the Bus driver to let me drive :P. We reached around 1:00 PM and checked into a hotel. We had to leave next day morning but we didnt find any bus that leaves for delhi in morning so we ran out of options. We got all whacky ideas around 3:00 PM to take a chopper on both sides (to n fro) to the Bhavan and take the evening bus back :P which amused me beyond limits.

Well, we left the plan and just went for lunch in 'Jewel' Restaurant which offered good food and choices. Best thing about Vaishno Devi was Self service in all restos. We reached the helipad around 4:15 and were told that we had to wait for 2 hours :P. Now we had almost nothing to do so both dis and kapil got busy with Kaaku and I got immersed in music. The views from the area were great but funny thing was that we
ended up with no camera (my cam had US charger so I didnt bring it and Kapils cam just didnt work huh!). We finally took the chopper around 6:30 and within 5 minutes we reached the Bhavan which 'ideally' had taken atleast 5 hours if we had gone by foot. We got entry in the army gate 3 and were done with the darshan around 9 o'clock. We had dinner and were decently tired when these people had finalized on not
going to the Bhairon Mandir which a friend had told me to go for sure as darshan is incomplete if we dont go there. So finally I ditched these people to visit Bhairon Temple and Dis n jiju started on their way back to Hotel.

I was told that the way up to Bhairon Temple is 'very' tiring but umm it really wasnt. I took one small break and reached in no time. I just went inside the temple and came out as I didnt know what to do inside and didnt really want to find out ;). I started on my way back to Katra which was supposed to be a good 12.5 kms away. I found three people from haryana on the way and we became friends and we came down together. The electricity had gone and nothing was visible at all. People were just using their cellphones to guide themselves (God! Thanks to mobile phones).

After taking few breaks and short cuts (including more than 1000 stairs) we finally reached Katra at 2:30 AM and after bidding adieu to the Haryana folks I went to my hotel. Much to my amazement nobody opened the door of our room on repeated knocking. I thought dis and jiju would be in deep sleep so I went down to check with the hotel manager but he didnt have extra keys. Nobody picked the phone also when we called the hotel room. Now I got worried. Where the hell were these people at 3:00 AM in the night. I came out of hotel looking for nothing in particular when I saw them walking towards me :P. Dis n Jiju had come half way walking and half way on horses ('pitthu'?) but they reached after me :P. We went to the room and ordered tea and toasts and finally slept around 4:00AM.

After having a good meal in morning we took a taxi (god damnit its expensive - 7k to reach delhi one way) and came back to Delhi more tired then probably we had ever been. Finally I can tell people that yes! I have been to Vaishno devi. Jai Mata Di.


More Info: Comfortable buses/Volvos go till Katra everyday at good frequency from Delhi. Most of them start after 6:00 PM or so. Buses stop only twice so do take few munchies to enjoy on the way. Chopper saves time and can be booked before hand through websites but I still recommend to take an extra day and go those 16kms by foot. Plan your return before hand as well because buses start from Katra or Jammu only after 6:30 and there are NO other options other than hiring a Taxi (better take one from Delhi itself or better so, drive!).

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Trip to Lansdowne..

It was yet another idle friday with the usual movie (Iron man - must watch ;)) with Abhianv and Pavan (Raheja busy with ummm and Jagan in US) and roaming around with a plan to play Tennis late in the night when a plan struck us. It was 1:00 AM in the night (ok technically it was saturday morning) when we just thought of going for a trip. We had been thinking about going to Lansdowne since a long time so our destination got finalized. I had to meet a friend who was visiting from bangalore who I called and invited to join us at 1:00 which offcourse he denied. Then I also called Vikas (school fren) at 1:30 who was enthusiastic enough to "think about it" after being awoken in the middle of night ;).

Finally it was only three of us - me, Abhinav and Pavan. We decided to leave at 4:00 so we thought of getting some sleep. Surprisingly, we were on the road at 5:00 and so our journey started. It took us long 7 hours to reach Lansdowne but the time flew so fast that we hardly noticed it. We discussed so many things and there was no stopping us - relations, gals, marriage eh, the traditional crap :P. We finally reached around 1:30 PM or so with only a single stop for breakfast and checked into Hotel Mayur (3/5, decently ok value for money) in the main market itself. There are not many hotels and we were lucky to get accomodation.

As soon as Abhinav and Pavan saw the bed, they just crashed. Now as someone rightly pointed out - 'have you gone so far just to sleep', so offcourse I woke them up :D and had to hear all sorts of abuse for waking them up. Well! after a lot of pleading and pushing they finally got up and we had food. Its so amazing that one likes any kind of food when he is hungry, but the food served by Mayur was actually good :). We finally left the hotel to roam around the place around 4:30.

Our first destination was the very overhyped and totally useless man made lake where one can 'ride' a boat. There were hardly any other tourists in that area other than us and all of them actually took a boat ride in the dirty water. After spending some time around the lake and fiddling with the video camera to shoot still pictures we took off. Our car was parked at the end of the road (no road post that area literally) and somehow the forest behind it was on fire (oh, i am not kidding), we saw a couple of stairs going nowhere so we thought of going on a short trek. The trek was good and tiring other than the fact that the forest fire had spoiled the air completely. We reached the top of the hill and sat and started our usual chatting again. After coming back we also noticed that our great car owner had left his window totally open inviting carjackers with both hands, but the place is so devoid of people that we would have found the car even if we had come back a day later :D. We didnt know what to do next, so we went to the main market. We started wandering in the main market which was full of locals and hardly any tourists when we came across a board saying ' Kaleshwar Temple' so we thought of paying a visit. That temple is supposedly very very old and it was all dark around the area at 7:00 o'clock itself. While climbing down the stairs we were just thinking that we have to climb them up too on way back :(( .

After coming back and having dinner (again in hotel mayur) we went to 'Snow point'. This was the first point that we saw in Lansdowne that actually gave a feeling of hill station. It was entirely dark all around and no human in view. Only we three were sitting under the shade and chatted again till eternity. Finally around 11:30 someone shouted from nowhere and we thought of leaving. After coming back we repeated Jab we met for the nth time and finally slept.

The morning was beautiful, we had a good breakfast (in hotel mayur :P) and we went to tip in top around 11:00 o'clock. These people had taken so much time to get ready that I had already taken a walk alone in the 'Lovers lane' thats just beside the snow point. I had gone a couple of steps after which I realized that it was 'Lovers Lane' and not 'loners' :P so I came back. Tip in top gave an awesome view of the valley around, although it was quiet hot by now (12:00 PM) and sunny so we didnt spend a lot of time there but we did thought of coming back. We again took a path less travelled and went for a short trek. We also saw two Churches and also saw a 20 minute movie played in one church about Garhwal Rifles (Salute to Indian army). The weird thing about lansdowne is that there are just too many roads. Even when we were on the trek there were roads in view. Anyway, after resting and catching our breath and drinking Sprite (which was just sweet water now) we left for Santoshi Ma temple.

Just like any other place in lansdowne, Santoshi Ma temple was desolated of any human presence, so much so that their was not even a pandit in the temple. Santoshi Ma is supposedly the highest point of Lansdowne. Other than us their were just 3-4 other people in a group who left pretty soon. We sat on the corner of the temple looking all over the area and enjoying the fresh air. It was around 1:00 when we left the temple to see the Museum which was closed around that time. We did find a Army dude there who was kind enough to let us hold his Rifle which weighed 4.7 KGs (crap!! how do they fire it) and also told us about the CAT course.

Now till date I had heard of only two CATs - one the traditional pet animal cat and the other IIM - CAT :P. But this CAT course was the best thing about lansdowne trip. CAT course is the whole set of hurdles that an army guy goes through during his practice/training session. We tried our hand at it too. We did it all from rock climbing to rapelling. It was thrilling.

We were exhausted by 3:30 and I was so hungry that I could have eaten a pig. We had a good lunch (guess where :P) the best part of which was the Lassi. It was the thickest Lassi we ever had, even thicker than Needs/Punjabi Rasoi or Nihal of Hyderabad :D. After lunch we went to our room and this was the first time when I slept before the other two :P . It was around 7 when we got up and were fully charged to get the best out of the few hours left in Lansdowne. It had rained already while we were sleeping so the weather was all the more pleasant.

We left for Tip in top again and it was pitch dark when we reached there. We could not even see each other leave alone the path which was going into the woods. It was crazy and adventurous. We reached the end point and could see a million stars in the sky. We spent some time there and left for dinner again. After a small dinner of Maggi and pakoras at uhu uhu!! Hotel Mayur :P we again went to Snow Point. It was crazily dark now thanks to the rains. We sat for more than 2 hours there and when we thought of leaving it started raining :P. Now getting wet in rains is one thing but getting wet in a hill station in middle of night is totally different so we thought it to be more wise to wait. Rain Gods got into playful mood and so they stopped the rain for sometime so that we would leave and as soon as we left, they turned the shower on again. We had to literally run when electricity also went and it was pitch dark. We could not see the road and could not get out mobiles out as it was raining. Thank god there were no dogs to welcome us otherwise it would have been a lot more fun :P.

Finally we left Lansdowne with happy memories in the morning. The way back was awesome as it was raining all along. Overall it was a great and fun filled trip.


More Info: Lansdowne offers lot more than first visible. Its a good place for trekkers who want to go for short treks. There is a good book about local places thats available in the Saint Marys church which also has good detail about the treks. There are not many hotels in Lansdowne so if you are going with family do _not_ go without reservations. There are not many eating joints too, best bet is Hotel Mayur eh!!! Although websites say that best time to visit is summers, but I feel summers are pretty hot in Lansdowne, and if you go to a hill station you should feel the chill so better go in good weather around rains or in winters. Other than roaming on the roads and providing good environment to talk/chat, Lansdowne does not have much activities to do other then Trekking, one can always visit the temples around that are on a short drive of 20-25 kms and are well known and old.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

December 2007 trip part 1 - Rishikesh

I went to Rishikesh with Office friends and it was an amazing experience. We did all sorts of things starting from Camping, Rafting, Rock climbing, Rappelling, bonfire and trekking. A complete fun and adventure trip. Here are few photos.


Our Camp

Me Rock Climbing (or say me rocking ;))


On Trek in the evening


Bon fire in the night at 12:00..Temperature less than 5 degrees.


Yeah thats me at the top. And yeah, I didnt jump ;)


Someone did jump afterall ;)


Starting from Shivpuri to Rishikesh - 16kms/2 hrs+


Tired..eh!!


Sunset from Ram Jhoola in Rishikesh

- overall rating: 4/5
- useful info: Himgiri Adventures phone: 0-94129-02361, cost anywhere between 1200-1800 depending on package. It was cold in December (especially water) but doable. Worth visiting.

Few good things we wont forget from the trip:
- A cartoon series of some guy , especially the line 'Ze kya laga rakha hai, chalo haath upar kar ke khade ho jao'
- The cool driver and his 'rula doonga aapko' with 'bhoot's hand on the shoulder' ;)
- Ghost stories
- the first crushes of few of us ;)
- how the girls didnt want to go for rafting, rappelling and how we convinced them to do otherwise :D