18.09.2011: Delhi – Shimla
After more than a week in Delhi, where I stayed at a friend’s place and could prepare myself and my kit, it was about time to hit the road again! As I’m going to explore the North of India, I need to hit the highway (NH1) to Chandigarh and take the NH21 and NH22 to Shimla, a 381km ride. Not bad for the first day riding in India. ;)
Enroute I pass the “Indian Gate”:
Fortunately, the traffic is not as bad as expected as soon as I left Delhi. The highway up north is mainly clear, so I’m making good progress – in Indian terms. As usual in India, whenever I stop for a break “BigBertha”, my bike, and I draw a lot of attention. This gentleman was obvious delighted to meet us:
Shortly before Chandigarh, I run into Kunal Vora. He just came down the way I’ll be going and told me that the Rothang Pass is in terrible conditions, I should expect mud about 1-2 feet deep. Great things ahead! Kunal is from Mumbai and he will go all the way down South to Kerala. He is working on a sponsorship from BMW and wants to go from India to London – via China and the “Stans”. Well, that’s an ambitious plan! I’ll keep an eye on him on his Blog
Going up the NH22, I get the first taste of the “Indian Hills”. The air smells fresh and the temperature is dropping. What a relieve after the days in Dehli at 36 C and 80% humidity. The road starts twisting and I catch a view of a hill in the late afternoon sun:
The road up to Shimla is about 90km long. I need to hurry up as it’s getting dark soon. Just a quick stop to take a picture of the monkeys at the roadside. Hopefully they stay put and don’t jump my way:
I enjoy my first ride back in India. The engine runs smooth, the traffic up here was not too bad. “BigBertha” and I are having a fantastic day! We get to used to each other again and feel like going up the Alps in Austria. “Don’t overdo it!” comes to my mind and a bit later I find this truck, which flipped over.
The remaining kilometers I drive in the dark, but I reach Shimla sound and safe. I’m looking forward to see Shimla at daytime tomorrow morning!
Delhi to Shimla, distance: 381 km, took me about 8 hours
Some technical notes: I’m delighted that my SPOT connect seems to work properly. It recorded a bunch of waypoints today and I successfully sent “Check-In” messages, which are automatically shared on Facebook. Good to know that this works now. :) Thanks again to Hari @ Globalstar, who provided great support!
I’m also happy about my new P.O.V HD helmet camera. There was not much to film today, but I took a few test shots, which look brilliant! Thanks to Ben @ Blickvang, who provided that superior piece!
Location:Delhi to Shimla
19.09.2011 Shimla to Rampur
I arrive in Shimla at around 8 p.m. and it is already dark. As usual I haven’t booked a hotel beforehand, so I have to search for accommodation. No problem in Shimla, as this is a well known Hill Station. After a bit of searching, I decide for the Pineview Hotel for Rs. 650. Not a special place, but good enough for one night.
Shimla – view from the hotel
I want to order some dinner, but am told that kitchen is already closed by 10:30. I end up having some butter toast and a Coke.
Butter toast also for breakfast:
Next morning I want to obtain the “innerline permits” from the “DC Office”, which are required for the Spiti Valley. I ask the guys at the reception, and the tell me the way. It’s a 20 min walk uphill. I find the office closed – “it’s Sunday – Holiday”. Damn it! Why did the guys at the reception tell me the way but not inform me that it’s closed? I find out that the permit can be obtained in Rampur as well, so I decide to do that 130 km ride today.
The first 50 km from Shimla to Rampur (NH22) are pretty bumpy. The roads are destroyed during the monsoon season and the heavy traffic. The weather is nice and I enjoy riding “BigBertha”. Time to practice standing on the bike for better balance. I’ll need that off road style a lot in the next month.
The remaining 60 km to Rampur are brilliant. Perfect roads, nice scenery and I’m having a great day.
The Metzeler Karoo knobby tires are doing great, even on tarmac, I just have to keep reminding myself: “Take it easy and save the rubber!” ;)
Fantastic view of the Satluj Valley towards Rampur:
Shortly before Rampur I run into a group of 10 Israelis. They all met somehow in Leh and decided to rent a bunch of Enfields to explore the region.
They ask me to join them for dinner, which I gladly accept and we have a fantastic evening. :)
Location:Shimla to Rampur
19.9.2011 Rampur – Chitkul (the last village of India – walking distance to Tibet)
Let’s get up at 7:00 and have breakfast at 08:00, I’m told. Well, I got up in time, but cannot find anyone in the breakfast room. The guys must have partied a bit longer, I think. Anyway, I go ahead with breakfast.
As I’m always curious, I check the kitchen first:
Eventually, the rest of the gang gets into gears. The group will split up: 6 of them will go back straight to Manali. The others decide to do the entire “Spiti Valley circle” and cross the Rothang Pass back to Manali. A photo shooting prior to departure is a must:
I’m asked if I’d like to join the “brave group”, Raphael, Guy and Einav, which I’m happy to, as they go my route. Somehow we get lost right at the beginning of the convey, but meet at the next “Indian Oil” gas-station again. There, a local Enfield rider tells me about a temple nearby, which we must not miss. We decided to go up there, visit the temple and have lunch.
Guy, Einav and Raphael:
As I always look for “High-Speed” or “Power” quality petrol (which is btw max. 93 Octan), I haven’t filled up in Rampur. As the “remaining distance” on my dashboard goes down quickly, I start to get nervous. There hasn’t been any gas station for quite some time. At the crossing up to Chitkal, I leave the group to search for petrol. I know that I won’t make it up to Chitkul and back. Neither my GPS nor the map or local people can tell me the location for the next gas station, so I’m getting nervous. Luckily I find one some 14 km further down the road.
Needless to say, there wasn’t any of the premium quality petrol I was hoping for. However, a full tank is always satisfying. It’s already getting dark as I leave the gas station. I’ll need to go all the way back and from the crossing it’s about 40 km to Chitkul. This will be my first ride offroad in the dark. A bit scary, but fortunately I have auxiliary lights, which proof to be working great. This is also a great situation for some tests with my P.O.V HD camera, which worked great!
On the way up I find Nadav, who we met at the temple. He looks a bit exhausted! No wonder, his Enfield has a headlight comparable to a candle. I drive behind him to light up his way.
Once arrived, we are welcomed by the rest of the group, who are happy that we made it in the dark. We have dinner at the guesthouse and a great time sharing stories.
20.09.2011 Chitkul – Reckong Peo – Kalpa
I wake up early, around 6 a.m. Not sure if it’s because I’m so excited to be back on the road, or if it’s the altitude, which makes me sleep bad. I step outside to see how the place looks like, where I arrived in the dark last night:
After a walk around the village, we start the engines and go back to NH-21. The views remind me of Kashmir from the Pakistani side:
Further down the road Einav falls. Apparently she used the front brake too hard and the wheel blocked. She hurts her knee and hands, but it’s not a serious injury. Proper first aid is provided by the guys, who all had served the Israeli Army:
There is no chance to get the permits from the DC office directly. We are forced to get them from a Tourist office, which charges Rp. 350. The same permit if free of charge if obtained from Kaza (going the Spiti circle the other way around. The guys at the Tourist office are friendly though and put a “BigTomsRide sticker” on their window:
During lunch, the Indian bikes are being fixed at a workshop. Every bike has some minor technical issues. We spend all afternoon in Reckong Peo waiting for the bikes to get ready and drive up to Kalpa for the night. – Hotel Rollingrang, Kalpa
Sunset at Kapa:
We have dinner at a fancy restaurant.
21.09.2011 Kalpa – Nako Lake
We get up in time and go back to Reckong Peo for breakfast. I buy a new horn as the compressor of my Stebel Magnum horn seems to have difficulties with the thin air at this altitude. I also buy a liter of engine oil – Castrol Active 20W40 for Rp. 260 (about €4!!). Man, oil is really cheap in India!
The NH-22 continues to be bumpy, but there are also some sections of great pavement, which apparently was just done.
I have a look into the book at check point. There are only a few foreigners who went through recently. The police men cannot tell me which direction these guys went, so it’s unclear if there were heading towards the Spiti Valley or back to Shimla or Manali. However, from the license plates recorded in the book, I figure those tourists must ride local Enfields. No proper overlanders in that region these days. :(
Guy wants to take a test ride with BigBertha as the road is brilliant. All goes well until the first bumpy section, where he almost falls. “Great ride!” is his conclusion, “but I would need to get used to the weight of this monster bike”
Up at the Nako Lake I spot two Yamaha Ténéré 660’s with Swiss license plates. It’s Janine and Fabian, a Swiss couple on their “round Asia” tour. Their travel blog can be found at Ténéré Experience Tours
They had the pleasure of traveling with Michael Martin for a couple of days. I’m excited to meet Michael as well. He is a famous photographer and motorcycle adventurer.
I spent all afternoon talking with Janine and Fabian about travel stories and our routes. After India, they’ll go through Nepal – Thailand – Laos – Cambodia – Singapore. They then will ship their bikes to Japan, from where they will explore Russia – Mongolia and the “Stans”.
As Janine and Fabian are mostly camping, they prefer to cook their own dinner. I provide my cooking gear and we all have a fantastic dinner evening: