Day 10: Theog – Jalori Pass – Manali
18th Nov 2004 – “Jalori Pass” My life’s first Pass, I rode over.
Having no idea about the time it will take to reach Manali and then to Rohtang pass, an early morning start is needed. So when the alarm wakes me up at 06:20hrs I started to get ready. Water is so cold that I could only dare to do brush and potty. No way that I will take bath with this freezing water. After packing the bags I come out and got to see the view right outside my room which can’t be described in words or captured in a picture. The room is situated on the side of valley with a view of complete valley seen. The valley is covered in bluish light.
After clicking some pictures I come down and take my bike out of the hotel. Settle the hotel bill (Rs 200 for the room and Rs 27 for dinner) and warm up the bike. It is freezing cold outside and all the clothes I’m wearing are feeling insufficient in this weather. Shivering with cold I some how manage to start from Theog at 07:05hrs with odo showing 17,995. The roads are empty and it’s cold but enjoyable weather. The scenery is great and possibly I did the right thing of not travelling in dark, would have missed all this beautiful view around. Keeping speeds low as I don’t want to miss any view or risk my life as the road is not the smoothest/widest of all.
The scenery is changing and I can possible keep on stopping and clicking pictures every minute but decide to carry but could not stop myself to click this panoramic view of mountain. You can see the road and group of houses, of small town on the road, in the picture.
After a small 5min break to click the picture I started again to wards Narkanda. The road is not the best and bumpy at times. Around 08:00 I reach the small town of Narkanda. People are in the early stages of starting their day when me and my bullet enter the town forcing people to take a glimpse of some lunatic who has entered their town at this time of the day, on a bike. After the town on seeing another amazing view of mountains on right hand side I stop.
Odo is showing 18,030. Camera got busy, for the first time I’m seeing snow in real, though at a distance. You can see me trying to smile but the cold has made my face go a bit numb.
After spending 5minutes, I resume back. Few minutes after leaving Narkanda, as sun started to come out, mercury has started to climb up. Descend has started and the road is coming down via a few hairpin bends. Small children are walking on their way to school. Riding for few more km’s I look down the valley, as I have started to ride downwards, and I see river Sutlej flowing like a snake at the bottom of mountains.
Riding for around 30+km I reach Sainj after which I have to get off NH 22. Odo is showing 18,066 and it 09:00hrs, after 4km’s I take the left turn after crossing a bridge over river Sutlej. It is not feeling much of cold as sun is visible in sky. Now slowely I’m starting to climb up. Took a stop to click the picture of the road, we humans living in cities don’t get to ride on roads like this. A narrow road made by cutting mountain side, with mountain on one side and river on the other side in a valley. One mistake and you are history.
Now I’m riding up the mountain on a state road. Occasionally I’m able to see HP State transport bus reminding me where I’m riding to, civilization do exists. Riding for some 45min I enter Ani, odo is showing 18,091 and clock is showing 09:45hrs. Decide not to stop and carry on riding. Crossing Ani and I could see pine trees on the both side. On the left hand side into the valley there are some pine trees whose bottom is not visible. Now there is no vehicular traffic except for my bike but could occasionally see some ladies walking to somewhere in small groups. Slowely the climb started to get steeper and now I’m no more able to cruise in top gear, the riding gear now has come down to 3rd or 2nd. With Jalori just 3km away, stopped to click a picture.
Road now has started to get more and more steeper, in straights I’m able to ride in 2nd but come a turn and I have to drop to 1st gear, specially because at many of the turns the road is broken so I’m not able to carry speed into the turns. As I’m approaching close to Jalori Pass the rideable gear has come down to 1st due to the steepness in climb and at many places the road is broken. At one of the place, I’m lucky to see through a small break in pine trees population, the view of valley from where I have climbed up. You can see in the picture river Sutlej flowing at the bottom and the road on left side mountain using which I have reached till here.
I resume ahead to see some people making the road, negotiating bike over those freshly laid stones for road work, I could see the puzzled look on their face, wondering why in the world a person is riding all alone to such a place. Now even in straight I have to ride for most of the time in 1st gear. Luckily I don’t have to use clutch to keep the bike moving. For first time I realised the torque of a bullet, just hold the revs and bike keeps on climbing up the climb in the gear, no need to declutch or overrev the engine. Few hundred meters before the top, road improves and I could see some man made objects to live, safe from the outside climate. Finally I have reached top of Jalori. Odo is showing 18,123 and its 11:00hrs. Decide to take a small break and look around. Parked my bike on roadside to let the bike also enjoy the view of the valley from where we both have climbed to the top.
There is a temple and at the base of the temple building, somebody has painted about Jalori Pass as “Height – 3135 Mtrs. 10281 Feet”.
Right after crossing the temple the road all of a sudden breaks into a dirt track. Now descend is going to start. Starting after a 10min break, few meters away I come across this small patch of snow/ice whatever you want to call it. Having never in life seen snow/ice on mountain, can’t stop myself to go and touch it by my hands. This is the moment of my life when I have touched snow/ice in mountain for the first time, can’t miss to capture this moment in camera. After clicking the picture, when trying to move on it, I also experienced my first slip of ice.
Having memories of some special moment, I have been through in last few minutes I start my ride down the Jalori pass. After initial dirt track, road improves to bumpy tar surface with potholes and not very wide. Coming down I realise the kind of height I have climbed to. Without accelerating the bike, it is easily doing 80+ on speedo meter which coming down the slope, making it difficult to stop the bike by just braking before the curves. After a few curves, brakes started to heat up and loose its bite. Thankfully the steep decline lasted for just a few kilometers and then I’m back on a gradual decline. Soon I’m back into civilization, riding through some small villages. Each of these villages is having a board fixed at the start, indicating the name and population. Almost all the villages are having less than 100 as the population with some of them even as small as 20. I couldn’t stop but to compare it with the average size of a small computer firm, which easily crosses 20 persons. As I’m coming down, the size of village is going relatively bigger and finally I cross one with the population above 100.
After crossing Banjar I’m stopped at a check post as one of the senior officer needed lift till the next town, I showed them the lugguage I got at the back and they let me pass. As I cross the checkpost, I realise that the box which I have fitted at the back has somehow got loose. I stopped the bike and inspected it. One of the nut-bolt has come loose and fallen off, probably when I was coming down jalori over bumpy surface at high speeds. I’m not carrying any spare nut-bolt, so I tied the box with some rope till the next town. I wasted around 10min in doing so.
After I resume tying the box, I realise that I have come almost at the bottom of the mountain as I can see river Tirthan on the left side of road. After riding though a small section, since crossing the check post, of lovely patch with no civilization I start to get signs of nearing to civilization with some traffic on road and people walking on roadside. Soon I enter the town of Larji. It’s a really small town with lots of traffic it took me some time to cross it. Few kilometers later I come out on NH21 after crossing Aut. Finally I’m back on smooth wide road with some amount of traffic on it. Kullu is just a few kilometers away and that’s to the road I’m able to cruise at higher speed, as compared to what I was riding since morning. On the way I see lots of tourist traffic, who all are also going towards Manali. Around 13:00hrs I enter the town of Kullu. The road passes through the town and is a bit narrow for the amount of traffic which passes through it. Seeing a hardware shop, I stop there to buy some spare nut bolts to fix the rear box. After crossing Kullu town, I stop for lunch at a roadside hotel on right hand side. Odo is showing 18,198 and clock is showing 13:20.
Even though it is in the afternoon, one can hardly feel the warmess of sun in the shade. The place I have stopped is a hotel come shop for some Himachal woolen clothes. The place is almost empty. I place my lunch order. Owner of this place is a young guy, who comes out and looks at the parked bike. He then comes to my table and asks normal question. Where am I coming from? Where am I going to? Knowing about my ride, coming from Pune and the route, he is surprised. He then asks where other people are. I tell him that I’m riding alone he is shocked to hear my answer. After my food, I resume the ride at 14:10. With a long time for sun to set, I’m hoping to reach Rohtang Pass and come back to Manali before it gets dark.
With Manali just 40 odd kilometers away, I decide to quckly reach there so that I have enough time to reach Rohtang Pass. Thanks to the road, I’m not facing any difficulty to cruise at 60-70. Riding for another 45min, I enter the town of Manali. It surely is a tourist place. One can see lots of people walking on road side. Plenty of tourist cars and busses are parked on road side. Slowely riding through the Manali city, with odo showing 18,242 and clock showing 14:55 I stop to ask for directions for Rohtang Pass. Confirming that I’m on right road, I continue through the tourist filled town of Manali. After crossing a small wodden bridge I come at a ‘T’ juction with the well painted direction board by BRO showing right turn for Rohtang Pass and Leh, reading the board is very tempting. Still to be sure I stop at a hotel, asking for directions and other information. On hearing that I’m planing to go right now to Rohtang Pass, the hotel owner suggested me not to do so as he says that after 1pm normally people don’t go up to Rohtang as in evenings, after Palchan, the wind speed gets high and sometimes its so high that it can take a person with him. Having climbed some small hills in and around Pune, I’m looking a bit confused and not ready to accept the reasons he is telling. Reading my face expressions he tells me that it is not because he is having a hotel, he is saying all this to me, I can talk to any local person and he will say the same. Well not agreeing to him, I decide to go towards Rohtang.
I start to ride on the road as indicated by the direction board. The road is running alongside a river. After a few kilometers I have left all signs of civilization behind and I’m now out in open, the climb has started. At each turn one can see a great view of the mountains around you. Riding up at slow speed enjoying the scenery, I cross the town of Palchan. Right after crossing the town, all of a sudden it gets all barren land. I see a qualis coming down from Rohtang side, with the driver and some passengers giving a strange look to me. As said by that hotel owner, the wind has started to increase but I’m not finding much of a problem in riding. Few hundred meters, I encounter one of the strongest crosswind, I have ever faced ever since I have started to ride bikes. I’m riding in the middle of the road, the moment this crosswind hits me, the bike almost goes from the middle of road to the leftmost side of the road, towards the valley side. This one scary moment is good enough for me to take advice of the hotel owner seriously and I decide to head back.
I’m riding back to Manali thinking that this is not the time when I normally calls end of day on a ride. Its just 16:00hrs only. So I decide to stop on a road side bullet garage to get the chain and brakes adjusted. Sitting there I see another road climbing up to somewhere, with lots of vehicle going in that direction. After getting the brakes and chain adjusted I decide to head in the direction of everyone going. It’s a ride for couple of kilometers before you hit a dead end with lots of hotels, shops around there. On enquiring I come to know that there is a hot water spring. I decide to go but read this board that we need to remove our foot wear, so dropped the idea and started to look around for a hotel to stay. Roaming around, I realised this is some sort of hippy colony, having no interest in staying at such a place, I head back to Manali.
Entering the city I find this good looking hotel, Hotel New Shivalik. The charge for a single room is Rs 400, so I decide to check in. I confirmed with the person on desk that the bike will be safe in the hotel parking. Dumping my lugguage in the hotel room and removing my riding gear, I come out of hotel to first go and top up fuel tank for the next day ride. Next I make some phone calls to home and friends. After parking the bike I decide to join the tourist population and take a walk towards market. After seeing a netcafe decide to kill some time there, as it is not even dark yet. After 1 hr and paying some Rs 100 as charge, I come out in market. Looking at a leather shop, I enter to buy a pair of gloves and a woolen cap, as I experienced that my current gloves and just the helmet will not be enough to save me from the cold. After shopping I decide to get a shave. By the time I’m done doing all this to kill time, it has got dark and I can have dinner. Walking by some resturants, I come across this resturant which got a stall outside showing some big and hot “gulab jamuns”, can’t stop myself and I enter the hotel to have food. Ordered a plate of Mushroom chowmen, it’s a veg resturant. After gulping chowmen, a plate of those big, hot, yummy gulab jamuns are ordered. Having these hot gulab jamuns in the cold of Manali is an experience I’ll recommend to every gulab jamun lover. This delicious food costed me Rs 90 and after this I start my walk towards my hotel to watch some TV.
Reaching hotel, I enquired with the hotel manager about what time tourist normally start for Rohtang Pass, so that I can start before them, to avoid traffic. Manager replied saying around 08:00am, so I decide to start by 07:00am. Set my alarm and I head towards my room to watch some TV and sleep.