Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Day 8: Pandoh to Chindi

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Note: Not the route we took. The route above has actual roads.

Pandoh to Chindi. An almost infinitesimally small distance on a map turns into 7 hours of riding over backroads. Endless switchbacks and bad roads. Metronomic blind corners and trucks. Tiring and nervewracking, the riding is about having faith into a corner and signalling your intentions with your hooter, loud and often. Processions of small towns and smiling schoolkids.

Average 15 or 20km/h.

Didn't fall off the bike today, but riding too carefully, too slowly at first. Frustration, mine and the others'. Confidence low and feeling guilty at slowing the procession. First gasps of confidence as we roar into Chindi and the Bates motel with more shitty food and the same shitty beer.

Day 7: Manali to Pandoh

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Start slowly. Rob still sick and I'm not high on confidence. Get the bikes ready and the bags strapped down and some coffee and banana pancakes at Chopsticks. Ready to move in a southerly direction. No idea how quickly we'll go, but 200km in a day is more than optimistic.

We go. We lose Huck. Find Huck. Moving again.

Sand on a corner outside another one horse town. Look back for Huck and bang, off the bike again. Bruised but not damaged. Not happy to be here. Low motivation and lower confidence. Inched into Pandoh over scary passes full of trucks and buses and cars. 200km in a day feels completely unattainable.

Shitty roadside hotel, shitty food, shitty beer. Everything seems shitty when you feel like this, so not a charitable assessment. Get some sleep and get the hell out, aiming for, well, we don't know yet.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Day 5 and 6: Manali

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Banana pancakes. Bike touts. First real introduction to our soon-to-be-anthropomorphised modes of transport, and feel the excitement growing. We really are doing this. Find Anu Autoworks at the top of the hill, right next to a climbing shop. Svetlana gives us coffee and we talk bikes and routes and origins and destinies. More coffee and friendly bullshit.

The chilled out eponymous arrives. More friendly bullshit about bikes and routes and suddenly we're coming back 3 hours later to watch them service our bikes.

Bikes get serviced. Rob gets sick. We get bikes.

Collect in the morning.

It's on.

Morning. Rob sick. Rob siiiick. Huck and I get bikes and aim them in the direction of the still-closed Rhotung. Try to get bearings on big bikes that we haven't ridden.

Snow and vistas and tourists and tight tight tight corners. Bikes are good, as is confidence. Get to the snow line, still 30kms to the top and it's almost may. No Rhotung for us.

Descent. Hairpin. Car. Ice and water, a streak through the midpoint. HUck goes, water. I go, ice. I go over, onto my shoulder, leg under the bike. Accident. Bam. Carry on like nothing happened. Just a few more scrapes and scratches. Broken footpeg, bent crashbar, wounded pride and fractured confidence.

Later. more shaken than I think. Sore shoulder, leg, hip, elbow.

Later. Rob better. We roll out tomorrow. Nerves not helped by accident. Fuck it. Just go.

Day 4: Shimla to Manali

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Bus again, but less cramped. 10 hours. Fitful sleep. Puncture. Make that 12 hours. More fitful sleep. Talk to a cool kid. Learning english. Fearless of the big, gruff, bearded guys. Mountain passes. More mountain passes. Scary fucking driving. Really scary fucking driving. Snow caps and steep drop-offs and roads that scare the shit out of me.

Truck and bus and narrow narrow narrow road equals accident. Next to my sleeping head. Wake with a bang. Just carry on like nothing happened. Just a few more scratches and scrapes.

More snow caps. Road between Pandoh and Kullu is the most beautiful I've seen, but one of the first in the long list of scary roads that we'll see. It's scary enough in a bus, I really wouldn't want to.. Shit.

Manali. Rain. Bustle. Nepal and Tibet and China and India and Kashmir. This is not Delhi, Toto, and thank god for that.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Day 3: Delhi to Shimla

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Air-conditioned luxury to Kalka. Contrast and compare the luxury train to Kalka, fighting manfully for the title of the worst place in the world, the shittiest shithole in India. A shitty town full of even shittier, unhelpful people. I would rather lick out a New Delhi sewer than live in Kalka. My ire knows no bounds. Kalka is irredeemable. No Himalayan Queen for us. Fuck. Disappointment.

Bus? Taxi? Taxi is cash money and quick, bus is cheap and tiring and shitty and dangerous. Taxi.

Suprise. They try to rip us off.


Bus. No direct bus. Fuck. Bus to Solan. Cramped. Four hours of mountain passes, screaming brakes and screaming people. Solan. Yet another small town in northern India. Bus to Shimla, creaky as shit. Cramped. This one goes slowly. Not a bad thing. More altitude, more mountain passes, less screaming. Fall asleep and wake up outside Shimla. Fuck. Fuuuuck. They built a city down the side of a steep hill. It's beautiful. Clean. Clamour- and stress-free and cold and cool, the polar opposite of Delhi. Full of monkeys. Words cannot do it's shabby majesty justice.

Hotel. Food. Alcohol. Sleep.

Note: As with the last post, these are pretty much just transcribed notes that I made on the trip, posted while I try to write it all up.

Day 2: Delhi

Still mired/tired/wired in Delhi. Filth and majesty and loud loud loud populace and continual clatter and din and interactions and shouting and hooting and friction and heat and grinding and colliding and I am incapable of processing this, of relating it to a mental model that is built on a semblance of order and rules and discernible logic, let alone assembling it into a reliable narrative. I feel like Hosni Mubarak, like I am seeing a past and a future interwoven so subtly that I don't know which is which.

And then to something I can understand: great food in a hole in the wall next to a hole in the ground. More wandering: touron, mouth agape at the Red Fort, a sandstone monolith that took decades to build and was what can only be described as a fuck up. It's still spectacular, but better luck next time. Back to the hole in the wall at the hole in the ground. Back to the Gem Bar. Kingfisher and Fuel and Honey Bee brandy.

Train to Kalka tomorrow, then hopefully we can sneak a few seats on the Himalayan Queen train to Shimla.

Note: These are pretty much transcriptions of the notes that I took during the trip. I'll post them to provide a picture of it all, while I write up the trip properly.