Thailand – A Paradox (Part 1)

How to Reach Thailand Without Killing Yourself

Hmm, you naughty boys went to Thailand we heard, with a smirk and impertinence in the tone, they asked, it was obvious what this snug was meant for, it was a routine affair back home.

Yes, I went to Thailand, that was all I could mumble, concealing myself in an imaginary fortification of ignorance.

We were back in town, met an uncle and an aunty, mid-aged stout lady, who had traveled herself a bit, but the only outing, she discerned as excursion, was with her favourite tele serial characters, rest it was all bull shit. The uncle was a thin and slender subdued man, with a little pot belly and an inward chest gracing him, his sole idea of a trip, is to drive round to nearby hill station drinking beer, drink litres of whisky next day and come back drinking beer, having time of his life. I am not jeering or criticizing anyone else’s choice, but when personal whims are put under scrutiny, humans are bound to get salty.

It was a destination that would turn us into a scornful breed, like the era of segregation hadn’t passed yet, you will be seen upon as someone of depraved mentality, a libertine who doesn’t abide by the law of the land, for whom the animal isn’t holy and the reverence for the other sex doesn’t prevail in the frontal lobe, the wiring had been mishandled with, in the nation of 130 crore humans, sex is a taboo, a forbidden affair only to discuss about, not the other way around. Alright enough of the blabbering and apologies for this emotional outburst.

The Journey

This story is from beginning of the year, early January, it is being published this late due to lack of intellectual resources, which we still lack in abundance, but have been accorded with adequate enough to narrate this one.


There were seven of us, other than two of us desperadoes Mr. A and Mr. G, there was an oaf Mr. RR, a Canadian boaster Mr.H, two devotees Mr. Ak and Mr. V. The bachelor Mr. AA was going to meet us at Gurgaon. It was originally meant to be a trip to Bali, but tickets shot up unexpectedly and the destination swayed to Thailand.

The Taxi

Six of us began our journey by  the taxi – an Innova and by the time everyone was picked up and we left the city, the driver was vexed enough to feed us to hungry dogs, if he could. He was so frustrated, that he didn’t heeded even, to our desperate cries for call of nature. Only when oaf’s system couldn’t take it anymore and the chamber was filled with smell of dead rats, we’re accorded a much needed break almost after 3 hours and covering more than 200 kms, after little tea and snacks the situation eased up a bit, but after a while he was again irritated, maybe it was odour of one of us, that was tripping his nerves, he again missed the cut to dhaba and then took a death defying U turn, took wrong lane on the National Highway and landed us at the dhaba somehow, the shock killed most of the hunger and there are only vague memories of that dinner, he was hell-bent to make us repent the destination we have chosen, the flight was from IGI airport Teminal 1, New Delhi in the morning, we reached Delhi by midnight and the plan was to spend the night at Mr. AA’s home in Gurgaon, but the uncanny attitude of the bastard continued (he can be abused now, reasons are pretty enough) and we were stranded on the road in the midnight with luggage, before Gurgaon’s entrance, he refused to enter Gurgaon due to some permit issues. Here Uber came to our rescue and we reached our destination somehow, much to the surprise of Mr. AA, who never thought that we’ll take his courtesy seriously.


You know when there are 7 people in a group, your brain tells you, it’ll be a happy go lucky trip, but how the circumstances unfold themselves in the future, make you question the whole school of numerology and the deceit it’s based upon, we in Northern part of India are dealing with another catastrophe these days, that’s fog due to pollution and burning of paddy remains which turns into deadly smog, for us nuclear winter is already here, at least for 4-5 months. We’re the last ones to board the flight, reached after multiple final calls, because shitty Starbucks coffee is more important than whole trip, although it’s already priced almost at par with the trip, I’ll rant for some time now, ‘why’? Because the flight was of a vaguely reputed airlines, still over expensive and 5 of us including two of us, the lucky ones were given seats in the last row, which is a torture exported from medieval ages, you have to sit with your back straight as your seat is fixed to wall behind it, the food was paid and rubbish, and there was a 12-hour layover at Kolkata.


We were in the land of Sarat Chandra (the maestro of human emotions, especially of an estranged one and women) and Tagore, Mr. AA had worked in Kolkata for two years, but his idea of Bengal is Mohun Bagan FC – because everybody is fan of it and a quest for almost non-existent veg food, when asked about the monuments or a good market, it was one blank stare of ignorance, alright google maps rescued us, took ola cab and the curse of driver continued, this one was also, adamant to kill us without damaging his car much, one was such a near miss, we still wonder what saved us. We were in hunt for authentic fish curry and reached park street area somehow, here Mr. AA suddenly got back his lost memory and pointed us towards a restaurant, who’s staff straight away told us that they serve Italian food only and this part of city is still under Empire, meanwhile we were waiting for firang sahib’s on their horses to whip us for creating nuisance, running here and there on busy streets with our luggage before, a Bengali restaurant called Arsalan rescued us, the biryani was good but the fish curry we had was divine, you’ll never find anything tantamount, in North (our idea of eating fish is to deep fry it and eat it only in winters, when having whiskey), short on time and due to hustle bustle of city, plan to visit any other place was killed, 4 people went ahead.

But those vibrant yellow coloured vintage ambassador’s roused the inner child in us left behind and sitting in that majestic ride of bureaucrats and aristocrats was just utter fun, “bumblebee’s running on Victorian streets, along with their humming mounted fans, amidst colourful caged houses, football fans and cheery lads.”


Back at the airport in waiting area, boys have weaved a new theory by the time, there was a little Indian girl of 12 or 13 with an old foreign lady and the girl doesn’t look happy, there were fatuous guesses; she could be her grandmother, she must have adopted her, daughter of a friend who’s nearby and the wildest one, ha-ha, she is a child trafficker (the emotions in one or two of the Quixote’s had to be curbed down by the time).

Taxi – Part 2

Rambling along duty free shops, smoking in death chambers, we boarded the wild goose and we had landed in the land of smiling people, the first thing you notice are big sign boards everywhere, which beware you about human trafficking, now this Suvarnabhumi Airport is so colourful, you’ll find each and every race, age and sex here, making it one of a kind. We bought some essentials at duty free and learned the Thai word for hello (Swasdee ka), it was all swasdee ka’s afterwards, we had forgotten Namaste and hello for some time, four of us had our visas whereas others went for, on arrival visa, while we were waiting for them, it was nice to see employees, taking care of luggage, themselves retrieving it from belts and matching the boarding passes, the jackets were still on as we’re coming from freezing temperatures, as we took an exit, thermal shock and the jackets were neatly abandoned, it was around 2:30 in the morning and our next stop was Pattaya. Here we saw a 7/11 store and hence began a love affair between man and a store, we got ourselves an Innova, here also somehow, the man was hesitant, if all of us will fit in, as there was an issue, earlier our taxi had a carrier on roof, this one doesn’t and that day we came to know how those caged, crammed chickens feel like, we were the ones, Thai people are crazily in love with the pickup trucks, it’s a monopoly. We reached Pattaya early morning and I forget to mention, that we had a free confirmation booking for hotel rooms (yes we are procrastinators and dimwits), by the time we reached, the rooms were gone, man at the reception, promised to get us accommodated positively somewhere when pestered every 5 minutes, early morning, in the hotel lobby, pool area, restaurant, we were everywhere, tired, lazing around, sleeping and doing whatnot, it wasn’t a perfect start to trip or day or anything.


Around 8:00 am, we’re all almost awake, there were lot of bemused faces around by this time, seeing our drooling and swollen faces, sitting, sleeping in an awkward posture, we gathered ourselves as politely as possible, again infuriated receptionist and went to an eating joint in front of our hotel, the plan was to skip hotel food and have try local cuisine as much as possible, but there were dark days ahead, it was a small roadside joint, with only one girl working in the open kitchen, an old granny was doing prep work, we were given menu and it was all fine till then, the dishes were named in both English and Thai with their pictorial description side by, we ordered Thai Fried rice with chicken and pork, there was another big problem at hand, she doesn’t understand English, we were depressed but the pictures were there for illiterates like us, now we showed her the dish and what came on table was relatively 20% the same thing what was in picture, we told her it’s not the dish shown here, she smiled in return, we told her earth is round, she smiled in return, asked her what came before chicken or egg, she smiled in return, this cannot carry on for long, we will starve here surely and there was a thunder in the sky and there was a divine voice; Kids use a translator. This time, converted the name, showed her, she again smiled but the dish came out alright and was relevant, oh the relief, but it wasn’t for long.

Source – Google Images

The Eggs

Then suddenly Andrew Zimmer took over us, we ordered preserved eggs next, the dreaded eggs, the outer shell had turned translucent grey and the yolk was ash black, suddenly everything smelled like, a morning cow barn, curious eyes were scrutinizing each other, the eggs were on the table, the first two who tasted them were fine, little hesitation and gobbled down,  but it wasn’t good afterwards ‘Captain, we have a man down, I repeat man down, another one, “copy that”, there are three now, no four, last one saved his life, it was a havoc of puking and overacting’ (in our part of the nation, there is a vast fissure among people of different sects, eating habits vary drastically, even eating a chicken liver or gizzard is a big deal, leave it, even eating an onion or a garlic is forbidden at times), it was one hilarious scene, Socrates must have eaten these eggs instead of poison in reality, the slow, sweet, nourishing death.

Source – Google Images

It Begins With a Vanquished Heart

I forgot to mention, we’re in Northern part of the city, it is a calm and less commercialized side, we got ourselves a nice hotel at bargain, we were allotted rooms at 10:00, dozed off a bit and went to swim in the pool at noon, here all of us were in boxers or swimming trunks san one man, Mr. RR was in a Frenchie underwear, quite a show he put down, ladies were swooning over this dreamy masculine man, though a little stiff and chubby, even a deep sea nymph came allured.

Three of us went to a nearby 7/11, in the search of beer and chips, both of us and Mr. Ak, there she was at the billing counter, the cute, shy damsel with the hazel eyes, the cupid had done his work, Mr. G was hit, another man was down, Maroon 5’s “It was always you” was droning all over, rest of the trip.

Discontent and Optimism

In the evening boys were ready for what they came for, what they want to do, the infamous walking street, which had lured us, was the destination, we took a bath bus taxi, these are trucks with two sitting rows at back, you got to negotiate price with them, what we witnessed at walking street wasn’t very promising, it is a long lane with café, bars, clubs (famous for their notoriety), massage parlours on both sides, there was a scattered crowd of whites and Indians, some pretty girls though, time being everyone was numb, boaster’s mouth was open, it’s a biological design to be attracted towards a beautiful and genetically fit specimen of opposite sex, they weren’t Thai girls but hot, very hot, shops and bars were although open but empty. We walked the lane, had some coffee and came back depressed, those stories we heard were proven deceitful, decided to return once again at time, when the nocturnes will come out of their holes crawling to lure a prey.


We were back at hotel and straightaway went to 7/11 to get beer, this time bastard (Mr. G) was in a frolic mood, he got a chocolate billed, gave it to her and she accepted it with a smile without any hesitation, if it would have been India, there were two options, with the same end, either the boy would have been abused and thrown out or he would have been halve beaten to death and then thrown out (it’s a bitter reality and that’s the future full of hatred, prejudices and odious ambiguities, we’re hell bent to shape a world for our posterity, in which an innocent gesture of love and appreciation is misjudged as one filled with lust and filth).

“Seven little Indian boys chopping up sticks; One chopped himself in halves and then there were six, the journey will continue further, when some dark, revealing days and bitter-sweet anecdotes, faced by boys will unfold.”


Spiti – A Revelation


The Stimulant

The idea was brewing up from the days of that ineffaceable journey to Siam, the inner turmoil was strangely similar in both of us. We needed a relief from this mundane routine, which led to a vague outline of our next journey, actually three of us; the motorcycle was the third inextricable partner.The hesitancy was amidst two of the great Himalayan road journeys, whether Ladakh or Spiti. Although alien to both of them, a little exploration led to affirmation of Spiti valley as the purpose of our ride (the low volume of traffic, an aversion towards unexplored regions and the formation of loop that made us enter from (Shimla – Kinnaur) region and make an exit from Manali).

The Beginning

The summers in Northern plains of India are the next worst thing to it’s yellow journalism and they are surely the backdrop of our first day. We were fully loaded with a firm resolve to tackle anything – the saddle bag was comfortably set upon the seat, the backpack bungeed on the custom back stand, the rucksack was to be carried by the pillion and the action-cam firmly placed upon the helmet.It was six O’ clock in the morning, the daylight was already bestowing upon us its full intensity, when we started, the first stop came shortly after, to fill up the fuel tank (some hazy and muddled morning faces welcoming us or mocking the fools; who knows). The early morning is the ideal phase of the day to ride, with low traffic, cool and gentle breeze and an expanded vision, if the machine is maintained properly, you can cruise through at a constant pace without any irking. The summer fields flooded throughout as far as you can see merging with horizon for rice plantation (the nemesis of groundwater as far as ecology is concerned), an unruly bull and some sporadic daybreak workers are your first companions on the journey.

The Grueling One (Shimla District)

The first ease up stop was at Hoshiarpurian da Dhaba, just before Ropar city, a little tea break to ease off a bit, but the odd stares were little discomforting, albeit justifiable, as you don’t see many people, all packed up in jackets and gloves with strange things on their helmet in this sweltering heat. We went through Baddi and entered Kalka on the Shimla highway and were in for one of the worst track, the road was under construction, the traffic unbearable and driving etiquettes that are accorded from hell, reached Solan somehow and took a break at an oddly-high priced eating joint. When we were about to leave, the clouds trailing us were all ready to burst upon, our initial reluctance to cover up the luggage with tarpaulin costed us a free bath, but yielded us a skill to work with ropes in a jiffy, all packed up in rain-coats, our luggage secured, we decided to continue further in pouring rain, bypassing Shimla city we reached Sanjauli (a suburb of Shimla so pretty esthetically), the rain was in no mood to spare us and now the fog was its new partner in crime, a traffic jam before Narkanda made us feel like a dummy because of the ogling stares, directed upon us, from the folks stuck on the other lane (till date the reason is a mystery; and no we ain’t that hot looking either). The weather lightened up a bit after Narkanda as we started to descend towards Rampur Bushahr with ravenous Sutlej river now accompanying us, the bike was running fairly smooth and we reached Rampur comfortably, the plan was to call it a day but it was very warm in juxtaposition to what we had left behind, so we consented on going on further ahead and layover at a cool high altitude place, we took our next break at jeori for fuel (after this little town the quest for the fuel station becomes a real vexation , and they will get as scarce as hen’s teeth).


There was a little discussion to call Jeori the last station of the day but a weird instinct took us ahead in quest of a little town called Sarahan which is about 14 kms offset from main track, now the first 7 kms were pretty steep ascend and the queer part was that there was no road (if you can call a path paved with unevenly placed quarry stones a road).


In these adversities we forgot that we are in the apple basket belt of Himachal and are engulfed by apple trees all around, it took some time but once acquainted with our surroundings; the beautiful mountains, the sun beyond horizon, but still a vague shimmer in the sky, the local red-cheeked kids and those apple trees, we realized what divinity would look like and what the quest should be, the distance covered was almost 450 kms, a record (not a big believer of records though). This little town is a home to a holy shrine called Bhimakali (one of the shakti peeth dedicated to goddess Durga built in sutlej-valley style architecture), hence the majority of dhabas are vegetarian, we got a room at a guest house (plenty of them here), ate veg momos in dinner, somehow reluctantly and dropped our bundle. The next day started with evident fatigue and aches, though they receded themselves after a while. We loaded our luggage, had a breakfast of paranthas with rajma, vegetable, curd and some coffee at a small joint near bus stop – now the food is getting pretty good in flavor and generous in quantity as we are moving away from commercialization, the dilemma of owner’s girl to get cola she was requested for, was one comical event – an utterly bewildered face, like “what strange thing they have asked for? what does one do with it!”

The Frail Borders (Chitkul)

The last inhabited village on Indo-China border – Chitkul, was our next target and it lured us into Kinnaur district. We left Sarahan, passed the tacky stretch and after a while we’re on a rather smooth road, wonder if hydro power projects are the reason (bet they are and its working fine), en-route met some curious people – a lone cyclist on a Himalayan journey, an unaided son of motherland on motorcycle with a big Indian flag wavering on a special post on his bike (he was in some doubt and bought us to halt, to conform if his handmade map is taking him along right way, as far as we knew he was on fair track and as far as for him he was in a haste).

IMG_9650Moving past Sutlej valley we entered Baspa valley at Karcham, the road conditions worsened ahead, after crossing the Truss bridge, you won’t encounter any human dwelling till Sangla, there is an ascend in altitude, the road gets narrower, curves are blind and sharp, there are no guard rails and Baspa river flows by in a deep gorge as your right side companion (also, use of horn on road curves is better rather than its constant honking in a river bed). At Sangla, we stopped for lunch and noticed that our uncanny attitude towards riding gloves had presented us with sunburns on the hands (and they ain’t called burns without any reason).We had chowmein and mutton momos for lunch, our server Sonu was one busy man that day.

IMG_7466After Sangla the road condition starts to get bit better, the valley widens up a bit and the aftermath of a landslide that changed the course of the whole river could be seen, it flows through a jungle now – ‘those pines are still wondering why the land below them is always so wet and wiggling. A glacial stream from the wide valley overlooking a village, an artificial watercourse, proximate bare peaks, all of them are reason enough to trigger the aesthete in oneself.

There is an ITBP security post some kms before Chitkul (a customary check) and boom here we are, the closest we ever had been to China.Instead of going into village, we went down towards river first and were mesmerized finding a camping site there, got ourselves a tent in a snap. The village itself is like any other mountain dwelling, a temple, a school, local men playing cards whilst smoking bidis, the houses built in typical style (the ground floor being used to store wood and fodder in majority), there are few home stays (felt a bout of guilt when out of sheer curiosity we jaywalked into a home stay, got a very warm welcome by the duo of sisters, but had to break their heart eventually), back at camping site there were more occupancies, there was a routine bonfire in the evening – met a peculiar group of people here which included some wanderers, some stoners, a soul-hunter, amateur photographers in the pursuit of milky way and a local elder who never in his happy life had traveled outside Himachal. The night was disturbingly cold, which was worsened further by precipitation inside the tent. The chit – chat of an excited group broke our sleep earlier than usual, the sunlight made everything around alive and vivid, shining on golden pinnacles making them worth a treasure hunt and we planned the itinerary for the upcoming journey, heeding advise of a seasoned traveler.


The inferno (Nako)

We started bit early from Chitkul, had breakfast at Sangla, Sonu was again a busy man. The plan was to reach Nako by the day’s end, from Karcham we’re on NH5, the tar was burning like infernal fire, whoever says mountains have fine weather, hasn’t tasted much of its sunshine. After crossing Shongtong bridge, you’ve got sutlej on your right side and at the next station – Powari, there is a priceless fuel station, though you had to be extremely lucky to get fuel here (either it’s out of stock or there’s a maintenance issue), we waited here for almost 2 hours, as the pump had malfunctioned and decided to move on after a while, seeing no ray of hope. There is another pump in the vicinity at Reckong-Peo just 7 kms from main highway (the reputation it holds is also not a decent one), you will get fuel station at Kaza after this (which is more than 200 kms away and could be stretched up to 400 kms because of the off-track destinations in the way, so get yourself some reserve fuel), due to lack of time, Kalpa had to be skipped altogether. The drive till Spillow is a smooth one (an easy toggle between third and fourth gear), a little break here, a broken patch there, but after crossing Spillow get ready to rock and roll, for your own Mad Max – Fury Road reloaded experience, throw in some army trucks, a group of over enthusiastic off-roaders, a 30 kms long track of gravel and dust (you have your custom made death road). Asking for a pass from a bus or a car is next to death wish, in this case army trucks were pretty cool; a single honk and they will let you pass. There was another code-red situation at hand, the saddle bag got torn along its seams at various places due to bumpy ride, but the extra rope came in as a saviour and secured it comfortably again.


 The confluence point of Spiti and Sutlej is called Khab Sangam and as soon as you cross the bridge, the whole scenario changes, bloody everything is brown, the river, the mountains, the river bed, the landscape, sun – each and everything had that gritty yellowish-brown tinge, except the road, which albeit properly maintained is a bundle of an infinite zig-zags


(Now especially in case of two wheelers, always try to go through outer radius over any kind of bend in mountains, it’ll provide you a smoother and balanced transition without much need of braking, rather than turning around shorter radius, there is always an aversion to risk in latter case, either to lose balance or come to a sudden halt).

We reached Nako by the evening, straight away went to a camping ground situated above the lake, but the price of a single tent was enough to give us nightmares for quite a time, in the end sense prevailed, found ourselves a guest house in the village and were instantly told, to order in advance if needed anything special in dinner by our animated host Mr. Raj (Two chickens were taken out of existence that day, to satiate our fancy).


The village is little different with its little nooks and corners, numerous jumbled up lanes and amiable residents, who are a little protective about their lake which they proclaim as holy.


The water-body could be better termed as a pond rather than a lake, it is small, clean and surrounded by wild willows, is useful to locals and their cattle, also part of the village is situated on its bank. The plan to visit the old monastery situated above the village had to be cancelled due to time constraint and fatigue. The next morning was an unbearable one, a sudden bout of headaches had entrapped us both, the situation got better after tea, here we met a group from Kerala, they were goofing up a bit with google assistant yesterday night but turned out to be pretty warm and zealous people, they were on a photography expedition, got an invite to visit Kerala, which although we visited some time back, the real “God’s own country.”

The Mummy (Gue)

We left Nako to pursue in search of the mummy, but encountered a group of asshole-bikers instead (never overtake on curves, blow your horn or flash a dipper before overtaking and please use your rear view mirrors before coming to a halt) – “these roads and terrains are made to ride safely, not to compete in a moto-rally.” Photography is strictly prohibited in the region because of the proximity to China, we learned it hard way at the police check-post (a random event of photography prohibition turned into an issue of national threat). After check-post there is a small bridge and from here you turn right from the major road, towards Gue, be alert or there’s a high probability to miss it, after the turn, the river suddenly turns black in colour (not black and beautiful like Yamuna in Delhi, but in a wild, untamed way), shale mountains are loose and bare and as we moved further, the wild rose shrubs became abundant – “no matter which turn you take in these mountains, always be prepared to witness something completely different and enchanting.” A keen observer may notice that as tough the conditions are, one will still find folks working for the amelioration of road (whether its construction of road, cleaning debris and small stones, marking of distance or some random man warning others of any hazard ahead).

IMG_9864The Gue monastery is situated above the village, here you will come across the strange phenomenon of nature – The mummy, “the mummy, as told by locals is of a hermit who took a samadhi to fast and perish himself, so the village can get rid of scorpions, it was infested with.” The mummy was found in 1975 during an archaeological excavation in the region and was found to be more than 550 years old, the monk’s name was Sangha Tenzin and he was 46 years old when the process started and it took him 3 Years to solidify into this living fossil with his Skin, hair, nails and teeth intact, albeit believed by locals that he is still alive and is in dhyana, there’ll be a second coming. Even stranger than the mummy were the borosil glasses in which we were served tea at a joint here.

The Primordial (Tabo)

The foundation was already laid for an ancient Himalayan expedition, hence our next stop was Tabo, the ride conditions were better after Gue, the road is wide enough, maintained aptly, it is somewhat plain with minimum contours and manageable bends, the valley outspreads itself and the motorcycle pays its gratitude to the surroundings, as now it can drink less and drive smooth.

IMG_7553Tabo or (Tabo Chos – Khor) monastery is the oldest still functional buddhist enclave in Himalayas, dating back to 996 C.E, founded by Rinchen Zangpo on the behalf of king ‘Yeshe-o’ of Western Himalayan kingdom of Guge.


The monastery has large number of frescoes displayed on the walls and a priceless collection of Thumkas (scroll paintings). The Mahakala Vajra Bhahirava (Gon-Khong) temple is forbidden to ordinary visitors, as is said to be the temple of fierce deities and can be only entered after a protective meditation (though we who travel upon Indian roads, are always under a protective spell).

IMG_7555Tabo caves are artificially excavated hollows, used as dwellings, place of meditation by monks, to overcome the harsh Himalayan winters (the splendid limits we humans resolve to, for existence), such caves are spread all over Himalayas.

The next odd 25-30 kms are pure outer-world experience, one of the most beautiful stretch of road human can travel upon “the valley prodigiously wide, the serpentine road making its way between cluster of pinnacles, a group of denizens gathered for a cricket match, the gushing Spiti in a haste to reach the ocean, wind defying bushes and one marvels upon what kind of emotions mountains are capable of kindling in a human soul.”

The Abyss (Dhankar)

About 40 kms before Kaza, there is a right turn that takes you through a twisty road to an ancient village, situated at an altitude of 3894 m (12774 ft). The village is a unique concoction of cliffs, monasteries (old and new), houses on the cliffs and in the pit – nestled together, an ancient perishing fort settled on a cliff top (Dhankar served as a capital of Spiti kingdom in 17th century). We went to fort straightaway and then got ourselves a nice and cosy home-stay on the cliff, it is managed by the ladies of the house – ‘the life here is not so easy and served on a platter as we – the urban population are used to, the water is precious and is fetched bit by bit from a distance, the public transport is non-existent, hence the resources are difficult to accumulate but the adamant, always smiling, chirping attitude of locals makes it one pleasant place.’ We saw our room, didn’t even untied our luggage and were straightaway set upon the trek to the lake, which is 40-50 minutes steep ascend from the village. Although it had been a weary day, still we climbed the hill very swiftly overtaking others, especially a group of young Israeli’s (two sturdy-stout Indians get better of a battle trained group and it feels pretty good, hahaha…), the lake is set along the backdrop of a breathtaking landscape, the calmness and tranquility of the place transcend oneself to another realm (once everyone left and only we were left there).


IMG_9992While, returning, we darted back (don’t know what took-over us that day) and were back at the village in a haste – tired, lost in the thoughts, contemplating over an estranged, a reverie, “gazing in the abyss – it gazing back at us”, the confluence of Spiti and Pin (crazy amount of rivers meeting each other), a gloomy twilight and the spell was broken by two cheery local ladies – “Boys, why are you two staring in the valley dazed and confused? We noticed you two from far away, a little giggling and rest it was jovial conversation”.

IMG_7568Back at our room we were joined by new neighbors, a group of boys and a bunch of Israeli girls – now a common bathroom is a real pain in the ass under these circumstances, the dinner was served early and in the kitchen itself – rajma, rice, a vegetable and tingmo (a dumpling without any filling) , majority of people we encountered in the valley were vegetarian (monks, ghumpas, sermons, religion, scarcity – the reason could be any of the above). “Counting stars or spotting constellations under a mystical sky, sitting atop a cliff, surrounded by glowing opaque clouds, humming along Zeppelin – well if this can last a lifetime.”

The Colours (Pin valley)


The gruesome headache was back again next morning, butter tea did the job this time, had our breakfast and were ready in a flash because we had forgot to untie our saddle bag yesterday (another part of the nation and perhaps it would have been good-bye sweet bag, but here you can rely upon the course of nature, you are not responsible for everything). A little guidance can save you many miles, which we also saved that day, an alternate route was suggested by our hosts and in an instant we were on NH505. A trail on the other side of the river was running parallel to us and three Royal Enfield – Himalayans could be marked, not so much by vision, as by their standard – standing riding posture (a custom posture inherited by each and every Himalayan rider we encountered en-route). Next it was us who were on the same trail, as it takes you to Pin valley (land of colorful mountains, blue goats, ibex and snow leopards), any expectation to get a paved road is shattered as soon as you enter the gate welcoming you, it was familiar – gravel, mud, dirt trail again. The little glacial streams bought into existence by sun and muddy snow, the colorful valley, a grazing cow and green fields transfigured, even what we encountered in past few days, there are few villages in the route and the last village of this route is Mud albeit, you can trek into Parvati valley from here. It was touch and go for us, we were back on our way to Kaza.

The Circuit (Kaza – Langza – Kaza – Hikkim)

We reached Kaza in the afternoon, filled up at world’s highest petrol pump (While you wait in line, keep your calculators ready or your abacus skills might come in handy, as there is only an analog meter on the pump, which measure the volume, but still you’ll pay less than plenty of other places in the country), had some espresso shots at a cafe, tried to map the next portion of journey (because it gets tricky after Kaza, as when you go for the (Langza – Hikkim) circuit, you have bundle of options (either come back and stay the night at Kaza; stay at someplace falling in the circuit; complete the circuit, visit Key and back to Kaza; complete the circuit and move on to Kibber or Chicham via Key). We chose the last one but there was something else in fate for us, we wandered in Kaza for a bit and left for Langza, the road is a gradual lonely climb but an occasional blue mountain goat or an ibex can accompany oneself.


IMG_7620Langza is a cold deserted grassland, a statue of Buddha overlooking upon whole valley, still in the ether – “why one suffer? How to end the suffering? The noble eightfold way – true understanding, right intention, correct speech, right action, proper livelihood, meticulous effort, right mindfulness and pure concentration.”

But the boys weren’t that lucky, just after Langza, on the way to Kaumik (the highest motorable village in the world), the clutch wire gave up and the location can’t be better than this, just inches away from the highest motorable village (a foolish mistake, it felt like a thirsty soul lost in ocean, surrounded by water and yet you can’t taste even a trifle), you don’t have a spare clutch wire and now you are back to Kaza, without working clutch on a deadly, curvy and lonely descend, although reached down in a single piece at-last but luck wasn’t with us that day, back in Kaza the traffic police was super alert (they had to check the documents), (when you don’t have a functional clutch, just go along a descend and put it in first gear or someone had to push the bike if the road is plain. If you have to start it on an ascend or you have to take a turn then its whole together a different scenario, just pray to get into that super-saiyan mode or if you can manhandle the machine, tis the moment, will even save ecosystem). If you are in a hunt for a mechanic, go back into the city from fuel station side, keep left, another left, right and straight, you have arrived, on left there’s a mechanic shop under wanderer’s nest. One can encounter strange happenings at a mechanic, in such a place (broken rims, broken shockers, broken spirits, know it all preachers, guidance debris and know not what-else), the clutch wire installation didn’t take much time, we got ourselves an additional piece each of accelerator and clutch wire this time. Being on a tight budget and Kaza being fully packed in the peak season, it was decided to move up again and stay at Kaumik or Hikkim, by the time we reached Hikkim it was twilight, we encountered only a monk in the way, baffled a bit, we searched for a place the entry of the village, but rejected there, searched further and in the end got a room at a home-stay cum dhaba, it is managed by a colorful man ‘Raju’ (district – Gaya, state – Bihar) and Tsedup.

IMG_7638The view from the room was nature’s own canvas, the weather was colder than Dhankar, along usual gossip we had our dinner, were informed that the toilet is not the kind we are accustomed to and the hole in the corridor take humans to the lower floor of the house, where the family resides.

Highway To Hell (Hikkim – Key – Chicham – Batal)

IMG_0265The source of headache i.e. low oxygen level and high altitude was diagnosed and taken care of (we had the medicine with us all the time but in our puny mind, culprit was fatigue all the time). After the ceremonial posting of postcards back home from the world’s highest post office at 7:30 am in the morning (the post-office serves both as, residence and office of the postmaster – an easy-going and friendly guy, as who cares about any business, at 7 in the morning).


We reached Key monastery situated on a hilltop pretty fast, parked the motorcycle, gave the monastery a quick glance (most of it is bolted for visitors) and were away to Kibber (the beautiful wildlife sanctuary is named after the village only, there is an austere 3 day trade route – trail to Ladakh from this village).

We bypassed Kibber and passing over Asia’s highest bridge (situated at an altitude of 4037 m, the Chicham bridge is a suspension bridge built over a gorge more than 1000 ft deep).

IMG_7648We took a stop at Buddha cafe in Chicham, had an electrifying bout of carrom-board alongside mutton momos and milk coffee, local kids with ruby-red, stout cheeks cheering us (you will find a primary school and electricity in each and every village of Himachal, no matter how remote the region).

IMG_0307Our bike shorter of breath, the hunger for torque increases on climbs, at the same time low Oxygen level messes with the fuel combustion and when the surroundings are so desolate you are bound to get lost not physically albeit metaphysically, the river is lonely and the earthen mounds are as big as towers, next we passed a village called Kyoto (not a single geisha we caught a glimpse of), you can forget asphalt or tar, whatever you are accustomed to for next 2-3 days after Kyoto and take out an extra jacket or inner else the wind is strong enough to split a human in two (Oh, the thrill of baring it all to wear extra clothes on the road in middle of nowhere), had a coffee at Lossar (the last village of Spiti valley ,here fill up your credentials at the police check-post).

IMG_7666Kunzam pass we are coming – “the thrill, the proximity to road, the intimacy with the surroundings, the holy triangle formed by your point of contacts with bike, when you are gliding just 5 inches above road, anywhere you can go and you wonder why bother flying humans, this is the little trick.” Next thing you know, you are riding on a mountain pass, riding through the mountain pass, through the mucky snow, it’s raining, the customary round around the roundabout of Kunzam Mata temple (even HPRTC buses get themselves blessed by taking a round), the sheep herds, the shepherds, a sheep dog, a road blockage ahead and the trance was broken, you both realize you haven’t talked to each other for past 2 hours. It took an hour to clear the road, while we were stranded without any shelter in a blistering cold rain and wind.


The next station was Batal, we got ourselves a bed each in the PWD rest house (if you can pretend mattress to be bed, then nothing else matters), we were the only people in the rest house – the only solid structure you will find for miles in any direction.

There are few makeshifts structures in Batal which provide both food and shelter, we went to one of them called Kangri dhaba ran by a group of men from kangra district, there were two more riders who had come from Bharmaur side through Sach Pass (this stretch is one of the world’s most treacherous), a jolly Britisher and a group of drunkards. We were planning on to visit the Chandertal lake and return by night time but were advised against it, as the route includes two water crossings (called pagal nallah or mad streams locally). By the evening the snow melted during the day time increases volume and flow both of water many folds. So here we are seating in an ancient inn, entranced, adventures of multitude of personalities; a firang in a midlife crisis, here out of a reason he doesn’t want to recall or due to fine images, plants can evoke in you, a duo of shepherds, too busy with their bidis (even wrinkles on the face of the older one resembles contour of the region), very friendly hosts, two inquisitive boys and a stream of continuous glacial water in the kitchen backside but the climax to this dramatic day was the entry of a holy, vegetarian (even garlic is forbidden), death-defying daredevil family; at 10:00 pm a horde of 4-5 men, 7-8 women and a mysterious amount of little ones entered the establishment, they were coming from Madhya Pradesh and were advancing towards Kaza, all this in one go (sane humans don’t travel on these routes, insane ones choose day light and there are some cosmic beings like this family who prefer hours of darkness). At night, still, we were the only two in the rest house, without electricity, the howling wind so fierce, it can make one repent his follies hahaha… , far away a lumber in a dreamscape.

Highway To Hell Continues (Chander Tal – Manali)

We put away our luggage at Kangri dhaba and left for Chander Tal early morning next day, the conditions were even worse on this track, hardly after few minutes we encountered the first water crossing, just as we entered, the adrenaline kicked in, elevated the senses, a bit of hesitation and we were on the other side. The road is pretty uneven i.e. elevated and broken in the middle and sunken on the sides, the other, bigger water crossing is just before the lake, here the water runs deeper but a little push from pillion and there you go. There is a camping ground 2 kms before lake (The tents here are costly, so plan accordingly) and also a check-post, after which the vehicles can go till parking, from which the lake is barely a 10 minute’s walk.

IMG_7680A stream called Chandra originates from the lake flowing along bed of wild flowers, marshy grasslands and the lake itself crescent shaped, hence the name (Chandra means moon in Sanskrit), the turquoise colored water with inherent calmness on the edges while rippling and shining in the middle, there is a walking trail along the bank, we spent some time on the banks, the urge to take a dip was out of bounds but subdued none whatsoever. The place is very clean, “so it’s a plead to visitors, frequenting these beautiful, fragile parts of Himalayas to keep it clean and free from litter and plastic – always carry a bag along with yourself to put away waste and try to use as much less bottled water as possible.”

IMG_0415We didn’t spent much time at lake, wore our drenched shoes and socks (courtesy of water crossings), returned back to Batal, ate a hearty meal of mutton, got some unsolicited advises from fellow riders coming from Manali side, dodged a puppy eye’s plea for a bike-round and geared up ourselves for the upcoming part – the dreaded one, we left Batal at 1:00 pm and the back breaking never ending journey started, after a while we encountered another water crossing, a bit tricky because of big boulders and a sudden slope, with a splash you enter the water and boom you are out, the second one was the big and daunting one but was crossed subtly (came to aid for a group of bikers who got stuck and the girls along with them were more of a liability and less of any help), the way till Chattru is clear, the Chenab hopping and leaping alongside, an odd rusty bridge and puddles are the only obstruction.

IMG_0417After Chattru one encounter’s some familiar greenery, gravels on the road diminish in size, there are three big water crossings and few little one till Ghumproo, one of them is especially menacing for big vehicles, especially cars as it has some huge stones, almost kind of an elevated flat platform which are real bumper killers (we witnessed three executions), the bikers fared much better (these crossings some times don’t have a solid ground to maintain traction, its all mud and river aggregates, keep the bike in first gear and don’t try to transmit to second or third gear, use both your legs to maintain the balance – a little rinse in water won’t hurt anyone or else get a pair of gum boots, don’t try to fly through them as you never know what’s in store ahead, subjugate your ego and ask for help if stuck – gallantry can be proved under suitable circumstances which, these are not).

We were told many a times that there is nothing to worry once you reach Grumphoo, but boy oh, boy! people, you have no idea, the road we just got through was nothing in front of what was in stock ahead, the traffic was unbearable in context to what we had been accustomed to in past few days (the highway goes to Leh), there was a line of trucks ahead of us and an eager group of organized expedition cars behind us, the road is paved with indigenous potholes or vice versa. Just before Rohtang we were hailed by a hailstorm, mist and eternal darkness, got ourselves into the raincoats haphazardly, the helmet-visor filled with mist had to be kept open and those hail pellets hit you like shrapnel on the face and knuckles pretty painfully. Tailgating sundry other vehicles we reached a small station Marhi at long last, had a load of hot piping tea and there was a bloody riot in egg section because of us, it was still raining, there wasn’t an inch of us and bike, that wasn’t damp, it felt queer to be back in civilization and looked like it’ll be all fine from now on, but the convenient perceptions human built on aren’t always that simple, almost 10 kms before Manali there was a traffic jam of the decade and the Indian urban rider in us woke up just at the moment – a cut here, a straight head-on tackle there, a dipper, a screeching tire burn, a policeman dodged, tailgating local two-wheelers and bang we had entered Manali.

The End

Manali was a jam packed conglomeration of, weekend, summer vacation and football world cup, the streets were filled with people as far as the vision can go and the incessant rain was in no mood to remit the vengeance bestowed upon us, even frolic Old Manali wasn’t spared from this mayhem, the hotels and guest-houses were full (even staunch folks sheepishly said sorry and showed us the full occupancy that day), the cafes were bustling with live singing and hooraying over the world cup, we found a place to rest somehow, went for a late night dinner to Mall road (egg and tea stalls are found 24/7 here).

IMG_0424 the torrents were over, “an evocative night-blooming jasmine scent in breeze, cicadas and crickets rhyming in the high pitch, their beholders, deodars and two boys walking in a mizzle, musing whether it was a reverie, trance or a tangible revelation.” That’s all.