Part 1 -Everything about Pune to Manali and Ludhiana to Pune
THE STARTJune 11 -Pune to Vapi (292 kms)
We began the ride from Aundh at 7 am. Our friends -Ajay Kolhatkar, Rahul Nagpure, Ketan Pasalkar, Aniket Sawant and my parents had come to see us off. (Read -to make it an emotional departure)
|(from left) Aniket, Ajay, Chaitanya, Ketan, Sagar, Rahul, Tejas and me|
|And we started the journey...|
It was raining heavily all through the day. As we reached Panvel, our bike got punctured because of a five-inch nail. Thankfully it was a tubeless tyre and not much damage was done; although we spent about an hour looking for a puncture wallah to mend it. (We were carrying the puncture kits, but did not want to do it ourselves in the heavy rains). It was about 10.30am when we left from Panvel after which we stopped at 1.30pm at Ghodbunder road for lunch. We were completely wet and the raincoats proved inadequate in the heavy rains. By then, we had gotten used to it and did not care much about the mess. That day, we barely managed to cover 292 kms to reach Vapi (as against out planned average of 350 kms every day till Delhi). We had put plastic bags in our saddle bags to save it from the rains, but somehow Chaitanya's clothes got wet and here is how they dried it in the Vapi hotel
|Drying clothes in Vapi|
June 12 -Vapi to Kapadwanj, Gujarat (330 km)
Thankfully it wasn't raining. But before we could be relieved, we realised that batteries of both the bikes were down. Also, Chaitanya's pulsar was making weird noises and breaking down, which we thought was because of bad petrol. After struggling with it for an hour ourselves (since none of the nearby garages were open), Chaitanya called his mechanic friend who said it could be because the spark plug had got wet in the heavy rain. We then took it to a mechanic and got it mended.
|The guys trying to figure out the problem|
|Chaitanya's friend giving instructions to this mechanic in Vapi on phone, who fixed the bike|
We used to get up at 5am and start by 6,6.30am. We took a bath in the evenings when we reached the hotel. This freshened us after the ride and also helped us escape the morning cold.
We also made it a point to halt and take a 5-10 minute break after every hour, which helped in sitting on the bike longer.
Eating breakfast, lunch, evening chai and dinner on time also helped in remaining fit during the ride (special section on the food we ate is written below).
Lastly, we ensured to wear the riding gear (except gloves) at all times on the bike -however tiring it would get..Other than protecting us during a couple of falls, it helped in getting us a lot of attention that made the journey interesting! (Read people's reaction section at the end of this post)
THE EIGHT STATES
Many people who had done Delhi-Leh told us to not to start biking from Pune for many reasons -tiring for us, wearing out of bikes, highway would be boring etc etc. But we had decided to start riding from Pune and did not budge...And it was indeed an enriching experience to ride through nine states, feel the difference in people, language, food, nature, weather, roads, vehicles, roads and feel the unity in diversity.
As we left Maharashtra and entered Gujarat began the NH 8 -wider road, lesser traffic, more heat, no rains!
|Before Shamlaji on Gujarat-Rajasthan border|
We met Surbhit and Krima near Baroda, but we forgot to take pictures.. Sorry Surbhit-Krima!
We took the decision to leave NH 8 and take the state highway (probably the shortcut from Nadiad to Shamlaji bypassing Ahmedabad. It was indeed the shortcut and the road was good too, but the lodging facilities here were not good and a little uncomfortable for girls. Take this route only if you are short on time or can adjust with the basic lodging facility (details given in hotel and food section below)
Anyways, as we entered Rajasthan, a classic Rajathani architecture welcomed us...and so did the heat!
|The welcome arch|
|The helmet goggles proved handy everywhere -in heat, dust and snow reflections|
|In Udaipur -for the Rajasthan royal fans|
|It was the only time when Tejas rode pillion on the Pulsar. The other time was in Leh when I drove and then on our return journey|
|A camel cart in Udaipur|
On the way back, it was just Tejas and I and we took the state highway to reach Churu and Beawar -our two night halts in Rajasthan. It was a good decision as we rode through small villages, lush green fields, desert sand, and even spotted peacocks and peahens on the road.
|It is after a long wait that we found this neem tree for shade. We also ate some of its leaves to clear our system of any impurities|
|As we neared Churu in Rajasthan|
|The elongated faced rickshaw in Rajasthan|
|This is hay stacked on a two-wheeler...quite a common sight in Rajasthan. Couldn't take a picture of the driver though|
From Rajasthan, we headed for Delhi via Punjab and Haryana and did a lot of masti on this road.
As we entered Delhi, we got the urban feel, which was lacking for the last three days. Huge roads, larger than roads traffic and complicated ways. Although we had reached Delhi at 6pm, we spend more than an hour-and-a-half looking for a moderate level hotel there. Finally we founf one near the airport! But we were so terrified by Delhi traffic that we had decided then and there that we would bypass the capital while returning!
Amruta and Sohil came to meet us in the hotel and had dinner with us...we felt better after meeting them!
Chaitanya and Sagar had gone out in the evening to get something and saw a mattress workshop on the way. the bought two pillows from there, which proved a boon for us all through the trip...
|The bike with the pillow|
Chandigarh to Manali was exciting as we had entered Himachal Pradesh and started spotting snow clad mountains, hilly roads and ghats for the first time in the last couple of days. We had also started seeing other bikers heading to Leh...
We stayed two nights in Manali -the only place where we spent more than one night..We needed the time to prepare ourselves for the coming tough ride -to buy gum boots, to lodge police complaint about loss of my wallet, catch up on some sleep, withdraw cash and so on. It was our wisest decision during the trip that helped us recharge ourselves..
Although it was a highway till Chandigarh, the road different in all the states.
|State highway in Rajasthan|
|Another patch of the state highway in Rajasthan|
|The road from Mandi to Manali|
|As we were nearing Manali|
As we were nearing Manali
The 2.2 km Manali tunnel
The state highway in Punjab and Haryana are good and scenic, in case anyone is contemplating to use them.
THE HOTELS and FOOD
Following is the list of hotels where we had stayed and their ratings. We have taken photos of only some of the hotels, which are given below...
Vapi -Hotel La Carta (while going to Leh)
Location -near Vapi flyover on the left, on NH 8
Amenities -basic, urgent laundry service within five hours, toiletries, mechanic/garage nearby
Room tariff -Rs 800 A/C, moderate
Food -we had dinner at another restaurant Crossway diagonally opposite to this hotel. Food was good there
Vapi -Hotel Fortune Park Galaxy (while returning)
Location -before Vapi flyover, adjoining NH 8 service road
Room tariff -Rs 2900 (highest of the journey), toiletries, expensive. We chose this because it was the last halt in our journey and wanted to indulge in the luxury
Amenities -good,business hotel
|Lunch at Atithi resorts about 70 kms before Vadodara|
When we enetered Kapadvanj, we found that it was a very small town and was difficult to find a good hotel. Therefore, we decided to ask the local policeman to suggest a hotel. He suggested Awkar guest house.
Kapadwanj -Awkar guest house
Location -Cross the town, opposite a petrol pump
Room tariff -Rs 500 A/C, cheap
Food -not available, went to hotel Shabari, about 2 kilometers away
Sagar asked the hotel manager for hot water. The manager replied -"itna garmi mein garam paani kaun leta hai?". When Sagar insisted, the manager took him to the bathroom tap in the room and showed him the hot water coming from the tap.
When the manager showed us the A/C rooms, he said -"A/C chalu hoga to darwaja band karo." We said yes. He said, '"Nahi, abhi band karo darwaja" and banged the door behind him.
|Waiting for dinner at hotel Shabari in Kapadvanj|
|outside a chai tapri when we left Kapadvanj for Rajasthan|
It was around 7.30 pm by the time we reached Kishangarh and were desperately looking for a hotel. After looking at a couple of places, which were either not good or rooms were not available, we settled on Hotel Mayur.
Kishangarh -Hotel Mayur
Location -near the city main bazaar
Room tariff -Rs 500 A/C
Food -was edible, but wasn't sure of hygiene
|Room in Hotel Mayur|
There is another hotel 'The Royal Heritage' on NH 8 towards Delhi, which would have been a better deal. It looked good from the outside and also convenient as it is on the highway.
|Morning chai at a dhaba in Rajasthan|
|Dal-bati at Sharma Bhojanalaya ahead of Udaipur|
Delhi -Hotel Vishal Residency
Location -Mahipalpur on NH 8, opposite Delhi airport road
Room tariff -Rs 2200 A/C
Amenities -luxury,good,hot-cold water, kettle, toiletries
Chandigarh -Hotel Rajashree
Location -Industrial phase I close to Bajaj Service station
Room tariff -Rs 2000 A/C
Amenities -luxury, good, hot-cold water, toiletries
|The touch screen controls in Hotel rajashree, Chandigarh|
Manali (Vasisht village, about 3 kilometers ahead of Manali) -Hotel Surabhi
Location -Vasisht village
Room tariff -Rs 1200
Amenities -luxury, good, toiletries, hot water, beautiful view of Beas river
Food -good, terrace restaurant
Since rooms in Surabhi were not available the next day, we shifted to another hotel nearby.
Manali (Vasisht village) -Hotel Arohi
Location -three buildings from Surabhi
Room tariff -Rs 1650
Amenities -luxury good, toiletries, hot water, better view of river beas than Surabhi
We had decided to halt at Ludhiana, but there was maddening traffic jam because of ongoing NH 8 construction. We got bored and decided to not to go till Ludhiana when we saw this hotel on the highway
Phugwara (30 kms ahead of Ludhiana) -Hotel Vilas International
Location -on NH 8
Room tariff -Rs 1600 A/C
Amenities -luxury,good, toiletries
Churu, Rajasthan -Hotel Rathod
Location -opposite Churu railway station, almost on the highway. Since, it is a railway station outside, the area doesn't look good. The hotel, too, is not very impressive from the outside...but the room was nice, safe and comfortable
Room tariff -Rs 1150 A/C
Amenities -luxury, good, toiletries, hot water
Beawar, Rajasthan -Guest house of Shree Cement..arranged for us by my friend Nandini Gupta and her father B D Gupta
Ahmedabad -Hotel Surya palace
Location -on NH 8, about 10 kilometers before Ahmedabad city
Room tariff -Rs 1150 A/C
Amenities -luxury, good, hot water, toiletries
The most asked question during the trip was -Tum log koi mission pe ho? . It started with an uncle at a chai tapri in Gujarat and continued in Haryana, Punjab and even while returning
A young boy in twenties on his bike came beside us and asked with a wide smile -roadies??? seeing the karizma and riding gear.
3. Ladakh? Kay vishesh?
When our bike was punctured at panvel, a man was showing the puncture wallah to tejas. Then he asked where we were headed. Tejas said Ladakh, which he did not understand. Then Tejas told him it is in Kashmir. After a pause of a minute he asked Kay vishesh?
4. Race mein ja rahe ho? -at a petrol pump in Rajasthan
5. Aur kya seva?
In Haryana, two guys on a motorcycle overtook us twice and then started riding next to us. Then, looking at the knee guards, the rider pointed at the knee guards and asked -yeh kya pehna hai? Tejas told him it was to guard the knee in case we fell. Then, looking at the pillow, he said kafi durr se aaye hai aap? tejas told him that we were from Pune, had been to Ladakh and were returning to Pune...he asked -aur kya seva aapki?
...the main journey from Manali to Leh and Leh to Ludhiana is continued in part 2