On the long weekend of last Christmas, I wanted to make a bike trip somewhere. Riding bike was important this time. To give a brief background, 25th December, 2014 was that fateful day when I met a bike accident and had my right shoulder fractured. I was on bed rest for next full month and even after a whole year, my right arm hasn’t got its free movement back.
Exactly one year later, on the day of Christmas I went on a solo bike trip to Pabbar valley.
Day 1 : Delhi – Chakrata – Tiuni
It was peak winter time. I woke up at 6am which allowed my body sufficient rest for the long journey ahead and it was also supposed to help me not riding in the cold of early morning.
Pabbar valley, located deep within Himachal is a good day’s ride from Delhi and is a place far from the mad rush of tourists. Google maps shows the journey taking a time of about 8 hours for the 450 odd kilometers and I always consider a good enough buffer knowing how much off this data can be, but as I’d come to know later, the actual time taken was beyond what I had remotely expected.
There are three main routes that take you to Rohru, Pabbar valley:
- Delhi – Paonta Sahib – Chakrata – Tiuni – Rohru
- Delhi – Paonta Sahib – Shillai – Tiuni – Rohru
- Delhi – Shimla – Rohru
While planning for the trip I ruled out #3 as it was apparently the longest route and the roads from Shimla to Rohru weren’t supposed to be in any good condition to make it up for the longer distance. There wasn’t much written about the road condition of the other two routes, but some of the comments on one of the blogs I read, mentioned about the Chakrata route being better so that’s the one I picked for my onward journey.
I was able to cross most of the plains by the lunch time. Had lunch at a roadside dhaba and arrived at Paonta. Next stop was Chakrata and the roads are in good condition till there. The stretch after Chakrata is in such an incredibly bad condition that I was driving at 10-20 kmph for most of the time. Where I was planning to reach Rohru (120 kms from Chakrata) by sunset, I could only make it to Tiuni (80 kms from Chakrata) and that too at 9pm after riding for hours in the darkness and cold of harsh Himalayan winter on a route, parts of which didn’t have any resemblance to a road. On top of it, this arduous journey took a toll on the mileage I was getting out of the bike and somewhere mid-way the fuel went into reserve.
There I was, riding in harsh cold, with no guarantees of having enough fuel to last till I could reach next human habitat. My fingers were numb and I could no longer keep the clutch continuously pressed. This forced me to ride at 1st and 2nd gears so that the engine does the extra work instead of me. This made me slower as shifting to higher gear and controlling speed with clutch was getting painful.
On one of the bends of the road taking the turn at near zero speed, I lost balance and both me and the bike got grounded. It was completely dark and I quickly got up, put my backpack on the roadside and came back to put my remaining energy in getting the bike up. A truck was coming and thanks to the bad road, it was also crawling at near zero speed, and as such was able to see me in time. The driver stopped the truck a few meters before the bike and let the light of his truck assist me getting the bike up. After getting the bike up, I picked up the backpack and continued with the journey. Thankfully the only thing broken was the left mirror of the bike. I sure was a bit scared in the moment. But also stronger.
I wouldn’t lie. Riding bike at this time was when my whole life was flashing in the mind, and I remembered all the near and dear ones. I’m an atheist but having read Hanuman chalisa countless times in the childhood, I was humming it while riding in the hope of keeping myself together till I reach a safe place to sleep at.
The sight of a few lights in distance as I reached closer to Tiuni, the small village along the bank of river Tons right after the river Pabbar merges into Tons, brought back the optimism. As I reached the place, everything appeared closed as apparently people prefer to stay in home at this time of the day which made sense. The only hotel I could find had a light bulb lit outside it but no one to be seen around. Thankfully there was a signal in the phone and I dialled the number written on the hotel board. The owner picked the call, asked a couple of things and we agreed on Rs. 300 as the room rent for the night. He then asked me to wait while he sends the boy who apparently took care of the hotel whenever a guest came in. It was obvious that I was farther from the tourist map, then I was expecting.
Finding a room to stay after the long day was a huge relief. I asked the hotel boy about a place where I can find something to eat and he took me to this eatery which was looking like probably the only place still open for dinner. The gate to enter was made of wooden planks which needed to be removed and put back after the person has entered. Wood was being burnt inside to keep the place warm. Two girls were cooking food, the elder one being called “didi” by everyone around. There were three young boys probably their relatives or close ones. All five of them were talking to each other and joking and laughing and really enjoying. Daal chawal I ate that night amidst smoke of burning wood was nothing like what we’re used to eat in the city life and that’s probably what made it special. After having an eat-all-I-could meal, I was only asked for a payment of Rs. 50!
At this time, my parents didn’t know that it was a bike trip and so I called back home, asked Mom to put the phone on speaker mode, and told both Mom and Dad that I loved them, and then reminding them about my accident exactly 1 year earlier, told them that I had to do this bike trip. They didn’t say much but I know how much they would have worried for next 2 days till I came back home.
With food, bed and the discussion with parents sorted, I went to the hotel. The sound of roaring river not far from the hotel was music to the ears. I dropped about half of the several layers of clothes I was wearing, picked two thick blankets and went to sleep. Much needed rest after a day full of adventure. 🙂
Day 2 : Riding through the Pabbar valley and to Chanshal pass
After a good night’s sleep, I had recharged my batteries by the sunrise. Started the bike, and crossed the river bridge where the road joins the Shillai-Rohru highway. There is a market on this side of Tiuni and I stopped to get a warm hat. Also stopped at a dhaba and sipped hot tea with a good heavy paratha. Good start of the day. The road here runs parallel to the river Pabbar.
Continued to Rohru which looked like a big town. Apple economy is said to be the lifeline of Pabbar valley which is also known as apple belt. The petrol pump I was looking for was 10 kms out of Tiuni on the way to Rohru and I was riding on fumes! Thankfully the bike made it to the petrol pump which was difficult to identify and I had actually went past it. After re-checking Google maps I realised that I must have missed it and went back. It was an open plot with only 1 worker filling the petrol. No wonder I couldn’t identify it at first.
With a full tank, I was ready for the journey to Rohru and Chanshal pass and the plan was to go there and find a guesthouse up there or be back to Rohru by the sunset. Crossed Rohru, then Chirgaon which looked like the last major human settlement on this route. By the lunch time I had only reached Tikri and was hungry. It was a small village and there were only a couple of houses. One of the shops cum dhaba had some food for me which I quickly gulped in. Locals told that I wouldn’t be able to reach Chanshal as the road has been blocked by snow already and there is only 1 PWD guesthouse up there at Larot which is also not likely to be open.
From Tikri it’s an uphill drive. The road is mostly good and as you reach closer to Larot, the views get more and more amazing. The snow on the road had taken the form of slippery ice at places and it was getting trickier to ride as I gained elevation. Somewhere near Larot, I parked the bike on the roadside and started trekking further up.
I trekked for a couple of kilometers, absorbed the beauty amidst the chill, and pin-drop silence and then walked back to where the bike was parked. Returned to Rohru by the sunset and found a hotel to sleep in.
Day 3: Out of Pabbar valley
The next day was my exit from Pabbar valley, and while deciding which route to pick I was damn sure it won’t be the Chakrata route that I had followed while coming here. I knew it could potentially be a worse road but there was no way I was going back via Chakrata. Be careful what you wish for. This road, even when being a national highway actually turned out to be even worse. It was sunset by the time I came out of the higher hills. The whole journey back to Delhi took me a total of 16 hours and I’m pretty sure I was riding at max possible speed I could, with minimal breaks.
The body pain I had undergone during these 3 days of adventure, took a whole week to subside. This was definitely one of those solo trips of mine which were full of unplanned travel and adventure.
Getting ready to come out of the comfort zone is the best mantra that always works for me and makes for the most memorable trips, and this trip helped me push my boundaries further! I hope my above story motivates you to go on the adventure you’ve been waiting for!