#CEATxPlorer: A Tale of Sand and Snow

#CEATxPlorer: A Tale of Sand and Snow

There ain’t no rest for the weary; a wildly popular quote that applies to nearly everyone in today’s age. Nearly is the keyword here. Some people are exempt and fortunately, I am one of those people. It does not mean that I get to rest a lot but it simply means that I am never weary. And one never is if they do something that they love. Motorcycling is my passion, capturing moments from my rides is my passion, and chasing dreams is my passion.

The story of this ride is a bit peculiar. I got a call from xBhp informing me that my name was shortlisted to be a #CEATxPlorer. I had submitted my ride plan exploring Rajasthan. But, due to some unforeseen circumstances, I ended up exploring both Rajasthan and Himachal. Double the fun? The ride was, yes, but the incident that catalyzed it? Not so much. But we’ll cross that bridge once we get there.

Upon being shortlisted, I went to pick up the tyres from my KTM 390 Adventure. I had CEAT GRIPP XL F 90/90-19 for the front and the CEAT GRIPP X3 140/70-17 for the rear. The bike tyres were installed at a CEAT Shoppe near my home. After riding around for around 60-70 km to scrub the tyres in, I was ready to leave for the ride.

Day 1

My ride started from my hometown, Faridabad. It was fairly cold but I am an early riser so I was able to start my ride at 7 AM. I am also someone who likes to take his time exploring places so I keep my riding distance per day reasonable and try my best to not take too many breaks. My destination for Day 1 was Mandawa.

It is around 260 km from Faridabad. Since I had left early, I decided to have breakfast on the highway. Faridabad to Mandawa is a 6-hour ride and despite a break, I made it in just that much time and reached my destination at 1 PM. The road was fairly decent albeit a bit boring. The rest of the day was spent exploring.

My stay was at the Mandawa Kothi, one of the best properties in the region and also, one of the best experiences. Then I contacted my tour guide who showed me around the place. I also visited the Mandawa Haveli and got to know a bit of its history. Post that, I headed back to my
stay.

Day 2

I planned to leave Mandawa the next day but the owner of the Mandawa Kothi, Mr Anurag asked me to stay one more day to explore the town properly. He wanted to give me a full tour of Mandawa and so I obliged. With the help of Atul, a local of the town, I explored the cuisine, markets, and many different Havelis in Mandawa. They also organized a special puppet show (Kathputli Show) for me. All in all, a big thanks to Mr Anurag and Atul for helping me explore the town thoroughly and getting to learn a lot about the place.

Day 3

On day 3 of the ride, I left for Bikaner which is around 190 km away from Mandawa. Originally, my plan was to reach Bikaner and look for a place there but I ended up staying at Gaj Kesari Palace. It is situated around 20 km before Bikaner on the way to the city from Mandawa. I also had a fun interaction with the General Manager of the palace, Mr Narayan. He was kind enough to show me all the rooms in the palace. The thing that I loved the most about the palace was the architecture of the palace and also, the artwork that had glimpses of Bikaner and Rajasthan in general.

Day 4

My destination for the day was Bikaner which was only 20 km away so I had a lot of time on hand. Mr Narayan, before I left, suggested that in Bikaner, I could stay at another Haveli named Banwar Niwas that belonged to his sister. It is the only Haveli open to guests in the Rampuria Colony. The reason for this is that Rampuria Colony and Rampuria Haveli are situated on the heritage road, a major attraction for tourists.

Thanks to Mr Narayan’s suggestion, I could stay at a place that was barely 100m away from a major tourist attraction. Once I reached the place, I rested for a bit and then set out to explore the city. Here, another local of the city (not a tour guide) showed me around the place. He told me a lot of things about the Rampuria Haveli and its history.

After that, I went to the Karni Mata Temple. Around 35 km away from my stay, Banwar Niwas, the Karni Mata Temple is famous because of the rats and upon reaching, I found out why. This was the first time I was seeing so many rats in one place! By the time I got back, the sun was nearly set so I decided to enjoy some local delicacies and hit the sack.

Day 5

Day 5 of my trip was to be spent exploring Bikaner. It is a big city with a lot of places to see and a lot of things to experience so I had decided before the trip to have an extra day for Bikaner. I woke up, had breakfast and made my way to the Junagarh Fort, the most famous one in Bikaner. Since this day was dedicated to extensive exploring, I also hired a tour guide this time.

He showed me around the Junagarh Fort and everything that one needs to see when visiting this place. To get a scale of how much there is to see in this fort alone, I spent a good 3 hours exploring it. From vintage guns and canons and a fighter plane to the King’s bedroom and its phenomenal artwork, Junagarh Fort is a must-visit place if you’re in Bikaner.

Next on the agenda was to visit the Jain Temple, another famous tourist attraction in Bikaner. It is said that 40,000 kg of ghee was used to build this temple! After exploring some more, I went to a famous eatery in Bikaner that was suggested to me by the locals. It was worth a visit as the place is famous for its Pyaz Kachori and every bit of the hype is real! After a filling bite, I made my way back to my stay to rest and be ready for the next day’s relatively long ride.

Day 6

I started from Bikaner at around 11:30 AM. Jaisalmer was around 350 km away but I had heard the highway was very well-built and had smooth roads, so I knew that I’d make it in time. That’s why there was no rush. And indeed, the highway was as good as they come. From the quality of the tarmac to the smoothness, I was able to keep a decent pace and reached Jaisalmer around 6 PM.

The journey this time also included some breaks because it was really beautiful. Sand, desert, and since I made it to Jaisalmer around 6 PM, the sun had set. And it was one of the most beautiful sunsets I had ever witnessed. Since this was a relatively long journey, I also got to know a bit more about the tyres.

The application of the CEAT GRIPP series of bike tyres ranges from adventure to touring and that is because of the versatility they portray. I did not encounter a lot of rough patches but whenever I did, the tyres never felt out of place. On the highways, they left nothing to be desired. From high-speed stability to grip under braking and acceleration, I was thoroughly enjoying my ride. As they say, the best bike tyres are the ones that you fit and forget.

Now, upon reaching Jaisalmer, I checked into a hotel and planned to rest. But then, I had some time to kill so I decided to visit the Jaisalmer fort. After that, I decided to get some rest. Now, the twist in the tale. The next day, I got a call from home that my father was unwell so I had to cut the trip short and head back home. I started at 10:30 AM from Jaisalmer and reached Faridabad around 8:30 PM. Nearly 900 km were to be covered but I rode non-stop so I made it in time.

I stayed at home for a few days as I had to take care of my father. By God’s grace, he got better and fully recovered in a few days. Once everything was alright, I started thinking about my #CEATxPlorer ride that was cut short.

Going back to Rajasthan would not make a lot of sense as I had nearly covered everything except Jaisalmer. So I decided to do something drastically different. From a desert of sand to a desert of snow. As you may have been able to guess, after some pre-ride checks, I left for Himachal Pradesh for an entirely unplanned ride!

Day 1

I generally start much earlier than 7 AM but because of fog and extremely cold weather, I had to. I wanted to start even earlier because my destination for the day was Jibhi, which is around 590 km from my home. Anyway, I was off and I decided that I’ll keep breaks to a minimum. On the first go, I rode for three hours straight before stopping for breakfast. Then, it was another continuous run. The weather was dry, the road conditions were pretty good, and the tyres were just fantastic on the highway in terms of both grip and stability. As a result, I reached the Aut tunnel around 6 PM.

But it was already quite dark and I prefer not to ride when there isn’t enough light, especially in the mountains. So I had a decision to make; either continue towards Jibhi or stay around the area I was currently in. I called a campsite owner in Jibhi for his opinion. He told me that the roads were in good shape and it wouldn’t take more than an hour and a half to reach Jibhi. I took his advice and reached Jibhi around 7:30 PM. It was my first time riding the Tirthan Valley route so I was a bit cautious. But then, as mentioned by the campsite owner, the roads were pretty good.

Upon reaching Jibhi, I met up with the campsite owner and he asked me if I would like to stay at the camp or in a cottage that was in a more offbeat location. Since it was just 6 more km, I decided to go for the cottage. Now, it was just 6 km but it was quite scary riding through the dense forest. About the offbeat location, it was called Hirab valley.

Day 2

After a well-deserved and good night’s rest, I was all refreshed to explore the place. I decided to head to Jalori Pass first as it is considered to be one of the most difficult terrains to ride. The extreme slopes both incline and decline prove to be a challenge for even the most experienced riders. Jalori Pass was only 14 km away from Hirab valley, so easy peasy, right? Nope. Never is. Just a km or so before Jalori Pass, I encountered heavy snow and even deadlier, black ice. I could see all kinds of cars and trucks slipping and sliding all around.

I wanted to go ahead on my bike but saner minds prevailed and I decided to park my motorcycle and walk the rest of the distance. Regardless of that little snag, it was an amazing experience. Upon reaching the place, I interacted with a lot of tourists there. After spending some time there, I had some coffee and samosa and headed back to Hirab.

Day 3

Now that I had checked Jalori Pass off my list, it was time to explore the place where I was staying- Hirab Valley. As the campsite owner mentioned, this is an offbeat location and not a lot of people know about it. The first place that I went to was Sajwad Village, the last village in the region. It is around 5 km ahead of Jibhi and the last point where cars and bikes can go. The route though was a bit scary. Snow and black ice, but less severe than what I encountered around Jalori Pass.

So I decided to move on and for the most part, the CEAT GRIPP bike tyres held their own. I made it to Sajwad Village safely and the local people were very warm and welcoming. They showed me around the village and trust me, it was a surreal experience. The village, according to the locals, is around 1,000 years old and most of the structures are made of wood and stones. Another place I explored in the Hirab Valley was the original Hadimba Mata temple. Post this, I headed back to my stay.

Day 4

I would have stayed in Hirab Valley but the problem was no internet connectivity or WiFi. So I decided to head back to Jibhi and this day was set for resting. So I booked a camp near the riverside and spent the whole day there relaxing.

Day 5

This day was a fun one. The camp owner was a kind gentleman who agreed to show me the place so that I could witness the real beauty of Jibhi. He sat pillion with me and we made our way to Jalori Pass. This time I could make it there on my motorcycle. But that was not it, we parked the motorcycle at Jalori Pass and the camp owner said that we must go to the 360 Viewpoint, and so we did.

It was one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen but we kept going. After 2 hours of trekking, we reached Serolsar Lake, a hidden lake in the Tirthan Valley. The trek was covered with snow and it was quite an adventure. After spending some time enjoying the beauty of the place, we headed back to Jalori Pass and then rode back to Jibhi.

Day 6

On this day, I explored some more of Jibhi. I visited the Jibhi Waterfall and Kuli Katandi, a hidden water pond inside the forest. I spent the rest of the day doing some pretty serious trails and testing out the tyres. The thing that surprised me the most was the versatility of these bike tyres. Despite being stellar on the roads, they were pretty good off of it too. The bold tread pattern helps grip the surface when the terrain isn’t ideal. All in all, I had a lot of fun, so much so that by the time I made it back to the campsite, it was already dark.

Day 7

Now that I had explored Jibhi, I was looking for more places to visit at which point, the campsite owner suggested that I visit Barot Valley. Since his suggestions had been flawless up to this point, I decided to heed this one as well. Barot Valley is a 6-hour ride from Jibhi and it is also not frequented by travellers and that is what enticed me the most.

For the most part, the roads were in very good condition and that is why I was able to enjoy the ride more. This was one of the most picturesque routes of my entire ride. Some amazing vistas are sure to take your breath away. After a decent amount of saddle time, I reached Barot Valley around 5 PM and decided to get some rest.

Day 8

I have a thing for distant villages because again, the first place I visited was the last village in the valley, no roads ahead of that. In addition to Barot Valley, I also explored the Rajgunda Valley. I hired a tour guide for that and he showed me some amazing waterfalls. For those, you had to trek for about 25 mins but the effort was more than worth it.

After that, he also showed me his own village. Again, it was breathtaking to see everything made out of just wood. This is how I spent the first half of the day before heading back to Barot Valley and having lunch on a Dhaba along the way. I spent the rest of the day relaxing. I found a spot close to a river and just sat there for more than an hour that seemed like mere seconds. Introspection is one of the things that can play with one’s sense of time in a big way.

Day 9

I planned to go to Bir Billing from Barot Valley but I have vertigo. So obviously, paragliding was out of the question. So I decided to head to McLeodganj instead. Now that place is a tourist hotspot and that is why the roads around it are pristine. The route was invariably beautiful but the quality of the tarmac was the best I had seen until now.

If I am being honest, upon reaching McLeodganj I realized why I enjoy offbeat locations more. The crowd was maddening, there were so many tourists; it was pandemonium for me. But then again, all that has its own charm too. Since the day was nearly over, I booked a hotel, went there, changed up, and decided to explore a bit of McLeodganj. I did some shopping for my family, had dinner at a cafe, and headed back to the hotel.

Day 10

The destination for the day was Dalhousie. A lot of people had told me that it had snowed there which had me excited. So I made my way to Dalhousie. Unfortunately, there was very little snow when I reached there. It was a bright and sunny day. It had snowed a day or two before so I was a tad bit sad.

Anyway, I checked into a hotel, changed up and decided to explore Dalhousie. The market was one of the most happening ones I have seen. There were a lot of people enjoying the place. From food stalls to gaming zones, it was a lot of fun. I spent the rest of the day exploring various places. After my fill of exploring Dalhousie, I left for my stay and decided to rest well for the next day.

Day 11

This was the last day of the roadtrip and was reserved for the return journey. I decided to do it in one go and covered around 609 km in around 10 hours. For the most part, I am glad I took up this roadtrip, or shall I say roadtrips. I got to experience sand and snow as a part of practically one ride; exactly the kind of life I would like to continue living. So, I would like to thank xBhp and CEAT Tyres for enabling me to go on this journey. Until next time…

Tyre Review:

As I mentioned earlier, my KTM 390 Adventure was equipped with CEAT GRIPP XL F on the front and CEAT GRIPP X3 on the rear. In this ride, I got to know a lot about why these are some of the best pairs of bike tyres you can get if you’re into adventure touring. First off, these tyres are absolutely stellar on the highways. Stable at speed and grippy under braking and acceleration; everything you need to munch miles. During my Rajsthan jaunt, I encountered some broken patches and the tyres handled everything including some really nasty potholes. But the real test took place during my Himachal stretch. I have already talked about highways but during this part of the ride I encountered wet roads and then, I did some trails too. On wet roads, these tyres are better than your usual sports-touring bike tyres. They have bolder tread and deeper grooves which means better water channelling and therefore more grip in the wet. More importantly, the tread also allows you to do some fairly serious trails with a lot of confidence. Overall, for someone like me who likes to head to unknown destinations, these are some of the best bike tyres for the KTM 390 Adventure.

 

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