There’s a very old saying that if you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there. This is exactly what happened with me when I went for a ride on the xBhp|Castrol POWER1 RC390 a few days ago.
The bike had gone to Castrol Bike Point the previous day and had its dose of pampering before the ride. In case you want to buy Castrol POWER1 for your bike, you can either visit your nearest Castrol Bike Point or buy it online (Amazon) from here. The bags were packed and I had sufficient supply of vitamin M(oney) in my pocket. I was only a few hours away from a well-deserved ride in the mountains after a hectic work schedule. But there was a problem. I didn’t know where I wanted to go. Actually, I was a bit confused. I had planned to go to Uttarakhand initially and explore the rather untouched areas of Kumaon, but Old Fox suggested me a new route in Himachal where he himself had gone a few days ago and going by his description of things, this looked like the place worth exploring. And ultimately it turned out to be a classic battle between heart and mind. My heart wanted to go to Uttarakhand, which has also been my first love as far as mountains are concerned, but my mind wanted to explore the route suggested by Old Fox in Himachal.
And as it happens most of the time in the battle of heart and mind in my case, the heart won and at the day break, I was on my way on the NH24 to Uttarakhand, solo. I could still not think of a destination, but I had found the direction and that was enough for me to keep going. The NH24 is like my backyard playground and I’ve been on this a number of times, mostly for the breakfast rides till the Garhmukteshwar.
This time as well, I took a halt at Garhmukteshwar for my favorite poori-sabzi breakfast at the banks of River Ganges. I went on a short ‘offroading’ spree on the other side of the river under the railway bridge and found a few local kids jumping in the river from the railway bridge and I ended up spending more time here than what I had planned, clicking and clicking and clicking.
The road all the way till the end of Moradabad toll is a butter smooth piece of tarmac and I covered good distance in no time. You get two options to go to Nainital from the end of Moradabad toll – one is you go straight and reach Nainital via Rudrapur & Haldwani, and the other options is to turn sharp left and take the narrow country road via Bazpur and Kaladhungi. The latter has got a quite a few patches of extremely bad roads with potholes as big as craters formed by comet strike but has comparatively lesser traffic and relatively more scenic. Nainital is only 35+ kilometers from Kaladhungi and is a riders’ dream come true kind of stretch. You get black top tarmac serpentine road all the way to Nainital with very little traffic.
Some 5 kms before Nainital I had my lunch break, and a plate of piping hot Maggi noodles seemed like something I had been waiting for all my life. And as soon as the lunch was finished, I found myself surrounded by dark clouds which kept me company for the next 2 days of my ride with intermittent spells of light shower.
Still unclear about my destination for the day, I decided to push for Pangot, a sleepy little hill station some 12 kms away from the hustle and bustle of Nainital. We had gone there riding 3-4 years ago when we took a BMW S1000RR and a Mini Countryman. The road from Nainital to Pangot is a narrow trail going through a dense forest and if it rainy season or winter, you’ll find a dense layer of fog covering the entire trail, making it enchantingly beautiful.
I was thinking of staying the night at Pangot but when I reached there it was only 4 pm so I decided to push for Kunjkharak. Now, Kunjkharak is nothing but a KMVN Guest House at the very end of this Nainital-Pangot road and it is as isolated of a place as you can think of. You won’t even get electricity there. The only source of energy is solar energy and there are no shops/restaurants either. So even if you need a matchbox or vegetables to cook, you’ll have buy it from Nainital and take it along while going to Kunjkharak or come all the way back to Nainital. Or you have to inform the guesthouse caretaker well in advance about your arrival for him to arrange everything for your stay. And that isolation made Kunjkharak a tempting destination for me.
And as per my knowledge, it was supposed to be just 12-13 km from Pangot or around 25 Km from Nainital. Like I said, I had been here on this stretch earlier as well when we stayed in Pangot and rode towards Kunjkharak as well, but couldn’t reach it due to the paucity of time. So, visiting Kunjkharak remained an unfinished business as well.
I was stopping every now and then for photography breaks on the way to Kunjkharak. The visibility was getting low with every passing minute due to dense fog and the setting sun. I had ridden more than 17-18 kms from Pangot but the guesthouse was nowhere to be seen. And there was not even a single soul who I could ask. The phone also had no connectivity either. So I was in two minds whether to keep going and visit Kunjkharak or retreat. I figured out I was anyways not going to stay the night at Kunjkharak as I had to charge my cameras, etc., which was not possible there. So visiting it seemed like a waste of time. I reached Kunjkharak around 6 pm and found out that it was good 40+ km from Nainital. Took an immediate U turn to ride back to Nainital, which was going to be one memorable ride as the visibility was near zero as it was dark and there was dense fog, making the visibility even poorer. And I was riding on a narrow mountain trail where even a small mistake could’ve been dangerous.
I reached Nainital finally by around 8.30 p.m. and called it a day after a short walk for dinner. By now I had the skeleton of next 2 days’ ride already in mind and it was going to be a special one for me. I was going to retrace the route that I did on my first ever long ride on motorcycle back in 2005. Five of us did the Delhi-Nainital-Mukteshwar-Kausani-Ranikhet-Delhi circuit back then and I said being my first ever mountain ride, this route has a special place in my heart.
The ride for day 2 started with me posing in front of beautiful Nainital Lake. I skipped the Mukteshwar part and decided to ride straight to Kausani. Kausani again is also a slightly lesser known hill stations of India that has a charm of its own. Kausani is known for its panoramic view of Himalayan peaks like Trishul, Nanda Devi, & Panchchuli. The sunsets and sunrises here are known to be memorable. Riding at a very leisurely pace, I reached Kausani by 3 pm and was a bit shocked. The Kausani I visited a decade ago was a sleepy little peaceful town, but it had now turned into a big tourist attraction now with a lot of big hotels and resorts. But being the off season, it was still kind of empty and rooms in the big hotels and resorts were available at dirt cheap price.
This versatile little gadget, the Ricoh WG-M1 action camera became my best friend during this roadtrip and helped immensely to capture my ride.
But, my eyes were searching for a budget hotel approximately a kilometer above Kausani where I had stayed in 2005. The only reason I wanted to stay in that hotel was because the rooftop of that 2-story hotel was at level with the road and it allows you to park your bike right on the rooftop and admire it as it shines from the first rays of rising sun from behind the Himalayan peaks falling on it. After around 45 minutes of searching, I managed to find that hotel and checked in with the condition that he’d let me park the bike on the rooftop. The sunset was sad because of the clouds and haze all over. Sacrifice of an hour of my sleep to capture the sunrise didn’t help much either as the sunrise too was obscured by the thick layer of clouds and haze, which also made the sighting of those snowcapped Himalayan peaks impossible. Disappointed I was, yes! But the main reason for me coming here wasn’t sightseeing but to relive my first ever roadtrip in the mountains.
And while checking out, the hotel guy told me about an alternate route back to Delhi. He told me about a road which goes from Ranikhet to Ramnagar via Corbett National Park, and it was too good of an option to miss. I had never been to Corbett either. So I here was, again on a road unseen, and what a decision it turned out to be. The stretch from Kausani to Ramnagar with its narrow serpentine road flanked by lush green pine trees became the highlight of my ride. The almost zero traffic was just proverbial icing on the cake. The rain gods kept reminding me of their presence every now and then all the way till Ramnagar. Riding through Corbett was another experience worth remembering. The serpentine roads passing through dense jungle and low visibility due to rain did make the ride a bit scary, but it was fun.
From Ramnagar, I took a wrong turn to avoid a broken patch of road and that wrong turn saw me riding through dozens of villages of Western U.P. for more than an hour until I joined the NH24 somewhere near Pakwara. It was great riding there and witnessing the country life, but I was riding solo, the sun was about to set, and I carrying a lot of expensive equipment (camera, laptop, etc.), so I just wanted to join the highway as soon as possible.
I gave myself a badly needed tea cum dinner break somewhere post Garhmukteshwar and then pushed for a nonstop ride to home.
This turned out to be one of my most memorable rides for so many reasons. First of all, it was my first solo ride to mountains and first rides are always memorable. Then I experimented with going on a ride with no plans whatsoever and that is what made all the difference. Going with the flow, exploring new roads, and soaking in whatever destiny throws at you and the overall uncertainty attached with it has a charm of its own that cannot be described in words.
And before I sign off, a few words about my only companion – the bike. The RC390, high on Castrol POWER1 that it was given the day before, performed flawlessly throughout – be it the open highway or the steep mountain climbs or the broken roads – it took all in its stride without any words of complain. However, the rather aggressive riding stance of the RC390 proved to be a little too much for my back and wrist. A heavy backpack with laptop & charger did make the matters worse, especially while riding downhill. Every single time I had to brake, my entire body was cursing me.
But we had fun, and that is what matters!
p.s.: In case you are doing the same route and facing any problems with your bike , you can visit your nearest Castrol Bike Point en route to get it fixed.
Check out the complete photo gallery from this ride on the next page:
We’ve also recreated portions of these routes on www.Power1Bikingroutes.com for anyone who wish to ride on the same route. Click on the below images to see the routes