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BEING a motorcyclist, I have had an opportunity to be a part of a fair few rides. I have ridden in the mountains before, and I have been a part of group rides as well. But for some reason, this particular ride will forever have a special place in my heart; I rode to Spiti with the TVS Apache Owners Group and with a special mission called #RideForChange
To give you an overview, it was a 13-day ride and 22 riders from around India joined this epic ride that spanned 1,500 km across some of the most scenic locations and some of the most treacherous terrains. About the #RideForChange initiative, TVS has pledged to support the students of Kaza Government School for an entire year by distributing educational supplies. So without further ado, let me take you through the experience of this ride.
Day 1 – Chandigarh
I started from xBhp HQ in Delhi in a car arranged by TVS. We had to drive to Chandigarh which was the gathering point and the flag-off venue for this ride. Once we reached the hotel, it was great to see that TVS had arranged a proper meet and greet where all the riders got to meet each other and know each other.
We also got to meet Abhishek Kumar Roshan, Senior Marketing Manager, Premium Business and Customer Experience, and also the man responsible for organizing and handling this ride. We also had Pradeep Shah, Deputy Manager – Corporate Communications, TVS Motor Company and Naveen CV, Program Coordinator – Brand Experience, Premium Business from the TVS team joining helping in coordinating the ride. We were also joined by Rugved Barguje, a national champion of the TVS Racing Team and it was great to have his company. After the meet and greet, the TVS team distributed the merchandise for the ride and finally, it was time for us to embark on our journey.
Day 2 – Chandigarh to Narkanda | 180 km
The ride was flagged off by Mr Karnesh Sharma, IAS, Director, Tourism & Cultural Affairs, Govt. of Punjab, Mr Himanshu Gupta, PCS, Sub Divisional Magistrate, Dera Bassi, SAS Nagar, Punjab and Ms Amaninder Kaur Brar, PCS, Additional Deputy Commissioner General, SAS Nagar, Punjab.
Our destination for the day was Narkanda and we had planned to take ample photography breaks and stuff but still reach Narkanda in around 7 hours. We had also taken into account the rainy weather. I decided that it was better to just keep my rain gear on because the rain was sporadic.
We had planned to reach Narkanda by sunset but some of us lost our way as the network was spotty. But one of the riders guided us back on the right route and that is the beauty of riding in groups. Even though we were on the right path, the sun had already set and the detour we took was a little scary. The ascents and descents were really steep.
Our stay was at a place called Agyaat Vaas and as the name implies, it was a very calm and serene place. After a hearty interaction with all the riders and a scrumptious dinner, we decided to get some rest and get ready for the next day.
Day 3 – Narkanda to Sangla | 185 km
We had to cover around 190 km. As expected, it was very foggy so the pace, in the beginning, was a little slow. But as we reached closer to Sangla and Chitkul, the greenery increased manifolds along with photo opportunities. With colourful flags all around, we knew that it was a ‘Welcome to the Mountains’ moment for us.
Though our destination was Chitkul, our stay was in Sangla, a small and quiet little town situated at quite an altitude. Our stay was a resort-like accommodation booked for two days as we needed time to explore the nearby areas, including Chitkul.
We reached our destination at around 6:30 PM, which was nearly 12 hours as we had started from Agyaatvaas at around 7 AM. Not too far away from our stay, we had the Baspa river and I could see the river even from my room and not just see, but hear it too.
After a long day of riding and marvelling at the ample apple trees we had for company, we had our dinner. There was a camp of sorts arranged for us where all the riders got together for some music and chit-chat before retiring to our rooms.
Day 4 – Exploring Chitkul | 75 km
This day was reserved for exploration and Chitkul was our target for the day. It is about 25 km or an hour or so away from Sangla. We were also told to get out hiking gear as that was on the agenda for the day as well. After getting ready, we rode from Sangla to Chitkul. This route is where we encountered quite a few water-crossings, but nothing too serious.
In around an hour and a half, we reached our campsite from where we were to start the hike. We had to go to the top of the mountain where there was an Indian flag along with a beautiful view of the Chitkul village. It seemed simple enough and it was to be done before coming back for lunch. As it turned out, it was anything but simple.
We started the hike and initially, it seemed like it’d come to us easily. Everyone was hiking at their own pace and it gave rise to different groups. As I continued on my way, I got separated from the group but I carried on. As I was about to get close to the top, I realised that I could not see the flag. After looking around for a bit, I saw that it was on another peak, parallel to the one I was on. There was a moment of panic and desperation but I recollected myself and decided to go back down tracing the route I used to climb.
After climbing down, I finally saw someone from our group. I asked for the way and he told me but as I started another climb, it started raining. Though it was risky, I was not leaving without paying my respects to the Indian Tricolour. After some cautious effort, I reached the peak. Just being there in that moment is a feeling that is hard to describe in words.
Day 5 – Sangla to Kalpa | 65 km
The destination for Day 5 was Kalpa and it was around 70 km from Sangla. Before that, let me tell you about the most beautiful moment of this trip for me personally. As I woke up in the morning and went out to the balcony, I saw Kinnaur Kailash. It was one of the most beautiful sights I had ever seen. Anyway, back to the trip.
Once we reached Kalpa, we saw that it was a bustling village with a very lively market. We decided that we’d go up to our stay, rest for a while, and come back to the market. Though some people needed to get some winter clothes, the only thing I needed was a SIM card. Vodafone coverage is spotty at best and everyone suggested JIO.
We explored the market, I got a SIM card and after some photography and wandering around, we came back to our resort.
Day 6 – Kalpa to Kaza | 250 km
This was the toughest riding day of the entire trip. And we were made aware of that even before we experienced it. Abhishek and Rugved trained us in riding off-road and dealing with difficult terrains; all in preparation for what was in store for us. As we started the ride, the route was narrow, sure, but I had dealt with roads much worse in the past. As we progressed, the greenery gave way to barren mountains and then, it happened. Suddenly, it started raining and the relatively smooth ride became a nightmare.
As we went on, the rain kept getting heavier and we had mud, slush, gravel and rocks falling from the mountains to deal with. At one point, the slush was nearly swampy and I got stuck in there. I tried to wiggle around to get out but I could not. I shifted my weight to one side and somehow untrapped one of my legs. Then with the help from others, I got my bike out of there.
It was getting dark and because of the slush, we were spread out. In one section, I found myself riding alone but not too long after, I saw the riders who had reached earlier waving so that the following riders did not miss the turn. Finally, we all made it to the destination safely but this is one day that I won’t forget anytime soon.
Day 7 – Exploring Kaza – Hikkim – Komic
The previous day was a tough ride and after some well-deserved rest, we all woke up to a beautiful morning. We proceeded to have breakfast before the day was reserved for exploring Kaza and nearby places.
The first destination was Hikkim, the home to the world’s highest functional post office. It is a bright red-coloured building shaped like a post box. This particular place made for a very emotional moment for all the riders. With no network or anything, we were all scrambling to write postcards to our loved ones and knowing that they’d be delivered from a far-off place like that; it was surreal.
After savouring the roller-coaster of emotions and writing our postcards, we made our way to Komic, the last village, as it is referred to. It was a colourful little village with wonderful people and beautiful sights. Before heading back to our stay, we also visited an old-age home where all of us donated what we could.
Day 8 – Exploring Kaza – Langza – Key Monastery – Kaza Government School
There was more to explore in Kaza so we started early. The first stop on our exploration spree was Langza. It is a very remote corner of Himachal Pradesh which is known for the huge Buddha Statue that is situated there. Another thing Langza is known for is the sighting of a very rare and elusive beast- the Snow Leopard.
The one thing that had us worried though was the massive black cloud that was over us. Langza is also known to see massive landslides under heavy rain. Thankfully, the rain was light and we did not encounter anything of that sort on our way to Key Monastery.
This is the place that according to me is the signature of Spiti. It is one of the most beautiful monasteries I have been to so I made sure that I captured enough moments to be able to relive visiting this place again. After spending some time at the monastery, we made our way to the Kaza Government School.
The cultural program put forth by the children was amazing. After they were done, they even came and danced with us. In turn, we also gave them motorcycle rides around the school. We also played cricket with them. Since it was a #RideForChange, TVS Team distributed the gifts and made our way back.
Day 9 – Kaza to Chandra Taal | 100 km
Now, it was time to ride from Kaza to Chandratal. On our way, the first destination was Cheecham Bridge, a beautiful suspension bridge and among the highest in Asia. In one of the most beautiful locations of this ride, we ended up spending more than an hour taking photographs and just admiring the view.
Now, the route from Cheecham Bridge to Chandratal is considered to be difficult and we could feel it as the rain was starting to get heavier. Somehow, after a slight off-road stretch, we reached a good tarmac stretch and we reached Losar, our spot for a lunch break. Despite heavy rain, we had to keep riding as we left Losar. We could not stop as the danger of landslides was ever-present. Then there was the possibility of finding black ice around Kunzum Pass but thankfully, that did not happen and we did have some dry roads. But right before our destination, we encountered a massive water crossing with the flow of water being downright dangerous.
Halfway through the crossing, I was getting swayed by the flow of the water as I was not able to put my foot down- properly. I was getting swept towards the edge but two riders came to help me out and somehow we crossed it and made our way through. Upon reaching our destination, there was another training session with Rugved. It was amazing to see him tackle the terrains and water crossings like they were nothing. Yet again, we learned a great deal from him.
Day 10 and 11 – Chandratal to Atal Tunnel to Manali | 120 km
Before heading out, we visited Chandra Taa. We spent a lot of time taking photographs. All the difficulties that we faced in reaching this place were worth it. After that, we made our way to our campsite from where we were to leave for Manali. That meant going through the water-crossing again. But this time, with the learnings from Rugved’s training session, I was able to cross it easily.
From then on, a major chunk of the route was off-road and honestly, I do not even remember sitting on the motorcycle as we saddled through most of this route. And just when we thought it could not get worse, it started raining! And if that was not enough, we came across the mother of all water-crossings. It was nearly a river. But Rugved’s training paid off and we safely crossed it.
By this point, congratulations were in order and all the riders congratulated each other. We had finally conquered Spiti and now, we were all excited about the Atal Tunnel. It was a little slow for my liking but it was beautiful nonetheless. Now, Manali was not too far and so was the end of this ride. After riding for a while more, we made our way to the resort that was our stay.
A good day of riding came to an end with the closing ceremony from TVS. All the riders were felicitated and provided with certificates for the ride. The next day was reserved for exploring Manali but I had a lot of work to catch up on so I decided to spend my day at the hotel. Around 6 PM, I went out for a ride but the rain was getting heavier so I decided against riding too far and explored the cafes nearby.
Day 12 – Manali to Chandigarh and conclusion | 300 km
From Manali, we made our way to Chandigarh through rains and landslides and whatnot. Even the end of this ride was not bland! We even had to take some halts because the rain was that heavy. Finally, we reached Chandigarh which marked the end of this epic ride. It was almost night when we reached Chandigarh and yet, we had a grand welcome waiting for us. After some more congratulations, a meet and greet, and the final dinner of this ride, we all went to sleep. The next day, we were all on our way home and I came back to Delhi- home sweet home. But this was surely an unforgettable ride for me and I cannot wait to be a part of another TVS AOG excursion.