When we are walking home, this time we pass by a bike shop and see “THE Bike”, a Royal Enfield, ten years old, 500 cc, turquoise. You can can feel that it has “a soul”, that it has been through something and it feels almost like it is speaking to us. Some kind of force attracts us to it and immediately we go there to check it out. While having a test round, it seems even more perfect than we initially thought: the sound it makes is amazing – like a purring cat. We name it Angelo, which in Italian means “angel”.
To celebrate this, we go to eat at the Italian restaurant and prepare ourselves mentally to head off tomorrow early in the morning…
I can’t wait!
(from What is Fear Really About)
In the middle of the night I wake up and feel really bad. After some time, I have to admit to myself that I must have eaten something bad and I now have food poisoning. I am up all night and unfortunately I have to accept the fact that I am not going anywhere today and that I will have to stay in bed. I try to recover as fast as possible – rehydrating myself so that I am ready to leave the very next morning.
Towards late afternoon I start feeling a little bit better and we start preparing our bags. The packing has to be done very carefully as it is extremely important to take as little as possible, since any additional weight would have an impact on the stability of the bike. It is a little difficult to pack only the essentials since, after all, we are going on a three-week trip, where we will also be facing sub-zero temperature. Besides carrying a tent, sleeping bags, medicine, repairing tools, winter clothes, waterproof covers, food and water, we also need to carry extra petrol for about 200 km since there is no petrol station en route.
We wake up to a beautiful sunny day, with not a single cloud in the sky, I feel confident that today nothing will go wrong, no food poisoning or whatsoever and I am very excited about finally starting our adventure. After making the final preparations and equally distributing the weight on the bike, we go to the registration centre in Manali, where they register our names and bike number, as we have to buy a permit which allows us to cross over the Rohtang pass.
We make one more stop at the petrol station to fill the tank and the extra two bottles and are now good to go. Not even five minutes after we leave, we hear loud honking behind us and when I turn around I realize that we have already lost one whole bag because it was not properly fixed. I hop off and start collecting all the things, food, shoes etc. which are spread all over different parts of the road. We fix the bag again and now leave towards Rohtang pass (52km).
We leave the city behind us and we pass through many small villages and farmers are coming towards us with their herds of sheep, goats and cows. We can now look over the city of Manali and the atmosphere is simply beautiful. The road continues uphill, passes through a wonderful forest and as we go higher it gradually becomes less and less dense.
There are many other jeeps and bikers heading in the same direction as we are and many more coming from the opposite direction. Every time they pass they give us a friendly hand sign, either waving, or a thumbs up sign to say “Hello”. I really enjoy it since it makes me feel like we are all part of a big group.
Suddenly we get to a tricky part since there are different places along the road which are extremely narrow – making it a one-way street. For the motorbike it is okay, but big trucks and cars have to pass as well.
As is the case in India, cars drive on the “opposite” side of the road (left hand traffic), we are mostly driving on the side of the road protected by the mountain. But still I don’t dare to look down and just try to summon all my strength and positive thinking together – making this a good experience and enjoying the beautiful landscape, rather than freaking out about the height.
After this thrill we continue our drive and reach a rest stop area with many restaurants, a temple and people paragliding since there is a really good view over the whole of the valley.
Thankfully the road is wider now, but there are many parts which are simply dirt roads, creating a lot of dust and making it difficult to drive. It is not raining but it is quite windy and getting colder; so time to put my gloves on because I can’t really feel my fingers anymore.
After about an hour of road, we finally see the sign: “Rohtang Pass (Rohtangla)” and many people taking pictures. We know that from this point the road will just go downhill and our stop is no longer far away, about 20km. When we stop to take some pictures, we decide to put our skiing clothes on since it is suddenly freezing cold – no wonder, we are now at an altitude of 3,978 meters.
Now the road starts to gradually worsen, there are big holes and it is very bumpy but by driving slowly and carefully we manage. After a while we again hear a lot of honking behind us – once again we have lost a whole bag! No wonder with these roads!! The biker who makes us aware of our bag falling off asks us if we are missing a sleeping bag, since he saw one on the road about 20 km back; indeed it is ours. Unfortunately, due to the load noise of the engine, we didn’t hear it and since it is about to get dark we don’t have time to drive back.
Finally, at around 7 pm, we reach Koksar, a small village where we will be staying for the night. Before entering the village, there is another police check post where we have to register. While doing so I read the warning written on the wall: “You are about to drive over dangerous and steep mountain roads, be careful and take all the precautions which are needed.”
We take a small room nearby, eat some local dish and have a well-deserved rest.
Today has been such a great day, with amazing landscape all around and even though I haven’t drive the bike yet, I am doing the bike tour – something I feared as much as I wanted it for a long time. I am feeling so grateful and fall asleep watching the biggest and brightest full moon I have ever seen.