Riding on snow can be exciting yet dangerous. Shahwar Hussain rides to Manali, Solang and Gulaba through slippery and snow-covered roads and survives to tell the tale.
The hills have a way of getting to you. If you have been to the hills for any length of time, you will want to head back to them at the slightest pretext. Since India is such a diverse country, the hills have very different textures. Some are perpetually snow-covered while others are dry and cool, and covered with pine trees and then there are some evergreen hills. But whatever it is, the beauty is enthralling.
Most hills districts now have excellent roads and riding through the winding roads on a powerful motorcycle is the dream of every biker. Although I have extensively traveled on hills and most types of weather, I never rode in snow. Well, riding on snow can be very dangerous if your bike is not fitted with specific tyres. And I could ill-afford such liberties.
But snow was what I was looking for, and I found it in Manali. There was snow at Auli in Utteranchal also, but somehow the upper reaches of Manali seemed more enticing. And so Manali it was.
Our trusty mount, a 350cc Royal Enfield Standard Bullet bore the burnt of our wanderlust spirit all through this winter. We took the bike through some of the worst roads that the PWD and the NHAI could throw up, and it hardly ever missed a beat. Riding on the highway is smooth, and you can make good time but it does get a tad boring and monotonous. The fun is to take the bike off the highway and on to the narrow and unpaved roads that runs through small villages and invariably leads to many interesting places. Life gets much easier riding on the unpaved roads when you are astride a heavy motorcycle like the Bullet.
After a change of oil and getting equipped with a few êxtra control cables, spanners and a puncture repair kit, we started out on our 1200 kilometers journey. The ride from Delhi to Chandigarh is one long flat stretch with similar landscapes all through, thereby making the ride pretty monotonous. Also, the truckers in this route are immensely avoidable. To escape the traffic and the monotony, we started out quite late at night.
Riding at night has its advantages. We encountered light traffic all the way as we rode at a good pace. Motorcycling at night can also be fun, but if you feel that your eyelids are getting heavy, don’t even think about riding on. Stop at a dhaba and hit the bed. Remember, he who sleeps well, lives to ride another day!
We didn’t feel too sleepy since we had countless cups of tea every few hours and so rode on till we reached Chandigarh at an unearthly hour and straightaway made for the hotel.
We wanted to move on early next morning but by the time we started out it was past 10 o’clock and the sun was shining in all its glory. Chandigarh can be pretty confusing if you don’t know the way. You ride through arrow-straight roads and then hit a roundabout that has four or more similar roads. Further down you hit another roundabout, exactly like the one you had just crossed and there will be many more similar roundabouts ahead of you. After having lost our way a couple of times, we were finally on our way to Ropar and on to Kiratpur from where the hills begin. The climb starts gradually and by the time you reach Swarghat, it’s a proper ascent.