One Living Life: Ghaziabad to Lansdowne: Gruelling 36 hours on 2 wheels

Friday 27 November 2015

Ghaziabad to Lansdowne: Gruelling 36 hours on 2 wheels

This trip was during my stay in Delhi NCR and was the most tiring ride till date. (Yes, by the end of this trip, it turned to be harder than Dajipur) Well, being on 2 wheels is fun excitement and thrill. But, at times poor planning, bad roads, traffic and "Uttar Pradesh" can make your ride dreadful. This travelogue is among my not-so-favorite experiences.

Usually, weekends for a bachelor working in the IT sector means booze, party and movies. I always try to move away from these (but mostly cannot) and make my weekends exciting & thrilling, travelling on 2 wheels or on a tour somewhere. I do not prefer solo-rides and getting a pillion/co-rider was one heck of a trouble during my short stay in NCR. My roomie loved drinking more than travelling and it was hard to get him on the pillion seat. Fellow bikers? There were almost none, who preferred small weekend destinations. There was a good group, the DBBR who rode only to Dhabas on weekends. I came in touch with some but could not plan out a trip with them in time. My fault there. The rest? Most of them showed off their machines or talked about rides to Ladakh. The rest of the world thought I was crazy to ride such long distances on 2 wheels.

The flat which I had rented had 2 budding quack doctors staying on the top floor. One of them had a Splendor and the other had a Honda City in which he used to drink, listen to songs and drive around in a radius of 1 km from his home. That weekend, one of them laid their hands on a Pulsar 180 from a friend. I casually asked them if they wished to have a weekend ride. To my surprise, they agreed and so did my roomie! Usually, the budding doctors were a group of bluffmasters aho never walked the talk and neither paid the bills when they were split. So, I was very conspicuous.

The Group: An NS, a Pulsar 180, 2 Yadavs on the 180, Me & Himanshu on the NS
Me, Small Yadav/Yadav1, Big Yadav/Yadav2, Himanshu (Left to Right)
The Yadav duo had no Helmets so they borrowed my pillion helmet and handed my pillion a Cricket helmet in turn. It was an unsafe choice to which I hesitated but later agreed to because they would never buy Helmets for the trip. Moreover, I enjoyed how someone really looked like a funny army guy wearing that stuff.

We filled our tyres with optimum pressure and rolled out of Ghaziabad by 2 pm. The road from Ghaziabad to Lansdowne shows around 226 km on Google maps but in reality we had clocked 280+ kms on the odo. A few weeks ago I had a trip from Ghaziabad to Agra and my expectations were soaring above Cloud 9. Beating the Ghaziabad traffic did not pose any problem but the road was a single narrow lane with uncountable potholes in between. Well, the imagination of a road like Yamuna Expressway was slowly dropping out of my mind. We stopped at a Dhaba before entering Meerut.
Stopping by a Dhaba before Meerut

The weather was great as it was the end of a North Indian winter. I started clicking a few shots. Who wants to miss snaps with 2 bikes beside a dhaba by a highway? Snaps like these give you the real urge to ride again and again. I setup my tripod and we were having a few groupies when the sky turned dark.
At the Dhaba before Meerut

It would rain undoubtedly. I just hoped that the clouds above pee as fast as they can and not spoil our plans which had been setup after months.

Our prayers were heard and it stopped raining. It was still cloudy and it would continue to drizzle later. I was pretty much ready with my riding jacket, a raincoat for my pillion rider. But, those quack docs seemed like they did not even care to bring a spare t shirt with them!!! Well, like I said. They talked a lot.

The sun was at the horizon when we were taking the Meerut bypass. It was a wonderful view then. The roads were washed and the tarmac shone under the setting sun with a reddish hue. I guess the snaps were taken by Himanshu and I forgot to copy them later. I could not keep my phone on the holder for GPS because it was still drizzling. The Meerut bypass was a good stretch of road but that was just a lure to pick up speed. You never know when a big pothole disguised as a puddle of surprise could topple you and your pillion rider over!! At the back of my mind, Goa was working well and kept me hyper alert.

The wind was cold and the drizzle wouldn't stop. It was already 6 pm by the time we reached Bijnor. Darkness had crept in and it was getting harder to spot the potholes. It was a highway with lots of trucks and lorries crossing. We had no way but to ride ahead. Reaching Lansdowne by night was nearly out of question. We were unsure where to halt for the night. The Yadavs/Docs were pretty drenched by this time and I suggested them to borrow a few plastics from a nearby shop so that they could protect their feet from the soaked socks.

As we crossed Najibabad, the highway was pitch dark except some light from the passing lorries who did not care about a small motorcycle on the road. The road was wide enough but they loved to push me out of the pitch onto the muddy terrain. Any one of them would perhaps be pretty happy to run over smaller vehicles. And, being in Uttar Pradesh, death was almost certain if you are in a road accident. If the first lorry leaves you half killed, the rest coming behind them wouldn't care to stop for help but would run over you a few more times to put an end to your pain.

It seemed to be some sort of detour when we left the highway unknowingly. Yes! Highways at some places are so narrow and between a busy market that you never know when you switch lanes and move to a service lane! And, then the service lane takes you somewhere else. Riding for a few minutes when you expect the highway to get wider at some point and you don't, you know that you had already taken  a detour miles behind. The same happened to us. And, the detour was not good. It was a muddy road. Sorry! It was actually not a road, rather a giant group of potholes. At times, rarely you could find some tar beneath which gave you the feeling: "perhaps they dropped that blob of tar by mistake at this place. Perhaps, it was not planned to be a road afterall!" Anyways, hardships are a part of the journey and we are used to these roads from our childhood.

There was no network at this place and Google Maps stopped working. The old school method of asking for directions was back on track and we steered our way amidst more potholes and jungles. After an hour or two, finally we reached the highway. It was time to make up some lost time. So, amidst the dark night we sped up as fast as we could.

Someway ahead, we could feel the temperatures dropping rapidly and smell the petrichor. On a certain stretch of road, we could feel strong winds from the side, which marked the end of the jungle but darkness did not let us see the vast pains. At some stretch, we crossed a long bridge and could smell and feel the light winds which meant we were crossing a huge waterbody camouflaged by the darkness. And then, a sweet smell of some particular flower continued for a long time. We never got to see the vast plains, nor the waterbody, nor the stretch and neither the flowers that refreshed us. It was mystery, darkness and only the road lit by the headlights that I could see.

It was really a long journey and we stopped less in between. We had to keep our pace to reach Lansdowne.
Hats off to Himanshu for being able to sit on the pillion seat of NS for that long! He had sheer patience and endurance for the trip and can be touted as a perfect pillion. Had it been me, I would have jumped off that pillion seat after seating more than 30 minutes at a stretch. He put up his ass on that dreadful place more than 6-8 hours. We took small breaks when he would jump off the pillion seat but not be able to stand normally. Because...
(Pat me for my wonderful drawing and illustration.)

It was like he found it hard to put back his legs at 10-20° while standing after every 2 hours on that NS seat.

We reached Kotdwara at around 9 pm. It is a small town at the base of the Himalayas. Soon after leaving Kotdwara the winding hilly roads start off towards Lansdowne. Our fellow riders were pretty much tired by then. Those 2 budding quack doctors had interchanged positions on their motorcycle throughout the whole way since both knew biking. On the other hand, I was the only biker on my motorcycle. My pillion could not swap positions with me. I wanted to reach Lansdowne the same day but citing rains, darkness, hilly turns and being tired, I nodded when all decided to stay down at Kotdwara for the night. Finding a Hotel was quite hard here since it was not a tourist/visiting place. But, as always such towns have a hotel or shelter near Railway Stations or major Bus depots. We wanted to lay down cozy and take separate rooms comfortably. But, Himanshu reminded me that probably we both would be paying bills for the 4 of us and never get the split fares back. There was a huge backlog of bills, they owed us. Drinks and Snacks for almost the past 6 months!!! It had become unbearable and yet again we dared to take this trip with them. 

On top of that, there was only One room available. It was a small room for 400 a night. There were 2 single beds joined to each other. The room was so small that you took a step inside and you were on bed and you took a step away from the bed to be either outside the room or into the toilet! A room for lazy fellows.. huh!!! 2 single beds and we were 4 guys. I knew that it was going to be a dreadful night ahead. The toilet was more smelly than shit. It was like a big 'YUCK' all around but we had to stay. It was a cold North Indian winter and staying out was impossible. So, I brought a big bottle of my staple diet (Blender's Pride) and booked a corner of the bed for myself. I did not dare to touch the blankets and was happy to spend the night wearing my jacket. The alcohol was much needed for: 
1. To beat the cold night during the midnight strolls 
2. To keep the wonderful odor of the room, blankets and the toilet away 
3. To numb my senses so that I did not feel the environment and stink all around
4. Alcohol helps sooth the nerves after a tiring day
5. Ain't BP itself a good enough reason???

2 pegs down and the Yadavs (our budding quack doctors) started a new level of bluffing altogether. The guy who never dared to walk outside UP, weaved me a story of how he visited Ladakh!!! It was not boring at all. I was amused by his stories. He used his muscle power to ride his motorcycle to Ladakh and his courage to hunt a wild boar in some jungle near Ittawa. Oh yes!! And when we were talking about the chances of getting a better room, he said that he had spent a night outside on his motorcycle in Ladakh, as there were no hotel rooms available when he visited. I mean.. Dude!!! Seriously.. there are bluffers and then there are Bluffmasters... I was in front of a BluffLord or a BluffGod. The entertainment turned bitter and I could not take it anymore. I went out with Himanshu for a stroll outside leaving the 2 Yadav's to bluff each other.

We did not expect anyone to be awake outside but since we were close to a Railway station there was a 24X7 Tea stall with a few customers. We went back in after a few minutes unable to bear the cold and I had to cuddle up somehow at one corner of the bed. The alcohol helped me get a bit more rest.

I woke up early morning and was scared of relieving myself in that toilet. My shit would perhaps crawl back in, seeing the place it was about to land on. Defecating on open fields would have been a much hygienic option and living in a country with so much population, that option can never be executed if you want a bit of privacy. So, as it seemed, I had no way to relieve myself. I mean... who keeps a toilet so dirty in a hotel and then asks for rent! There was one single hotel boy who cleaned all rooms and was available only to take orders pertaining to food. He lived at the end of the alley. I wondered if he would keep his own place so dirty and so decided to take a peek into his room. As expected, his room was much cleaner and his toilet way better than the other rooms. Now, my job was to sneak into his toilet to relieve myself. One heck of a morning it was!!! But, thankfully I was able to put an end to the trauma.
Half Night's sleep and a bad morning refreshment.
The sleep deprived face shows the morning trauma pretty well
We got out early and soon it started drizzling. The Yadav duo had no way but to buy a raincoat. 

We started climbing the hills on our 2 wheels. Later on, it started getting bright and sunny and it was an enjoyable climate on the hilly roads. I could take my camera and tripod out for some shots, groupies and videos. I had no selfie stick and my tripod had to turn into a big one. It worked pretty well holding up the prosumer.
The Tripod turned... 'Jugaad' Selfie Stick held by Himanshu sitting behind me
We took turns in holding the 'jugaad'-selfie stick, so that everyone could come in the frame at some point of time.
Testing the 'Jugaad'
The distance from Kotdwara to Lansdowne did not have that many steep turns. It was rather easy but it was the first time my baby treaded on the tarmac of the hills. Winding along the hilly roads I was breathing fresh air after a long time. 

City life, Delhi and NCR had frustrated me. It was time to unwind. I loved to lean and turn as the road casually winded up towards the mountain top time and again. 

The bright sun rays pierced through the light green leaves and gave a relaxing view. Hilly areas are mostly clear and so was everything here. Colors were so vivid during that clear sunny day. The leaves, the tarmac, the bark, and every individual object around were oozing their colors more brightly.

Some Fun we had on the way

We took a short break at a roadside stall to stretch our legs. 

For a break by a stall
Some tea, pakoras and a warm fire refreshed us more than ever.

The warmth
The view from the hillside snack shop
We rolled uphill casually and stopped at places for a few snaps.

As we rolled into Lansdowne it felt more like a normal town. Somewhere, it did lack the feeling of a quaint hill-town. Mostly because, it was pretty populated and too much of tourism and buildings had blocked the natural view around. Concrete had crept its way up here. Lansdowne was full of residential blocks, Army areas, hospitals, schools, religious places, markets and every other thing that a fully flourished town should have. Not that I was feeling bad about these facilities that locals enjoyed but I was a bit sad to see so much concrete around. We did not know about the places to visit. So, a few enquiries did sort things. There were hardly 4-5 points to visit. 

We headed towards the T-Point which was presumably the best as locals said. The view from there was very good. 
The View from the T-Point, Lansdowne
I can't say that I was mesmerized by it because Pune and the Western Ghats did give way more lush green mountain view than that provided by this T-Point at Lansdowne. Of course, you don't compare places but this Lansdowne did neither seem to carry the awe of the Himalayas nor did it compete well with lush greenery. Nonetheless, I did not ponder so much back then as much as I am writing now. So, I did enjoy the view, captured some 360 shots and some panoramas. A few selfies and groupies to recall our memories later. 

There was a group of cottages just near the T-Point view point. It was indeed a sweet spot for a couple to spend a few days there.

While all of us seemed to enjoy the moment and have fun, Himanshu seemed a bit down. I did not care at first but later I did not even need to ask. Oh crap! Yes, he did not crap when he was supposed to. How could the hotel toilet let him do that? It was hilarious to see that pressure-resisting expression on his face. He tried so hard to put on a laughing face.
We headed towards some lake which was not at all worth the visit. Again, your newly wed wife or girlfriend could have been the perfect company at this place. A snack shop, a lake and boating across the lake wasn't much for 4 bachelors out on an exciting trip. The lake seemed to be totally covered around by woods. We did not even care to enter that place and headed towards our last destination.

The Mall Road. There were a few more places indeed. An old church and a Museum were 2 other places. We just stopped to take a look at the church from outside and none of us were interested in visiting the Museum. Most Mall roads at hill stations provide a good view point and a polished and clean look. This one at Lansdowne is not fit to be called a Mall Road. 
A Panorama from the center of the Mall Road; No views; Obstructed by concrete all around
A simple Ghaziabad market would be enough to compare it. It was unclean. There was no view point. Leave polished looks, this place was not even organized. We stopped for a mini lunch here and left soon. I did expect more from Lansdowne considering that it is based at the foothills of the Himalayas. But, I had actually considered coming to this place since this was the nearest hill station from Delhi and covering the track with 2 bluffing Yadavs should minimise the difficulties. But again, no trip is a bad trip when you have 2 wheels betweens your legs.

We descended fast and rode at lengths, taking minimum breaks in between. I wanted to make full use of the daylight and reach home for a good rest before attending office the next day. It was going to be a great fail. I started off with my usual energy and sharpness. Little did I know that the day ahead was going to be the most strenuous and tiresome day on two wheels ever. Things did roll past my breaking point later and I was on the verge of giving up multiple times. I would suffer a stress injury that would continue to haunt me for a few months ahead.

Unaware of all these, I rode casually knowing that I had the whole day in my hand. We stopped somewhere in between to have tea and some food. The Yadav 1/BiggerBluff Yadav said that he would catch a train from a nearby place and let the Yadav 2/SmallYadav ride back home. The small Yadav/Yadav 2 would always follow the big Yadav/Yadav 1 wagging his tail like a dog. This time, he would perhaps have to pay the price for his loyalty. The hard work was always given to Little Yadav. All through the trip the big Yadav got to wear the good raincoat, got to rest on the pillion seat whenever he wanted and ride whenever the views were great, even eat the good food and take all good stuffs from the little one. Poor Yadav 2. I did feel sorry for him at times. But, nevertheless, both were bluffs.

We kept riding through the mysterious roads and now we could view the wonderful plains, the water body and smell the flower that refreshed us on our way to Lansdowne. I rode as fast and sharply as I could. Given the condition of the roads, riding during night while coming was a big mistake that we made. We were lucky to avert the nighttime disasters. As we rolled ahead, it was a long time that the 2 motorcycles got disconnected. I knew that we had to take another break. Himanshu did have to hang onto that pillion seat and bear the pain for long stretches. We took a break, had some water and freshened up on a cup of coffee. Rolling was all I had to do. Time was short and the road was bad. 

We had probably started our way back from Lansdowne at 1 pm and reached Meerut by 5 pm. This is where the worst nightmare of the trip started. It was a Sunday evening and the whole working population was returning to Delhi after their weekend hometown visit. When every event around you is against you, it turns out that we take yet another wrong step and so did I. I missed the Meerut bypass and instead took the road through the market. The traffic was on my nerves. Meerut to Ghaziabad was around 35 kms and I did not have the slightest idea till then that I would reach home after 6 hours. I pushed slowly and steadily though Meerut, expecting the traffic to speed up as it reached the highway. I reached the highway and the traffic showed no signs of dispersal. I had no option but to ride ahead. 

My sprained thumb from Goa's accident(a few years back) had started answering. It did answer time and again throughout the ride but now it started getting numb. It was my right hand thumb and gripping the clutch was mostly depended on it. A clutch slip due to the  numbness meant I would hit the vehicle in front of me. I had to be steady and fight the numbness. I had to somehow let the thumb relax so that I could reach home safe without hurting myself or anyone around. Two-three hours since I entered Meerut Market I was still continuing at snail's pace amidst the traffic. In fact, it was a whopping 35 kms of traffic ahead. None cared if their wheels were on the tarmac or not. Offroading was the best was to reach faster. So, I forced my thumb and myself, pushed myself to limits on the off roads for a few minutes and rested my thumb for a few seconds. The numbness gradually did not limit itself around the thumb. It had started spreading across my hand. Himanshu sat like a dead person behind me. He squeaked and said that he could not feel his legs anymore. The pillion seat had numbed his legs. It was also a certain level of stress injury that he was going through. We were the pavers of our own destiny and we were responsible for choosing this path and this trip. We had to complete it safely. 

Innumerable times, I felt like letting the clutch go off. Sometimes I felt, I should get off the bike and fall down like a dead man to take some rest by the side of the road. Time and again, I had to gather myself and mentally force me to stay on road and reach home faster. I was confident that I would not be able to attend office the next day. I just wanted to reach home safe and sound. Meerut to Delhi was dreadful. The population on the roads were enormous. I heard from locals that every Friday and Sunday afternoon to nearly next morning the traffic stays so congested. Just imagine 40 kms of a 2 way-highway fully crowded with flowing traffic for nearly 12 hours.

I was so happy when I saw the Ghaziabad signboard. The traffic did disperse gradually as the Nation's Capital had some better plans than the roads that led to it. When I reached home, I parked my motorcycle, untied my shoelace somehow and grabbed a bottle of the leftover whisky. I wanted to sleep like a deadman for the next whole day. I stuffed as much food as I could. Finished off the drink with Himanshu, hugged each other, being happy to complete the trip safely and went to sleep for the next whole day.

It had turned out to be a Gruelling 36 Hours on 2 wheels.

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