I woke up at 6:30 am to the sound of massive drops of rain falling. It was pouring! I looked around saw everyone else was sleeping. I dozed off hoping to get up at 7 and get these guys to pack up. Next thing I know it’s 7:30 am. I get up and knock on Vilas’ room. He looks stunned! Everyone gets up and starts taking showers and slowly packing up. Everyone is unsure how we will tie the luggage while it’s raining as the bikes were parked in the open. By the time we packed the rain had subsided but it was also 9 am now. We all tied the luggage and wore the rain suits. Now the Rain suits are notorious.
Here is the order in which you wear your accessories before you sit on the bike. First you wear the shoe covers and zip them up. Then you wear the rain pants. Then you wear the rain top which was luckily for us almost a poncho like thing that you had to just swim through to pop your head out. But the tricky part was the knee and elbow guards. If you didn’t wear them before putting on the rain suits, it meant you’d have to strip it all down and then wear them all back up. And for someone like me with the shoe size of 12 I had to remove my shoe anytime I had anything to do with my pants of the knee guard and that was frustrating!
We finally pushed off at 9am. We hit rains and dry patches both but we were pretty slow in our pace. Prakash was with Vilas on the pillion and the rest of us in individual bikes. Vilas had a muscle pull somewhere in between so the rest of us took a tiny lead and stopped at a dhaba so Vilas could come up behind us and rest a little. That would be around 11am-12pm. We then had food and continued. This time Vilas took Bala and declared that he’ll meet us at Bhunter, a major junction beyond Mandi. We had planned to hit Bhunter by 3 pm. I was riding with Prakash and Shiva. We were slow, very slow. We breaked a few times and soon I realized we were almost an hour behind Vilas. That transition was quick though coz initially we were at a good pace and thanks to this awesome bluetooth device Vilas had purchased that was fixed to my helmet he could call me on my phone and I could talk handsfree. We were just about 10-15 min behind them when I last spoke to Vilas. Soon as we crossed Bhunter we were pretty damn slow and we had lost Prakash. We met Vilas and Bala at around 4:30pm and we waited for a bit before continuing further to Manali.
Everyone except Prakash reached Manali and we stopped at the first petro pump we found so we could wait for Prakash. We realized he had taken a different route than us and was at a different petrol pump. He finally found us and came down.
It was almost 5:30 now and we had just entered Manali. Rohtang was still 40km away and Keylong.. well it was still 115 km far.
We finally pushed off at around 545 after refuelling and hit Kothi around 6:15 pm. This is where it started getting foggy and then there were steep climbs up the mountain to Gulaba which is where the permit is stamped for you to proceed to Rohtang. The drive from Kothi to Gulaba was scary and pretty both. There was dense fog and the roads were loopy and I saw wild horses grazing for the first time ever in my life in India. It was surreal!
We reached Gulaba by 7 pm. We parked our vehicles next to a Metal bunker like structure. That was a mistake that would cost us dear.
We got off and walked up to the post and showed our permits. The guards said the officer in-charge for stamping had left and that we wouldn’t be allowed to continue further without the stamp. We pleaded but to no heed. I called up Prakhar using Bala’s phone. He spoke to the officials claiming he had crossed at much later times in the evening like 8 and 9pm and that it is a national highway, so anyone with permit must be allowed and cannot be stopped. They refused bluntly.
The mistake was we parked at the building and walked to the booth. An experienced guy would drive up to the booth pull up the permit and ask to be allowed to go further. Our stopping at the building was a dead giveaway that we were ametuers in this region and the policemen’s argument that it was far too foggy to let us pass found ground.
We were denied permission to proceed. It was 7:30 pm. We were late again!
I was massively disappointed. I knew Vilas was heartbroken as he had made all the efforts to drive fast and make up for the delay that we were in, yet coz of our slow speed he had to suffer alongside.
We drove back to Kothi to find a place for the night. Bala’s lights had gone bust . The bulb had fused thanks to rain water entering the mesh. This is after Vilas had noticed that possibility and told the bike rental guy to change the casing. He refused and we were left with no headlight on a bike with heavy fog.
Bala rode in the middle with all our headlights shining solidly and us honking on each loop like we were a carnival rolling down the hill.
We settled in Kothi for the night but not before a shocker from Prakhar.
When I called Prakhar to decide the plan ahead he said “Drop Leh!”. That hit me like a boulder. He said we were far too slow to hit Leh and be able to make any sense of our trip. It’ll literally be touch n go for us. We’ll touch Leh and we’ll be ready to pack up to head back at this pace.
I conveyed it to the group. Vilas lost it on all of us. Bala was the only one who was able to keep pace with Vilas. All 3 of us were trailing. Prakhar asked to be put on speaker and he gave us a pep talk too. After that it was all Vilas.
We were all hit by a boulder and we knew Vilas was right in all his claims of us riding too slow and not matching up to his speed. It hit a nerve in all of us. We went to sleep late again this time, around 3 am.