THE HIMALAYAN SOJOURN 2.0 - THE TRAVELOGUE (Prologue)
And it had arrived. The day we had looking forward to for months. The day that gave us sleepless nights because of sheer excitement! It was the 2nd of July, finally! Satvik, Pops & Sai had completed their K2K ride and were already in Chandigarh, waiting for the rest of us to join them..
I woke up minutes before the alarm went off that morning, like I usually do on any riding day :D I was staying at my Mom's for I couldn't imagine staying home alone, with Satvik gone for days already. I quickly got ready, checked my packing list to ensure nothing was left back, gave mom a big hug and promised to call her everyday, and left with Nam (my sister-in-law) who was to drop me to the Volvo bus stand to get a bus to the Airport. When we almost got to the bus stand, my friend Shreyas called and said he would drop me to the Airport! So I met him and off we went. Throughout the drive, I kept talking excitedly about the ride ahead! Shreyas didn't seem too interested since he had had to drop out of this ride in the last minute, due to a Rally that was scheduled for the same time. In my excitement to start off on this beautiful ride, we ended up reaching the Airport way earlier than needed! We sat at the Coffee Day, and I continued talking!
Shruthi was flying with me on the same flight, and she reached there soon and as we were saying our goodbyes to our friends, she saw me wearing my riding pants and realised she had forgotten to carry hers! Bad enough. But it only got worse. A second later, she said "I also forgot my riding jacket". We were all puzzled and started teasing her, asking if she knew she was going on a ride, or thought she was going to attend a wedding!
2 of our friends Sunil & Rashmi, had a flight that afternoon from Bangalore and she co-ordinated with them to carry her riding jacket and pant. We thought, "cool, everything is sorted, let's head in". After all the "tata-bye-bye", "ride safe," "take care", "have an epic trip", we headed in and stood for check-in. Soon, Uday joined us and as we were entering the flight, Shruthi got a call from her mother asking her to check if she had carried her bike key! And yes, she had forgotten it! Another round of co-ordinating things with Sunil and that too got sorted!
We finally got into the plane, bidding farewell to Bangalore and it's pleasant weather, knowing we would be a different person when we would step foot back here a month later! The excitement was too much to handle. I tried a catch a wink of sleep, but couldn't. My mind was racing. I had goosebumps. In less than 24 hours, we would have started our ride on what would be one of the most beautiful rides of our lives!
3 hours later, the three of us landed in Chandigarh, quickly picked up our checked-in luggage and went outside to get a cab. It was sweltering hot outside! This was going to be one mad ride, even in terms of weather, I thought to myself. Absolute extremes is what we were going to ride in! Once outside, we met Amrutha & Jay, who had landed a little before us, and Lijo, who had flown from Mumbai around the same time. A bulk of us had arrived and again we started talking excitedly about how epic everything was going to be, and that the day was finally here!
We got into cabs and headed to the hotel in Zirakpur where the trio was already checked in. I hadn't seen my Dad & Satvik is 10 days, and my hugest excitement at the moment was about meeting them! We reached the hotel, only to find that Sai & Satvik were running around town somewhere to get something or the other fixed with the bikes! Everyone was congratulating Pops on his ride from Kanyakumari, hugging him, asking for stories and experiences! Over lunch we talked at length about their ride from Kanyakumari & the relentless rain they got all along the way, every day, throughout the day & sometimes night!
We had to pick up our bikes from the VRL go-down close-by, but the heat was terrible outside. The comfort of the AC in the room was too good, and nobody wanted to go outside! After over an hour of lazing around, we finally got out, and it started raining. Atleast it wan't going to be as hot, we though. We wore our rain gear, took a cab and reached VRL. VRL transports bikes in cages, and we had heard great reviews about the bikes having no damages at all. So we had no doubts that our well-serviced bikes would be in great shape. These guys were terrible unorganised, and despite having called them to inform them that we were on our way, the bikes weren't unloaded from the huge truck. Once we got there, they called for a crane, and started getting the bikes out!
It looked scary, the way they were picking up the bikes from the truck, but they knew what they were doing :) Here is a video we took of one of the bikes being unloaded..
The first two bikes to be unloaded were Amrutha's RE Electra & Sunil's Classic 500. One glimpse at the bikes, and we knew things had gone wrong, maybe terrible wrong! There was a slight panic. This was a saturday, and we were to start riding on Sunday. Service centres would close by 6 PM, and if things were too bad with any of the bikes, we were screwed pretty bad. The time was already 4 30 PM! We were running out of time, and the folks at VRL seemed to be in no hurry at all!
First was Sunil's. He was landing at 6 30, and hadn't handed us his bike key for us to run a check on it. But from the look of it, his lever guards were completely thrashed. That was still ok, the bike would run. But the front brake lever was completely broken. I made a mental note and moved on to Amrutha's bike, which was next. The great packing we had done had come off completely, with just a few shards to stuffing that was given strewn all over the cage. The entire rear light and indicator kit was hanging. The front brake was broken, and the bike had fallen to the right side. The belts that keep the bike in place were handing loose, and we knew that was the problem. Her brand new helmet that she had packed with the bike was damaged, and she was bummed out. Upon taking the bike out of the cage, when she tried to start it, it started with just one kick. But then, it spit fire, burped, farted and died. There were no signs of life after that. We checked everything, but it wasn't coming back to life! I knew something had to be done about this, and quickly!
Next were Jay, Lijo, Uday and my bikes. They had gathered dust, the number plates were bent, but nothing was really damaged. The VRL guys were extremely apathetic, handing us blades to open up the packing, just standing there and watching! We had paid so much more to send the bikes through VRL, rather than by train, and the damage was really bad! The manager, when questioned about this, just smiled and said "it happens"! It happens!
There was no time to waste. I made a couple of calls, and finally we had a pick-up truck come by, load Amrutha's bike and off we all followed it to Man Mohan Services, an authorised RE service centre in Chandigarh. They were quick to analyse the problem and immediately starting getting work done! All the other bikes were also checked quickly if there was anything to watch out for. At 9 PM, we were finally done. All the bikes were running! :D That excitement was back on Amrutha's face! :) I was just glad everything was ok.
We thanked the lovely guys at Man Mohan profusely, and left, but not before picking up a spare front brake lever for Sunil!
The day had been a huge rush! There was excitement, panic, frustration, joy, everything on the very first day! We knew this was only the first day after all, and there were going to be so many experiences to come, all kinds of experiences!
The awesome thing, however, was that not one person among us lost our cool really, even in such a situation. Everybody was only thinking fast, about how the problem was to be solved. While the problem was with one of the bikes, everybody else also got to their feet helping out in some way or the other! The very first day, through this incident, I knew this group was one that would stand by every other rider, come what may! And this gave me immense joy and happiness; right from day 1, we were working as a group :)
I had been in Chandigarh for 8 hours already, and still not met Satvik! Our next stop was dinner at the famous Pal Dhaba, where Sai & Satvik were waiting for us. We reached there, and again there were hugs, congratulations & excited recap of their story, and the detailed version of our VRL story! After a delicious meal of authentic Paranthas, we headed back to the hotel.
It had been a long day, but an exciting one at that! We met Sunil & Rashmi at the hotel, and got down to fixing the new lever on his bike. Thankfully there were no other damages to his bike. It turned out to be long night, despite our eagerness to sleep early. At about 1 AM, we all crashed, dead tired. It was already the day the ride would start!
Here is a glimpse of what you will see in my next post about the ride starting from Chandigarh :)
Continue reading the story here.