Gurez & Sach Pass - An Off-beat tour - Part 1
It's been so long since I sat down to writing a story. It's funny how you get absorbed in your day-to-day life and push writing about one of your most fond trips, to months!
It had been 5 months since Satvik and I did a trip on our motorbikes. The last was our trip to Meghalaya in the December of 2017 and January 2018. We hadn't gone for so long with a trip in years now. I had started working full-time with my brother in January the same year, and my responsibilities were high in the business. I responsibly knew I couldn't just take off the way I used to in the past few years, for weeks and months at a stretch. But my list of places to travel to, wasn't getting any shorter. I had been to Kashmir twice before, once in 2011 and again in 2017 during my K2K ride.
I hadn't necessarily liked the part of Kashmir I had seen during my visit in 2011, and in 2017 I didn't really get a chance to explore much. Sach pass had been on my dream rides for long. One fine day when we were chilling at home watching troll on youtube, Satvik said 'Let's go to Gurez', and my immediate response was 'I am going to Sach. What is Gurez anyway?' He explained in his typical style, about the virgin beauty of Gurez Valley and more importantly it's people - the Dards. 10 minutes into listening to him, I was like a little girl sucked into the story of ancient Gurez, it's picture perfect vistas. It was like dreamland. Satvik being Satvik, knew all he needed to do was plant the craving to visit Gurez in my head, and I would do whatever it took to figure out the itineraries and the feasibility on this trip.
2 days later, I presented him with a rough itinerary of our soon-to-be-reality trip to Gurez, Sach Pass, the dangerous Killar-Kishtwar roads, and the famous Khajjiar (close to Dalhousie). The man was elated! Come June, and we were set to head out on one of our most looked-forward-to trips!
It was Satvik, me and a friend- Uday who were the final three on this trip. You ask me how come Pops wasn't there? You probably already know of the two major heart-attacks dad suffered in the end of December 6 months ago. He had to back out of our Meghalaya trip in the last minute due to this. The doctor had told him not to go to high-altitudes for a while. We thought it better to give it a little time before my crazy man would be back on the road in high altitudes. This trip was still too early in his recovery stage for him to ride such terrains as Sach and Gurez. I cannot even begin to explain how much I missed him on this trip! One of the many reasons I am definitely going back to Gurez, with Pops.
So.. Coming back to 30th June 2018, we took a flight out of home straight to Chandigarh, one of our favourite stop-over places during trips to beautiful places!
We headed straight to the room, close to the railway station, and immediately left to the station to pick up our bikes which we had sent from Bangalore by train. As much as I have heard of horrendous stories of what happened to their bikes when sent by the Indian Railways, I personally am a huge fan of this service that the Railways provides. It's quick, it's cheap, and it's straight-forward. It may not be the most hassle-free, but hey, I ain't seeking luxury at all times!
The bikes were in perfect shape. I usually am prepped for a slight damage when I send my bike through any transport to places, and always allocate some time for getting them fixed. This time around, nothing. Not a scratch! Oh, wait, this was the first time my beautiful Feels Rani was going out on a trip with me. For those of you who don't know, Feels Rani is my beautiful bright red Hero Impulse I picked up 45 days ago. She seemed very promising, specially for off-roads, and couldn't wait to get her out on the bad roads to see how she does. She also turned out to be way cheaper to transport than my original Queen :)
We headed back to our Hotel, lazed around a bit, after having gotten our bikes fueled up and tyre pressures checked. Chandigarh is a stunning place even after sun-down. There are ample places that serve great food and great brewed beer, just the way we Bangaloreans like it. We headed to Kingdom of Beer, and there was live Punjabi music! First of it's kind of us! I love Punjabi music, although I may not really understand much of it. The artists were performing some nice peppy Punjabi numbers, and Satvik head-banged away to glory!
Excited and eager, we called it a night, in our very cold (16 degree) room .
We woke up (fairly) early and began packing up our stuff. The thing about staying in a room with 2 guys is that you just cannot get them to move quick! They wake up, they sit in bed waiting for a coffee, and then they have to go to the loo and sit there for what feels like eternity. They have not an ounce of urgency! So eventually when we packed up and headed to saddle up, it hit it that it was going to be a really, REALLY HOT DAY ahead! We had been comfortable in our room the whole time, without an idea of what the heat the North-India is like during this time of the year! I mean, we knew it's July, and it's Chandigarh, and it's going to be really hot, but it doesn't really hit you so hard unless you get out of a freezing 16 degree room to the mad heat outside! In the 5 minutes that it took us to saddle up, we were already dripping!
While Satvik and Uday are smart like that and are wearing their mesh jackets, I am wearing my textile jacket. with 6 vents. Other than the areas where those vents are, you could put cake mix in my jacket and you would get cake in minutes! I was an oven!
We headed out of the city, and were soon on the highway towards Srinagar. It was sunny and how! The first break we took was for lunch. We took out our jackets and shoes and threw them aside while having a hearty punjabi meal for lunch. Soon after, it got cloudy. It was a blessing that the sun was gone, but the heat didn't reduce one bit. We took the most expensive tender coconut break of our lives today, paying a whopping 80 bucks for a tender coconut. But it was totally worth it. Next, we stopped for sugar cane juice. Belted that, and stopped for water a little later, and again for a sugar cane juice a few hours later. Know the funny thing, not one of us stopped for a pee-break even once despite all this liquid intake! Just imagine!
Just as I was beginning to feel Udhampur was still too far off (our destination for the day), the roads got curvy and fun! I was anticipating the sunset at about 7, and it was still nice and bright at 8! And we reached Udhampur soon after a full sunset, at about 8 30! The place were were staying at, was run by a Kashmiri Pandit and we began to get an insight into the turmoil that has been prevalent in this beautiful state since forever now!
We heard of a flood alert in central Kashmir due to the Jhelum going beyond the danger mark. But considering all the rivers were dry along the way, we thought it was all a hoax.. We were getting messages from friends and family at home, asking us to be careful! But being there, there wasn't a thing to worry about! We went to sleep wondering how this news even came to being!