Today we are headed to Uttarakhand, the neighbouring state to the east of Himachal Pradesh, which is where Manali and the Rohtang Pass are located. The goal is to arrive in the city of Haridwar before nightfall. It is only 207 kms away, so if we leave right at dawn, we should *just* make it. I'm saying this with a straight face as we've been forced to ride at night too many times by underestimating just how bad the traffic is, as well as the condition of our bikes!
Beautiful forest scenery on the road to Uttaranchal
The green was the greenest green I ever saw
The air is cool and very overcast and threatens rain as we leave Chandigarh. Today is Saturday, so there is considerably less traffic. The hotel staff have drawn us a rough map on how to get to Uttarakhand, with a list of towns we have to pass through. At each town I have to use the old-fashioned GPS: stop and ask for directions. I've discovered that the Indian way of giving directions involves more waving than pointing, which is very different from the way Westerners give directions.
Posing in the town roundabout in Kala Amb
The going is fairly smooth as we run through the forests of Northern India, thick in some parts. In the cities and towns that we pass through, we see run-down stalls and shops with huge painted advertisements for Vodafone and Airtel on the sides of their building and garage doors. It looks like they have paid a lot of money to the owners for advertisements. Either that, or everybody in India sells cellphones...
These guys were having a party and when we pulled over to take a pic, one of them motioned us to come in and have a drink. I would have loved to, but knowing the roads, we would have arrived at our intended destination tomorrow if we had taken him up on his offer.
Between the cities and towns, we see women in brightly coloured dresses working in the field, carrying large bundles of grass (?) on top of their heads. The roads are fairly decent, with the usual amount of potholes, but around noon, we reached the eastern part of Himachal Pradesh and as we get into mountainous territory, the roads worsen. We hit our first roadblock in the afternoon, thankfully we get there just as the crews are cleaning up. Two-wheelers on both sides of the repaired section stream past the bulldozers, eager to get on their way.
Not sure if she's too happy I took her picture...
Waiting for the construction crew to finish. Thankfully it wasn't that long
On the turn to the highway to Haridwar we encounter major flooding in the city streets. Water up to our knees at the intersections! No wonder the roads are in such bad shape. We are amazed at the bikes with 3 or 4 people passing us by like we are standing still! On the highway to Haridwar, things get really bad. Bridges are out and we have to take a bypass through the stony river bed. At regular intervals, floodwaters 50m wide run across the main highway and we have to put our feet up on the crash bars in order not to get soaked.
It's here that disaster strikes and Neda get a flat rear tire. We notice it when we stop for directions. No day is complete without something happening to the bikes, so we look at each other and nod our heads, "Of course this *has* to happen!" Two guys we had been asking directions for tell us that there is a mechanic about 1 km down the road, so we limp over at low speed. It turns out it is a bicycle rental shop and the most they can do is pump up her tire, but they tell us that there is a mechanic another 2 kms down the road.
Yay! We're in the Uttaranchal Region!
The puncture seems to be small as the air is leaking out slowly, so we make our way to the mechanic and when we find him, he shakes his head that he cannot do punctured tires, but there might be one another 2 kms down the road. I am sensing a pattern here. The mechanic 2 kms later also can't do punctures, but says there is another one 2 kms down the road. I am not making this up! So onto the next guy, who turns out was not a motorcycle mechanic but a tire specialist! Tons of bicycle wheels and tires were strung up in front of his stall, this is the guy we want! He motioned for us to bring Neda's Enfield down so he could work on it.
The tire specialist that patched up Neda's tube
The hardest part was dismounting the rear wheel because of the sidecases, but once it was done, it took him no time to take the tube out, find the leak and melt a rubber patch over the small puncture. In addition he checked the tire and produced a nasty looking nail that been lodged in the tread. If he hadn't had done that, that nail would have just re-punctured the tube when it was put on again. He had a lot of business apparently because of the bad roads around the area. From talking to people in the lineup, we were on the outskirts of a major town called Deharadun.
This guy was fast!
The wait for the tire repair was extensive. This little guy was next in line
Back on our way, downtown Deharadun was drowning. Worse flooding we've seen yet! Police officers were standing on the roundabout to stay above the waterline, directing traffic, we were over 50 kms from Haridwar and again the sun was low in the sky. We just cannot seem to make it to our destinations in the daylight! The ride up to Haridwar was nice, twisty roads that could not be taken fast because of the traffic, cows and monkeys (yes monkeys!) that littered the road on every blind corner. We knocked on a couple of hotel doors just outside of Haridwar and settled on a nice looking one around 8PM. 11 hours to cover 200 kms. Our average speed is intact!
Motoring in Uttarakhand!