Ever since my visit to Uttarakhand, I was smitten by the beauty of the place, the simplicity of the people and of course, the furry four-legged cuties that always seem to find you at the most unexpected places. Unfortunately, that time, I flew in, rode 1340km and flew back. Not this time though.
With a Bajaj Dominar 400 as my trusted companion for the ride and a Hero XPulse 200 in tow, we set off from Navi Mumbai at 0800hrs, with the aim of reaching Udaipur in the next 12 hours. This particular Dominar was kitted with handlebar risers, handguards, a tall visor, a plushier seat and auxiliary lights that could put Diwali celebrations to shame. For someone who had toured on a RC 200, this was no less than a dream.
Before the country’s financial capital was crammed with office-goers, we were out and onto our mission to slice off 800km in the next 10 hours. With well-laid stretches of tarmac welcoming us, we covered 250kms without breaking a sweat. Eventually, Gujarat’s scorching heat got to us. We were getting baked in the riding gear and our hydration bladders supplied nothing less than boiling water. Thankfully, the roads are fabulous, which meant we could go a bit generous on the throttle to let some wind in the jacket.
Seven hours and a refuel stop later, we reached Vadodara, with temperature soaring above 40 degrees. We were halfway through the day’s journey and decided to halt for lunch. The staff, on hearing about our journey, supplied us with enough ice that kept our hydration bladders full of cold water for the next three hours.
With the daylight diminishing, we lessened our conversations with the locals and tried our best to reach as quickly as we could. 16 hours later, we made it to our hotel in Udaipur with a plan of leaving the city at the crack of dawn to cover 700km to reach Sonipat. But then again, who can miss a chance to explore the city of lakes after midnight?
The next morning, we started off from Udaipur, in the sweltering heat to Sonipat. With temperature beyond 43 degrees, we were running out of steam quickly. Adding to that were the long, barren stretches with no shade to cool ourselves off. Needless to say, we were slower the previous day. The bikes were holding up good in the heat and despite running over 250km at a stretch, weren’t showing any signs of struggle, which was motivating enough for us. By evening, we had crossed Jaipur, and that’s when the real adventure began.
The temperature began dropping rapidly and soon we found ourselves battling strong crosswinds. Strong enough to push our bikes to the next lane. We slowed down but were stuck in the middle of nowhere in what later turned into a dust storm. We were still 250km away from Sonipat, while the flight-hopping folks from the group had already made it to Delhi from Mumbai.
Things took a turn for worse after we passed the dust storm. 100 km away from Delhi, it started pouring cats and dogs. Two hours of riding in cold weather in rain, we made it to Western Peripheral Highway in Delhi, a 135km long stretch that will catch any motorcyclist’s fancy. After being on the road for close to 15 hours, we had just 3 hours to sleep before we headed on to the next destination, Kufri in Himachal Pradesh.
Though we were sleep deprived, the adrenaline was enough to keep us going the next day. After experiencing sweltering heat, a dust storm that brought down the visibility to barely a few metres and rain that had our hands numb, it was time to experience the harsh winter of the north.
The ride till Chandigarh was super easy, through well populated areas and wide roads. After Pinjore, it was all about those winding ghats and the perfect stretches of tarmac. It was time for some spirited riding. The 100km ghat roads took us to Shimla and later Kufri with temperatures as low as -1 degree. The winter liners, thermal liners and even the gloves we carried were practically rendered useless.
The next two days were spent riding through snow, slush and more snow. The Dominar’s MRF Revz C tyres were more than happy in taking the bike sideways. However, the XPulse seemed to be doing just fine with the Ceat rubber.
With the “cool-off” period done, it was time to head to Rishikesh, but with a halt in Chandigarh. This time, we switched bikes and I was on the XPulse, sans the luggage. We had finally found the purpose for the cagers- Luggage vans. I had taken our XPulse to Goa and wasn’t really happy with its highway capabilities, but in the mountains, things were completely different. The healthy low-end grunt meant taking on the ghats was pure joy. And bad roads? Straddle up and throttle. Sure I missed the Himalayan, but the lightweight XPulse now has a soft corner in my heart.
After being in the saddle for 10 hours straight, the XPulse didn’t tire me at all. In fact, we even encountered torrential rain in Uttar Pradesh, but with all that we had experienced in the last few days, felt like a child’s play.
Six months later, I was on the same route that I had taken when I had first visited Uttarakhand and the place was as beautiful as it was then. With three days spent in the ghats of Ganga, it was time to leave the mountains and be that cretin residing in concrete towers.
The Corona pandemic had gripped parts of North. Cities were shutting down, tourists were being shooed away. Though we didn’t face any issue, the pandemic gave us empty roads all the way till Maharashtra border. The return journey was all about munching miles, after all how long could I be away from writing new stories, right?