All good things must come to an end and so did this 90 day long cycle journey! The last few days saw the ride from temple town, Adibadri till Haldwani at the base of the Kumaoni Himalayas…
This was part of our 90 day ride in the Himalayas covering Spiti, Zanskar, Batalik, Ladakh, Nubra, Shyok, Pangong, Hanle, Tso Moriri, Garhwal and Kumaon!
Read the 86th days blog here if you haven’t already!
Day 87: Adibadri to Dwarahat
The next morning, my washed clothes were still wet, with the sun nowhere in sight.
Wet clothes and a cool morning breeze would have been my undoing, so I delayed the start.
Instead time was spent visiting the 1200 year old cluster of small stone temples in Adibadri. This is the highlight of this small town and the reason why I managed to find accommodation there.
The old mendicant from the previous evening was disappointed not to meet me at the temple as planned. He therefore walked down to the hotel to meet and see me off. We clicked a picture together and then someone came there and started filming a video with their mobile phone.
The old soldier on being captured on camera went into full newscaster mode, introducing me and my exploits to the general public!
As a bit of warmth crept into the air, I slipped on my still damp clothes, shivering like an autumn leaf.
I ran out, jumped onto my bike and pedalled furiously in the hope of warming up my body and drying off my clothes. Grateful that the day started with a climb rather than a downhill. To make matters better, the climb was gradual and fun to pedal up.
After the climb it was downhill all the way till lunch. Which was a blast from the past, a full plate of food and a cup of tea for just 35 rupees. These were the rates which I had been looking for the entire trip and found it only on this day!
My planned stopover for the day had only one lodge, which was way out of my budget. The next village with accommodation was another 15 km away.
The people promised me that I will do those 15 km in under an hour, the climb would be ever so gradual. Little did they know the speed of my cycle.
As I gradually climbed the ‘alleged gradual climb’ a school kid stopped and asked me why was I riding so slow. Whether I was unwell or very old!
Oh the innocence of children. Makes me want to throw them off a cliff!
Riding towards Kumaon from Garhwal puts a few things in perspective. The people in Kumaon are much friendlier, more open to tourists, didn’t stare as if I was alien, and would strike up a conversation within seconds of me stopping.
Even then most people assumed I was a foreigner and addressed me in English. Cycling is only meant for those mad westerners is their belief!
The pitter patter of light rain fell on my helmet and the weather turned absolutely glorious. There was no fear of heavy rain, which ensured that I relaxed still further. So much so, that I stopped for a steaming hot cup of tea and pakoris. Even though the sun was setting faster than my pedals could keep up.
And the sun won the race
The last 5 km was ridden in pitch darkness through dense forest.
I imagined leopards and bears behind every tree and desperately hoped to see humanity.
A young man was sprinting towards me. As I saw him in such a hurry, the worst fears came true. He must be running from a bear. About to turn around, I yelled out, bear?
Fortunately he didn’t hear me. He was out for an everyday evening run. Embarrassed as hell, I pedalled away fast, because no amount of bullshit that I could peddle would gloss over my stupid fear of wild animals!
At long last I hit Dwarahat, where an ultra cheap hotel awaited me. The staircase steeper than the high Himalayan passes. The town filled with snarling dogs and drunken men!
Day 88: Dwarahat to Khairna
When I got out of the hotel and went for breakfast, the cheapness of the hotel was apparent. It was one of those sleazy, grimy places near the city bus-stand where people are murdered in their sleep and others are video recorded!
The craziest thing in the hotel was the toilet, which had a big open window on the 2nd floor.
Out of which you could see gorgeous mountains faraway. Into which people could see from miles away!
From Dwarahat the road descends all the way down to the river with two dhabas. The straight road goes to Kausani, while I had to cross the bridge and climb 20 km for Ranikhet. The climb wasn’t difficult, but I took the longest imaginable time.
The reason was Friday practice for the MotoGP Thailand round and I ‘needed’ to check Twitter and stay updated on the going ons there. As a result I stopped every kilometre.
Excursions & Conversations
Such long climbs on a mountain bike are more tiresome than tiring.
I was forever looking to get off the road. The Kumaon hills provide ample opportunity for MTB addicts who love to go trail hunting. With my luggage I couldn’t really ride the available trails. Nor did I have the time, nonetheless a few dirt excursions were managed.
More often that not conversations are what makes travel worthwhile.
One such conversation was with an old gentleman running a shop. By the side of the shop he had chicken, goats and cows, all of which he took care of alone, since he didn’t want to ‘do nothing’ after retirement. He told me that every year the number of pilgrims had reduced after the floods in the state. People no longer visited the place for piety.
Pilgrims show off rather than worship. They are there to tell their friends and relatives about the darshan, not with a feeling of piousness. He was appreciative of me choosing the ‘hardest’ form of travelling and said experiences like these are what hold you in good stead for life.
As the climb ended, the town of Ranikhet started. A busy town filled with too many humans and even more eateries. I blasted through the place scared away by humanity, forgetting that I hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast! After the turn off for Rampur, the road climbs for a couple of kilometres and on that climb, my stomach lurched and reminded of the impending disaster of hunger.
I stopped at the first dhaba for lunch and chatted with the gent running the place. He worked as an AC mechanic in Delhi, before moving back to his village. According to him, in the three months of tourist season, he earns about 6 lakh rupees, which sees him through the year. He also told me about the fancily dressed cyclists from Delhi who ride there and whizz past his establishment.
After lunch the road was downhill all the way to Khairna, where a 15 bed dormitory was available in the KMVN guesthouse. I was alone in the dormitory and there was no electricity, which made for a rather eerie experience. As such I chose to go for a walk rather than sit in the dark.
It was a day of reflection and thought. The darkness, being alone and the penultimate day of riding, made me realise how lucky I was to have spent 3 months on the road. Pedalling through some of the highest roads of the world. Memories which would stay with me forever.
Day 89: Khairna to Haldwani
The final day of the ride.
A bittersweet morning, it was to be my last riding day in the hills, yet I could smell the coffee and bacon back home.
Talking about good food, two sweet buns with peanut butter were sent down the hatch. The restaurant of the guesthouse hadn’t yet opened.When it did, two parathas followed the buns also with peanut butter, washed down with many cups of tea.
It was time to go home.
The pedals on my bike spun extra fast as I made quick work of the 20 km climb to Bhowali. I could put in extra effort, without having to save energy. The next few days weren’t going to be spent on the saddle.
The road from Khairna to Bhowali is the arterial highway, with a considerable amount of traffic. Yet there are sections which pass through dense foliage and when there is no vehicular movement, you can hear the chirping of the birds and the crickets.
You easily forget that this is a national highway. Till the roar of an automobile disturbs the peace. These are the small joys of touring on a cycle, which cannot be experienced in most other forms of travel.
A few kilometres before Bhowali I smelt piping hot moong dal mangoris. It was too tempting to resist. A couple of plates were knocked down in quick time. After aeons I was indulging in ‘junk’ food.
From Bhowali the road descends all the way to Bhimtal before flattening out along the lakeside. A lake which at other times might have been worth looking at. Under the circumstances it was completely devoid of interest as I raced on.
The only thing of interest there was a young guy on a cycle who raced me along the length of the lake. He saw my luggage and ‘knew’ for sure he would be faster than me. He unfortunately ate humble pie for breakfast!
From Bhimtal the road descends steeply and continuously all the way to Haldwani. With just one short climb in between. This section of road was in surprisingly bad condition and vehicles were plodding along at snail pace. Not in a mood for slow pokes, I overtook many a vehicle rather more aggressively than warranted.
Like a chameleon, I was returning to my aggressive plainsman colours!
I reached the bus stand in Haldwani amidst sweltering heat and rode my bike straight to the ticket counter. The bus home was 4 hours away and I had time to kill.
Remembering my past mistake I didn’t want to eat anything before a bus journey. At the same time my stomach growled in protest. Cycling does make one hungry after all.
A Catch 22 situation, should I eat and be happy then, or starve and be happy in the bus later. The latter triumphed as bus journeys are far more frightening than hunger.
As the bus entered the stand I had to get my cycle on the roof. I was successful only after asking 5 different people to help.
It was a rude shock and reminder. The mountains and their people had been left behind. I was back in the plains and the jackasses who inhabit it. It was possibly the first time in 3 months where someone flat out refused to help!
With considerable effort the bike went up and I in the bus. Only to realise that the seats in this bus were rock hard. Even wooden planks are softer in comparison.
Preparation is the key to success, and my padded shorts were ready to tackle them seats!
The bus engine groaned to life and I was on my way home…
Day 90: Haldwani to Home Sweet Home
A bumpy bus ride later, I reached my hometown the next morning.
Fortunately I had the opportunity to pedal home, as the bus stand was 10 km away.
I entered home, the air filled with the comforting fragrance of fresh coffee being brewed and bacon fried!
Most importantly I reached in time to watch the MotoGP race on TV!
How about that for an anti-climax…
Stay for 3 days 1090
Food for 3 days 475
Bus ticket from Haldwani 612