Road Trippin’   // gina

Everyone can appreciate that riding a motorbike is a skill; and one which Jeff has, in my totally biased opinion, become pretty good at. What I had not realised is that being a good passenger on a motorcycle, especially on the mountain roads in Northern India, is also a skill to be acquired. In ways it’s like being a good (female) dancing partner: Relax, let go of urges to control, and follow the lead of your partner, or in this case, the person riding the bike and the movement of the bike itself. Weaving the bike back and forth on bends, between cows on the road, squeezing past oncoming traffic on narrow roads when the edge is uncomfortably close, bumping over monstrous potholes and hillocks in the road. Just go with the flow, and let go of the survival instinct that makes you want to jerk at every steep edge or large truck you pass. The jerky passenger just upsets the balance of the bike which is a serious no-no on these roads. As reward, the passenger gets hours of wonderful sight-seeing with constantly changing surroundings. Hours of pleasant contemplation, a meditation of sorts. Just watching the world go by, literally.

Motorbike

Our motorbike voyage commenced in Manali just over two weeks ago. Our destination: Gangotri, the starting point for a three day round trip trek to the source of the holy Ganges river, where it rushes from the snout of a glacier high up in the Himalaya. To fully embrace the wonderful freedom of traveling on motorbikes we took a scenic route through the mountains, which took 8 days of riding to arrive in Gangotri and then another 2 days back to civilisation (Rishikesh) after the trekking.

road_trip469

Our route, which remained a fluid and ever-changing thing, took us high up over mountain passes, along high ridge lines, through deep gorges and valleys and up to the base of the snow-capped Himalaya. Along the way, we weaved through all sorts of creatures on the road; cows, sheep, goats, yak and monkeys, monkeys, monkeys. Passing countless Indian villages, with their pretty coloured houses perched on the mountain sides. The filth and rubbish on the streets of these becoming less of a shock with each new town we passed. Such a stark contrast to the mountains in which they stand.

Shimla rooftop

Men washing themselves in the springs on the side of the road. Women carrying huge piles of grass on their backs up the mountain side to feed the animals over the long winter. Road repair crew squatting in the road, making gravel by hand, literally, and filling potholes with these labour intensive small stones. The fun of responding to high five requests from kids as we rode through their home streets. Many of the villages we passed rarely have foreign visitors, being well off the beaten track, so we were greeted at times with stares and at other times with cheers.

Men ‘hocking’ and spitting so much that it is a sound I imagine will always remind us of India. That and the noise of repeated beep beep beep…

We swam in beautiful, clear rivers and streams along the way, stopping where and when we pleased. One night was spent at Tattapani where hot water springs flow from the riverbank into the cold waters of the Sutlej river. Another was spent in the calm refuge of Hatkoti dharmsala (pilgrims rest house) next to very important Durga temple. Perfect respite after a day spent driving in the rain, sliding on muddy mountain roads.

One of the roads we had planned on taking had been washed away by a river or landslide (depending on who you asked). Our detour brought us to an unexpected hilltop army station, Chakrata. Foreigners are absolutely forbidden. They fail to mention this fact, or even the presence of the army station, on the map or in any of the towns on the way up the mountain – a 3 hour bike ride. That’s India. We had to stop to get petrol when we reached to town, but were escorted away for questioning. After we had answered satisfactorily and had our passport details noted, the officer told us to leave immediately and never return. All of the local people in the nearby market gathering around to watch the proceedings with great interest. I wanted so badly to laugh, but didn’t think it would go down so well with the officers.

After what felt like a wonderful lifetime of being on the road we arrived in Gangotri, where we joined pilgrims from throughout India and world, gearing themselves up for the trek to the source of the Ganges river. The most sacred river in India.

Shivling

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2 comments

  1. So glad that you guys posted another update 🙂 What beautiful pictures!