Himalayan and Hills

Written by - Ganesh Murthy
Chandigarh, the capital of both Punjab and Haryana in north India, is the best planned city in India. After a visit to Chandigarh one begins to wonder when other cities in India would become like it – like how the shops and residential areas are far from the main roads with service lanes, pavements and lawns spread in between them, the green cover for the roads in the form of trees by the side of roads, a Maruti Suzuki Gypsy with armed cops at every sector chowk and the best part – whatever time of day, even during the rush hours, traffic keeps moving and there is never a jam as the roads have minimum two or three lanes and even road discipline is better. All these things I happened to notice during my travel to Shimla via Chandigarh. It serves as a getaway city when one wants to travel to Shimla or other places in Himachal Pradesh.

En route to Chail, a hot cuppa and pose time for the Himalayan !
The plan was to go on a bike trip to Shimla, as my college friend Anbu came to visit me in Jalandhar from Jaipur during Christmas’16. He hadn’t visited Himachal and this gave me another excuse to visit the enthralling state. We headed to Chandigarh in the evening to spend the night there and head to Shimla in the morning. The bus ride from Jalandhar to Chandigarh is 153 Kms. The three hour journey went in a flash as we had a lot of catching up to do as I hadn’t seen him since college.
En route to Chail
The next morning, we headed to the bike rental Rana Cabs Pvt ltd in Chandigarh, where we booked for a Royal Enfield Thunderbird for the ride earlier through phone. After completing the formalities, we were shown the bike. I was excited. I had never travelled to Himachal in bike and that too in a Thunderbird 350. So imagine my excitement when a bloke in a 410 cc RE Himalayan stops right before the rental office citing a silly “it’s too cold to ride up there dude”, reason and gives the keys to the bike rental. And so the bike changed from Thunderbird to Himalayan in the next five minutes. The dude again told about riding in the cold weather and to take cab to which I hurriedly replied was “yeah, ok thanks dude, we’ll take it from here”.
The entire route from Chail to Kufri presented this sort of scenery
The RE Himalayan stands out of the crowd, no doubt. The design is a distinct one with the touring abilities kept in mind. The tall stance gives a commanding view of the road ahead. The high rise visor also provides protection from the wind blast above speeds of 80 Kmph in the highways. The exhaust note is a throaty growl which has the ability to turn heads where ever it goes. The seats are comfy enough and the rear monoshock is a first in a RE. Navigating in and out of Chandigarh is very simple with the city neatly divided in sectors and becomes much simpler when Google maps show the fastest route out. The Himalayan feels firm footed and speeds between 80 and 110 kmph are where the Himalayan feels happiest on the highways.
Himalayan never fails to excite!
The maps showed heavy traffic in the usual route to Shimla via Shogi, so we decided to go via Chail, which is a longer route but it had least or no traffic at all during the entre ride. The route also has a narrow road with full pine and eucalyptus trees on the side of the mountainous road. This deserted route gave us the chance to stretch the Himalayan’s legs and it was an absolute joy to attack the corners in the narrow roads. Once we reached Chail at around 4 pm, we decided to head for Kufri for the night, which was the best decision we made on spot instead of going to Shimla. Just before 6 or 7 kms before Kufri, we spotted ice on roadside and as we neared Kufri it was snow all around and the temperature dropped suddenly and I could feel cold creeping through my gloves. As it was holiday time, we were afraid that we wouldn’t get a decent stay considering we just packed our backpacks without any plans to stay at specific hotels. Luckily for us we found a comfortable stay at the Kufri holiday resort in Kufri. The location and view from the hotel was simply captivating. The night temperatures reached 1 – 2°C at Kufri.
It snowed just a day before we reached

Kufri Holiday Resort

View from our cottage



Sunset in Kufri

The Himalayan was a blast in the hills. The bike pushes you to ride harder and there was an ease of leaning it while cornering hard, but due to the bigger front wheels and long front suspension the bike felt uneasy to handle sudden inputs in direction changes. The able chassis of the bike meant excellent handling and while in certain roads cars were lined up on roads due to broken tarmac the Himalayan felt at home handling some off road situations with aplomb, tackling broken roads with ease.
En route to Kasauli
The next day we rode to Shimla from Kufri, which is a 17 km ride downhill. The capital city was so crowded with holiday goers, that we decided to skip visiting the famous Mall road, as we had to park the brand new rented bike some 1 Km away in the parking. Disappointed, we headed downhill slowly navigating in the bumper to bumper traffic. As we passed Solan downhill we saw a signboard with Kasauli showing 13 kms by taking a detour to the right. I have heard about this quaint little hill station and I wanted to visit this as we still had a good 3 – 4 hrs before we could ride down before dusk. The 13 km stretch has narrow roads and it’s better to ride slowly as the roads also weren’t that great until the last 4 kms or so. Kasauli has its own charm, and it’s a total contrast to the busy town of Shimla. I recommend spending time in Kasauli and see Kufri, Chail and give Shimla a miss unless you are serious about seeing the Mall road in Shimla or experience the toy train which runs between Kalka and Shimla.
Church in Kasauli
A memorial dedicated to the hockey legend Major Dhyanchand in Kasauli
After some exploring and having lunch we rode down from Kasauli at around 4 p.m and made it to Chandigarh before 6 p.m. We rode a total of 340 Kms in two days from Chandigarh and back. The highlight of this entire trip was no doubt riding the RE Himalayan in the hills, the scenic places of Chail, Kufri on day one and the totally unexpected surprise in the form of Kasauli on day two. As a whole 2016 gave me a chance to visit three captivating hill stations in Himachal Pradesh - Manali, Dharamsala and finally Shimla. The year couldn’t have ended in a better way with a trip to Himachal with my college buddy as I was moving out of Punjab the next week for a new job in Pune, Maharashtra. Still there are many more surprises left to explore in the majestic Himalayan region, all in good time to come. But for now the misty hill stations in Maharashtra and the white sandy beaches of Goa await... :D
(Writer was advised to wear full riding gear)
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