Shipki La – A divide between India and Tibet.

All that I was thinking in this long while was a little break that
separates me from all the rest and takes me back to where I exist. Me
me and me…

I love this feeling of being away from the world I
know and being with the ones who dont know me. It makes me create those
connections which belong to me and are just free from the usual ones of
relations and the relationships you tend to hold.

Away into my
own world, I head out to the place I have only heard of and seen it on
the map. Something that still tends to set itself away from the crowd
and I know I dont belong to the crowd. Something that separates me sets
me my way… the
~FreeBird~ way. Shipki La at 4040mtrs that divides the great subcontinent from its small arm of Tibet.
I was inspired by one of the very special person who has been telling
me recently of the places that do exists but not in the reach of the
world. Besides he makes me get the special permission to reach such
places too. Infact its just a small world and people do make
connections finding the right people. Thank you ji, if you are going to
read this.

Note : This is a bit long to read so thank you for reading it all.

So, it was another day at work and the plan was not
to let anything affect my decision of going to those hills. This
probably was another of the most demanding journey which is going to
test my nerves for all that it hold within. It was 0200hrs on Monday
morning and off I pack my two bags with just the pair of socks and old
warm pullover with just 4 pair of gloves. And my so called partner – my
cam and its accessories. Saying a good bye to my mom and bro who did
the last honors of clicking few pics of me n mom together.

home with still few things in head, to fuel the bike to the brink and
then hoping that the bike stays to the expectation as she is about 7yrs
old now.

A small mistake that I realized traveling just about 8kms
that there was petrol leaking from the fuel pipe right under the tank.
I took a stop to find that the bungee cord had cut the fuel pipe so I
had to refigure tying the bungee cord again. It seems that this wont
hold as the petrol still is dripping. I reached the fuel station and
realized that there has been a bigger cut. So I take out the fuel pipe
and cut 5cms from the end where the leak was taking place. All in place
now and topped up the tank with fuel it makes me feel hope nothing more
happens as I m just about 10kms away from home and chances are good for
me to return. But I trust her and feel she will hold the faith that i have in her and will allow me to carry on.

It was already late as its 0230hrs and I m still not out of the border as yet. It took me about an hour to almost cross the border as its too much of the big vehicles crossing over the city and they hold long queues on the border. But I know I was going to make my way through this. I made it to the border and then off on the NH1(National Highway) to cover 125kms in about 2 hours and I take my first Tea break. It was bit cold but was ok… was foggy at some places but I guess it allowed me to ride. I enjoy riding it in the night as I don’t have to honk to get me the road instead a dipper works better. I reached Ambala that breaks the NH1 to NH22 this crosses me into the more colder region. Weather is quite comfortable to be on the bike. Not so cold as yet.
Its 0500hrs when I reached Ambala and I took some shots to capture that first rays of the sun making its way from the dark black surroundings. Back on the saddle I find it nice to ride these plains and somehow I didn’t feel too bored as normally I feel quite bored with this plains I ride on. Quite a grunt on the butt but I guess it was the weather which was making me enjoy it. I further traversed into the busier section of Chandigarh border town and it was the start to the day. Kids all dressed up in school uniform with their mom or dads waiting for their school buses and remaining on the bicycles. Reminded me of my childhood.
It was some awesome feeling to see it all again. I have always felt that Traveling is the way it connects me to everything i do and I have done in the past.

I reached Kalka where the you will see the last railway station from this place you switch to small train to Shimla. The only rail travel in Himalayas. I was running late on the routine but I know this was due to the traffic and that first halt at the Fuel station. I started making my way through the city traffic of kalka and I realize its good for me if I pick up some pace and at the same time.. i should not loose my calm.The roads widens up and I start twisting the throttle little more and I open the pace on the curves. It gets smooth and I take my second halt at 58th milestone restaurant one of the places where I have stood for night stays as well. Some close memories again and the shopkeeper remembers me … we share a smile and i order a Tea… yes… a hot tea. And a Biscuit along with the Tea… Though there was a Cricket match between India and Pakistan which makes India crazy so was this guy. I look at my front fork and oops its leaking from its clip joint. I quickly finish up the breakfast session and I occupy my saddle again. It leaves me in doubts if I shall get the shock tightened up.
Riding along the road, I found this guy opening his shop and I was his first customer for the day.

I asked him if he is going to take time to open the complete thing and how much time wud it take. He said 30minutes.. a little too long for me but I think again and I say – do it man.He took about 15minutes and he leaves me running back on the road again. On the way, this 4×4 big SUV challenge me on the curves and we both stay at the same good pace of 70-80-85kms which was litle faster on the curves. He lost it on the curve couple of times as he missed the apex. Safe and sound I ride through to the next big town Shimla.  It was lot crowded and took me sometime to cross the city traffic. By now the view was getting green and blue. Green on the side of the road and blue in the sky. It was one ride… …. i was enjoying.

I reached Sanjauli and oh my oh…. Goodness me.. Guys who have been there would know why is that a heaven to eyes… Its quite some view to watch out for. Damn… i wish i wish i wish… if i could spend my time staying in Sanjauli but it always comes to me as the mid point of the day which means.. I wont get to stay there But no regrets… Even those few minutes of eyes pleasing is good for health. Those faces those smiles and those moments … freezing on for the rest of the time ahead. I move ahead and I cross the only tunnel of my journey … its like … You are a part of the movie called Life which you play in the lead role. I reach Theog and the view in the distance, the first galore of the snow covered peaks in the distance.. possibly something which I was going to be at. I stopped at Matiana for lunch and I met this Guy – "Atul Sharma" who in month of March made special dinner for us at the night. It was all covered with snow and he made sure he has something for us to eat. I asked him do u remember me, He was instant to reply, yes. It was all snow and you were there with your friends. I said ofcourse you bet… I enjoyed my meal as it was simply so delicious. The ride from now on to Rampur concludes riding on the smoothest downhill rides and my lunch halt in the afternoon at the favorite point near Kingel – Satluj View Point at 1345hrs . I took out an apple and an orange for a meal with a chocolate bar that counts me to make my lunch. I spend few moments sitting and looking at the past.. and the future.. it all looks quite out of focus. I need to focus on the present and I m late for my destination So i have to take that seat back again and I head out to smooth curves and I play with my camera on the downhill ride with one hand on the bar and other with my camera at the same time.. I was enjoying each and every moment. I was in Rampur, 1545hrs and I have been on my bike for over 12hrs  and I m not sure as where my destination point is.

I keep on the pace and I cross the city traffic of Rampur and after next 20kms i reach the small town of Jeori which divides the road for famous Bhimakali Temple. I take a small halt and buy some juice for myself. It was refreshing but I have to rush as i m heading closer to the darkness and at the end of the day its becomes more dangerous. I was now on the old trade silk route of India Tibet. The view from here is as inviting as ever. Even my past journeys across this road and the present one holds the same amount of interest for me as each time I get to perfect myself over those hanging cliff. But the change that has happened now is that the state Government has put the barricades on those cliffs. So you are more safe on those curves then ever before. Reaching Wangtu and speeding through the crowd looks at me… what a pooof rider.. He just knows how to take those curves.. but i knew I had more to cover then to think of.

I crossed Wangtu, then Karccham and then the famous Satluj river to pass into Powri and Damn, it was getting cold. I get my tank to fuel up to the top so atleast I can reach this fuel station on the return and this is the last fuel station along the NH22. I crossed powri at 1730hrs bringing on the dark shades of the sky closer to me. It was extremely chilly as the winds howl in these empty stone mountains. The green stretch suddenly gives way to barren and sharp mountains with no vegetation. The change looks quite different but very much dangerous. One small mistake on these curves and you will not be left for another chance. I was riding on my road and suddenly I was shocked to see the lights coming at the same pace joining the road. and for a moment it scared me as if something is falling over. But then I stopped and talked with this driver of the Pickup mini truck. He suggested me to halt at Akpa which was just another 16kms. But I wud be short again of my destination. which was supposed to be Khab or Namgia to be precise.

The view now is only limited to my headlight of the bike and its the sound of water 500mtrs down from the Satluj makes it scary. Cautious and slow i cross the Moorang which is on the opposite side of the hill perched at the top across the river. I was slow on my pace and I reach this Check post of Jangi. A small check post that monitors all the traffic coming out and going in to the road ahead. This is where they ask me for my identity and the bike registration number and where I m heading to. Just that this reminded me of my last journey from year 2004 when i covered the Spiti circle to Manali. Its been 3 years nearly and nothing much has changed. Just the roads have improved a lot.

It was all dark and I decided to pull off for the day at a place called Spello. Because I was hell scared since the road was a thin line and my headlight did no justice and I still remembered that a single mistake would mean the last one.. so I call it off at Spello village. It was a election time in Himachal pradesh so most of the Govt resthouses were full with no room to offer. The same driver who helped me to suggest to stay at Akpa, told me to check a Guest house behind the main road. I ended up finding a room for 150rs a Night. Nothing in the room except a bed and warm covers. There was no bathroom in the room, it was a common bathroom outside the room. But I guess I was tired after riding for a 16hrs30mins. So, i end up getting my stuff unloaded from the bike into this small room. This was I bet one of the most amazing ride day. So much to remember and so much in these 16hrs… wow..

I quickly unloaded myself of my mud filled boots and those dirty jeans and bike jacket… to relieve myself of the present which soon was to become the past.
I called up home and told I am safe but at the same time I called up the person who arranged the place for my stay to tell him that I couldn’t make to Pooh as it was cold and dark plus the trucks on the road made it extremely dangerous for me to ride in such situation. Besides at the same time, I knew I was missing the  beautiful vista’s that needs to be captured. I quickly found a small eating dhaba where i got to have roti and daal as my dinner at 1720hrs it was not delicious but sustainable. In such situations you don’t look for delicacies. I ended up ordering a glass of Milk to energize myself and it was all to go into the books. It made a super special story for my memories.

Back in my room I say good night to myself after looking at all the pictures I did manage from my journey on this day.
========= End of Day 1 ========

Alarm rang at 0400hrs but I was so comfortably sleeping numb that I wanted to sleep more so I kept snoozing my alarm and woke up at 0430hrs. It was all dark outside and cold too. The sky simply looked full of stars and the galaxies and the milky way. I tried capturing few shots but unsuccessful still.. i leave it..
And I capture myself instead in the fresh morning state…
I packed up my bags again and all ready with capturing all the moments on the camera, it made it all look so special. Wohooo.. I like the Tripod and the Remote idea working together for me. I pack my bag check everything in the room, nothing left back and I m out. I tie the stuff on my bike again and it was all wet dew on the saddle. I made a point to capture all … I did that. And it was 0620hrs that I finally made a move and I was on the road again. No breakfast but just the chocolate bars as my starting fuel. I was getting used to the cold weather and it still was uncomfortable on the saddle. So i kept myself slow.

But soon the view changed again and wow… I was again getting to re-live all these emotions. It was bit cold and suddenly behind the mountains I see the rays of light breaking into the clean lines of separation between the dark and so strong daylight. It looked like I was being welcomed. I had never seen such a morning in my life when the rays break themselves into such a vivid formations. I reached Pooh and it was 0725hrs. After another 10minutes of ride I come across the Dabling bridge which marks the end of NH 22. Dabling is a small village perched at the top of the hill and offer unbelievable view. I have not been there but looking at its road I sure can say the view from the top wud be mind blowing. I carry on further down the road where it takes a small divide from the main road. It has a sign board mentioning – Khab, Namgia & Tashigong.

I take on this rough road where you only have to keep looking on the road ahead as its all laid with stones and those pebbles and dirt. Soon after I suddenly find the metaled road which was a big surprise but just for a km and I met this young lad. Must be 10yrs old and I asked him of the khab and he said i have to take this rough road divide. I carried on further and I saw the real horses for the first time in my life. They must be like 2ft and strong. Never seen such horses.They just ran away after seeing 12horses I m sitting on … ha ha ha ha.
And I reached the Customs office where they were waiting for me. A very warm welcome.. Infact, quite a charm. I was amazed to see the excitement building on. They were the one who would take me to the destination. They offered me breakfast but before that they asked me if I want the Hot warm bath and ofcourse was my answer. I Then was privledged to enjoy the hot breakfast with those high dry peaks in front of my window. A view to die for.
I quickly got all my stuff to be left with them and I was out with the officials till the last point they are going to join me. They were in a Gypsy and I was on the bike. All covered with my biking gear and they took me about 6kms ahead, where they took my helmet and made me follow road ahead which takes the shape of dirt and pebbles track. More like a one the horses and mules will take. This was the real India Tibet old Silk Route. I rode on another 6kms to reach a place where the dirt track disappear into the trekking path. I leave my bike and click some last few shots. I met the traders along this path who were loaded with sugar and rice to be traded on the other side of the border. This was quiet a view to watch and I m sure it was a privilege being on this age old path which traders have taken in all these past years of existence. I can clearly imagine the history and how this path must have prevailed. This trader offered me the Parantha which he was eating and we chatted for few minutes. The climb clearly was an easy one but a very cautious approach needs to be taken. This was definitely the most demanding in terms of cautions I have to take.
Just looking at the foothill of the opposite mountatin – was the village of Tashigong. Tashigong has quite a few stories to listen to. But i will skip them for now. And just above the village of Tashigong Lies the highest peak in Himachal or rather Indian himalayas at 6800mtrs it is Reo Purgial. Getting to see it from the other side was like a dream. I have never thought I would see it from the northern side which was simply stunning and unbelievable to see.

I must have trekked for about 40minutes and I reached a small army base of Chuppan where I met these army guys who welcomed me with the warm shouts of Welcome Welcome.. And seeing my camelbag they thought its oxygen bag. I then told them its just a water bag. And quite a chat we had. Something more like they enjoy too, clicked few pictures and they made me meet their dog, named Julie. Back on to the trek route it was steep now. And it sure was taking a lot more difficult then the first half. It was oooph oooph I stop… ooph oooph I stop.  Finally I reached the Shipki La which mentioned 4000mtrs. Now interestingly in most of the books it reads 4551mtrs but i was later told 4040mtrs is the real height of this place.

I spent memorable and the most unforgettable time of my life with the ITBP post people and they enjoyed seeing how I traveled. They have been on that isolated post for quite some time. The Sub Inspector at the post took me to show the Tibet land and Truly the landscape suddenly changes. It becomes the thing of wonder as once I climb from this side it was all rocky and sandy and dangerous but on other end of Tibet its smooth simple and unbelievable dark sand. It was a view.. but unfortunately no pictures allowed.  Its a matter of National concern.

On the way back, Mr Shinde leaves me with a warm welcome to the gate of Shipki La and it was a thing of emotions that formed this trek.Coming down hill I had to rush lot faster. It probably required a more precision as you tend to loose the steps in the while.You will love this view for sure so I used to take a break have a look around, and on the way to the top I managed to find Two full sized horse shoe and one half broken shoe. They make my journey a truly memorable one to even have me keep the memories alive.

I reached back down to hill and with a very cautious approach I head down to the Base at Khab. Two gentleman who left me to the way of Shipki La left for Diwali holidays. So it was me and Sr. Inspector at customs who was there. I was very much tired and I was feeling the effect of AMS as my body had taken a lot more then it was supposed to. So with prior permission of the Senior I decided to stay with him only.

So I ended up my day pretty soon relaxing and sharing a drink with him in the dinner.
we said Cheers to the day… and soon we were off to bed.
The life has given me memories to be live for them and share them with all the wonderful people whom I know and even i dont.

==================== End of Day 2 ==================

Alarm was set up at 0500hrs but I snoozed it to enjoy my comfortable sleep which was offering me all the peace I could think of. And then sleeping in such places was rare thing … So why not live it. It sure was a must.

With all that i could manage, I finally woke up at 0555hrs and I left at 0655hrs. I didnt carry any bags on my back rather I left it for my return as its better to go back 4kms then to carry the burden for next 4hours. So I joined the main road or so known as the main Spiti road. After riding for a km I came across the Satluj Spiti Sangam where I remembered the Last time I was here it was evening and the road which was there has been destroyed with the floods from the yester years. It leaves me more amazed with the excitement that my memories from past has taken up the more important shape. As they come as exclusive moments now. I spent some time looking around and checking the unpaved road of Tashigong which is just 3kms and after that it makes you cross the river on a small bridge(non motorable) and climb up for 6hrs trek to the village.

So I cross the river and moving to the new arid mountain land it offers totally strange yet a welcoming landscape. The cliff hanging over the road and the green river below the ridge is one sight to watch out for. I apologize to spoil this adventure in this way but Pics are the only way to offer you the justice. Soon my fingers froze and I think it was the second time in past 3 months I have experienced the freezing sensation or the so called Frost bites moments.I reached the small Dhaba where i got my hot tea and spend few minutes over the Helipad clicking few pictures and bringing myself back to normal. It adds on to the moments of nirvana.

I reached the village and the paved road takes me to the very end where you can see the remaining lake which rather is best termed as a Pond now. But still the view offered was one beautiful vista. I shall bring it across in the pictures for you. I went down to the lake and then to the side and then to the little another end and finally I climb the hill above to capture this moment of time. The view in the background with snow covered dry arid mountains it leaves me thrilled. If I wonder again, I dont know how precious these moments would turn in the times to come. I move around the village and over to the monastery, it was closed so I just was able to capture the shots from outside. On the way back I met this school going kid who was shy to talk but answered my questions of where does this road go. 

Back from the village, i come on to this Helipad with my helicopter making a pose on the big while Painted H for helipad.I guess a shot will justify this moment. Again(something i shall upload here soon). I head back down the smooth paved tarmac and capturing some motion shots I find that my speedometer cable has snapped out. Shit !! I will not be able to capture the 70000kms figure now. It was at 69605kms – Frozen Dead.  But I was still away from my home about 600kms away. Kinda disappointment. so I ride back down on the same road with cliff hanging over my head and river under my side of the road..
I reached back to the Village of Customs office in Khab and found the door locked. I looked around to find the caretaker and was told by someone he has gone to his home. I found him on the way coming back from his home with flowers in his hands. Wow…. when I asked him, he said – he will decorate them in the room. This was out of the common seen in quite some time. I told him that I havent had anything to eat so he said, will a Maggi do. I was oh ofcourse. So I had a maggi and I was out back on the saddle. The destination now was to reach home. I m about approx 600kms away from home.

1230hrs and I left the Khab village with this now just a matter of hours and distance to cover. My flying machine will take me back home .. and I respect her.
With the time flying by, I reached Powri at 1518hrs, Rampur at 1805hrs, Shimla  at 2202hrs and Delhi border at 0454hrs which was through fighting fog  and the sleep. Finally reaching Home 0524hrs.

Something that made these 3 days was full of emotions and unseen places. And as a memorabilia – Two complete and a half shoe horse. One fall and one injury from mis timing while kick starting the bike. (nothing serious but it hurts still after 2 days).

I want to thank all those people who made this trip so special and so unforgettable. Thanks to all.

Special thanks to My babe & my Nikon.


9 thoughts on “Shipki La – A divide between India and Tibet.

  1. Sapna November 10, 2007 / 2:16 pm

    Stay positive and let go of your fears>>>>Acha!! Acha!! sarkar kya keh jaateh hai…kuch khabar kuch bekhabar ho jaateh hai….
    Sahab aap itna travel karteh hai…food intake aapki sahi nahi in your travels anytime due to lack of oxygen in your brain you could face perils….jab aapki mehbooba saath hoti hai…tho usspar kuch vitamins, glucose, fruits, food pack, dry fruits,juices kyu nahi rakhkar ja sakte? You never know kaha kya zaroorat pareh…a thermose in which u can pour hot tea or coffee whereever u can get supply…i saw minature horses on my way….towards hamburg….and our train was transfered on a ship from hamburg to denmark..a passage…crossing the baltic sea….its the picture with the black halo….travels are mystic in its own ways hai na? A magnetism….
    The memory that lingers in me is base camp Pokhra nepal.."Gandruk"
    madness of pictures is with me yes…took nearly 800 pics in one day…and the cd i saved in went pooof!! lost it all…argh!!
    bejaan hussn meh kaha…raftar ki ada…
    Chaliye sahab izzazat leti hu….fear ki baath hai agar tho i fear the way u travel with leaking petrol..less food intake…the speed…
    love n hugsss uhu….

  2. Sapna November 10, 2007 / 2:34 pm

    maniiiii i took few pics of the sunset between the trees…..suddenly want to show them to you….my cam certainly is not a professional one as yours could never have the patience to focus the aperture and click hence it is a digi cam…but very good pics it gives…i brought down the resolution hence not so dynamic….
    aw did i make sense here? na??? well lol okie i get confused with all the terminologies huh of cam though i went through a course in my chidlhood as to how to print pics etc etc…cams n box cams etc etc…lost it all…the first cam i got for myself was in standard 5…saved all my puja money blah n blah…trapping memories always amazed me….

  3. Sapna November 10, 2007 / 2:49 pm

    Mani babbar…behke behke se kadam….
    an ode…
    good morning…
    i am coming….
    the forecast today…
    fear of loosing…
    loool gotcha!!!

  4. Sapna November 15, 2007 / 10:49 pm

    You know mani….ek baar aapne mere initial posts meh kaha tha dont let your ego stop you from being who you are…kuch aisa hi kaha tha…."Gumaan"
    Kuch yaadein yu leher si guzar jaathi hai…wahi leher…jo uthi hai beth-thi hai….aur na janeh ek pal meh insaan ko kaha le jaathi hai…kabhi samunder kinare tho kabhi doobo deti hai…..jaise>>>na janeh kaise pal meh badal jaateh hai …na janeh kaise pal meh badal jaateh hai…ye duniya ke badalte rishte….kya janeh kaise rungon meh dhal jaateh hai…ye duniya ke badalte rishte….
    Bekhabar na theh hum….
    koi ho na jayeh yu gum…
    anjaam se wakif theh…
    unmeh hum hi shamil theh…
    reh gayeh kaante aur reh gaye…
    "HUggSSSSS" acha laga aap ayeh…

  5. Sapna November 15, 2007 / 11:08 pm

    Sach abhi bhi dil kareh hai hummeh sab dikhane ko??? itna lecture likh daala previous post meh lool laga ab na ayenge mere lectures ke liye….
    Dastak darwaaze pe yu diya karteh hai…
    kahi phool kahi kaante bhi dikha karte hai…
    bikhre hai har aangan meh phool aise…
    mehsus hota hai…
    kahi barat kahi mayat ho jaise….
    kahi chirag tho kahi aandhi ho aise…
    lol mani sahab u take out a different order of expression from me…yu motivate karteh raheh tho…umm kya keh rahi thi…hmmm haan>>>bareilly ke pagal khane humari mulakat zaroor hogi kisi din looool…psst bike ka sara saman le ana…zalim khana sahi deteh hai ya nahi khuda janeh!!!!
    Love n huGzzz zzzz zzz maloom hai its 1PM arghhhhhh

  6. Sapna November 15, 2007 / 11:08 pm

    sheeesh see my sense…raath ko am bolte hai na??? it am sahab!! grrr!!!

  7. Guru November 17, 2007 / 7:58 pm

    Hey Hero, best wishes for the new year. I read the entire traveling episode and it literally made me embark on that adventure in my mind. How are you doing? Hopefully, next time – we will set on a diff journey. Take good care hero and chat with u soon 🙂

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