Ride to Pabbar Valley – by Dallbir

Since my last ride six months back, desperation was building up. My office was doing a great job keeping me busy, consuming most of my Saturdays. Finally, there was a hope for a ride in late December during Christmas. Thought of riding towards Rajasthan but couldn’t resist the idea of witnessing a snowfall. Started looking for various options and zeroed on Pabbar Valley. Route plan was simple: Delhi – Pipli – Yamunanagar – Poanta Sahib – Shillai – Tiuni – Rohru – Chargaon – Shiladesh – Rohru – Sungri – Baggi – Narkanda – Shimla – Delhi; duration 4-5 days. Roped in couple of my friends and after some preparation, countdown started.
On 21st December, five of us left on four bikes around 7:30 am, one more friend was supposed to join us from Kurukshetra. Our plan was already delayed by hour and a half. We took our first halt around 9.30 at Murthal for parantha breakfast. After a quick break of 30 minutes we were on road again, trying to cover up the lost time. We rode without any break till Pipli, where we met Aman who was eagerly waiting for us. But before we can start again, I had a flat tyre and some broken spokes. Got it fixed and now we were way behind our schedule. On our way between Kalesar and Poanta Sahib, Rishi’s bullet started facing problems on the ascents. He was riding with a pillion and lot of luggage, transferred some on to my bike and it was smooth again. By the time when we reached the holy city of Poanta Sahib, it was already 4:30pm. All of us were hungry as a beast and we freaked on the local tikki burgers and chai. Enquired about the route further, since we were way beyond our schedule decided to ride as far as possible that day. After a long days ride, finally we were in the mountains, climbing further with every kilometer. This is a dusty mining area with lot of truck traffic. Reached the silent own of Shillai around 8:30 pm and took shelter in Govt. PWD guesthouse around 9.30 p.m after dinner.
22nd December, 2007
Shillai is not a picture perfect town with barren mountains, but has one of the most amazing sunrises I have ever witnessed. Woke up early, don’t remember the time, it was freezing cold but couldn’t resist the idea of a sunrise, got the camera, all wrapped stepped out for a surprisingly awesome sunrise. Soon, ruined everybody else’s sleep, meanwhile tea was ready. It was a beautiful sunny winter morning, could see little bit of snow on distant mountains. Soon everybody was ready for exciting day ahead. It was descend from Shillai, the ride was just amazing, with occasional pine forest. Soon we reached the confluence of Tons & Pabbar river and the sight was amazing. The sight reminded me of Spiti, with barren rocky mountains in the background, crystal clear water. During all this, we never refueled. Around 20 kms short of Tiuni, Rishi’s bike ran out of petrol. Other had enough to lend him some petrol and we made it to Tiuni. With a quick fill up and little brunch, we rode on some of the most scenic roads to Hatkoti, visited the ancient Hatu Mata Temple. Our next stop was at Rohru, the headquarters Pabbar valley, we negotiated through heavily crowded streets, once out of town the valley was amazingly beautiful, the snow clad mountain ahead of us looked so close but yet too far. After crossing the town, we proceeded at a low speed consuming the beauty as much as possible. Pabbar River giving us company throughout, little ahead crossed Chargaon silent hill town. This was the last town on this route and the population decreased further down the road. Spotted a beautiful spot along the bank of the river and stopped for a break. There we had the most relaxing 30-40 minutes break of the whole ride. The sight was simply awe, with crystal clear water flowing and beautiful mountains all around with thick vegetation. Ahead of the road was snow-clad mighty white sparkling Chansal peak. Not wasting further time we all headed towards Shiladesh as we knew that the sun will come down fast in few hours. Initially it was easy climbing on slopes with a little mud but soon it was mud and snow which made it really hard to keep the balance. As we climbed further, tougher it got to ride. 3 kms before Shiladesh, had to take a tough decision to turn back to the valley. It was tough but a sensible situation, with sun going down fast and no grip on the road; we climbed back just to come back again sometime. According to locals the scenery beyond these mountains are comparable to none and the remotest, all the more reasons to try it again. Everybody had their own share of skidding and falling which was fun, everybody got down safely. We started looking for a place to camp and found an ideal spot just opposite the river bank where we stopped earlier. Since it was already dark and everybody was hungry and we have to pitch tents also, we didn’t’ had an option for ‘fine dining’. Two guys were sent off to Chargaon to get some food and drinking water and rest of us stayed back to pitch tents and collect firewood. Within half an hour tents were pitched and fire was burning. Guys came back with food, but couldn’t get drinking water as none of the shop keepers kept either bottled water or soft drink and rest were closed. I along with Rishi decided to go the other end of the road to nearby village for water, could have used river water, but our water purifying pills had expired. And to our luck it was too late for the village to be awake at 8:00 pm;-). On our way back, had some dogs chasing us, which was a boon is disguise; as soon we stopped we noticed a small tea stall. Requested the guy for some water, after little while he agreed to give us a big container of water without any charge. That night was cold, after dinner went to our tents to call it a day.
23rd December, 2007
After a long night sleep, we woke up early, as our journey back home was supposed to start. The morning was icy cold with wind picking up. And it was time for nature’s call. After attending to the call, all of us knew what they call ‘third degree torture’, with no toilet paper around and icy cold river water aaaaghhh aaaagghhh. Later discovered various animal skeletons behind the tents and later a local told us that last year they had shot a leopard just opposite that site. That was very informative after we have camped there last night. Decided to take a dip in cold water, no matter what but again the local warned us – ‘Iss mausam main nadi ke paani se hum nahin nahate, aap nahoge to bimaar ho jaoge’. Packed up the stuff, returned the water container and returned back to Rohru. Refueled and asked for directions to Sungri. We could have taken a safer route to Shimpla via Theog but ehehehe. From Sungri, you can either take left turn for Narkanda or right turn to Rampur. It was a beautiful road to Sungri with very less traffic, from 1400 meters, we climbed up to around 2200 meters. Soon, we got to see small patches of snow along the way which really excited us and proceeded further with more enthusiasm (kya pata tha aage pungi bajegi). Took a halt at Sungri, had breakfast and tea and spoke to locals there about the road to Narkanda. As usual, we rely on local guidance more then anything else, so the guys told us that jeeps have been coming from the other side, so bikes wouldn’t be problem. That’s all we needed, packed up and got on to the Sungri-Narkanda road. It was 12:30 pm and Baggi was 40 kms away. So we planned to stay little ahead of Narkanda that day (ehehe wishful thinking).
As we started to ride, we got a first patch of snow on the road – excitement meter-99%, got to see another one round the corner – excitement meter-95%, got another one and another one and another one. After traveling (or should I say balancing and walking through snow) 18 kms, we reached Khadrala, where bikes just stood in snow without any support. Locals suggested us to turn back and not proceed further as the road was blocked with snow. But we smart asses decided that now we have managed 18kms of snow patches, ‘we will manage’ rest 22 also. Now we know why roads get close, how do people get stranded, why do they warn you. By the time we reached Baggi, it was 8’o clock. Midway, one of the guy had a flat tire, snow was all around us, never saw so much of snow at one place. We divided the group in two parts, send three bikers to check the rest of the way and acquire any accommodation closest. Had a time of our lives fixing that puncture, tires got stiff, fingers won’t move in snow, it took us an hour just fix it up. It was about to get dark and the worst was yet to come, guys ahead informed us bout a ice patch ahead (not a snow patch) and a long mud-snow patch. Everybody had their own share of falls. At one point of time we were finding it hard to stand on our feet and as I write, couldn’t believe we rode on that patch. Won’t do it again for million rupees, well if you make it two might take up the challenge. Finally we crossed all the patches and it was dark. We met a local who scared the hell out of us; he was like a chowkidaar from Zee Horror Show who told us that we shouldn’t be there at that point of time. Soon we reached Baggi, our shoes were wet, clothes were dirty, hands were freezing, and all we wanted was bed. This day we covered 40 kms in about 7 hours, you can imagine how tough it would have been. Dividing the team in two parts was a smart decision, coz by the time we reached everything was closed, but these guys were waiting for us. We unloaded the bikes and took shelter in PWD rest house. It was a long hard day. The rooms were warm and nice with a fireplace which we later used to dry our wet shoes and clothes. After little chitchat, all of us went off to sleep as nobody had any energy left. Won’t be able to forget about that day, it was a stupid decision to continue down that road. As per our plan we were supposed to reach Narkanda via Baggi, and after witnessing the day, nobody could figure next day, nobody wanted to think about it.
24th December, 2007
Hoping to reach home this day, we woke early and packed our stuff on time. After enquiring about the road ahead, was glad to know that little ahead, a road bifurcates towards Theog which is all clear of snow. We couldn’t have been happier. We checked our bikes and started our journey with a cup of tea. Decided to stop for breakfast nearby Theog. It was fourth day without shower and we were sure that we won’t get entry at our home without id proof ;-). Spirits were high and clear road got us to enjoy the ride. This place is known as Baggi coz this area is surrounded by apple orchards, people there don’t know anything else apart from growing apples. It is beautiful country side surrounded by apple orchards. We took a short break at Chaila and proceeded towards Theog. It had been quite sometime since we had nice food, so decided to eat at the famous ‘Giani da dhaba’ at Dharampur. Crossed maddening Shimla and pushed ourselves to Dharampur, reached their around 2 pm, as hungry and dirty as a pig, we hogged on as we haven’t eaten in days. Since we had covered a long distance, decided to cover up the rest of distance to Delhi and as they say, journey back home is always the longest. Reached home at around 1am, covered around 450 kms in a day. Woke up next morning and it all seemed like a dream, a dream which got over too quickly.
Till then, waiting to return to Pabbar valley again, to scale the heights which I couldn’t do this time.

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