Clear water and mucky kit
Day three of riding in Himachel Pradesh was the best so far. We covered a similar distance to previous days, around 125km, but by the end of the ride I felt far less knackered than on previous days. This was thanks to today’s roads being (mostly) recently resurfaced, which made the riding far less draining. The roads were still narrow so there were plenty of stops when two buses or trucks tried to pass each other, but most of the time you could just enjoy the gently flowing bends climbing down to the valley, then back up again. Another reason for feeling refreshed was that today was not as hot as before. We stayed at fairly high altitude most of the day, which meant cooler temperatures. Bliss!
Our route took us from Narkanda to the Tirthan Valley near Banjar (comparatively low, at 1356 metres altitude). The highlight of the route for me was the Jalori Pass, which reached the height of 3135 metres. At the top of the pass was a temple, a couple of shops selling crisps and a chai house. A cup of chai was very welcome after the long ride.
For most of the day, we followed various mountain rivers. What was noticeable today was that the flowing water looked clear for the first time during our travels. Up to this point all the rivers had been a grim shade of brown.
We had a chance to have a little splash when we needed to cross a river at one of the spots where a new road was still waiting for funding. The crossing was well used, not too deep or wide, but it was exciting nonetheless. Everyone from our group made it across without having a swim, and all the bikes chugged merrily on.
Talking about the bikes, I was starting to really gel with the Himalayan at this point. On paper its power output is a pretty disappointing 24.5bhp but on the roads where the traffic rarely moves faster than 30mph (and usually much slower), it has ample power. Most of the riding is done in first and second gear. Getting into third is rare, fourth I have only used twice in three days, and fifth could be just a myth for all I know – I haven’t got anywhere near it.
Complaints and conspiracy theories
One aspect where I wish Royal Enfield would have spent a bit more money is rider comfort on bumpy roads. The combination of poor suspension and badly padded seat means that your back and bottom take a beating. It was no surprise to see many riders in our group stand on the pegs at any sight of rough ground. The pummelling really is quite vigorous.
After three days of riding I finally got my gear right too. I had packed a Forcefield armoured shirt, which I wore without a jacket on top. This way I still had back, shoulder and elbow protection against impact, but leaving the outer jacket in the bag meant no abrasion protection. I figured that not overheating was worth shedding the layer, and since our average speed was around 18mph I figured that abrasion was not going to be the biggest problem. This was more of an offroad approach to kit.
I also had a clear up of all the items in my bag that I hadn’t used so far, and ruthlessly binned everything I didn’t think I’d need. It seemed pointless to carry around stuff like shower gel when it was provided everywhere.
The scenery had turned even more Alpine-like today. The pine trees, waterfalls running across the road and raging mountain rivers all fit the part. If the cows had worn bells round their necks the picture would have been perfect. At least until a monkey ran across the road in front of you – that very rarely happens in Switzerland.
When we arrived at our hotel for the night, the Alpine image was reinforced once again – we were staying in cabins by the river. Right by the river, that was. I could have spat in the river from my balcony as I wrote this diary – I didn’t, you’ll be pleased to know, but I could have.
Given all this Alpine stuff, I was starting to formulate a conspiracy theory in my head. Maybe we really were in the Alps, with the cows just robbed of their bells, and National Express buses repainted in psychedelic colours… Or maybe this was one of those Derren Brown things, maybe nothing was as it seemed… Or maybe I really needed to go have a beer and chill out.
More about Trailquest expeditions and offroad training
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