Sunday, July 17, 2011

Day 1: July 17 - acclimatization ride around Manali

Woof - it has been a hectic few days:  flying from the Andamans to the mainland, running around like a headless chicken getting things done (although I was more productive than a typical headless chicken, who task list reads (a) Bleed, (b) Die).    Next morning, more of the same.    And I was up till 3am packing, even.

The flight to Delhi was late (not surprising.  Indigo, the budget airline, manages to be on time always and Jet, the premium airlines, is always late.  Go figure).    Thanks to frequent flier status with Jet, got away with 16kg excess baggage, though.

Then it was a long slog till midnight and then all of the next day to get to Manali.    And then more shenanigans with the bike.  It normally takes me 15 min to put together the Breakaway - this time, it took almost 3 hours.  Problems with re-attaching the RD, problems with the headset, problems with the cantis, swapping bars, etc.   All user error, incidentally.

Finally the bike was ready and I crashed at 1am.  

I woke up at 10am and by the time I got showered and dressed, it was close to 11.    After some tea, we got the bikes ready (last minute tweaks, pump the tires, wrap the tape).

But by then, it was near lunchtime, so we decided to walk down to a nice Italian restaurant up in the hills (run by an Italian lady, so there would no such abominations such as chopped coriander on the ravioli).    After stuffing ourselves with pasta, some more pizza and excellent cake (tiramisu for me, a chocolate mousse for Mohan), it was time to leave.

I was feeling a little achy from a bunch of things (sniffles, back spasms, etc), so I wasn't sure I was going to ride but the meal did wonders for my frame of mind and we decided to head out at 3pm for a short, easy spin to the town of Naggar and back.

Yeah right.   Get 3 Roadie Scum together (even if one of them is on an MTB, and the other two on cross bikes with knobbies) and there is no such thing as a short, easy spin.

The initial 0.5km ride out from the hotel was a bit dodgy - a very narrow, wet and muddy single lane road with honking cars winding down to the crowded town square, and descending further to a low bridge crossing the river Beas.     Once we crossed the bridge, we turned left, and headed south, with the river on the right.

The initial bit was a downhill and while we were still passing through the outskirts of the town, there wasn't as much traffic (both pedestrian and vehicular) so I let it rip a little to warm up.     Then the road turned upwards a little and while Mohan the Demon, who normally climbs like a Red-Bull-overdosed monkey, was taking it easy, Manish decided to start dishing out the pain, resulting in my HR touching 180bpm at times as I tried to stay with them, a fact complicated by the blind turns and my lack of confidence in my cantis.

Manish, after dropping the hammer on the way down

The terrain was mostly rolling for the first 6-7km, passing through settlements that were pretty much contiguous to each other.

After a while, the road starting going through a gorgeous alpine fir forest - tall stately trees lining both sides of the road as it descended steeply via a couple of switchbacks (uh oh, gonna have to climb that on the way back), and then it was rolling terrain again to Naggar, with the river bubbling loudly a little further down the valley on one side.  

At Naggar, we took a quick stop to refill water and started to head back.

This time, thankfully, Manish decided to stop hitting us with his hammer, and the pace was a lot more civilized.   The switchbacks on the way up were indeed painful (9-12% gradient), but not as long as they had seemed on the way down.    It was drizzling a little now, and I was finally glad I had brought my rain jacket along.   As I was starting to get a cold, I had chosen to err on the side of caution and get the wind and water resistant jacket, and until now, it had only made me sweat.  But now, it was doing it's thang.

Mohan - climbing fiend.  My goal is to get him to gain atleast 5kg on the trip.

All too soon, the bridge that led to Manali was back and now it was a short, very steep slog of 1-2km back to the hotel.

A quick shower later, cake, sandwiches and hot chocolate served as the perfect recovery meal.   Now, off to dinner!

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