The first day of Raid had to be the most grueling for us. We were given the last start of the bikes and a number as well but we weren’t competitive. Some of the officials did not get the message because we received a time card anyways and officials were recording our
times. We didn’t get a road book with the route so we had to copy the info from Sunny. The first competitive and second transport
were a breeze. The first gypsy to catch up to us was about 15km in the first stage, so from then on one of my tasks was
to look for gypsies. It was a bit scary to turn around and see a gypsy raging behind us honking their asses off. I would look for dust clouds behind us or on the mountain parallel to us and listen for a loud obnoxious exhaust and time the gypsies arrival so we wouldn’t get run over or eat major dust. We allowed most gypsies to pass us as we weren’t competitive. The whole point was to get the Raid experience as we knew two of us on our big tank of a bike was no match for the light weight bikes.
The weird thing about the hills is the weather. We started at 4:30am so it was cold, we had layers on, slowly throughout the day you start to strip off layers. As you weave your way up and down the mountains you get closer to the sun and man does that sun beam down. As the day got hotter, exhaustion started to settle in on Nick. Lack of sleep started to take its toll on the second competitive stage. It was a steep, loose dirt and loose rock terrain which made it difficult to handle our bike. From the get-go we had both decided that if the bike falls once, we’re pulling out of Raid…we don’t want to jeopardize our world tour. Ground-zero was around the 4th km of the second competitive. We weren’t really moving, it was a fall at 2 mph due to a medium size rock that got under our front tire. The bike toppled over the right and both of us went down hard, but not too hard. Thank goodness for a helmet though, my heavy helmet head smacked hard against a rock. We quickly got up and hoisted the bike up. At that point we soaked with sweat, exhausted and feeling defeated. A gypsy sped up and gave us an ‘Are you okay?’ look and slowed down, we gave them the thumbs up that we were fine and we sat our over-ambitious asses down on some rocks.
After a few moments of silence we debated whether we should go on or not. We decided against it. We were doing pretty decent overall
time-wise so we had to wait for all the rest of the gypsies to pass us before attempting the decline to the Luhri to Behna main road. After an hour we tried to go down the mountain but we found ourselves struggling with the weight of the bike. I got off the bike and followed Nick as he walked the bike down. It was hot, dusty and just unbelievably frustrating. We finally got to the nice road, aka tarmac, and made our way to Luhri. Half-dead, we settled on a crappy dhaba for much needed food and water. It really was crappy but the people were sweet although amazed to see the bike and then to see us with our layers of gear. People usually see the bike first and then see a girl on the back of the bike and little do they realize I can read their lips “Ladki hai!” (It’s a girl!). This scene has played out too many times no matter where we go in India. After some lunch we decided to push on to Manali. Ambitious considering the time of day etc…but we were determined….after a nap maybe. We both felt the weight of our eyelids closing on us. The amazing thing about Himachal and Kashmir is that you are riding on the side of a mountain and there’s always a beautiful river flowing beside you. Scary or beautiful—you call it. We decided to sleep next to the river as that was really our only choice. We found two nice size boulders and we settled into a deep samosa-pakora-exhaustion induced coma. An hour and a half later I was rudely awakened by Nick (if anyone knows, I hate being awakened in the middle of an afternoon nap no matter how sweetly you do it). After some encouraging words Nick got me up
and we headed for Manali. Now in India, the way we travel is we ride for 2 hours and stop for chai…drive again for 2 then step for chai…there’s always room for a cup of chai yaar! So we rode up the mountains through amazingpine tree forests and stopped at the tea stand at Jalori Pass. Here you start to see a change in air, sky, faces, structures, food etc. If you’rean American kid that’s never traveled beyond Punjab and Delhi it’s really cool, you ask…’are we in India anymore?’
There were a couple of Raid officials behind us in a couple of SUVs, we thought hmm ok good, at least we have someone there in case we need help since our service team was probably already in Manali which was a good 150 some km away still at 5pm. After some
much needed chai and cream biscuits we started to head down from Jalori Pass only to find one of those big-ass TATA trucks being pulled out of a 100 ft gorge. Damn, we thought, we’re going to be here for a while. Half-joking Nick told me “Be ready to sleep here tonight!” Other vehicles started to pile up behind us and from the other side leading to a typical Himachal sandwich situation. So at times like these everyone gets out of their cars and smoke a cigarette, take a pee pee etc etc. The Raid officials that were behind us came up to us and wanted to check the bike out. So we talked with them for a while and before we knew it the truck was pulled out. It took about an hour and a half—not bad! But oh—“Is your rear tire always low likecthat or…?” questioned one of the officials as others rushed to start their trucks. Nick and I look down at our rear tire and as a truly classy in-synch married couple does we let out a couple of our
choiciest four letter words at once. We got a puncture and our puncture kit was sittin in the back of that damn service truck in Manali. Loctite ain’t gonna fixthis one. Thank goodness for a couple of those officials, they had a small compressor and tire plug kit. While others were in a rush to move and had already started their cars/trucks to leave, two officials took the time to help us with our puncture. It turned out that a piece of sharp wood had jammed into our tire. The puncture fix wasn’t perfect but I’m telling you we’re still riding
on that fix. Major props to the officials that helped us!
The rest of the ride was amazingly beautiful until it got dark. Riding at night in India is stressful, I don’t care who you are what you are, it sucks. The only thing that was keeping us going was each other since we had installed those Scala speaker/microphones in our
helmets so we could encourage each other to keep going. After 17 hours of riding, and our asses, thighs, backs, necks in crazy pain
we got to Hotel Chandertal in the Mountaineering Institute in Manali at close to 9:30/10pm to our cheering biker friends.
They all told us that it was a good move to pull out on the second competitive as the next stages, competitive and transport were much much worse. Having never been on a bike that long I proceeded to pass out in mid-sentence in conversation with Narinder. Having had our asses whooped by the day before we woke up at 1pm the next day to an absolutely amazing viewof the mid Himalayas!
Was it worth it? YES!