“You only except snow leopard and foxes at this time of the year at Hampta Pass. So a solo rider riding these roads in January is the last thing you’d expect” says Akhtar Sheikh, who took a solo trip on his Enfield from Chandigarh to Hampta Pass.
My journey started much before the actual ride - in my mind. I imagined myself riding through the snow-capped mountains and slippery roads, facing the chilly winds in negative temperatures. It took me a month - from practicing my bike, fixing the chains and packing all my essentials in a compact duffel bag - before I was ready to hit the road for the adventure of a lifetime.
I knew that this experience was going to be different – more challenging, exciting and extreme, but I only realised that it had begun when the cold breeze of Chandigarh whipped across my helmet. It took me over 10 hours to reach Manali. The roads changed colours to become snow covered, as I rode along - with a view of the mighty Himalayas and rivers down below.
Soon after Manali, I started riding towards the Hampta pass, and though the tricky path sent chills down my spine, I was motivated enough to keep going. The turns were exhausting and saw me falling multiple times. In times like these, a protective jacket is a must to keep you warm and let you focus on riding through knee deep snow.
As I reached the Jalori pass, it was as though time had slowed down! I faced challenges wherein I had to manoeuvre the bike for my survival! A pair of short gloves helped me grip the handlebar tight, and strike the correct balance on multiple curves. Crossing over, I witnessed white heaven and the feeling, just like the view – was surreal indeed.
This ride was no vacation, but every second on the road made me feel alive, and every step of the way ignited more and more curiosity within me. It was exhilarating – almost like training for perhaps an even more rigorous expedition to follow and I hope that that expedition, is a story I live to tell another day.