By: AKHIL P
Image Courtesy: http://www.mtbhimachal.com/
Start point: Shimla
End point: Kullu
The best images one can conjure up of a biking event would be of Tour De France where we can see hundreds of bikers vying with each other to be the leader leaving behind people-lined streets of towns stung by the event's popularity with the event promising to test the endurance of the bikers. Here in the other part of the world where biking is not much more than a means of poor man's transport, comes an event which has the competence to come out as the world's only real endurance testing biking rally for the real adventure bikers who take their relationship with the bikes and nature seriously. I'm talking about Hercules MTB Himachal, the mountain enduro put together for the real enthusiasts by HASTPA (Himachal Adventure Sports & Tourism Promotion Association) along with the Himachal Tourism and the Indian bike makers Hercules and taken around the world by IMG.
One can never imagine what kind of event it would be until you are a part of the event and are there where the action is happening because it is there that one can feel the enthusiasm, the sweat, the excitement and pure pleasure of adventure. As we the Rotaractors from Rotaract Shimla Midtown joined in the organizing team after all the hard work had been put up by the organizers, we could feel the atmosphere filled with excitement, anxiety and feel of accomplishment. We could not have asked to be part of a better event. Our first day at the event saw us welcoming the participants and preparing their database. With a heady mix of professional, amateur and fresh bikers from different parts of the world and of different ages and professions one could not stop but think of the best Himalayan experience in store for all. Some flying in directly for the event, some coming in after completing an equally adventurous event and some freshly from their boardroom meetings. Imagine people from diverse areas – Corporate heads, Teachers, Students, Industrialists, Professionals and adventure entrepreneur coming together with their experiences and sense of adventure, and we were right there welcoming them.
Then started the 8 days of the Himalayan Adventure that would leave a mark on everybody's mind and soul and that too refreshed ones.
Day – 1 (Thursday, October 6, 2005)
Start point: Peterhoff, Shimla
End point: Lhuri
Distance: 54 km
Route: Shimla > Sanjauli >Mashobra > Theog > Lhuri
The start to the mega event took place from the historic Peterhoff, where the sun had started to shine cutting through the cold morning chill. The participants had started with their last minute adjustments since early morning not leaving anything for later. The early morning chill didn't bother anyone as we could see hectic activities happening around. We could also see some last minute arrivals. Soon we could see the bikes lining up to be flagged off by the Commissioner, HP Deptt. Of Tourism Mr. Shreedhar, who seemed to be as enthusiastic as the participants and not to leave behind the ever active HASTPA team, with the media gunning for their President's words. The flag off took at 8 AM with the bikers led by the pilot, taking them through the historic roads of the Queen Of Hills ie our own Shimla. The participants went through the Mall Road, Ridge towards the Raj Bhawan with a few missing the marks on their way but catching up later and we could also see some starting problems with bikers which later weren't worth looking back to. As the main town passed by the bikers took to the outskirts of the town the Himalayan outback started to shower its wonders. The first of the many break points to come was at a picturesque meadow among the deodar trees with the participants resting on the greens. A refreshing break indeed. As for after a while they had to start with the competitive section which was really competitive. As the bikers started getting into their groove one could just look in awe to their skills and speed. The sped past through automobiles and motorbikes as if the bikes were motorized. We weren't ready for such an experience and sights. This was just the beginning. There came lunch points in between. The off track roads were testing the endurance well. The competition ended when the riders touched the tarmac. From there the bikers took their leasurely time to get to the camp site which was set up at the high altitude training camp of the National Sports Authority. An open green ground, with wind blowing as the bikers started pouring in. We could see the riders not wasting much of their time, they set to work on their bikes with detailed precision. In the evening hot pakoras were served with piping hot tea, which went down pretty good with all the riders. The darkness brought in time for the first day celebrations, everybody sharing their experiences of the day sitting by the camp fire in middle of the tents with an open sky above them filled with stars. The night sky was as much inviting as the songs rendered by special invitees. Finally the jersey presentation took place among the lights of the fire and jeeps and it went to the young and experienced Norbert. His actions spoke for themselves as he couldn't speak English. At last dinner with a sumptuous meal and then lights out.
Day – 2 (Friday, October 7, 2005)
Start point: Lhuri
End point: Shoja
Distance: 51 km
Route: Lhuri> Ani >Shamsher > Jalori Pass> Shoja
The morning started with a chill in the air, everybody looking forward to a great day ahead. With the breakfast served, the bikers rode upto Narkanda Pass from where the competitive section began. Narkanda which is a gateway to upper Himachal has in it beautiful orchards and mountains. The bikers were in for a real treat during the day as they went through the loops taking them through fields of flowers, apple orchards and above all the smiling faces of the school going children who stood by to wish everybody luck. The loops did get some people confused , missing them altogether. We couldn't have let the riders miss the ancient temple on the way so we marked the route through the 1000 yrs old temple which was down in the valley by the rivulet. The speed of the riders mesmerized us as they were going at 70 kmph at times. The competition ended early and the riders took their turns to rest under the trees by the water, as they had to hit the main highway in a while. Nobody would had suspected of what lay in store for them as it was one of its kind where the bikers took turns to get to the other side of the river through a pulley which took everybody by surprise. In the end it was a first time experiences for every rider and they thoroughly enjoyed it. And another 15 minutes ride from there got them to our camp site for the day. Another day of riding gone, we could see the riders busy tending to their bikes. With the announcement of tea-time, everybody jumped to that. As the night set in the days experiences were shared and jersey presented to Frank, our leader of the day. A beaming Frank shared his experiences around the fire sipping on the hot soup before the dinner which was served in no time. Everything done for the day it was good night everybody.
Day -3 (Saturday, October 8, 2005)
Start point: Shoja
End point: Mandi
Distance: 71 km
Route: Shoja> Banjar >Larji> Pandoh> Mandi
An early morning as usual but instead of the chill factor we had thirst factor. All the bikers getting ready for the day, one could see activity all around. The hot breakfast served, all was set for the day. Last minute bike adjustments, the bikers lined up for the start and the Sun God giving them his blessings. The bikes rolled on for the day three, a much more relaxed day as the bikers were much more acclimatized with the terrain. Initially an uphill ride where we crossed into the Kullu Valley where the nature is at its best. The spirit of adventure was thoroughly visible among the riders as many were seen stopping by on the way to take a good look at the nature and appreciate its beauty and to capture it. The route was marked by traditional homes in hill architecture and people in their traditional attire. The smiles and claps egging on the bikers to put in their best. The camp for the day was at the Nither school grounds. It was the perfect place for the valley view. A warm day indeed and the riders started to touch the finish line one by one. What greeted them was the beautiful view of the valley and a treat of local fruits freshly farm picked. The riders took their time to rest and then set about their daily routine of getting their bikes back in shape. By the time it was done it was snack time which everyone looked forward to everyday and it started getting windy by this time. The night sky couldn't be better setting for a warm musical night by the bonfire where the ritual of sharing the days happenings took place. Franz from South Africa was the day's winner. The need of the hour, a healthy dinner was served hot. Wished good night everybody retired into their tents.
Day – 4 (Sunday, October 9, 2005)
Start point: Mandi
End point: Baijnanth
Distance: 90 km
Route: Mandi> Kandapattan >Ghatsni> J Nagar> Baijnath
On day four, every body woke up to a clear sky and a breathtaking view. The morning rituals took place and so did a protein rich breakfast. A sunny day, with all the riders all set to go. The day included rides through tarmac, off track roads, uphill and downhill. Each rider set their priorities accordingly. There were some good uphill riders and some were good downhill. An exciting day in the offing. The beverage points were lined up at scenic places which would give energy to the mind as well as the body. The ride uphill tested the riders good. The camp site was the Khanag school campus. The school lined up among the tall fir and birch trees giving it a cooler feel. Right beside it was an old English cottage beautifully set among the trees. What greeted the bikers to the camp was a light drizzle with cold weather. It was the highest camp site in the itinerary at 2550 m. A cold evening with a cricket match among the bikers and organizers. Everybody kept themselves busy to beat the cold. The evening snack help beat some of it. Day four saw the riders regaling the audience with their musical notes. Norbert again the man of the day. Adam too happy to help him out with the translation. The bonfire was handy so was the dinner to keep warm. After that nobody could resist the warm tempting sleeping bags some even missing the good nights.
Day – 5 (Monday, October 10, 2005)
Start point: Baijnath
End point: Khaniara
Distance: 53 km
Route: Baijnath> Palampur > Nagrota > Yol Cantt.> Khaniara
A cold good morning. Everybody hurrying to get started. A hurried breakfast, a hurried check on the bikes. It was the shortest competitive section of the event and it was to take us to the highest point of the enduro at 3100 m, the Jalori Top. The 5.5 km ride was to test who makes to the top fastest and it saw a very closely fought contest and an interesting one too. The only photo finish of the event saw Norbert just scraping past Franz in the last 10 mtrs and just a second keeping them apart. A young lad of 24 and the other 48 yrs adventure enthusiast. Riders took their time to rest in the feet of Jalori Mata temple. What lay ahead was the awesome beauty entrapped in the Himalayas. Some took a ride to the lake near the temple and some started their downhill decent. The downhill decent had tall trees lined on both sides, one side we could see the sun kissed mountains with a sparsely populated areas. This area is part of the breathtaking Kullu Valley. On the way down everybody stopped by the café along the stream where everybody had their share of coffee. The ride ahead was equally enthralling. The days camp site was a beautiful setting. An open green grass laden land with a stream flowing beside it and to the other side we had the local wooden houses and market. A picturesque place indeed. As soon as the riders started coming into the Gada Gusaini camp on could start hearing the traditional musical instruments being played at a distance. The lunch was served at the camp site with fresh aloo poories being relished by both Indians and foreigners. A trip by the riders to the market place saw them enjoying the site of Local Deities being taken to Kullu. There were colorfully dressed people and music , something for the eyes and ears both. Culture, adventure at its best. Everybody totally enjoyed the camp site. No evening ended without music and chit chat and same was here. Norbert taking the honors again.
Day – 6 (Tuesday, October 11, 2005)
Start point: Khaniara
End point: Bir
Distance: 63 km
Route: Khaniara> Chamunda > Palampur > Baijnath > Bir
A beautiful day to start with. Everybody set to roll. An enjoyable ride to the Kauli village where the competition for the day started. A lot of hiking had to be done in the day. The riders, marshals, etc everybody on foot and bikes. The hike took everybody through woods lined by beautiful scenes, fallen logs, birds chirping and meadows with wild horses. A hard but beautiful day. After a long wait the riders started reaching the Thunag finish point, and completing the last stretch was getting wet for most of them. Coming riding from one point and a dip in the water and then recollecting to get to the finish. All refreshed everybody started to the camp site at Bagsiad school one by one. Indeed a leisure ride. Surprise, surprise for everybody at the school. The students were waiting for them with garlands and smiling faces. Everybody was given a traditional welcome and they didn't miss wishing Frank Happy Birthday. Everybody seemed to be enjoying the moments. The images of the day were marvelous. Norbert again led the day.
Day – 7 (Wednesday, October 12, 2005)
Start point: Bir
End point: Bajaura
Distance: 78 km
Route: Bir> JNagar > Urla > Katola > Bajaura
In the morning the riders were given a traditional send off. As the day set in there was a drizzle making the tarmac slippery testing the skills of the riders. With a downhill decent on tarmac in offing we saw some high speeds. It was an early end to the days riding, with the riders reaching Pandoh dam finish point. Everything and everybody got packed into the vans waiting giving time for riders to move in 4 wheels and resting their bikes. We moved on to Kullu along side the Beas. Passing through Kullu we could see the Dusherra festivities beginning. The Bashing Police Grounds Camp site had open space for everybody to have fun. There were cricket match at one end with Frisbee catching at other end. In the evening everybody was too eager to get to the Dusherra grounds and take a look at the congregation of Deities from all over, the fair and the exhibitions. There were loads of people in their traditional dresses and some unexpected familiar faces. As everybody got to the camp by dinner time, we could see them in Kullu caps and sharing the experiences. Everybody was now gearing for the final day. Norbert again who led the day.
Day – 8 (Thursday, October 13, 2005)
Start point: Bir
End point: Bajaura
Distance: 15 km
Route: Bajaura> Bhuntar>Kullu
The final day , the final finish line. We couldn't let them go away without treating them to some more of the Himalayan finery. The bikes rolled in from the camp site towards Naggar famous for its Roreich Art Village, from where they took a track towards the Bijli Mahadev Temple pearched on top of the mountain, looking after the areas of Kullu, Bhuntar, etc and providing a glimpses of far off mountains. The hike to the temple was short and steep and the decent was smooth and dirty. The finish was exciting so was the ride to Manali, where we were putting up at the Mountaineering Institute, one of its kind in the region. Everybody seemed to be in a free mood as they got to the camp. The evening saw a party for everybody , at Manali. Everybody danced, sang, shared their experiences and had relaxed conversations with each other. A late evening it was. Many riders had to get back on the very day and the rest stayed back for the prize distribution.
Next day we had the prize distribution scheduled at the Mountaineering institute's auditorium. Everybody could be seen making preparations for the same since morning. The hour came with everything set.
And the winners:
As the first year of the event came to an end everybody knew that it is something very grand that they have in their hands. Over the years this event would be one among the best internationally, as is the dream of the President and his men. This event showcased best of everything. Right from the management, riding, nature and adventure. With just minor teething problems the event was successful and without problems for everybody. Hercules MTB Himachal 2005 has been a great start for a great event, and we wish to be associated with it as it starts its journey – once again.
does this happen every year? When is it going to happen next time?
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