Independence Day Trip to Dalhousie, Chamba and Sach Pass

Day 4, 18th August 2008: Bhugotu - Sach Pass - Satrundi - Bairagarh - Bhanjraroo (a dramatic turn of events…)

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At around 1am, I woke up due to excessive noise. It turned out that a few drivers from Killar had decided to make this dhaba at Bhugotu their base camp, en route to Sach Pass (no one is allowed to cross the pass at night).

I was dead tired and even though it was quite noisy, at least I had a comfortable bed to sleep on, so I went back to sleep. Only to be woken up an hour later, when the drivers decided to go to sleep. Now a bed which was meant to accommodate four people, had seven (including us) sleeping on it! After a late night battle for space and comfort, I finally dozed off and then woke up at around 6 in the morning. By now drivers were getting ready and a few had already left. Varun was enquiring with them if they had room for a motorcycle in their pickup, but they were all loaded to the brim.

For rest of the morning, we just loitered around, trying to pass the time and waiting for the pickup to arrive (contractor had promised it would be here by 9-10am). In the meanwhile we met Vipul, who was going back home for vacation. After bidding our new found friend a farewell, we indulged in a bit of photography.

Our Hotel (as local like to call it) at Bhugotu and the small garden in front of it.

hotel at bhugotu

Tractor driver

tractor driver



Waiting part was making Varun restless, while I was just trying to enjoy the moment. It was almost 10am and there was no sign of the pickup, I trekked with the police officers to their communication room, which was situated high up and left me completely breathless. We radioed the police station at Killar, to ask them to check with the contractor, whether or not he had sent the vehicle.

Came back into the dhaba and lay on the bed to get some rest. Varun was getting worried now, since it was already 10am and the pickup hadn’t arrived. He asked me what would happen if it didn’t arrived today; I jokingly said “in that case I would have to abandon you here”. After getting a good laugh out of it, we both went back to sleep.

When I woke up, it was around 11:30 and Varun was getting more worried, he had just returned from the communication room, where the police officers had asked the police station at Killar to arrange a pickup for us, since it looked like the contractor had ditched us.

But police officials (again from IRB), weren’t too confident that the local police at Killar would be of any help. We started thinking on what to do next, what made matter worse was the fact that we hadn’t called our homes for over one and a half days and our families might be getting worried.

I told Varun that we should take off the punctured tyre and take in to Killar on my motorcycle and see if it can be fixed there. However Varun was hesitant about it and wasn’t at all confident about riding on Sach Pass on the same tyre. Majority of the people there weren’t even sure that the puncture repair guy at Killar would be able to fix the puncture. That left us with only one choice, I would have to go back to Tissa or Bhanjraroo to get the pickup and inform our homes.

I wasn’t really enthusiastic about the idea, sky was cloudy, it was already 12pm and my bike was in a bad shape. However seeing Varun’s frustration and helplessness that surrounded us, I decided to bite the bullet.

I hurriedly packed my luggage and got it mounted on my bike, going by the fact that Bairagarh to Sach Pass had taken us a little over three and a half hours earlier, I calculated that it would reach Tissa late in the evening. By 12:30pm I was ready, bid Varun goodbye (for the time being) and started my solo ride to Sach Pass. Before leaving, Varun reminded me of the joke I had made in morning about abandoning him and how it was kind of coming true.

Barely 5 minutes had passed since I left Bhugotu and heavens door opened up, as I climbed altitude, rain turned into a mixture of snowfall and rain! En route I met the two labourers who had helped us yesterday, once again thanked them and told them the situation and got on my way again.

My bike was having a hard time climbing and it was mainly the momentum which was getting us through, which in turn wasn’t easy to maintain in this kind of terrain. After crossing the bridge/dam thing, on the turn, my bike refused to climb uphill and stalled midway and started rolling backwards. Since I had plenty space behind me, I decided to let her go a little back and then start the engine to begin the climb, because otherwise she wouldn’t have been able to ascend that slope. But it seemed that I had misjudged the area behind me and by the time I looked back, I was pretty close to oblivion! Tried my best to stop the bike before the edge and hurriedly got off her. Once off, I started to push and at the same time gun the engine and we finally managed to cross the slope.

By the time I reached the Sach Pass, it was really cold, though the rain had stopped. But there was no time for photography, since this wasn’t a ride any more; it was a kind of a rescue mission. By the time I catched my breath and drank a little water, it started snowing again and that too quite furiously.

As I descended the Sach Pass towards the Satrundi side, rain gods had unleashed their fury and I was getting pounded with what seemed somewhat like small hails and rain. While the bike’s engine and clutch plates had suffered during yesterday’s ride to Sach Pass, it was front brakes turn today, as they started fading and braking power decreased by the minute. After a while they had faded enough to let the front brake leaver touch the handle bar when I tried hard to stop the bike!

Now roads weren’t a mixture of rocks, mud and water, because nothing except water was visible! Every single inch of clothing I was wearing was completely drenched and even through three layers of clothing; I could feel cold wind on my chest. With visor barely half way down to protect my eyes from hail/snow/rain, I was quenching my thirst by drinking the rain water. I had one objective at that moment, reach the hotel at Satrundi, which at that time seemed nothing short of heaven and when I reached there, I hurriedly got off my bike and went inside and asked Gore for a cup of tea, even before I sat down.

The warm tea brought some relief and as I hurriedly drank it, I knew it was time to move on. Even though a part of me wanted t stay there to drink another cup of tea, to eat something because I hadn’t eaten anything since morning and to punch that asshole PWD Junior Engineer who had told us on the second day to spend the night at Satrundi, who was now sitting beside me!

But the worry of Sach Pass getting closed due to this weather, took precedence. Shivering, I got out of the Satrundi Hotel and mounted my tired steed. Only to stop again after a few meters to register again at the police check post. After registering, I soldiered on.

Rains had started to slow down a bit and I was surprised to see that some of the worst stretches we had covered just a day back, had been repaired (meaning there was now loose rock on them) and work was still going on to repair others. Finally God was showing some mercy on me, as I came out of the Kalaban, first rays of sun light hit me. Couldn’t help but chuckle by remembering the popular saying, there is always light at the end of tunnel.

By 5o’clock, I was at Bairagarh, from where I called up my home and Varun’s to explain the situation we were in and to reassure them that we were both alright. Another forty five minutes and I was at Tissa, tried enquiring about pickups there and met a guy from Bhanjraroo who took me back to Bhanjraroo and arranged for a pickup. After spending half an hour waiting for the pickup, it finally arrived. The driver, Jithu looked too young and jolly for a job like this, but seeing that the pickup was a 4x4, had good tyres and was only run on that route, I agreed.

We finally settled at 3k for the whole thing and I gave him a little advance and told him to move ASAP towards Bhugotu, to ensure that he would reach there by nightfall and they could head back tomorrow morning. After a little persuasion, Jithu agreed and headed towards Bhugotu.

Now I was relaxed and decided to check in to the PWD Guest House at Bhanjraroo. After a nice hot shower, I was feeling better and went out for dinner. After a heavy dinner, I decided to indulge in some night time photography, but being 8:30pm, I couldn’t capture too many good shots.

tissa at night

PWD Guest House at Bhanjraroo

PWD Guest House at Bhanjraroo

I came back to my room, worry free and started reviewing photographs and went to sleep at around 10:30pm.

Total expense:
Tea: Rs.4
Dinner: Rs.15
STD: Rs.30
Room rent: Rs.250

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