Independence Day Trip to Dalhousie, Chamba and Sach Pass

Day 3, 17th August 2008: Sach Pass - Bhugotu (when every thing goes wrong…) (part-2)

Continued from the previous page...

After descending a bit from Sach Pass, I saw ice wall next to the road. It was a bit surprising to see ice wall in the month of August.

ice wall

Another turn and I was on a small bridge/dam thing, which was made of mud and rocks, with water flowing under it.

small bridge/dam

Now that I was on the other side of Sach Pass, landscape had changed dramatically, from green meadows with blooming flowers to somewhat barren landscape, akin to Kunzum La.

road to killar

While taking a break, I saw couple of vehicles climbing up, apart from being packed to the brim; they also had a few locals on their roof! Certainly not something I would like to do on this kind of road.

locals heading to sach pass in taxis

Soon I started coming across PWD workers laying stones on the road, at each place they were kind enough to quickly arrange a couple of stones in way that my motorcycle could climb over the stones (3-4 inch high) they had just laid. While it was heartening to see that government hadn’t forgotten this pass and people were working in even such a bad condition, it was really difficult to ride on those stones. The amount of steepness added to the woes, I was thanking my stars that I didn’t have to ride over them during ascent; else it would have been even more difficult, especially with the kind of condition my motorcycle was in.

After a while I decided to take a break to allow Varun to catch up.

road to pangi after sach pass

Five minutes passed and there was no sign of him, another five minutes passed and I heard the noise of an engine. It wasn’t the sound of a motorcycle, but that of a taxi. Seeing me, it started flashing its headlights. Since the road was narrow, I decided to get on my motorcycle and move to a place which was wide enough to let the MUV through. However it kept flashing and even started honking, I decided to stop immediately. Thinking something might have happened to Varun, as the MUV came by my side, the driver told me that Varun’s motorcycle had suffered a puncture and he was waiting for me, right after Sach Pass!

I turned my motorcycle around and headed to help Varun, in the meanwhile I came across another cab, which told the same thing to me, but also said that he was coming my way slowly. Now I had to ride uphill on those freshly laid rocks, on which just a few minutes ago, I was thanking my stars that I hadn’t had to ride over them during ascent!

After ~3kms I saw Varun in distance and decided to stop my motorcycle at a place which was comparatively plain. Once Varun arrived, I told him to put his motorcycle on main stand and got off my motorcycle to help him.

Once the motorcycle was on main stand, it was time to analyze the situation. Puncture had occurred on the rear tubeless tyre and it was completely flat. Not really sure what had caused it and if it could again be used as tubeless, I advised Varun that we should insert a tube in it for the time being to make it ride able.

Varun agreed and I got the tools, pump and spare tube out of my saddle bag. Now it was time to open the tyre, this was the first time either of us was doing it during a trip. After a bit of effort, we managed to get the axle nut off and tyre was almost free. However we had forgotten to detach the rear drum brake from the brake iron (which helps in keep it in place). We tried to take that bolt out, however it wouldn’t budge, we even got the axle back on to make the whole thing stable and then tried our best to open it, but it just wouldn’t budge!

All the exercise left us panting and my back pain (thanks to a heavy backpack and sleepless night at Satrundi) got aggravated. Varun told me that there were a few PWD workers up the road and he went to them for help.

Varun’s punctured motorcycle

varun's punctured motorcycle en route to pangi

After about 15 minutes, Varun came back with two laborers. Both of them tried their level best and still the bolt didn’t budge, just as we were about to loose hope, one of them finally managed to get it loose. Few more minutes and the rear tyre was off.

Now we had to actually get the tube inside that tyre and it was really hard, even with two tire irons and both workers and Varun giving their level best and me directing (grin), it took us roughly 10-15 minutes to get one side free. I asked Varun to look for any nails/sharp objects that might be lodged inside the tyre, Varun checked and found nothing except the two tubeless repair punctures which he had gotten fixed in Delhi.

Now we had to shove that tube inside, though I had seen this happen numerous times, I had never personally done it and neither had Varun. The four of us tried our own ways to get this done, after a lot of brainstorming we were finally successful. By now slight rain cum snowfall had started, we worked fast to get the tyre mounted on the motorcycle, though it was hard, but not as hard as getting it out. After everything was done, we thanked our helpers for helping us out of this mess.

It had taken us nearly two and a half hours to get that puncture repaired; we decided to move slowly towards Killar. After about ten minutes of riding, I saw Varun was riding even slower than before so I stopped. It turned out, that the rear tyre had punctured again. I wasn’t carrying any patches and now only had a tube which was meant for the 2.75/3.00 tyre size, not for ~4.50, which was present on Varun’s motorcycle. By now we were near a large water crossing with a nice flow, we decided to try and inflate the tyre. It didn’t work, water in that water crossing was slightly muddy and I couldn’t judge the depth of it, with a punctured rear tyre, it would have been really difficult to navigate, especially if we took the wrong line.

Varun saw couple of workers walking by and went up to them for help; they came and told us the line we should take to get across. I decided to go first and see if it was doable or not, it turned out that they had told us the right line to pick and it wasn’t too deep there. With me safely across, Varun started his motorcycle and took the plunge, without any major drama, he got through.

varun crossing the water crossing with a flat tyre

Now it was a small ride to Bhugotu, a small collection of tents and police check post.

Once there, we headed for the central Dhaba, which is where on duty police officer was. Here we met Vipul Anmol, the on duty constable and a jolly fellow. He had already been informed about our predicament by those cab drivers, when we asked where we would be able to get the puncture repaired, his reply was, Killar, roughly 30kms from here.

However none of the people present there or for that matter, rest of police officers were sure if the puncture repair guy at Killar would have a motorcycle tube, since there weren’t many motorcycles in the area. By now both of us were convinced that tube must have been gone, after all it had been run over quite a rough terrain. We were advised that it would be best to either put the bike in a pickup and take it back to Tissa (because route beyond Killar was closed due to landslide) or handover money to a cab driver heading for Tissa and ask him to purchase the tube and/or tyre.

But either of this would have to wait till the next day, because the last cab for Tissa had just left. Slightly perplexed, we decided to get our luggage off our motorcycle and take it inside the dhaba, where we would be spending the night.

Vipul had become quite friendly with us and jokingly offered Varun 10k for his bike. I am quite sure that Varun did considered that offer at that time, at least for a second or two. After a while we started talking about motorcycle and one thing lead to another and Vipul asked for a test ride of my motorcycle, with a bit of hesitation, I handed over the keys to him.

policeman riding my motorcycle at bhugotu in pangi

After his short test ride, we moved inside the dhaba tent where chachi (aunt, as Vipul referred to her) started cooking food for us. Soon a few more policemen joined in and I started discussing with them various things, from politics to traveling, motorcycles, state of local affairs and what not. All this while Varun rested on the bed (yes there were bed there for us, the type one finds at dhaba tents at Sarchu) and tried his best to not doze off.

After a while a pickup showed up, Vipul and other policemen spoke to the owner of the pickup and asked him to drop our motorcycles to Tissa the next day. Initially the owner (a contractor) didn’t wanted to do that, because it was green pea season and all his vehicles were busy transporting them from Killar to Tissa. After a bit of persuasion by the cops, he agreed and also agreed to lower the rate from the initial Rs. 4,000 to 3,500. Assured that there will be a pickup here tomorrow to tow our motorcycles to Tissa, we were somewhat relieved. Though the whole idea of putting my motorcycle in a pickup felt a bit awkward.

Anyways, after having some food we were in a merry mood and chatted with Vipul, other policemen, a couple of workers, chachi and Dolma (chachi’s daughter), late into the night.

The mood inside the dhaba tent at Bhugotu

The mood inside the dhaba tent at Bhugotu

pwd working bhgotu dhaba at night

Around 11pm we decided to sleep as Vipul too headed back to his tent to sleep.

Continued on the next page...