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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Skidding through the impassable Jalori Pass in the Himalayas

Of days gone by...this February during my solo all India motorcycle journey


On the last day of my stay at the Great Himalayan National Park, I decided to go up to Jalori pass to see if my motorcycle could handle the ice sheet on the road and cross that pass and head on towards Rampur. Some locals had told me that the roads had been closed for a week due to heavy snowfall in that area but that the roads would open soon for traffic. Others told me that this area falls in the shadow of the sun and even if the snowfall stops, it would take a week for the snow to melt. Armed with all this local knowledge, I decided to check the Jalori pass out for myself. This exercise was part of my route evaluation as the Jalori pass route would reduce my journey by 200 kms.

According to local estimates, Jalori pass was 35 kms from Sai Ropa, the place which was my base for trekking in the Great Himalayan National Park. As I made my way towards Jalori pass, the state of the roads got worse. After an hour of bumpy ride via Banjar and Jibi, I reached the small, but stunningly beautiful village of Shoja. This village is located at a height of 8,000 feet and offers great views of the Himalayas, dense forests, small waterfalls and green fields. It is said that in summer, purple iris grows wild all over the mountainside, and the grassy patches amidst fir trees make for a great picnic spot.


After a chai stop at Shoja and some rest for my sore limbs, I started off towards Jalori pass. The roads got worse or should I say that the roads disappeared. The inclines kept getting steeper and after a certain point my bike chugged along only in the first gear. There were rocks all around that make riding very slippery and one look at the sheer drop from these narrow roads made this entire terrain look super dangerous to me. However, throwing caution to the wind, and bearing the nerve-wracking chilliness, I finally reached the entrance of Jalori pass. I stepped out my motorcycle to explore the terrain on foot. Thanks to my good mountain boots, my feet stayed put on the thin sheet of ice and this gave me the false impression that my bike would stay put too. 30 seconds after taking my motorcycle on the ice, I fell down. It took me a while to get my bike up as the entire surface was slippery. A minute later, I fell down again. This time my petrol pipe started overflowing. I kept both my legs firmly planted on the ground and tried making progress, but the result was one more fall after a super skid. The reason – a 6 inch layer of solid ice under the muddy surface that didn’t allow my tyres any grip whatsoever.

I took a breather, gathered my senses and decided that it was downright crazy to cross Jalori pass on my motorcycle without any chain around my tyres. Thus, I somehow managed to turn my bike around on these narrow roads and started my return journey to the Great Himalayan National Park, but I fell yet again. The descent was scarier and I had some near life-threatening shaves. After a series of more falls and skids, I finally reached Sai Ropa via Shoja and Banjara. Completely battered, I decided that it was senseless to try Jalori pass in its current condition and opted for the longer roundabout route through winding, but saner mountain roads to reach Rampur from the Great Himalayan national park.

To see India through the eyes of a motorcyclist’s lens, visit the album below.
my solo all-india motorcycle journey

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Welcome to BE ON THE ROAD Travel Blog! I am Sankara, its founder, a 30 something male from Bangalore who is living his dream of exploring the world and simultaneously trying to inspire others to live their dream.
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