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"So much for a fucking short-cut!"

Bhunter Travel Blog

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We study the road map of Himachal Pradesh. There's two roads up to Bhunter - the highway, which goes round in a bit of a loop north of Shimla, or a smaller road that looks a lot shorter. We decide to go for the short-cut.
So, we take the highway up to Kingal, then turn off onto the mountain road. At first, there's not much difference from the highway. Still winding along the edge of the hills, still full of potholes, but generally an ok road by Indian standards. It follows a little river up a lush green valley - we've dropped down a lot from Shimla and the weather and scenery is almost tropical again. We pass beautiful little villages where we drink spiced chai in little wooden cafes with the local farmers. Everyone is smiling and welcoming, happy to see us there - the women in their colourful head scarves, and the men in embroidered Tibetan hats. The people of Himachal Pradesh are some of the most open and friendly I've met anywhere in India.
After Ani, the road starts to rise up out of the valley, and is scarred by very regular landslides. Several times we have to ride the bike over slidingmounds of gravel spilling over the road. But we don't end up in the river, so all is good.
The road keeps climbing. And climbing and climbing. From the green valley we rise into steep pine-covered hills, and the road keeps getting steeper and steeper. By the time we hit the clouds the bike is already struggling, then suddenly we're plunged into thick, eery white mist where distant noises echo through the seemingly endless forests of pine. The road has become little more than a narrow rocky track, which drops vertically on one side, though we can't see how far through the mist. Andy is revving the bike as hard as he can to get it up the mountain, but it's losing power and finally cuts out altogether. It flatly refuses to go any further with the two of us on it.
"Cat, the bike can't take so much weight on roads this steep."
"I fucking hope you're not saying what I think you're saying."
But he is, the bastard, so I get off and walk while the noise of the struggling Enfield engine gets fainter and fainter then disappears somewhere in the mist up ahead.
I walk up the hill for about 2km, swearing and grumbling to myself. Then the cloud thins a bit and I can see the drop from the road - it's so high it takes my breath away. The hillside just drops verically into veils of cloud far below, so I can't even see the bottom. It's fucking dramatic,and I stand and stare for a while before carrying on dragging myself up the hill.
Then, thank fuck, I hear the engine heading back. Andy's dropped the bags off in a village up ahead so the bike's lighter now, but it's still going to be a struggle.
"Right Cat, what I want you to do is to stand up on the back footrests and lean as far forward as possible to take the weight off the back wheel."
"You fucking what?!"
"It's either that or fucking walk."
So I do it, flying in the air at every bump (and this road is all fucking bumps) and permanently convinced that we're gonna go flying over the edge at any moment. But finally, finally we make it to the top of the mountain pass and fall into the nearest cafe for chai.
We meet another two guys on Enfields there, going the other way - a British guy and a Nepali rasta guy with a heavy London accent and the most beautiful smile I've ever seen. They tell us this pass is 3200m, and one of the hardest roads you can do by bike.
"You can do this, man, getting to Leh is fucking easy."
Cool. But so much for a fucking short-cut.
It's night by the time we get down from the pass and into Bhunter, so we don't have time to ride to Kasol. This is partly the fault of the police, who stop us on the highway for the most lazily time-consuming and inefficient drug search I've ever seen. They take half an hour and find nothing. So we check into a hotel in Bhunter and crash out watching bad American TV and complaining how every fucking bone in our bodies is aching.

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