Day 3/15 – Mandi to Manali – 100 kms – 3:30 AM to 6:45 AM
We had no issues having a dreamless sleep. Everyone was that tired and sleepless. It would have been nice to have a few extra minutes, but we had to force ourselves early in the morning to make up for what we hadn’t covered the previous day. We were out and riding at 3:30. It was dark outside and I was the sweeper. Since my bike was fuel injected, I had to take extreme care not to let the fuel levels drop down. Doing so would cause my fuel pump to burn out. I therefore stopped by a fuel station, letting the others carry on with their ride. Just after the fuel station, the township ended and I was riding through the curvy roads in pitch darkness. There were no streetlights or opposing traffic for me to have felt safe. I stopped by for a minute to enjoy the moment, and later realized it wasn’t so very enjoyable! I kept rolling through the roads with extreme caution, as I could never guess what was beyond the darkness that surrounded me; it could have been just mud, or a river or even a 200 feet cliff drop.
After about 45 minutes or so, I spotted the rest of the riders waiting for me round a corner to sync up. Shortly after that, we entered a tunnel that lasted close to 3 kms and was fun to ride in. At that point, Apar and I decided to leave the rest of the pack behind and move on with a relatively higher speed. Somewhere close to Manali, the two of us halted by a bridge enjoying the river that was flowing under. The clocked ticked quickly and we were starting to get worried that the other two had still not come. Just about the moment when we decided to head back, we saw the two bikes coming over. Allen was smiling from inside the helmet and shouted, “Dude, I just took a power nap.” Kiran added, “This freaking lad exits the tunnel and all of a sudden stops the bike by the side of the road and just fell flat. Of course not to forget that he asked me to wake him up in fifteen minutes!”
The sun was slowly coming out and people started coming out of their houses. Vehicles started appearing on the road. The first sight of snow capped mountains were such a welcoming sight. We were advised that Manali was the last point to get some cash in the pocket and to source some fuel. Beyond that, Tandi was the only fuel station till Leh. Not having any fuel cans, we head straight to a fuel station to ask if he had one. There was no option of other stores as it was just 6:30 in the morning. We filled up all the bikes, but couldn’t find a can yet. Not left with too many options, we decided to buy 2 liter Pepsi bottles and empty them to create containers. We already had 4 empty bottles, so just bought 4 more to create space for a total of 16 liters. Not willing to waste all the Pepsi, we gave some to the fuel station guy to store it somewhere else and drink it later. Excited by it, the guy replied back, “Sir, do you want a can to carry all this? I can give you one!” This was the same bugger who replied he didn’t have one in the beginning.
Filling the 10-liter can that he gave, we moved on in search of an ATM. Of the 3 ATMs that were there in Manali, 1 was out of cash and the other 2 had technical issues. We were told that they would be back working by 10:30 or so. Without many choices, we found a sweet spot by a dhabha where we parked the bikes and ordered some food to munch. Soon after the meal, we created some sleeping space around the bikes are dozed off. Allen wasn’t reacting well to the petrol fumes and started puking. We thought that he would be fine in a while, but wasn’t showing signs of improvement.
Around 10:30 we sent Apar and Kiran with all our cards to the ATM to get about 20,000 cash, which would help us, manage normal and emergency situations till we got to Leh. The poor fellows came back after a good 1-hour with just 13,000. They told us that they were waiting in the queue in the first ATM that ran out of cash just before their turn. They had to repeat their penance outside another one, and they were not allowed to use more than one card per person.
Meanwhile, Allen’s health had deteriorated and he needed a good sleep and some medicine to get back to normal. We decided to cut out the day’s ride at that point and looked out for a decent hotel to rest. A chap nearby overheard the conversation we had about finding a room and chipped in to give us some ideas. Not long from then, Allen was resting on a comfy mattress, we had dumped the bags, ordered some nice lunch and was waiting for it. Not having slept well in the last couple of days, we took good rest until late in the evening.
Kiran and I got up and took a stroll through the market to get a couple of 5-liter cans for the fuel. We found a nice way to tie them on to the 220’s grab rails. Quickly heading back, we had some light dinner and dozed off.