Day 12. Srinagar to Pathankot 392 kms
It’s 4 am and there's thunder and rain outside so there's the prospect of wet greasy roads. I’m not good in the rain and don’t really know what an Enfield will do in the wet. Any hard front braking could be hazardous. We are supposed to be on the road by 5 but things seem to stray into I am Adventure time, rather than real time so it’s 5.30 by the time we leave. There is minor road flooding and I’ve lined my boots with gladbags so that my feet will stay warm (if damp). We seem to travel through miles of industrial mess and about 40kms out start to pass a long line of trucks. We pass them in the oncoming lane for several kms and there’s no traffic coming towards us. Strange!!!!! . We are pulled over by Akarsh in the support truck and told that there is a landslide a long way ahead. The bikes may get through but he can’t and goes back toward Srinagar to find another way round to Jammu. Soon we are embroiled in the biggest tangle of trucks and have to squeeze along the left road edge or overtake and duck in when there’s an oncoming truck.
A typical Indian, owner operated, truck with its Mercedes Benz origins being evident, but having been given a workover by Tata, (the big industrial importers and vehicle suppliers) and finally a graphic “artiste” (probably the owner)There must be thousands of trucks just parked nose to tail and we manage to keep going , with the police being very tolerant and letting us scoot up the wrong side of the road. 20kms later in the world’s biggest truck traffic jam, we get to the problem and the can see that the whole hillside has slipped down onto the road. Apparently it happened at 5am and there are 3 dozers and 2 front end loaders working to clear the road but there’s just so much spoil, that progress is slow.
The natives just stand there seeming enthralled with every minute of the drama, and on getting some sort of a signal, (don’t know what it is), the pedestrians with their bags run across the uneven ground. We have to wait for 2 hours and are told by the police that the bikes will be allowed through first. Good news but the consequence is that once the cars start up behind, it will be like an elephant stampede down the mountain. Get Indian drivers to sit in their vehicles, immobile for hours, and they get all primed to do even more daring things than usual. I just want to ride at a sane speed but the drivers come up behind, horns blaring and charge past overtaking on blind corners.
Sometimes they get it wrong and it’s messy.
OOOH my head hurts –
One of the trucks overcooked it a bit
I liked this one with the environmentally friendly warning triangles being placed at a safe distance from the vehicle (and that towrope !!!!!!!!)
We enter the Jahawal tunnel (2.5kms long)and it’s like going into an unlit cave with water streaming down the roadway and if you think the Sydney M5 tunnel is bad for exhaust, this is a thousand times worse. No apparent ventilation and you can hardly see for the diesel smoke. At 2000m in, everything stops but the engines seem to be still running. Great place to die, in here. 10 minutes later we’re moving and out and the air that I previously thought so bad seems like heaven.
It’s now 3pm and we stop for lunch at a dhabba. Kalayan (IAA 2 IC) says he knows a short cut to bypass Jammu. Hmmm.
I’m usually very suspicious of these sorts of “shortcut” pronouncements but we set off. By 7pm, he’s pulling off the LHS rack because the welds are broken and we waste half an hour with the sun starting to go down. I’ve got no front light (crash damage) so am not looking forward to the final bit of the ride (60kms). Yes, it turns into the trip from hell, and we seem to be lost with Kalayan taking star sights as part of the celestial navigation program. We get to Pathankot at 10.15pm, nearly 17 hours after starting and we are all knackered. A day of rough roads and a few near death experiences haven’t helped. Some of the guys who brought their car to travel in and couldn’t past the trucks, like the bikes, get in at 5am (nearly 24 hours) just as the “ to delhi ‘ riders are getting ready to leave.