We go Cycling in Tirthan Valley with Mahathi and Archishman, as the duo take their mountain bikes and explore this corner of Himachal Pradesh this summer…
Mahathi & Archishman go to Tirthan!
Mahathi and Archishman first met in Chennai many years ago as they were doing their engineering in the city. There they took up horse riding together and bicycles were a means to ride from their college to the horses. As with all college kids, being broke and saving every penny was normal. Riding a bicycle to the horses was a great way to save money!
After riding around for a bit in Chennai they met up with the WCCG group. A Chennai based cycling club which helped them get more serious about cycling. A whole world of cycling was suddenly opened up to them.
They volunteered as marshals for the WCCG races and were exposed to high end bicycles and super fit riders.
Level Up Cycling
After getting done with college, Archishman returned to Kolkata and got himself a road bike there. While Mahathi shifted to Australia to do her masters, and bought herself a roadie.
In Melbourne Mahathi got a carbon bike while working in a bike shop. Archishman kept himself busy as he started their own racing team in Kolkata. Signed up a few more members and got a coach for all of them.
Mahathi eventually would go on to race and win the Telangana State Championship and raced the nationals. While Archishman was unlucky to have a fracture just two days before the state trials.
After the nationals, both of them got their first jobs. Mahathi now works in Hyderabad as a Certification Engineer and Archishman is a Renewable Energy Engineer in Surat.
After a long time they got a chance to ride together and what better a place than the mountains of Himachal Pradesh.
And on this ride they broke out their new Cycling Monks jerseys, which Mahathi had got for them. They have always had matching kit and this ride was going to be no exception!
Cycling in Tirthan Valley
Here’s the day wise account of the duo after cycling in Tirthan Valley…
Day 1 Aut (Base camp)
Plan of the day: Acclimatization to the weather and get used to the place. Since it was the reporting day, we had the whole day to ourselves till the other batch members arrived.
We explored Kasol by local bus 70 km from Aut. Our unique experience was to try out hemp based coffee and buy some pure hemp made clothing and bags along with exploring the vibe of the place. On the return, we changed buses at Bhuntar, where we saw the confluence of Beas and Parvati rivers.
Day 2 Aut (Base camp)
Plan of the day: Acclimatization trek to a place called Nau. Trek was of around 5km (to and fro).
We crossed 2 hills through steep gradients at first then somewhat easier ones with picturesque views. That didn’t stop us from clicking loads of Instagram worthy pics! We drank water from a running stream (also source for the villagers) on reaching Nau to find a Mata Devi temple there.
Witnessed farming of different kinds of fruits and vegetables on the way, along with loads of wild hemp plants.
Evening saw the distribution of cycles to individuals and test ride to a nearby substation of NTPC, which was at some height.
Honestly, we were heartbroken with the condition of the bikes, although they were from known brands like Trek, Giant and Firefox. Main reason behind it was a less knowledgeable mechanic of the YHAI team.
Day 3 Aut to Fagupul (Manglore)
Plan of the day: Riding Aut to Fagupul, Manglore with luggage on panniers. Bike ride of around 18.5 km, our first “ride-day” with beautiful sceneries and waterfalls.
The sceneries took away all the irritation of the bad condition of our bikes and we were focused on enjoying nature and the road, rather than noticing our bikes.
Normal climbs, not steep, ranging from 3-7% with 9% at times. Also rode in the Chief Minister’s rally with his family members looking at us cyclists. Camp site was just few metres from the flowing gorgeous Tirthan River. Favourite part was to eat wild Himalayan Raspberries (yellow in colour). Need to be careful while picking from the thorny tree.
That was followed by sitting waist deep in the chilling river while playing with the friendly dogs. All the muscle soreness vanished post the cold water therapy (3-4°C). This became our daily practice post ride to sit in the river. Awesome food from YHAI, also ample charging ports for our phones and vlogging set-up and the tents were well maintained.
Day 4 Fagupul to Jibhi
Plan of the Day: Riding Fagupul to Jibhi (12kms).
Our favourite place of stay in the trip was Jibhi. A place between hills, chilling cold and constant drizzles. Our bike ride from Fagupul to Jibhi was around 12 km with an elevation of 650-700 metres. A little difficult route with steep climbs with gradients ranging from 7-10%. We felt what actual climbs meant. Drained out after just 6 km.
We ate authentic food of Himachal on the way, “Siddu”. A mouth watering dish made of steamed whole wheat flour, peanut & walnut filling topped with ghee. Don’t know was it because of the tiredness or the altitude, but the Siddu tasted like heaven.
After Siddu break, we refilled out bottles and proceeded and faced few more climbs, with not even false flats. The worst thing we faced here were the HPSRTC buses and “HR” number plate cars. Almost crushing us to the side of roads. Although local HP cars were better behaved.
Another weird experience was when we were crossing the town of ‘Banjaar’. Which was kind of a central town for nearby smaller villages, with narrow and steep roads and jammed traffic. Around 800 m from our camp of Jibhi, we stopped at a local café named “Nomads Café” and filled ourselves with some best best pancakes and cold coffee.
Once we reached Jibhi, we repeated our ritual of cold water bath in Tirthan river beside our camp. The place was known as “Little Thailand” locally. Then we went for local sightseeing in Jibhi and having the local made fresh cakes which were delicious and fresh. Far better than the ones we find in cities.
We also shopped for winter wear in the local market as we didn’t expect that cold weather beforehand. Archishman’s winter poncho and our peculiar woollen caps got a lot of attention on latter stage of our trip.
Day 5 Jibhi to Sojha
Plan of the Day: 7 km ride with 800 m of elevation gain.
The most difficult climb of the trip. The gradient went up to 16-17% with lots of hairpins.
The route was beautiful but steep. We literally needed to stop after every 400m. We rode it rather than pushing our bikes on foot. On he way we ate the infamous Maggi, without which our trip to Himachal would have been incomplete! In that shack, one kind old man collected some Himalayan raspberries and some micro strawberry kind of fruit.
We then reached a breath taking view (and climb) till the village of Sojha. Had a late lunch at a restaurant named ‘Firgun’. As the altitude increased it was getting cold along with a light drizzle, which we were not prepared for.
The night at Sojha was full of rain. The men’s tents submerged. Since our tents were inside the forest guest house compound, they didn’t allow to make a trench around the tents. All the men in the camp had to shift to the attic of a nearby room of the forest guest house. While the women tents were a little elevated, they didn’t have a problem.
We had lot of fun in the attic in the morning. Chit chatting, singing songs, telling everyone our life experiences, making new friends, and a lot more support to one another sipping our coffee and soup in our camping mugs.
Day 6 Jalori Pass
The most disappointing day as we were not able to trek to Jalori Pass.
It was a rainy day and the roads were full of fog. We could not see anything in the front or back. We went up to Jalori Pass in an open pick-up truck with rain coats on and singing songs all the way till the top. Enjoyed Maggi and omelettes, while we came back disappointed as we could not go for trek nor cycle back to Tirthan Valley. Which was an all downhill route, but due to rain and slippery road, we couldn’t ride. We also missed out the famous ‘Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani’ shooting spot at Jalori Pass.
At Tirthan Valley we witnessed one of the best sunsets of the country from the camp site. We enjoyed freshly caught trout for dinner at the restaurant of the landowner who allowed us to put up tents in their property. We also celebrated Archishman’s birthday (25th May) at midnight in the camp which is a lifetime memory.
Day 7 Tirthan Trek and Back to Aut (Base Camp)
Early morning we went trekking in Tirthan Valley to the nearby ‘Choi’ waterfall. Then proceeded back to Aut on our cycles.
It was a distance of around 27 km which was a 70% downhill. Enjoyed a lot riding downhill finally and failed to find Siddu on the way back. The route was passing the first camp at Fagupul. We had certificate distribution after coming back and then it was the end of our beautiful expedition.
We did some local walking with shopping and by evening it was time to catch our bus to Delhi.