Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Dodra-Kwar Ride


Big mountains, thundering rivers, rugged roads, and at night the distant glaciers set aglow by the stars: for pure adventure motorcycling, you can't beat the many back roads of Himachal Pradesh. So with a fortnight to kill, the Helmet Stories crew threw saddlebags over our motley assortment of Royal Enfields and headed out to a pocket of humanity set in the Rupin valley amidst craggy peaks way off our usual stomping grounds.
On paper it seemed like an authentic freewheeling adventure. For me, the idea of riding over the Chanshal pass to the little known villages of Dodra and Kwar, sited on opposite sides of the Rupin river, had been like an itch you can’t scratch for the last few years. What makes this ride special was that for centuries the only way to reach Dodra-Kwar was a multi-day walk: either on the traditional shepherd’s trail from the Sangla valley over the Rupin pass; or to follow the Rupin river upstream from Naitwar in Uttarakhand. In 2009, a road was finally built to Dodra-Kwar from Rohru in Himachal that loops through thick woods of rhododendron, deodar and Himalayan birch, waterfalls and fast-flowing streams. Over all this towers the Chanshal range—the barrier to the Rupin valley and Dodra-Kwar for so many years—and the eponymous pass at 12,600 feet high that grudgingly allows access beyond. To ride your motorcycle here is to feel like a pioneer.