Natu La

Tue, 20 June 2006. Read in news paper (Times of India) that come 6 July 2006 and Natu La will be re-opened. So another item being added on my TODO list.

Checked out in LP, there is a road from Gangtok to Natu La (4,210m) via which one can enter China. The road to Natu La also features a ride through Jelep La (4,040m) with Tsomgo Lake on left side of the pass. Must be another paradise (read Wikipedia, below, for more motivation, if one needs).

About Nathula Pass from Wikipedia

Nathula Pass (also spelt Ntula, Natu La, Nathu la, Natula) is a pass on the IndoChina border connecting the Indian state of Sikkim with South Tibet. The pass, located at an elevation of 4,310 m (14,200 feet) above mean sea level, forms part of an offshoot of the ancient Silk Route.

After remaining closed for more than 40 years, the pass is due to open for trade on 200607-06.

The route leading up to the pass is one of the world’s highest navigable roads, and is maintained by the Border Roads Organisation, a wing of the Indian Army. On the Pass the Indian army and the Chinese border guards are within touching distance of each other. To visit the Indian side of Nathula, a visitor’s permit must be made one day in advance, which is done by any travel agency.

The pass is 56 kilometres east of the capital Gangtok. Although just 5 km north of the Jelepla pass, the Nathula pass is not navigable in winters as it receives heavy snowfall. Temperatures in Nathula regularly dip to -25 °C in winters. The pass is open only to Indian nationals on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays. On other days is it in use for exclusive military use. A no man’s land is absent, and the border consists of a barbed wire fence. Every Thursdays and Sunday post between the two nations are exchanged, a tradition dating back many decades.

The road leading to Nathula from Gangtok is a scenic one and the scenery changes from sub-tropical forests to temperate to wet and dry alpine to cold tundra desert devoid of vegetation. On the way one passes the refulgent Tsongmo Lake. Yaks are found in these parts, and in many hamlets are the beasts of burden. On the Tibetan side the pass leads to the Chumbi Valley of the Tibetan Plateau.

During the 1962 Sino-Indian War, the pass witnessed major skirmishes between the two armies. Shortly threafter it was closed and remained closed for more than four decades. With the recent thawing in relations between India and China, the pass was originally scheduled to be opened on 200510-02, but was postponed due to last minute infrastructure problems on the Chinese side. It’s re-opening, scheduled for July 2006, is expected to create an economic boom for the region, and also bolster Indo-China trade, which amounted to $18.7 billion in 2005. Iron ore, livestock products, wool and electric appliances are among the products that may be traded through Nathu La.

Riding on the ‘Edge’

Sun, 18 June 2006. Gave the CBZ for servicing, since I got late giving the bike, I will not get it back the same day. So was doing some thinking while walking down towards the main road, to pick an auto-rickshaw for my office, so that I can ride my Fiero from there.

Suddenly it strike me that house of Dilip Bam is just a km or so away, so called him up (hoping he is in town, normally its difficult to catch him in town on a weekend). To my luck he was at home. Cancelled my original plan and walked to his house. After chatting for over couple of hours, I asked him if I can get a bike to ride for couple of days. He agreed upon and handed me key of TVS Victor Edge.

Took a glance at the bike and swing my leg over it. First feel was the seat is nicely padded and the riding posture reminded me of the ideal sitting position when working on a computer. The handlebar is positioned nicely low down giving a very relaxed riding posture. The bike got central locking, no need to bend front to look for handle lock. After getting some info from Dilip about the different position of fuel tap (pointing down is main, pointing up is reserve and middle is the off position) and gear shift pattern (4speed, shift patter all up) etc. I was off towards the gas station as the bike was almost running on fumes. Filled in ~1.8lt and decided to do some city riding before going to office.

Performance is quite decent. Can’t expect more out of a 124.8cc 4st single cylinder, air cooled, mill that is churning out 9.2bhp of power at 7000rpm and 1kgm of torque at a very low 4000rpm. With the bike weighing slight over my Suzuki Fiero at 117kg, it is neither too heavy nor too light to ride. Thankfully the bike boasts front disc (240mm), stopping the machine in time was not too much of a problem for me. Not that I don’t think drum would be insufficient, having spend over 6yrs riding two wheelers to their limit having only drum brakes to do the stopping, I like disc for their overall efficiency over drums. The rear is a normal 130mm drum doing well to stop the bike.

The bike I’m using got alloy wheels which looks nice, riding a bike with alloys for the first time. The front wheel size is 1.6×17 spotting a 90/90×17 size tyre, something unusual in this class of bikes. The rear is more conventional one with the wheel size of 1.85×18 with a tyre of 3.00×18 doing the duty.

The bike got a rectangular swing arm along with gas-charged shocks without any external bottles (whats seen on the gas-shocks of bullet/pulsar).

The complete switch gear having turn-push-cancel indicator switch, head light on/off and low/high beam selector, horn which is louder enough, day light flasher, choke, is on the left hand side leaving the right hand to just play with the throttle.

The console is twin pod with the left one used as speedometer and odometer and the right one a fuel gauge also featuring twing lights for economy and power mode (I think which works based on the throttle position). Above these twin round pods are the lights to show the indicator status.

About the ride impression. I guess it needs better rubber at rear (may be I’m spoiled by Michelin M45’s) didn’t find any problems in taking turns on dry tarmac. The turns are taken at the similar ease as I have done on my other bikes.

The most impressing part about the bike is its rollon capabilities. Slot the bike in 4th and you can ride all the way at speeds as low as 25km/hr without any problem and when needed you can easily accelerate to speeds upto 90km/hr. Above that you need more road space and probably some downwards slope.

After my office took the highway route to home and managed to touch 100km/hr without much problem (sitting upright). The thing which surprised me was that the bike was very stable at that speed even with some amount of cross wind and turbulence while passing trucks.

There are hardly any vibrations but the bike feels comfortable enough for a 80km/hr all day long cruising. Riding above that for too long and I got a very little bit of sensation in my right hand.

So far, having covered close to 50km over all sort of roads. Smooth surface, bumpy roads, broken roads with many potholes big and deep enough to shake your body, roads in incomplete state. So far the bike has stood upto the challange.

Will be getting the CBZ back today eve but I’m tempted and gonna request Dilip, if I can keep this bike for few more days. Even if that means parking the CBZ at his house, is not a bad deal. After all the fuel price has gone up in the wrong direction.

Yet to ride the bike in rains/wet roads and in night. Not yet able to check the mileage either. Hope Dilip agrees and I’m able to put some more miles and collect some more data about the bike to share with all of you.

PS: All speeds were as shown on the speedo.

Finally …

Finally after getting the domain name and server space acquired, installed WordPress, I got myself decide on TypoXP theme. Now the hard part begins. Getting the content published on the site.