Reaching to Ladakh — The land of the lama [part — 2]
That Royal Enfield sound — dhoog dhoog dhoog…. …. That chill air, I just wanted to take off my hand from handle and each breath I wanted to take twice with closed eyes and spread arms. As Harshit and Oshank gave us some mountain bike riding tips, so we were riding in the chain — one after another (Oshank is my friend now and fellow co-founder of Insane Traveller). With every turn on that deadly road, my chest wanted to stand out first ahead of all other body part showing proud feeling pouring out of my heart.
First time I was experiencing all of these. Till an hour, single lane road seemed good as we were riding smoothly but suddenly that very single lane became scarier as we moved along. Other vehicles were coming from the opposite direction which made only half of the road available for me and that also on side of the valley. Just imagine… in which I had to control the bike and while riding in between, I just tried to glance at the valley and I was like ohhh shit. I could not even see the end of the valley. It was so deep and never ending. That view made me shiver with fear and my bike handle started wobbling but somehow, I managed to get through it and we reached Rohtang pass (elevation 13,050 ft.). The first pass of the trip. Felt that we have now gone beyond our fear of heights. Also, first time I was witnessing snow in my life and where ever I looked, my eyes met snow only. In midst of this, I was facing difficulties while breathing too. Therefore, we exchange our place and Priyank took the front seat now.
While coming down from Rohtang pass, that road was very horrible. You know what that was not a road but just a path. By the time we reach the nearest village, it became dark — The night has set in and we were hungry like the wolf. Only we could see only our leader’s rear red light and were blindly following it as we weren't able to see anything else. Around 10 pm, we reached Jispa (elevation 10,500 ft.) — Our first stop. On other hand, our backup vehicle had left early before us for Jispa from Manali at 4 am considering traffic. Ideally, backup vehicles are meant to be following us but in this was, it was other way round. Also because of the network issue, we could not inform a backup vehicle that we were running late. By the time we reached, backup vehicle driver was on the verge of searching for us but then we reached, everyone seemed happy by seeing us.
Tashi — Our backup vehicle driver cum cook, prepared hot vegetable soup followed by dinner. We ate, and we wanted to get into the tent as early as possible as it was freezing like hell. Jeet and Priyank were my tent mate. Jeet is my childhood friend and we have shared many punishments at school. He is one of the most important person of our trip as he had managed all the travel and hotel bookings.
We settled down in the tent and got inside the sleeping bag. Before sleeping, I just asked one question to both that was it scary. Priyank said when that handle was wobbling, it was very scary. I also agreed with him. The best part of him is — he did not tell anything at that moment because it could have impacted on my mind. Anyways, we were so tired that after this small conversation, we slept like a log. It was around 2 am when I started feeling suffocation or what I don’t know but I was not able to breathe properly. I just opened the tent and came out. While opening the tent, I was shouting at Priyank and Jeet pleading them to wake up as I was feeling suffocated. They woke up, and we talked for a while and then slept again, till the morning.
After breakfast we left Jispa and that day we were heading towards Sarchu (elevation 14,500 ft.). We met with German guy that day, he was asking questions to us. So, we too asked one question — How’s Ladakh? He said this is not the first time, this is the 3rd time I’m coming to Ladakh. That’s it, we got our answer and started towards the next stop.
By the time we reached Sarchu, more than half of the team members was feeling AMS (Physical distress from difficulty adjusting to lower oxygen pressure at high altitude) because many of us had spent more time at Bara-lacha pass (elevation 16,040 ft.). You know it is recommended not to spend more than 5–10min at any such passes if you are not acclimatized by the condition. Around 6 pm, we reached Sarchu. Many of the group members had went back to their tents and environment started appearing like hospital and many were shouting that we want to go home now, right now. I and Priyank decided to go away from such environment and we started walking and in between, we talked with few locals and spent our time with them. The fact is — I was too feeling different; my head was getting heavy. But one thing was sure — I didn’t want to drop on my knees. We had dinner and slept, the same thing happened to me again next night. That suffocation and all — but this time, we handled it with our talks to divert our minds.
Next morning, we had to ride up Gata Loops road — beauty the road was it looked like paper clips and there are not 1, 2, 5 but 22 of paper clip like roads on the way. Somehow, I got a chance to seat behind Harshit. And that was one of the most horrible but also exciting experience. But he was amazing — he was riding his Windsurfer without even touching breaks. With every turn, I was dying and becoming alive again. We had brunch after reaching to Pang (elevation 15,100 ft.) — as we were waiting for other members. After an hour of rest, handle was back in my hands. In between, one conversation happened between Me and Rupinder. She was saying now I’ll ride for a while and was asking me to take her pic on bike. At that thought, I immediately teased that I can’t take pic of someone who is falling from a bike. and then she shouted back, and we were laughing hard. After some time, we left Pang and now I was riding alone because of health of many members was not good and they continued their further journey in the car.
Now I was leading the group and thanks to More plain(elevation 15, 748 ft.) — its 40-km flat straight road in mountains. After some time, I stopped and had sip of water. In between, Rupinder and his rider overtook me, and they were like more than 100kmph. So, I started again and clocked 100kmph in few seconds by following them. We were enjoying the ride and suddenly I saw some wobble in their bike and their tyre started drifting like a hell — in fraction of seconds, I was shaken by that sound. And then the thing happened that nobody expected.
To be continued…