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Old 11th March 2010, 20:56   #16
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It was July and Manali was bustling with crowds from the plains, escaping the wrath of northern summers. I checked into a small house in Solang, away from the crowds in Manali. Checked-in my bike for repairs stocked up on some supplies and rested the night. Beep-Beep seems I waited for my watch to approve. Something of norm when you loose control you look for ways to satiate your mental compass. This watch seemed to replace Marshal, I longed he was there with me on this trip. It took me few minutes to get ready and I fitted determination with 2 army jerry-cans ( One 10 ltr,One 5 ltr and one 3 ltr plastic can) started out for real adventure. As I approached Rohtang La a wall of chill hit me, Reminder! Look back, make sure you are running on a rarified fuel of fear and ample nerves of steel to remain sane. Heading out of Rohtang I rode along walls of ice, it seemed surreal, I stopped and looked around to see from where I came and where I planned to go.

While crossing I felt a eerie chill, moments later I saw strands of reassuring orange. Land ahead looked as if God wore Mr. Ulrich's rage and played St Anger.Someone said, path to glory is often a trip between you and your goal with someone higher holding a battering ram. What better than Tanglang La, Baralacha La, Gatta Loops.This day was supposed to be a ride through three passes - a tough day, and the steed was showing signs of breathlessness but I ‘The Rider’ was determined and in no mood to let fear take over. By now I was on 50% anticipation, 30% excitement and 20% fear.

Riding on, the composition starts changing since the realm of known was changing faster to unknown. Once in Tandi, a little known town across Rohtang La made famous/important by, ‘Next filling station 365 km ahead’. I tried to remember ‘fill it, shut it, and forget it’. Next 360 kms presented hues of sun, sand and rocks. Place where geographical insanity and mental serenity must match, when they do it makes this land and its experience magical. Located the operator and nagged him to fill jerry’s, 15 ltrs is all I could store and afford too (price was around Rs. 23/liter). Hunch would have it, and I filled some fresh water too. Once loaded I rode with confidence yet my steed behaved slightly exuberant oh and a bit tipsy.

The battle of wits, fear and shades of courage start appearing simultaneously on my face. Is this the real thing, yes this is.Surely yet slowly I rode across Keylong, then to Darcha, it seemed I was tipsy too. Stopped by at Patseo, stock up on water, freshend up a bit. Little did I know, now on its you vs the La's (Tyson La, Holyfield La, Ali La). Suddenly I felt rushed to foot and emptied my guts. It felt like a straight hit to my jaw, head and stomach all at the same time. Felt, let me get up! You know, when Champions of nature hit you. Time-out, I sat across the pile (Baralacha La) and popped 2 Dispirin's into a cup, some water and lil Vapocaps to allievate my cold. Waiting for Dispirins to disappear, it felt as if its symbolic; me too along with the Dispirins. Sinister plot? I didnt want to deliberate sanity Vs insanity.

Felt wasted while climbing down, wanted to slide listless, seemed walking out of a bout. But all this while someone held its back straight, determination. Couldnt let him down, goal was to reach where tyre treads stop - Khardung La.Gulps of water down,but determination wouldnt start, it was worrying since I wasted few hours. I promised to myself, ride on, no matter what, since gravity was my friend. I slowly rode down, eventually few kicks, few breaths down it started, a little whoop dance and I ride-on.Those days there were few crazy and that season he learnt there were crazier few; and he was one of the first ones there.

Slowly my past encounter wore out and I found pattern in my climb as I crossed 20 oh +1 loops. Getting there I was tossed aside by a convoy, while I waited a Camuflaged jeep stopped by. Hi, I looked up to fairly young looking Lt Col Beret, trimmed moustache, battle hardened yet reassuring smile and classic Ray-Ban's. Hi, nice to meet you, could see piles of faces peering out of the shaktiman's; like we used to while going back from school.Alone? smile stifening, eyebrows arching a bit. Yes, on my way through Manali to Khardung-La. Serviceman, looks like! No, my dad is. Is he serving? Yes! Where? Air HQ! Service Number? Once I rattle-off Marshal's service number and a quick check later. civilities set in, and I describe why, when, how etc. I am offered a quick check by a Lance Naik Saab, quick questions on my supply situation and then tradition time. Everyone stands in a line and I file past while they pat my back, in the end Lt Col pats, chats and claps Goodluck Bugger!!

I saw the convoy cork-screw down, midst the dust convoy faded away. If only memories were horses I could hear Lt Col and his men galloping next to me. Before leaving, he tipped me with a contact at South Pulu and instructions too. While crossing Nakee La and Lalchun La, I managed to stay on top of my steed. It felt like a rodeo ride, determination swelled up and I crumpled under its sheer power. Paranoia at high altitude can make you do things, like none other. Every 50 or so kms down I would pop-up the tank and peep in. I've never been so miserly, but having tackled two of natures better champions I felt the urge to stop, but thought itself was bringing fear and anticipation to fore. I rode on and stopped by the road, sat there, had some water, looked around, all this while I was growing restless, but clangs inside my head refused to go away. Popped in Dispirins with water, repeated it after sometime and tossed out on my bags.

It seemed like never before, 7 PM and sky was on song; stars and all those not like stars but seemed like one. But in all that, there was a eerie desolance, I couldnt see the road. Sometime then it happened, it felt like a rush across my youthful existence, why was I here, what was I doing, Cant I do things better than others. I didnt howl, but that one drop was enough to settle my compass north to sanity. Reassured I got up and settled my bike, it started but after making me pant, as if making me pay the price for resting him. As I rode ahead I stopped by some light tinkering few feet away from the road warily walked wide-legged few steps and saw a temple of humanity. Canadian couple had tented out while they explore places around. Well, how foolish of them (what else would a 19 yr old think). Initial greetings and I squatted and borrowed some brushwood started a fire. Some rocks around and Viola! Cook some for me? with only biscuits and bread, what can you cook? Well, add as much water as you like, mix some Glucose-D biscuits, borrow some milk and add some bread slices mix it well. Heat it for a while, if you are spartan, you'll love it like I did, else you are free to use your imagination and add condiments. But this I can assure you, wherever there is civilisation, this recipie is one which is chased down with sticks, stones and heckles!!!

Streams and troubles arnt content when still, they like to test terrain, one physical another mental. My troubles wernt content with my spartan existence, it egged me to do more, lead yourself, come on you can do it. Well what can be more insinuating than your mind, bigger than the shadow you cast. Preceeding thoughts made my night miserable, added was the feeling of a gong circling Saturn like around my head. I had enough of all and wanted to settle this feeling, by the time I felt and said OK!! a Swift could have crossed me zillion times. 4.30 AM plains at 15,000 are delightful. I remembered a trick Marshal told me, if you want it to work, sleep with it, thats how I managed water.Quietly I wound up the tent and potato sack. Hushed bye, surefooted before mine or their hearts warmed up I pick my steed and ride through the roller-coaster only to have the cans and me look like dried leaf in a storm.

Lights were enough for few feet while I pushed determination to start gobbling the heights, It was as if legolas (LOTR) swaying around Oliphunts legs trying to get the better of them. But the climb progressed smoother, just as I reached Tanglan La. Bring it on! it seemed heady, I kissed the rock, looked around and started off. Though I reached the pass, it felt light, mistake, suddenly I veer to the right and slump out on the gravel some call road! all the lightness vanished in a flash and I was left dusting and attempting to gather my frame.All attempts to lift the bike fail. at such heights weather changes dramatically, life skill I didnt, but Life, oh yeah! had lots. From the kit, I pull out a stocking and rip out a torniquet. Tired, but tied till the sharpness of pain lost to torniquet. Again, few rocks to hold the can, some brushwood to hold fire and firing stick for a spark. As my pain got better of me, seemed nature was warming up sending the dark hours to den. Sight of each bubble in the can breaking orange hues, made the pain bearable.


Dusty in the distance, wobbling like a bobbin, a green shadow. Well, none can be so surefooted of their gait, grip and grunt only a 5-tonner Shaktiman. Our force's The Incredible Hulk', the color on it reminded me of Sunday picnics, posting runs, school runs. Life evolved around climbing the tail-boat or jumping back from it or heckling from its roof while our truck drives past a army truck beaten as if in monster madness. Nonetheless, Hulk had to stop since my bike was sprawling across his path. Kya Hua? Slip kaar Gaya? Dekhkaar chalao? Sorry sir? one Subedar and another Lt get down for inspecting. Lt asks me for papers and promptly complied. He observes the address, some additional questions. But somewhere they like you for your spirit and hate you for your status. We chatted for a while and Subedar Saab checked on my right elbow. Janab! lagta hai toota hai (i feel its broken); Lt comes back, some spokes are bent too. Smiles, Mere paas bhi hai! Both help me get on board and take me to Pullu, despite telling them I can manage it in Leh.

Instructions delivered, my right hand adorned a fresh uniform of white, Whitecoatman asked while setting, it must hurt; not like my earlier 3, a grin Marshal, me and my son share. All done, I sit in a small canteen and think through entire journey, did I say entire. It felt good with 2:1 (boxing stat, KO). Then I ate little, slept even less, thought more, felt less and less and less! Demoralized - couldn't touch the point where tyre stop officially, so they say.

Word runs thick with these brethren A clang jolts him from dreamland and finds 2 burly men sharing the table with him. Familiar, yes one of them he seems to recognize. Someone his father would often talk about, the ‘Sleeping Bomber’. Sleeping Bomber they say killed more sleep than enemies in 71 war. Legend has it none ever shared a room with him. Well, he has the distinction to report on duty from Jaisalmer to Srinagar on an Enfield in 3 days. That meant sleeper was the best biker in his time. Greetings,phone-calls and some easy reference the lad is welcomed to the group of 2 bikers, both servicemen and both spirited at heart. Although, broken and weak the desire to reach Khardung La was still burning in him. Realizing the desperation, both bikers and the lad set-off with prayers in their hearts and in anticipation of success. Not till the lad reached the holy ground of Khardung La did his mind come back to normal. Soldiers watching in disbelief, at another Soldier of courage battered, but taming elements between him and his goal.


I missed Marshal with his checkered temper welcoming me to finish line.
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Old 12th March 2010, 00:51   #17
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A very nicely written travelogue. So where are those few nostalgic pictures.
They are coming, are not they?
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Old 12th March 2010, 17:08   #18
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Quote:
But this I can assure you, wherever there is civilisation, this recipie is one which is chased down with sticks, stones and heckles!!!
This one is the best one liner... I am glued to it need more with nostalgic pictures...
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Old 12th May 2010, 19:46   #19
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@akaushik

If all goes well you'll get some nice pics of a solo ride
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