Day 6: The Day My Ladakh Trip Ended

Apologies for not updating the blog live after Day 2.

I have notes for every day after that till the time my ride ended, but could not post anything, owing mainly to the lack of network access, and also to the fact that we were tired and slightly upset about the progress at the end of each day, and needed to catch up on sleep.

I plan to share the memoirs of those days soon. But today it’s about the one incident that cut short my trip by half, gave me my first fracture, and got me to my first ever proper operation.

Day 6 began early for me. I woke up at 3 AM as we had planned. We wanted to hit the road at the earliest possible, and wanted to cover the 250 odd kilometres to Leh by sundown. The planned take off had to be delayed because there still wasn’t enough light outside. So we started riding at around 7. After having scaled up the Gata Loops, we took a short break at Lachulung La. I sped off from there after clicking a few pictures, leaving the others behind.

We reached Pang at around 10 after passing through some intimidating, gigantic and impressive rock formations. We had thukpas for breakfast at Pang, played with the local kid who wanted to drink Slice from our glasses but his mother would not let us feed him, and met our friends from Bangalore once again. Having left Pang at around 11, we took another 25 minutes to reach the cold desert: Moray Plains.

It’s a stretch of land some 50km long, which is surprisingly flat, considering that it is between the Himalayan peaks. It’s mighty, it’s scary and it’s beautiful. Most of the beginning of it is covered with juniper shrubs. One track with a signboard marked “Diversion” goes amongst the shrubs, where we took our bikes for around half a kilometer, stopped, posed and took pictures. Then we decided to turn back and take advantage of the immaculate tar road that evidently was not a ‘Diversion’. Getting such a road after the kind of ride we had done for the last 3 days, all four of us felt like kids in a candy store! We started riding at 80-90 kmph like there was no tomorrow! And the road did not seem to end. Except that it ended. We came across a heap of rubble, around which there were a few people working on the construction of the road. That was the last we saw of the tar road. After this spot, it was either a shadow of the road covered in stone chips and rubble, or dirt, or (god forbid) sand for as far as the eye could see.

We rode for an hour or so on the plains, trying to keep each other in our distant vision. At times I would see a SUV going parallel to us in the dirt at quite a distance. At times I would see some makeshift cabins near the foothills, presumably there for the road construction work. And at times I would see my friends approaching me.

Our riding skills were being tested, and we were having fun.

I don’t remember what happened after this.

No, seriously.

My entire bank of memories of what I think were the next 20 minutes consists of a frame, a vision of a splitsecond, where I am falling on the ground, and I can see the bike fall from under my feet.

The next moment I remember, I was being woken up by my friends. I felt dizzy. I felt needles all over my body, my brain, and my eyes. I presumably was dreaming while unconscious. Of another ride. Somewhere else. On being awaken, I felt like I was suddenly transported to somewhere unknown. I asked Siddhu who he was, and where we were. Everyone who had stopped to see and help were shocked. I wanted Siddhu to drop Anish a message, not realising that we hadn’t seen what a network signal on the phone looks like for 3 days now. I thought we were in Panchgani, though I kept saying Mahabaleshwar.

After about 10-15 minutes, my memories started coming back to me and I realised that I was in the middle of my long awaited Ladakh trip, but I still was baffled about how I fell. Somebody rode ahead and got Anish back with him.

Anish started questioning me about where we are going, where we started from in the morning, what we ate for lunch (trick question!), presumably to check for any damage to the brain. I took off my jacket to relax, and felt a searing pain in my left wrist. When I saw the wrist I was taken aback! The palm had twisted, and the bones were bulging, making it look weird and scary.

I would have gone under a panic attack, had it not been for Anish and his first aid training. Promptly he covered my entire arm, from the palm to beyond my elbow, with his sweater, used one of our knee-guards as the splint, covered it with crepe bandage, and warned me not to try and move my hand. To make sure, he made a sling with his scarf and hung my arm in it. Then he asked me to press his fingers with mine as hard as I could, just to make sure the fingers were alright.

I kept asking him what the date was, and how I would reach Leh, and he kept assuring me that they will get me to Leh, no matter what.

Lucky for us, a mini-truck was not far behind. This was part of the convoy of the foreigners riding Bullets who had started from Manali, and whom we kept meeting on our way so far. The driver, Sunil, let me sit in the shotgun seat and took me to Leh, all the while conversing with me, giving me things to eat and drink, and in the end dropped me at the Snow View hotel, where I waited for the rest of the gang.

We were so far thinking that it’s a displaced wrist, and that after setting the bones right, I could go to Khardung La and Pangong Tso with a cast on the wrist, sitting behind Anish on his bike. But that night, after seeing the doctor at the SNM Hospital and getting the X-Ray done, we were told that my wrist has fractured.

We met the orthopedic doctor the next day, and he confirmed it was a fracture, though a unique one, and advised surgery within 10 days. I decided then to drop the trip, Khardung La, Pangong Tso, the Hemis festival, Kargill, Drass, Srinagar, and returned to Pune the next day.

It’s been a month since the surgery and I am well on my way to recovery, what with snapping fingers and playing open chords on the guitar, but I shudder to think of what would have happened to me if Anish or anyone with knowledge of first aid wasn’t around to take matters in his hand and immobilize my wrist – which, even according to the doctors at SNM Hospital, was the absolutely right thing to do.

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Day 1: Trip to Ladakh

The Duronto is a very interesting train. Its bogies don’t all look the same. They keep feeding you till you want to run away. The staff is super efficient, and don’t let you keep the floor dirty for long.

Add to it the bunch of cute and noisy kids travelling with us, and you have all of us confused (“Are the vacations not over yet? My cousins/nephews/nieces have started going to school already!”). And that the non-stop train decided to stop at so many stations (technical hault they said, picking up your food they said. Oh yeah? Then why does the curry at dinner taste just like the curry at lunch?). And Siddharth decided to befriend the catering fellow, Praveen Bhai, but still didn’t manage to get us ice creams with our dinner.

The journey was also educative for all of us. We didn’t know, for example, that there’s a show on Star One at 8.30pm everyday except Tuesday, called Pyar ki Kahani, which is about vampires & werewolves (isn’t that so very original?)

And the same little gentleman who informed us about PKK also left us looking for answers when the following conversation happened:
Boy: aap bike chalate ho? (Do you ride bikes?)
Me: yes
Boy: Kaunsi? (Which one?)
Me: Bullet
Boy: kyon? (Why?)
Me: uhhh
Boy: Hero Honda chalao (Why don’t you ride a Hero Honda?)
Anish: (grinning wide) I’d like to see you answer that Amit
Me: (still looking for words)

Day 2 has already begun. We’re off the train, trying to get the bikes off. A little bit of preparations and we hit the road.

The rider in me is itching to do that. I can already see the Karmic cycles churning. This ride is going to be important for me. Delhi has welcomed me. It’s a clean slate once again 🙂

For The Happiness Of My Feet

Previously on Ladakh: Qasam UDaanjhalle Kii

Ok guys, it’s show off time again!

High up on the priority list for Ladakh preparations is comfort for the feet. 10-12 hours of riding every day in that terrain demands that I keep my feet warm, comfortable and dry under all circumstances. Which is why I went to my regular riding/trekking/adventure gear shop and bought Cramster’s waterproof riding boots.

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DSC2452[Cramster riding boots][Cramster riding boots][Cramster riding boots]
I do have a few other pairs that I wear during my long rides. I used to have a pair of suede Woodlands, rugged and robust but not waterproof. Then I have a pair of tan leather Woodlands, which once again look good and are heavy and robust, but still not waterproof. I also have a very economical pair of DMS boots, which are the same as my leather Woodlands, but are black and cover my ankles properly.

I have never had any boots which were sold as “riding boots”, neither did I ever have boots which are waterproof.

These Cramsters come highly recommended, and thus I’m psyched about them 🙂

My other options were the Alpinestars riding boots, which are almost 4 times as expensive as these babies, or the Quenchua trekking boots, which are slightly cheaper and are waterproof, but are only ankle-high (not enough if you’re going to a terrain like Ladakh’s) and come with laces (would not want to spend time & effort in tying & untying when my lungs are gasping for oxygen on the highest motorable road in India, would I?)

I think I’ve made a good purchase. Let’s see how good it proves itself to be.

Qasam UDaanjhalle Kii

When this rider was little and rode bikes only as a pillion (or sitting on the tank), he dreamt of a place. A place high up in the mountains. A place where the landscape was white and brown, and the sky was bluest. A place where the terrain was unforgiving but the people were friendly, where monks lived, where kids were as pretty as dolls, where houses were clustered atop hills. A place where it was scorching hot out in the sun and chilling in the shade just at the distance of a few feet. A “cold desert” which was nowhere near Antarctica!

The place where, as he would later know, riders would go in big numbers every year. The place which would later become one of the hottest tourism spots in the country, where a major TV reality show’s first season would be shot, where a motorcycle company would organise an annual trip to.

But before all that, for him it was the place where Dara and Karan went on horsebacks to capture Yogi Thakur, who was out of jail and wanted revenge on his old accomplice Raja Singh, and Bacchulal of Akaalgadh fame spoke the immortal words “क़सम उड़ानझल्ले की” (qasam udaanjhalle ki).

Err what??? Are you wondering whether I have lost it completely?

Ladies and gentlemen, I am talking about the movie Joshilaay, the one which began as a Shekhar Kapur movie, but couldn’t be completed as such. It still is one of my favourite films to relax with. One of the reasons for this is Shekhar Kapur’s direction in the first half, another being R. D. Burman’s score, then there’s Anil Kapoor’s on-screen attitude, and Satish Kaushik with his inimitable dialogue delivery. But more than that, what drew me, the little would-be-rider, into this movie was the unique looking “desert”. Never before had I seen a place so beautiful and interesting being portrayed as a badland. Before Joshilaay, deserts and tough places were always amidst the sands of Rajasthan or rocks of Karnataka. Which is why this movie took me in so deeply. Joshilaay introduced me to the dream that is Ladakh.

Years later, I would see another movie. Not so commercial. Never seen at the theatres. The only popular star this movie has is Danny Denzongpa. And if you cared enough, Raj Zutshi. Set in Ladakh, shot in Ladakh, with dialogues in Hindi and Ladakhi. The cinematography and direction wowed me again, but in a manner different from that of Joshilaay. It wasn’t a hero film or an epic film. It was a sensitive film, telling an intricate story of a girl, and her father. Frozen continued the dream I have had for so long.

But why am I telling you about this dream of mine? Because it is going to come true soon.

Amongst the two big & impactful pieces of news in my life, this one is more urgent and delightful. I am going to Ladakh after all these years of dreaming. Along with my steed.

Towards the end of this month, three of my friends and I are riding off from Jammu towards Leh. Yaay!!!

Preparations have begun. The countdown has started. I dream of Ladakh every day now. I plan to keep the blog updated with the preparations, and with the ride as and when it unfurls itself.

For you to enjoy, here’s an all-time favourite song of mine from Joshilaay, and then a short scene from Shivajee Chandrabhushan’s Frozen. Towards the middle of July, I plan to start sharing my impressions and interpretation of the land. Hope it lives up to whatever expectations you have from me 🙂

Next on Ladakh: For The Happiness Of My Feet