I dream of this place often. I have been there, and I haven’t really been there. Was it the desert planet of Tatooine, or was it closer home, on our very own planet? I remember the Sun shining mercilessly and the winds chilling our bones, especially in the shade, and the magnificent clouds dotting the impossibly blue skies.
From one of the numerous trips to Mahabaleshwar we did six years ago.
It had just rained, and the smell of baked corn coming from the street vendors was making the atmosphere that much more pleasant. We sat down at the vantage point, and kept watching the clouds drift over the peaks.
It was day 3 of our trip if we count Karnal/Chandigarh as our base. We were trying to make up for lost time, and (touchwood) the slowest of the lot, which would be yours truly, was doing really well in terms of speed & time.
I reached Sarchu ahead of every one else, in the late afternoon, and was raring to go further. But we decided to stay the evening and night here. Much relaxation, much plates of maggi and biscuits, much cups of tea, much photographs, and much sleep.
Next on the list for Ladakh preparations: lots of things!
So the thunderous three set out in the lanes of Pune looking for these things last to last Saturday.
Each of us got foot-rest rods, spark plugs, headlamp bulbs (unique for each of us), taillamp bulbs (common between all of us), relevant cables (the A-B-Cs, forget the Ds), loads of chain links, lots of fuses, the entire clutch lever assembly & the brake lever and one chain (amongst all four of us) from the store at Bhawani Peth. Also, one of us got a pair of Gabriel shock-absorbers plus a pair of rear leg-guards (for better fitment of the saddle-bags), which was called the Bombay Guard by some shops and the Raja Guard by a few others.
After going to a number of tools shop near Boriali, we were directed to a shop where we’d get all relevant tools. There we bought two allen key sets, a few spanners, one tyre pressure gauge, and a nose pliers each.
Almost the entire trip is amongst snow-laden areas. Snow which melts often. And there’re full chances of rain, since it’s July we’re travelling in. So we went out to look for rain gear. The requirements were that it should cover us nicely, over our riding jackets. The pants needed to be big enough to cover our knee-guards. With this brief we scoured the shops near Laxmi Road, and were disappointed. Even the mighty Duckback couldn’t give us large enough raingear. But we finally struck gold when we went to have a really late lunch at George (East Street), and I passed SoWhat on the way. SoWhat is an apparel store for people who require extra large clothing. It just struck me that we could get what we want from there. So after lunch we headed there, tried out a few of the jackets & pants they have for size, and were pleased with our choice. We’ll pick them up soon.
While in Laxmi Road, one of us had the brainwave that instead of spending money on expensive riding boots, he could pick up a pair of gumboots for the wet rides. It’s a good idea I must say, if you’re not worried about falls and injuries. That purchase has also been parked for a later date.
All of us got our hearts set on the Ceat Secura Sport (3.25/19″) as our front tyres, and in absence of other options we are going ahead with the MRF Nylogrip (3.50/19″) as the rear tyres. So we picked up the Ceat tyres+tubes from the Ceat shop in Nana Peth, carried it to Wanowrie, where we bought the MRF tyres & tubes and got everything fitted. Also, we bought one spare tube each, for emergencies.
In the middle of all this we visited stores around Nana Peth and Camp, and the Mufi store to pick up stuff like bottle bags, bungee cords & nets, reflective tapes, visors and ropes.
My tyre fitment ended at around 8.30 in the evening. Wet, dirty and tired, I figured I had to cross the city now, with a backpack full of spares, tools & ropes of various kinds, plus I had to carry my old tyres+tubes back as well.
We kept one tyre+tube set on my rear seat, placed the other one on top of it and tied them to the bike with the newly bought rope. That wasn’t the tough part. The tough part was sitting on these tyres and riding the bike all the way home.
After reaching home, I needed a shower and something to make me forget the pain of the day. So I got that something. Will tell you some other day what it was 🙂
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.
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.
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 🙂