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.
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.
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 was 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 memory 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.
Day 2 of the trip or day 1 of riding was anything but fun.
The bikes, when being loaded from Pune, were stacked upright – all the weight was being supported by the rear wheels only. We were afraid our engine oil would leak out.
But nothing of the sort happened. What happened instead was a bent handlebar in one bike and a broken headlight switch in another.
After jumping through the bureaucratic hoops to get the bikes out of the station, and getting some fuel from a nearby pump, we went to a garage to get these problems fixed.
The day’s breakfast & lunch needs were satisfied at the garage itself with a few packets of chips and soft drinks.
Finally we began to ride at noon towards Chandigarh. Hardly had we ridden one hour that heavy rains started, and it became severely windy. During the rainproofing at a bus stop we met a few other riders from Bangalore who are also heading to Leh.
After the rains died down, we stopped at Gulshan dhaba for good old rotis, maa ki daal and aloo-pyaaz ke parathe.
The ride after the lunch has been largely uneventful. We passed through many places including Ambala, and stopped for good old Punjabi dhaba style dinner (including the oh-so-lovely maa ki daal) around 40km before Panchkula, where we put up for the night.
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?)
Boy: Kaunsi? (Which one?)
Boy: kyon? (Why?)
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 🙂