12 September 2005

Gimme More!

After the army guy fixed the Enfield’s air filter, we entered the aptly named More plains. This is a 50 km section of dead flat terrain, with grasslands extending to a few kms on both sides, and mountains beyond. We rode by sporadic nomadic settlements along the way. How anyone can think of living there is beyond me. It’s like the definition of nothingness.

During this stretch, we had the company of 3 French bikers- a couple and another guy on two Enfields. The petite girl sat behind this rugged looking guy, who had this I’ve-been-thru-it-all look on him. The kind of hippie-look for which Joy would’ve given up two limbs (not his, of course!). Anyway, while riding together, we had our legs soaked in the icy water during one of our zillion stream-crossings. So we leapt off the bike as soon as we hit dry land, threw off the boots, nearly tore the socks off and began rubbing our feet with our palms. The French gang was looking on curiously, when we explained how much we hated the streams numbing our feet… the rough-looking guy said "Yeah! I hate that too… it’s really bad!" We were expecting some kind of horror-experience-narration from the girl, when she said "Oh! Water flooding the boots? That’s not so bad!" Such females help me retain hope!

The Clouds

The bright lighting due to the expanses of emptiness and the intense sun contrasted brilliantly with the sharp shadows cast by the clouds. I think the splendid photography by Gopal conveys the experience much better than any words that I can think of. Anyway, I felt drunk. Everything was moving by slowly-very slowly. I guess that’s the beauty of being on a bike. I could ride for hours, meditating on things seen, experienced… at peace with everything. I felt blessed.

The best part about the bike experience is that you’re out there with nature- in the elements. Here I’d like to borrow a thought from the book "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance"… sitting in a car, it’s in many ways like watching TV. You look out through the window and it’s like a neatly trimmed and framed view on offer- just like watching TV. You sit in a little box, cut-off from the real thing. But in a bike, the concrete that you see whiz by beneath you is the real earth that you walk on. Everything is real. You can turn around and look at the world around you in every which way you please. And then, there is the wind on your face. I can’t explain how good that feels. All this makes me wonder what trekkers think about biking.

Also a part of this one-with-nature experience is that you get beaten up by nature every now and then. The intense sun through the day ensured dehydration and loss of appetite for Gopal and me. We were feeling pretty low when we started the climb up to Tanglang La, which is the second highest motorable road in the world, at 17,500 ft. Joy, with his untold reserves of everything, had no problems whatsoever. With increasing altitude, muscles tend to disobey and revolt. We truly understood the meaning of dizzying heights. The roads there were perhaps the worst that we experienced. Mud, slush, rocks, potholes which resembled craters, streams gushing across the road, snow walls melting on one side and the pretty sight of fresh snow on the peaks on the other side. All this with failing muscles, a cold breeze, the bike skidding or getting stuck in the slush every few dozen meters and icy water flooding the boots. I only vaguely remember the actual time spent at the pass. We were too beaten up to discuss anything.

Well, contrary to popular belief then, we survived to tell the story. We rode downhill like mad men. We decided to crash in the first tent in the first village downhill, which turned out to be a good 30 kms away from the top. So we lost altitude quickly, and learnt about the wonders of (relatively) thick air! We were still only half alive when we walked into that tea shop. Gopal and I were lying flat on the bed, trying to get some grip over ourselves, while Joy was out teaching the guy at the tea shop how to make ‘half-boils’. Of course, the result looked nauseating. But you have to give credit to Joy for the effort. We drank a dozen teas between us, crammed down plenty of biscuits, omelets and pretty much anything that we could lay our hands on. When we walked out of the tents, with Leh a good 130 kms away, we had this weird energy surging through us. All the pain and discomfort during the afternoon felt like a distant memory… we decided to hit Leh that night no matter what. So with the sun setting fast and beautifully, with our bodies and mind reborn in that half an hour in the tea-shop, we rode on, into the sunset.


Anonymous said...

!" We were expecting some kind of horror-experience-narration from the girl, when she said "Oh! Water flooding the boots? That’s not so bad!" Such females help me retain hope!

GOOD LUCK mate! If you lucky in finding such a partner then you are one of the few lucky B******s around. wink!

Wanderer said...

Lol, thanks! You're right- those lucky few... doesn't hurt dreaming, does it?

ΛurimaX said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
ΛurimaX said...

Dont know you but i'm very well aquainted with the other two characters..... i should have been there with u all except for the fact that i couldn't.

A place like that can really redefine a persons perception of magnitude.

Wanderer said...

Hey yourself... just heard about you from Gopal. You would've had a fabulous time had you managed to come along.

You're right, a place like that changes you completely... your perception of everything. Like a lot of things don't matter anymore. Priorities are redefined. It's like viewing the world thru a fresh pair of eyes.

Saikumar said...

Honest feelings eh?
Liked the clouds part
Mail me when u update this

Wanderer said...

Hey da... my feelings are always honest? hehe... yeah, the clouds looked surreal. It was as if someone was playing around with the natural lighting system. Brilliant.

Funny how, after all that, I'm sitting in a tube-lit cubicle all day, totally cut-off from the real thing... I get to see sunlight for barely a couple of hours every day. Law of averages?