Friday, March 19, 2010

we have moved

Vata dosha aggravation happened. also considering the M part of the trip is over.
so we have moved to a new blog

mostly ananya with her current travels, and me with my past exp.


Sunday, November 1, 2009

week something

well am in hampi right now, having come down from srinagar-bhagsu-amritsar-delhi-calcutta-vizag - hampi.

logs will be updated, eventually. :)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

week 22 logs

Day 148 sep 18 fri
Padum – Phey – Anshu - Penzila – Rangdum - Parkachik
158 km
Am up and about by 7.30. Pack my stuff and have breakfast. Wait for it to be 9. At 9 go to the petrol guy, still closed. Come back and load the bike. Swiss woman asks when if Im going to Nepal (was wearing last resort tshirt). Said had come from there 2 months ago. She says on bike? I say yes, been on road for 5 months. She doesn’t look like she believes it. Man talking to her says nahin Leh se liya hoga. I just smile and continue packing. Have tea and read OPWC – amazing book.
At 10, the delhi guys come. I say have to go get petrol, they say NP, we’ll have breakfast. Go to petrol place to see it closed, but another man comes and parks bike and says it will open. So I chitchat and wait. 5 mins later, petrol man comes. Suddenly 8 vehicles around. But all of them know I’ve been waiting since yesterday, so let have first go at the petrol. Fill up tank and some spare; basically buy 10 ltrs.

Come back to hotel to say bye to Nadeem and rabbits. The delhi guys have gone! Have another tea and head. This time do a speed run, which is still min 40 – max 45. But as there’s no stopping for photos, do good progress.
Reach Phey and stop at Lama Bicchi’s. Quite happy/amused to see me. Have lipton and talk to him and Gyatso, a ration contractor from Karcha. Spend 30 mins and then head. Catch up the guys taking pictures at Rangdum glacier. Take some pictures and then meet up and have mini ‘picnic’ at the pond. These guys rip, 50-60 on these roads. I stick to 40-45, cant have the welding coming off again.

Some GREF guys stop and ask if I have cigs. Give them one, they ask if there’s more, I can buy ahead they say. Give more, they offer money which I refuse. Stop at Rangdum and have biscuits and tea. Pick up beedis as no smokes available. Its about 3.30 now and at the rate stops for pics are being made, we think Parkchik would be best stop. I get stuck in a knee deep part of a stream crossing and somehow manage to keep bike on and also cross. But soaked in freezing water till the knee. Stop and drain freezing water from the shoes and socks. No use, the wind is cold and I cant feel my toes anymore. The sun begins to slink down and the meadows light up in technicolored glory, even the ponds take this translucent emerald green. Get wet in two more streams. Stop near a glacier and try to dry shoes, socks and feet. No use, even the engine becomes cold the moment the engine is stopped. Walk around bare feet which doesn’t help at all. Its getting dark as we approach Parkachik. Ask a sumo where a guest house would be. When we get to the PWD place, its closed, but a guy says he has the keys but its being renovated so unless we want to sleep on the floor with no electricity. The mosque calls out. It’s iftaar time. Ask if there is anything else, I recall seeing an Alpine hut board while going to Padum. He says its half a km away. Dixit goes to check but returns saying cant see anything. I go with the caretaker guy (am the only one with pillion capability). We go ahead while the others follow. He takes to the alpine hut, where the caretaker has gone to read namaaz. A girl is sent and we wait. The caretaker comes and shows us the rooms. Elec comes from 6.30 to 10.30, 3.30 to 5, And that’s it, which is probably better compared to Rangdum.

I head back to drop the guy. He asks to join for tea. I say ok. His name is Mohd. Hussain. Is a contractor in charge of renovating the PWD GH. Asks lipton or namkeen. Get recipe for namkeen tea. Talk about Bombay, me and him. Have quite a chat. We hear a bike outside, realize someone must have thought I had fallen off someplace. Go out to check, its Salil. Call him in and he joins for a cuppa. Drink my second cup and head back before a third guy comes looking for us. Unload bike and dump stuff.

Find tobbaco and roll and show M1 pics to these guys. Sandy asks for extra blankets, and the caretaker asks Sleeping bag nahin hai? All burst out laughing. Dinner is ready and we eat. Everyone passes out. Watch the matador before I pass out too.

Day 149 sep 19 sat
Parkachik - Kargil
90 km
Wake up at 6.30 and go watch the sun light up the mountain peaks from within the glass windows. At 7 we get our tea and I update yesterday’s logs. Everyone wakes up slowly. Have breakfast and load the bike. The others bathe and repack. Carrying a lot of stuff for a 15 day trip! Talk the caretaker Habib, while the others pack. Find out the heights of the twin peaks Nun Kun (you can see the west faces of the peaks from here. Nun is 7135m, while Kun is 7035m. Nun has been climbed many times but not Kun. He has 6 kids, 4 girls, all unmarried and studying, makes 7k. Has a field but is not enough. Others have 10 kids, but nowadays ppl are having only 2 -3 max. Everyone has fields, but bhatware se kuch bachta nahin hai. Think about it and realize its meaning. Suppose a man had 10 acres and 10 kids. When he dies, the 10 kids get an acre each. That man has 5 kids, those get .2 acres. Overtime… We are now in the Suru valley; two main valleys Zanskar and Suru.

Takes a while for all to get loaded and ready. Ask Salil to clean the persistent dust spot in the camera. Take photo of sky and see no dust spot on it, so its ok. He says to get it cleaned at a Canon shop will cost 2k! I have only 2.6k left J Icici really fucked my plans up by taking the 17.5k, but then again I haven’t paid my emis in almost a year now; had it coming I guess.

I head back to town to say bye to Hussain, who takes my number. Head back and join the guys, who start to rip off again. I begin to follow at their speed, but slow down. I have a much welded pannier, an 95% bald back tire (have to change soon) and generally a longer trip to ride Chughun on. Let them rip. It’s so much easier and faster if the bike and luggage is just one unit. I soon lose sight of them but I settle back down to my view and ride routine. Do my prayers and ride along the different rivers. Each river passing through a village has its own name, for example Parkchick has the Parkachik river; I guess they all meet into some main river which is called something else.

Cross the Kichore TCP. Sign in and ask the cop if 3 bikers from Delhi passed by. He says no. Am surprised, they should be atleast 10 kms ahead of me by now. He insists that no one can go by without him letting them. I come out and cross to the side to pick up smokes. Ask the shopkeeper who says ya they blew past. Give choclate to the bunch of kids that assembled and head. Kids everywhere come running and wave and shout something. After 3 days, I pay attention. Its Chaclatte that they say! Or Angrez. Some of them even throw something after you. Wag my finger at such groups. The sequence is pen, chaclate, paisa. But mostly chaclate.

At a village, a guy hails and I stop. Wants to be dropped at Sanko. As usual, they just climb on, while I grip and balance the bike for dear life. He’s a school teacher, who is from Sanko and did B.Ed from Kargil. Teaches Urdu, Science and Maths at Sanko. Ask him the name of the river passing along. Tells me that two main rivers start from the Rangdum glacier; one left to Kargil, one right to Padum. Cross two roadblocks caused by earthmover groups clearing rockslides. Reach Sanko and see the BCM touring gang waiting at a tea shop. As usual, you can’t have tea in public view.

Head to Kargil. The clutch is giving problems, my left fingers are hurting at the lower phalanges; the clutch oil is probably less? Have to follow an army school truck for a while, as the traffic increases getting close to Kargil. The kids at the back strike a conversation, which we carry out by shouting. As I come close to the overpriced Ge Zozila hotel, I see Sandy getting something fixed at a mechanic. Somethings broken off; not surprised! Salil is getting something welded. Ask the mechanic till what time he is open. Says 5. Decide to stay in Kargil and come back later in the afternoon. Head to the hill petrol pump to tank up and intercept Dixit. Everyone at the pump is impatient and try to cut lines. I stare back and use size of bike to maintain place. Kind petrol man remembers and asks where the can he gave is. Sandy arrives and we wait for Salil for a long time. These guys are thinking of reaching Leh at whatever time. I try to dissuade them from riding after dark. At their speeds, it can get extremely dangerous on the broken road till Lamayuru. After waiting, we head down and meet Salil on his way up. Head to have lunch. These guys don’t trust kargil and are reluctant to park their bikes on the road in broad daylight, though they eventually do. We sit by the window to maintain a ‘line of sight.’ Eat and then take parting photo. Wish each other godspeed and go different ways.

Head to the PWD guesthouse; had thought of going back to Caravan Sarai, but Salil says PWD is 180 bucks, and money is a premium right now. Get there and the caretaker says will have to ask someone. I wait while he goes to call. He returns saying call nahin ja raha hai. Asks me what I will do; I say Caravan Sarai. I head there and they tell me all lower rooms are booked, though upstair rooms are there at 600 a pop. I whine and one guy says go to guesthouse lower the hill. But main owner man intervenes and says take the corner room, flush kaam nahin karta hai. I say flush se mujhe kuch nahin. Asks what I do etc. Eventually wants me to design the room, but I say pehle budget batao. Don’t want to waste your time and mine. Dump stuff in room and take oil and head to mechanic. It’s already 4.30 p.m.

Near the bridge an enfield going past slows down and looks at me, I slow down, but don’t stop. They uturn and come back. I stop, wondering who it is. Two guys on it stop beside and ask Maharastra, I say ho, Mumbai. They say ami pun, kote. I say Malad, they say Borivli, I say Marve road, they say gorai. Shake hands. They are heading to Srinagar, then Uddampur and then train back. I say ami pun Sringar, pun kaal, atha mechanic madun. They shake hands again and head back, as they are heading right now. I say Jai Maharasthra J and head to mechanic. After a bit of waiting, mechanic comes and checks, says its ok, only clutch is bit tight; I’m like I know! check the oil, yesterday bike got submerged in water. We check and see the pus come out. Decide to clean it with petrol only instead of the appropriate diesel. But as time is running out (for him, namaz and then iftaar), not the other side. Change the oil, pay and head back to town.

Go to Internet cafÈ and check mail. Mail Ananya and the last of the patrons of this trip. It’s time to end Mataozm and get down south to family and a paying job. Have debts to pay and change from ‘Sirsasana’ to ‘Syampadasana’. No spiti, no rann of kutch, but its ok; like ananya said, I’ve had a great great run. And I still have the whole length of the country to traverse.Maybe work for a couple of months and then go with ananya to the north east. Pay off debts and then come teach at a monastery next summer? There’s another ‘adventure’ waiting, of ‘returning’ to the motionless world and dealing with it. Have no idea whether to write that book everyone keeps telling to, or even that coffee table book of photos. Time will tell. Zen? J Aham aniketah. Vimrsyaitad asesena, yathe icchasi tatha kuru.

All you have been, and seen, and done and thought,
Not you but I, have seen and been and wrought, ..
Pilgrim, pilgrimage and Road,
Was but Myself toward Myself; and your
Arrival but Myself at my own door..
Come, you lost Atoms, to your centre draw..
Rays that have wandered into Darkness wide,
Return, and back into our Sun subside.

Eat with the rest of the town. It’s a good feeling, communal even. Buy kebabs for some beggars. Stand aside and see all kinds of people eating all kinds of things. Except I’m eating veg and everyones eating yummy smelling kebabs and paya soup and what not. At such times, I get fed up of eating rice, dal, and mixed sabji for so many meals. But got to stay steadfast. Except for the smoking, have managed to keep it together. Still a long way to go. But am no longer bothered. Work has to happen to maintain physical body, the rest is clear. Even STD booth ppl are eating and shop is ‘shut’. Waves of sleep come over and I head back to hotel to crash.

There’s no three point plug in room! So boy gets an extension cord J Dump photos and begin to sort, when all enthu drains off. Been shooting in RAW, so huge files and so many. Sometimes I just sit and look at the photos and not sort. Relive the memories. Somethings that just happened in the morning seem so far away. It is physically, but mentally also?

day 150
day 151
lost logs- deleted file by mistake. nothing done really. chilling, reading, watching films, talking to people. Id happens - lots of joy and good cheer all around.

Day 152 sep 22 tue
Kargil – Barcha – Batalik – Hardass – Dah – Hanu- Dah – Batalik - Kargil
199 km
No need for permit, says hotel man – only 60 kms – 2 bofors guns with convoy – mp stares when I gawk at guns - shopkeeper says everyone looking at hair - leave after lunch – rise above kargil – feeling of joy returns – inertia has returned? But nevertheless, it feels good to be back on the road. Hambotingla pass 13202 ft– kid running downhill – intercepts and asks lift- walks 20 km to and fro to school – wants to become doctor- tea at barcha – fida hussain and mohd ali – riding along teal river and narrow river cut valleys- batalik – maratha regiment taking over from mahar – mein aur uparwala works everywhere– smoke donation to marathi major at Hardass! post, no tea, no takleef - Aryan valley starts – adi Dravidian in the valley of the Aryans - photo – promise to give tea on return – Dah– marathi manoos – dah village is up the hill – bridge deviation – tea and convo in chair – couple from Bangalore – turned back at dah – alternate road to kargil via karbo – head to hanu – cross only gorkha artillery regiment at hanu thang –sam maneckshaw – if a man says he is not afraid of dying, he is either a liar or a gorkha- thin river valley – craggy mountains - 2 kms from hanu – sabji something post – need permit – only foreigner – get shown Indian citizen permit – pani toh piyo – chai? – return – give lift to kids heading down – kid from Nepal – wants to become driver – when given options doctor - - dah get waved past – stop at boulder road fork – army guys say cant go up – local passes – army guys tell show him, he will drop u – go up boulder road – cross wooden bridge and walk up – randi woman chuma attempt by local army porter – old ladies – family photo – solo photo girl – address taking – meet padum-kargil trio – they planning to make guesthouse man dress up to take photo – walk more along ridge village - feel scammed – walk around – dusk – cant stay – have to drop him – another attempt at girl pataoing – dark – drop him at village – cant go back so go ahead -no jacket no gloves – stop at hardass and bum smoke – mahar man makes maratha man make tea – drink and chat abt life – 2 hr watches – 1 yr rotation – family – politics – raj Thackeray – kargil 65 k from here – reach batalik – quick questions and pass – another checkpost – Bombay man chats – from mulund – other man makes long Q&A investigation – bbay man says eat and go – no – time – yes – wait and talk – almost 8.30 – get 7 chapattis and dal in tumbler – then rice in plate and dal in container – warm water in bottle – sit in bunker? Shelter and eat while he and jogi from belgaum shine light – finish eat and head – bloody cold without jacket and gloves – ride non stop – raccoons? Striped fluffy tail cross twice in headlights – too late to take photo – no traffic for 2 hrs – all alone under the stars – sing songs to forget the cold – mouth goes dry - reach kargil by 11.15. shoulder’s fucked from cold hunching – crash.

Day 153 sep 23 wed
Kargil – Petrol pump – Kargil – Karbo – memorial - Drass – Tiger hill road – zozila - sonamarg
146 km
Wake up, pack, another service tax argument at counter - pay bill, finish reading OPWC, say bye to all, jayanti lal, Deepak, ghulam-e-mustafa, owner – 12.15! – go fill petrol – come back - call ananya – line busy – eat lunch – say bye to Internet guys – head out – take photos of you are being watched by enemy – road full of small and big martyr signs - cross karbo – stop at memorial – get tour and info- 400 posts taken in violation of 1962 shimla aggrement – tiger hill, tololing- point 4872/batra hill – NH1D overlooking, rhino hill, third pimple, NH1 delta – mashcow valley – drass and batalik sectors – giant sunflower- gallery – photos – pvc, mvc, vc, photos of photos 2 pvcs stil alve - pandey– heavy iron pieces of rocket – cant lift rocket part - jharkhand major – photo – instant celebrity – drop guide to town – tea at drass - dropati kund – truckers filling water – craggy hills – pyramid hill – red, green yellow, glaciers-zozila pass – camera conks – confusion at zozila realignment - amazing vista at other side of zozila – battery removal – autofocus not working – crescent moon – emo moment – dusty road – good road – 70 kmph down zozila – sonamarg – sardar hotel – unpack – std ananya and mom- dad orphaned – amarnath not happening – 3 am departure and 13 km walk– dinner – cricket match – surrealness of seeing men in suits in ad –news – militant activity- ask and get told something in srinagar – but hothe ratha hai – champions trophy is on, watch for a while and then head up – I wonder what happened to some triseries we were playing - log update – possible deletion of last 2 days update :s, camera possible working fine – unsure. Doda hotel man – after November 12 ft of snow here – in april enter from first floor window and work outwards!

Day 154 sep 24 thu
Sonamarg – Ganderbal – Mansbal – Bandipore – Watlab – Sopore – Pattan - Srinagar
184 km
Wake up and go down for tea. The sun is out but the weather cool. Have breakfast and look at all the fir and pine trees, warming myself in the sun. Watch yet another hindi dubbed film. All the Chinese parts are not dubbed – such low quality work, but its not like I’m going to sit and do it; whoever is doing it knows just that much. All the actors across films have the same voices.

Pack quickly. The daily morning rituals are pleasing as they indicate a forward motion, something new will happen.

The daily morning set is as follows – (this should be a separate post, but will reorganize later; not procrastination J but flow)
a. wake up – it’s mandatory J Have incorporated the osho practice of smiling/laughing at the start of the day. It’s difficult for me to start laughing, me who never really laughs, but smiles big; but it’s a nice feeling and am getting better at it.
b. Brush and bathe – the bathe bit is subject to availability of at least slightly warm water.
c. Suryanamaskars – had stopped doing all physical yoga practices. Primarily coz of an unsubstantiated but firm fear that it, especially kriyas, would reduce the vata and make me want to sit in one place. Now that the trip is due to end, I have become ‘brave’ enough to restart. At the least, my sadhana will restart and the feeling of shitness at not practicising and the accompanying feeling of joy and contentment will reemerge. So far, the external sensations of seeing, hearing, and experiencing people and places fed them. Like the time after the solo manali- leh trip shortcircuited my visual cortex and I didn’t want to see anything for a while! Time to see if both can work in tandem. Back to the suryanamaskars; body has become stiff and can barely manage 3 before I collapse into shavasana. So much for having done a 108 set in one go! But practice makes flexibler.
d. Shambhavi mahamudra kriya – had sat a week ago to restart it, but had forgotten the sequence to my utter dismay! Ananya has sent the sequence and have started again; not doing the full times, but have started. So that’s good. My breathing is fucked! Can’t even hold for 30 seconds – everything seems to be a decline – from 2 mins to 30 seconds. But its ok. Practice karo, fruit kao. Am not ready mentally for kriya
e. Shoonya meditation – not the optimal time for it, but I can’t do it while on the road. Tried it once, and opened eyes to see a bunch of kids watching and fiddling with the bike! Will start GMCKS meditation in
f. Fight the desire to go back to sleep. Pearl’s Johnson’s baby oil where needed.
g. Read – one of the highlights of the day. Sitting anywhere I can catch some sun and reading. Some of the stuff I have been reading is so gripping and stimulating, I just settle in and then don’t leave for the day. If only staying didn’t cost so much money!
h. Breakfast – one sitting breakfasts – don’t talk, just eat. Buddha really knew what he was talking about.
i. Read more – till I think it’s warm enough to head.
j. Pack – this deserves a separate post, which I’ll write later. It’s a factor of how long I have stayed at a place; the longer I have stayed, the more time it takes to repack. Typically its 3 minutes. Do a quick check
k. Load bike -
l. Prayers – Done once I’m rolling. Om Trayambakams, the lord’s prayer, some bhajans, hymns. If I get distracted by traffic or anything, I continue when mind is back on track.

It’s warm and bright now, but the sky is dull. It takes me a while to realize it’s smog, no, not even that, it’s too warm, just plain pollution. Depressing. The Sonamarg mastiffs are stacked with pine trees, right up to the peaks. Packs of horses stand or trot around the plains; most of them tourist horses and ponies waiting for the next customer. The Khajwas glacier stands still, white clouds floating slowly over the peak; horses and sheep grazing around the streams that trickle down and then join the river – the Sindh I think. From the strange grey brown muddy hills to hills covered with trees as far as the eye can see. Probably seen more trees in 30 minutes than the last one month.

As the Khajwas glacier fades away in the rearview mirror, a man hails me to a stop and asks me if I can give him a lift. I stop and pick him up. Have got used to ppl clambering on the panniers and hold on for dear life. He tells me his horse ran away with another one and he’s trying to find it. He’s a gujjar bakkarwal, the bhed-bakri people. Horses often run away when it gets cold and there’s less food. Cross a bunch of people who have packed stuff onto some horses and riding some; a few sheep and goats tagging along. They too are gujjar bakarwals; my temp. pillion is one of them, and would be riding with them if his horse hadn’t run away. With this new information, every horse, and there are a lot of them, suddenly becomes special and maybe it. Drop him off at another gathering of the bakkarwals; still no horse, at least he is with family. Another man, another lift. Offers money, refuse. Maybe I should; be like Richard Bach in that book – thunderbird flights in the Himalayas. Off the Himalayas now though, places pass by at 1800m, the mountains loom in the distance far north.

It’s noon as I cross Ganderbal and reach the turn off to Wullar lake. I stop to decide; the road looks inviting. On the map, it goes right into Baramula district, the places we keep hearing militants are most active. But what the hell, it’s bright, sunny, and fields of green, yellow, and gold loom ahead; and with God and Amanya on your shoulders, all will be well. Take the road and ride across fields where men and women are busy cutting, grouping, stacking, and chaffing? the harvest, with scarecrows keeping watch. It feels like riding amidst fields of gold. Stop for a break; an army truck goes by with the men at the top wearing helmets against the wind!

Reach a fork where bystanders tell me to take a right. I take the right fork; they hail and point right right – into a dirtish road on the right. I stop to think; right up to now, there were nice big road signs that pointed straight ahead, definitely not any side track. I smile and think – not every man is going to be a subversive militant leading you down the path of destruction; and whatever happened to white roads. I take the road and ride through villages, where people are rather shocked to see me or rather a loaded enfield chugging past. At another fork, I stop to ask and some men say straight only, but first Manasbal lake and then Wular. Up ahead the road begins to disintegrate and I stop to ask. They say this road goes too, but is a bad one; turn back and take the first left for a better road. I do that and soon see a submerged temple. Stop – Bystanders tell me it’s a 1000, 2000 year old Shiva temple. I ask 1000 or 2000, there’s a big diference. They shake their head and say kisse pata hai. The big signboard at the side says Ancient Temple and that’s it, nothing else – the BRO signs at the passes have more information about the passes! A man tells me there is a temple by the lake and wants me to follow him. I go into the temple and walk around – fish float around the temple – the man wants me to feed the fish. I refuse – its back to the world of belief and money. My walk falters – its so easy to forget how the world is; But that world is part of the world too - Takes all kinds I guess. I walk out and walk towards the Mansbal lake. Nice walkway around it, with a park where families, couples, and friends sit and walk around. Shikaras dot the lake with people taking rides in them. Take some photos and head out to the bike.

Lunch offer, photo of pakodas, fields, lift, 13 number spanner, army convoys fully geared - bandipore, crpf – tank bag check, tea – sahil and mitoo, questions, terrorists – wular view –Sena police checkpost – tp – its more fun when u have a partner; don’t I know it - Sopore – more crpf, police, armoured vans at busstand –sopore city of apples – except one tree so far, nothing. 10 kms later, rows of apple orchards. Stop to take in the smell. 4 crpf emerge - apple grove - smoke – don’t come – check, convos, securing apples, 4 militants – 5 cops death previous day – should check and come – uparwala –

Pattan – tea shop – owner – something Lone – is 35 but looks close to 50 –shows me election card - from baramula – talk abt Kashmir – how independence is all they want – whoever wants pak is a harami – India is not any better – America- angrez – messing it up – but better with India, but independence is what we want. Was good before 90, before everything started going wrong. Is much better now, in 94, everyone would get beaten up on suspicion of being afghani. Even sitting like this and talking, me and even you would get beaten up.

Reach srinagar – city – pollution – eyes start burning. Ridden through shitloads of dust, but eyes never burnt. Ride from one end to another to reach boulevard road. Dal lake – ppl talk – usual qts – old couple from hyd; second honeymoon? – wife not really first time he’s ever taken me out. Decide against a house boat. Hotel aziz – negotiate and check in. Shocked to see so many things in room – TV, cable, phone! Have become a gavvar having culture shock in the city. Bathe. Lie down. Man says go eat, everything shuts down by 10. Go at 9.30 – 90% of city already shut; only cops and sidey characters around. Eat at bhojanalaya, along with young and old women from some convent from tamil nadu – Christians all. Hear comments about my hair in tamil – tempted to respond in tamil, but eat in silence. Come back and crash, watching champion’s trophy. News is the same as before – cricket, Pakistan, g20 – same shit – except there’s water on the moon now.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

week 19 logs +

ok got my weeks all mixed up. but...

Day 127 aug 28 fri
14km – 12819 kms
Wake up to a glorious morning. Get coffee and update logs for the last couple of days. It’s difficult to get back to keeping daily logs; have to update 3 weeks worth now. Daunting. Go with Karn to main market and find a doctor to get his stomach bug checked. Walk around trying to locate a Tibetan medicine doctor. No luck. Have breakfast at Neha Sweets – good stuff, except they macrowave the gulab jamun. Head back to the guest house and sit in the sun chitchatting.

Retire to the rooms and copy films from Karn’s hard disk. Laze around, oil body and hair. Bathe in hot water – feels like finally the dirt is gone. The lice have gone too! Hallelujah – no more scratching the head wondering what’s wrong. Thank you Pearl.

Get ready to go to the Stupa to watch sunset, but it’s too late. Stay back while the rest go to the Confluence festival. Show Megan photos from Kanyakumari to Mandu. She’s been in the country for 3 months, but only in Jharkhand, and now Delhi and Manali. Go for dinner, eat and get back. Logs not updated completely. Will update logs tomorrow.

The gang comes back from the festival and we congregate and chit chat about events – Omar Abdullah grooving, Talvin Singh, hippie chick flashing. Pearl has some new stories about Tibetans and her taxi ride. Talk till 1 till we all pass out.

Day 128 aug 29 sat
16km – 12835 kms
Brisk morning. Teach Karn and Megan Kapaal bhaati and Anuloma Viloma. Pearl joins in. Do autosuggestion shavasana for them. Do random things. Internet lunch I guess. Mind is still in freeze mode.

Evening head out with Karn for the Confluence – 1500 for 4 hours is super expensive, but what the hell. Get there to see a big wide place with stalls and 2 stages spread over the field. Get our carbon footprint calculations done by these two ppl from Bangalore who are volunteering for something called Mine is less than Karn's :D

Meet the rest of the gang and settle down to listen to the acts. Terracotta was outstanding. The others were ok. Overall festival was poor, but the acts were good. Hardly any crowd and most were volunteers. Who wants to pay 1500 bucks a day.

Day 129 aug 30 sun
0km – 12835 kms
Girls head to PTso. Wake up at 5 and send them off. Pearl gives her media pass to go for the fest. go back to sleep and then chill the entire day at the GH only.

Day 130 aug 31 mon
0km – 12835 kms
It’s rained last night. Wake up but don’t leave the bed. Right wrist is aching; probably slept on it. Stay in bed and watch multiple films. Usual symptoms of stonedness – sloth; but beyond that a bit lost in the head. Similar to post mysore walk. Everything is distant.

Afternoon some chitchat happens; wander in and out of it. Megan is leaving tomorrow, so we go out for dinner. Walk the long walk to the restaurant. It’s drizzling now too.

Day 131 sep 1 tue
22 kms – 12857 kms
It’s the annual Ladakh Festival today. It begins with a parade from Chubbi and ends at the Polo ground, via the main market. 15 days of events at different centers on faith and commerce in the Ladakh plateau.

Check email at the only place that has Internet in Leh and head to the Polo ground. The sarkari speeches are on, with everyone trying to get a better spot.
Limping cyclist
Leh roads
Evening with drawing pearl, fresh apples
Pearl wants to go to Thiksey
Dinner at kc - move 4 times – purab
Films sleep

Day 132 sep 2 wed
Leh - Thiksey - Leh
44 km– 12901 kms
Wake up and feel more in tune with the world. Import photos from the last few days and am dismayed at the photo sorting that is pending. Since Delhi, my daily practices have stopped. I think the only practices I follow now are the bhakti yoga and vegetarianism. Feel real bad; it’s time to restart my kriyas. Let what happens happen. If I have to stop the trip and stay still at one place, I will.

Meet Pearl for breakfast – parathas made from veggies from the garden. Meet a couple of brits and give them gyan on where to go. I find it my duty now to guide people who are out to visit India. Have a brief convo on the pros and cons of LP. I am firm on the view that it’s a good starting point and after that you talk to different sets of locals- different sets coz lots of locals haven’t the faintest idea. Most have always traveled by buses, so know only the main routes, not the shortcuts etc. The best help is from middle aged to old. The Brit’s friend wants to do Nadi! Tell him about Vaitheswaran Koil and give them two garlic pods to accelerate their AMS recovery.

Leave for Thiksey. Fill air and fuel. Don’t take helmets so it’s a slow ride. Stop at Shey and climb the little hill to take top view of the stupa field. Try to find someone to ask what it is, but no one around, except worker taking dump.
Head to Thiksey and reach the monastery. It’s a visually Ok monastery, but then they are not there for our entertainment. Walk up, around, and see the sights. A huge Buddha in dhyan pose looks at you in this small room. Can’t use flash which is ok. Also can’t pose with the Buddha. Even pictures of the Buddha are holy stuff. All these rules about God. Wonder what Buddha would have said about this. Occupy myself taking photos. A peculiar disenchantment with religious structures has set in. Maybe it’s the huge number already visited, seen, and understood.

Head back and do round of Leh before heading back to hotel. Meet Juma and fix time for service of bike – tomorrow 9.30 a.m. Meet Karn on the way to lunch. Dump stuff at hotel and head to Wonderland for lunch. Poor breakfast and all this cold has made me super hungry, not to mention the #. Gulf down an entire pizza and then the remainder of Karn’s lunch. Head back and crash watching Roma. Woken up in the evening for next meal. Clean up and head down with Pearl. Meet the gang and have soup – can’t eat anymore. Everyone sits and practices the regal wave – Asha does it well – wrist wrist elbow elbow. Joints are rolled and passed around. My maal is almost over and I am glad for it. Time to switch from charsi to kriyawit; though I do write much better when high. Time and place for things?

Head to Bon Apetit for dessert. Pearl meets a friend Sethi something, who’s an NIDian who’s helped design this place. Pearl - Ananya’s common friend. Purab’s been raving about Hello to the Queen. It’s a fab ‘fancy’ place. HTTQ is nice, but then again I’m not a sweetie. Gawk at the almost full moon with its halo and Venus by its side. Walk back, say byes to Purab and Ashu. Ride back with Karn in the now cold cold night. Copy photos for Pearl and retire for the night.

Day 133 sep 3 thu
Pearl and Asha leave at dawn. Wish them safe passage and fall back asleep.
Sms comes – flight cancelled – they come back – full gang – go army shop shopping – pick up magic gloves, amry balaclava, and wool socks - lunch at wonderland – cold drizzly -11 deg at 2.30 pm – go to juma – get lift back to market – walk to GH – bhang and mush for ashu – head to bon apetite – whole Bombay gang inside rest – meet prateek – full respect for ananya – eat sizzler – chit chat – moon clouded – walk back - sleep

Day 134 sep 4 fri
Gang leaves – go in car – awesome snow cap with stupa in fore – drop at airport- get ride to juma – shops closed- back to hotel – routes disco – chilling - tell driver to come evening – chill – talk to prabhat 27 shillong – goa 9 k, work here, barren to green to barren – kashmiri flowers - friendships loneliness – vs. shillong – special leaf (taan – kashmiri pata for dinner) – meet Shams - eat lunch at gh – watch mad max 2 – sleep lots – evening wake up – wait for cab – no sign – ask galwan – shops still shut – stay back indoors COLD – hang with shams – stories – routes in arunachal – zero – along – pangim – siang river entry into India cliffs – tawang la entry stretch – eat sumptuous dinner with Taan - madmax 3 – madmax 1 – COLD sleep

Day 135 sep 5 sat
Cab comes at 9 and head to Juma to pick up bike. Stop at ATM. As usual long lines. Have convo with a guy from Buldana. General TP. Himmat comes up again. Get inside ATM and have heart attack – of 20k, can only take out 2.5k, rest ICICI has mod balanced. Wont even be able to cover leh bills. Head to Juma. Bike is ready, but get bad news. Seems there is tension on the Tibet-china border, so chushul and hanle will be inaccessible. Head back with bike. Pick up a 10 ltr can.

Back at the room, call ICICI from Karn’s phone. Seems some credit card ka payment ke liye – they say transfering me to CC dept, but after wait, comes back to main menu. Chuck it and head to market to have brunch. Neha sweets ka veg thali and some Internet. Do jugad for some floating cash. I’ll have to whore my ass off to repay my friends, but atleast I’m still solvent. Don’t even have a trustworthy bank account now! I guess ICICI waited? For a year before jamming my ass. Head back watching the snowcaps increasing around leh. Talk to Galwan about recent turn of events – how Leh is turning into Srinagar – how if China decides, they will reach Leh within a day – how much it will cost to rent a small place for a month here. He comments on my white lips – tells me to put cream or something! I must look a sight. Go fish out Pearl’s baby oil and lip it. The coconut oil I have melts for like 10 mins daily – if I miss that window, no oil for me. Snuggle inside blanket and watch film. Plan ahead unsure – we decide that its better than Karn heads straight for Uttarkashi, despite bleak chance of getting into NIM.

Around 5, head to market and ATM again. The usual 30 min wait outside the SBI atm. Idiot car parker knocks over Chughun. No harm done to bike. Person behind us strikes convo. Turns out to be a mountaineer,Avi, who’s done basic mountaineering course and is going to scale the not-so-technical but 20k ft high Kangri? peak (highest around Leh). Keeps taking till our turn to ATM. Karn and I withdraw money – one deposit has come through. Go to have tea with Avi – tells us lots of stuff about mountains, mountaineering, his trip with army help to Leh, and life back in Indore. Promises to send photos of successful scaling.

Karn and I head to Internet; chat with amanya. Chats with her are the best part of my days. Karn says that’s why I’m married to her. No idea when we will hook up together. Very keen on North east this year end. But don’t think it will happen. Update logs after 5 weeks! Lets not start on photos. Maybe when in Spiti. Talk about the prohibitive cost of mountaineering. Book Manali bus ticket for Karn. Head back and watch Gran Torino. During ‘interval’ head to Wonder land and have Chinese (fuckers. app. Helidropped food packets on some villages near Pangong – hence the tension) food. Pick up Pearl’s food bag from the shop they left it behind. Bag is full of sunflower seeds from TN. Crazy here we are eating cashews from Goa and sunflower seeds from TN; well also fresh apples from the tree! It’s fucking freezing. Head back, watch the rest of Gran Torino. Prabhat hangs with us for a while. Sleep eventually.

At 4.30 Karn wakes me up. Layer myself and go drop him at bus stand. On return, fingers start burning, despite gloves. Manage to park and crawl back into bed. Have a plan of action in head – marsimek la attempt, then head north and route back towards HP via Anantnag, Doda, Chamba. For the first time on this trip, have started thinking about ‘travel writing’ instead of just the logs. Have a lot of material not in the logs, but don’t knoÂw where to start. It’s not like I have any political or cultural angles. Mataozm has been the longest random impulse. Lets see what happens.

Day 136 sep 6 sun
Don’t remember. Went up to the Stupa.

Day 137 sep 7 mon
Market – oil - Welding – shams ideas – talk – blown – sleep – party – paragliding –AP – Surfing -

Day 138 sep 8 tue
Welding – third time I’m coming. Wait again. But happens. Internet – try to find our scene about travel writing – Smriti gives tips. ppl shocked that I’m still on trip – shams talks about his plans – forge ktop permit – Am thinking of them on Stok-Kangri

Day 139 sep 9 wed
Leh – Ktop – Leh
Have breakfast and leave – 3 bikes – Shams happy am coming – Am designated ridemaster – Ride up – dramatic views – keep stopping. Have one snowball fight with Yoran. Reach the top. Yoran and Shams eat. Meet 5 mumbaikars from RCF on unicorns who have done bbay- ktop in 9 days. Am instant celebrity. Take photos with me! Walk up and take photos. Am enjoying myself, but time is passing quickly. Already on top for more than 40 mins. Yoran is falling asleep.

week 21 logs

Day 141 sep 11 fri
Leh – Nimmo – Chilling
71 km
Wake up. Say bye to Yoran and Shams – headed to Tso Moriri. Watch film and talk lots to Prabhat – he also wants to ride from Goa to Shillong now. Show him how to read map and plan route – tips on riding and gear etc. dump stuff including camera bag. Bags full.. where and what to dump?

Leave at 12. Go to Internet and tell ananya am off. Ride out of Leh is too intense. Rearview is dramatic. Ride to Nimmo was too intense – emotional – to almost tears.

At Magnetic Hill, ride up the hill – no use. Go park in the box. Switch off engine – bike moves up. Lil shocked. Go back and do again. Happens again. Ride almost 5 kms without starting. Cross pather saheb and come to Chilling turnoff. Take it.
More dramatic scenes – riding along Indus. More emo – dunno whats wrong. I thot I had recharged visual cortex. See rafters – water looks so so only for rafting. Many beaches.

Stop at Chilling 1 and take photo. Reach Chilling and go beyond. Road looks desolate. Stop incoming scooter man and ask. Says nothing ahead only road. Road being built to Zanskar – get hopeful, but he says will take years. Head back and head into village – end up at river bed. Village is up the hill. Ask someone who says ask at shop. Shop says yes room. Shopman says he got me back – till then hadn’t realized it was him! Too many faces seen - Room is big room with just mattresses on floor, no electricity even. Bathroom is open air no door enclosure. You decide rate he says (Gumbo) – I says 100. Ok. Have tea and ‘roti’. Come to room and fall asleep! Chilling is known for copper work – tea and chang pots among them. Try copying photos but battery goes. Phone also battery gone.

Woken up at 8.30 (prefixed dinner time). Rice sabzi. Two phirangs also. Eat in silence. Have no idea what time it is. Go back to sleep!

Day 142 sep 12 sat
Wake up and watch sun rise move across the hills. Have tea and sit watching river. Cows and Yows (yak + cow breeded for more milk) chill on river beach. I join them. They leave in a while. Have breakfast.

Go for village walk – Wild rose and leh berry. Test beery with rudraksh (+ve) and then eat. Tangy, sweet, chewy. Keep picking and eating entire day. Walk in and around the fields – wheat. Want to check out copperware, but no ‘workshop’ in sight. Chance upon a group whose guide is also looking for copper family, 4 families in village who do copperwork. Main one not there, so smaller one who have only spoons. Buy one. Gang is NRI techies from Umrica on holiday. Had gone on 4 day trek (with 5 helpers!).

Head back and read bhagwad gita. Engrossed and decide not to leave. Think about popping, but decide against. Too intense already. Fall asleep. Wake up at 4 and have tea. Gumbo amused at amount of sleep. Walk up to the village. Village is bigger than I thought. Meet locals on way who ask usual. Ask if bike is mine! Take photos. On way back, yow and I meet. Stare at each other, Yow turns and walks back!

Head back and continue reading – Dinner time head down – Gumbo is not keen on cooking and despite making sounds about Maggi, I give in. He cooks and we talk. Rafting is not good now, less water. 70-80 ppl only in village. Once Darcha – Padum – Chilling road opens, no cold weather road blockage. TV was removed coz ppl would not work and just watch. Drunk gref guy joins us.

Come out – Sky is mind blowing, mountains all around with galaxies twinkling. Take photos. Walk to river – shiver. walk to river – shiver –Head back and dry up and slither into sleeping bag. Brief ponder about possibility of madness. Watch black bug lay still. Read BG. Do Osho Oos and blank out.

Day 143 sep 13 sun
Chilling – nimmo – khaltse – lamayuru – Fotula – kargil
228 km
Wake – no tea shop closed- pack – wait –Talk to Gurdaspur punju gref worker boy- both far way from home - breakfast –settle bill – 350 for 2 days including food :D Gumbo gone to Leh to get supplies. bus only twice a week sun+wed - leave – Back on NH. Decide to do Chaddar road , though in Summer. Road is broken. Cross Bagso castle.

Moon place is still freaky, but now just one more awesome landscape. Keep passing phirang couple who ride very very slowly; probably coz rider has half face helmet, and except a 30 min period, where I had to remove jacket, its bloody cold. Full cloud cover today. See crowded Lamayuru and decide not to enter – monasteries after a while are different paintings and size and form of Buddha. Tea shop ppl are excited and give tips about Padum and where to stay in Kargil – Ge Zozila they say. Shopkeeper notices extra helmet. Lots of people notice that and ask.

Pass GREF boys jackhammering side of hill – watch. This is how the roads begin.
PPl are chaffing the wheat. Groups of ppl do the farming together – like a commune.

Cross Fotula – highest point on this road – 13479 ft. Windy. Terrain changes to dusty mud-rock mountains. Camera getting jacked. Wish pillion was there to take photos. Yak couple. Male? Outwits me and covers the other! Ppl chaffing all over. Season is finishing and produce must be cleaned and stored for winter. Ppl bury stuff like potatoes etc. underground and then dig and use as needed. See cool wind powered prayer wheels. Also waterstream powered mini prayer wheels.

Cross Namikala – 12198 ft. At some places, there are pipes in the hills, which are used to fill up tanks. Villages pass by, the terrain becoming gentler and the flora thicker and more colorful. More birds too.

Hungry. Almost eat my chocolate cookies, but Wakha Wado comes. Stop opp. Previous stop. Have tea and khari. Usual questions, but this time from man who lived in Bangalore. Studied there, worked a while in Accenture, got fed up of timings, and came back and joined father’s construction business. Talk about cities and other things.

15 kms from Kargil, stop for photo. Meet Murad Ali, who speaks Purki (Baltic dialect). Seems Drass ppl speak their own, Batalik their own and so on. Eventually get to know his dilemma in life – couldn’t get married to his girlfriend as both parents were against. Got married, 3 years now, has a kid too, but still hung up and from conversation, still ‘seeing’ the girlfriend. Wife ke saath jamtha nahin hai and going home is unbearable. Roza is on, so wont drink even water. Head to kargil.

Last time, cold welcome is not there. Just another town. Go to Ge Zozila. 800, becomes 700. Decide to see room. Small double room. No TV also. Balls I’m paying 700. 3 polish bikers fixing their mega bikes. Say good luck and leave. Head into town. Speedometer case has come off. Mechanic can’t find appr. Screw. See another hotel Siachen something. Again 800; this time I don’t even bother seeing. Head into main market and see guest house sign. Head towards that, and stop in middle of junction. Ask someone where it is; man says come with me, I also have hotel ‘caravan sarai’ (stayed there last time) 400 bucks, I say ok and go with him.

Dump stuff and head back to market to ATM and Internet. ATM is ok. Withdraw last of monies. Internet won’t happen until after Iftar. Wander around market. Lots of shops selling kebabs and cookers selling soup + paya (I think). Walk into hotel and have to wait for veg food. Mutton kati and roti is ready, but veg have to wait. Wait and eat. Entire town is eating right now. Head to Internet and check stuff.

Head back and dump photos. No space on comp. Delete crap and move stuff to hdd. Update logs. Wondering why we don’t make travel films, considering all we do is travel and watch films. Its 11 and mullahs are still going full on. Hope I wake up in time. Tomorrow will be another battering ride.

Day 144 sep 14 mon
Kargil – Sanko – Damsala – Nunkun - Parkchik- Rangdum
133 km
Wake up with light fever. Wonder whether to leave today or not. Have breakfast and feel better. Pack. Hotel guys very helpful. Give tips on route and also empty bottle. Say to stay at Rangdum. Confused about whether to take extra petrol or not. Some say u get at Padum, some say u don’t. Head out to buy cans. Had left my 5 and 10 lt plastic cans back at Leh. Who knew I was doing Padum! Though it’s only 240 kms from Kargil, it’s a broken road ride. Find can shop but flimsy cans. Old man who’s been around strikes long convo. Decide not to take those flimsy cans after Manali Leh leakage. Ride around trying to find 2 ltr coke bottles. Can’t find, only 1.5 and that’s pointless, I think.Eventually say fuck it and head to Petrol pump.

At petrol pump, meet caravan sarai guy filling petrol. He asks friend to show me the Padum road, as usual road is blocked and u got to go round. Friend is a vet from Jammu working at Animal husbandry center. Ask him what the cross breeds are called; the yows are called Zho mo or just zhos locally. Petrol pump guy gives 5 lts oil can, yay. Full tank and 5 lts. Also gives plastic to cover the lid! He also adds to the list of people who have told me Zanskar is mighty cold.

Head off, drop friend at animal husbandry place and ride on. Still metaled road so good. It’s a nice morning, rather mid. Its almost 11.30 now.

At some village, ask only shop if he has tea. Says yes, I stop to find out he meant tea leaves. Have a Jumpin pineapple and head. At Sanko, bigger village/town, ask two guys if where u get tea. One says Roza ka time, so no tea. Other guy says you may find in that shop. That shop has a curtain at door. Enter and ask shopman. He says yes. A man with a girl kid are having tea. I step out and watch people and warm in sun. Lots of kids. Shopman comes out and calls me in. Tells me to sit and have tea. Probably don’t want to tempt the roza keeping guys! Another guy kinda hides behind the counter and has khari and tea. Its ok I guess; its extremely difficult to work without food in your belly in this cold.

Head out.. the kids here are different. Very few lo-fives, but more waves and random shouts when u pass. The road stops being a road soon, broken stuff. Pass through farms where chaffing and collecting work is in full flow. Wild rose and berry bushes galore, with the quintessential river flowing by the side. The Suru valley.

As I take a turn near Damsala, everything changes. Two magnificent icecapped, snow laden peaks loom ahead. Emo moment. Stop a passerby and ask him which mountains these are. He says something, I repeat, he shakes head, I ask him to spell it out. It’s the Nunkun. Is surprised I didn’t know. It’s a twin peak, nun and kun. Both about 7135m, that’s 23,545ft. JFC. Highest peak I know of that I have seen. Says quite popular with climbers, though very few have done it. He used to be a guide. Ask him if he has climbed it. Says ‘sawaal hi nahin utna hai’ – too difficult. Assume it’s not as difficult as Nandadevi (Tenzing had said Nandadevi was the most difficult he ever climbed. Everest is easy when compared!) As a precaution, he looks at me and says you need permission to climb it. I laugh. Say I can’t even walk a km in these areas, forget climbing.

Stop at checkpost just ahead. Give name, license number and bike number. After 10 years, I know my driving license by heart now! 3 little girls come up. One places a half broken rayban on the window sill and say pen. I say I don’t have. They say chocolate. I have just one, and I hold it out. All hesistate, so I place it on the window sill beside glares, and one pounces on it. Talk to the guard, random usual stuff. Everyone keeps asking me if I’m traveling alone and then about the second helmet. About 50 ppl so far (from Manali onwards!) – all know about ananya;s dad’s illness.

Ride on – this group of villages has lots of kids, all running around. So far 3 of them have tried to trip me over holding magnetic tape across the road and lifting it when I approach. When I brake, all of us have a good laugh. Lots of really pretty girls around – kashmiri I guess, and some mixed breeds, can’t says whether kashmiri or ladakhi. After Katmandu, the next place where such rampant beauty. Oh, there was a good stretch of road for 5 kms near damsala, and now its back to broken stony road. But the ride is dramatic with icecaped mountains all around, the river in the middle, and the red, green, yellow, orange, violet patches of soil and foliage. Its gotten quite cold. Ride around the Nun-Kun and keep going. Soon no more close grouped villages, except the road guys at random places or otherwise no humans for kms in a stretch. If there are cows, zhos, sheep, goats, rams, or the occasional yak and horse on the road, they gallop away when I approach. Funny to see cows gallop. I never thought cows could run so fast.

Cross Parkachik and such villages or rather settlements (too small to call them villages!). Some places have JnK tourism Alpine huts. Around 3.30 a cold wind starts blowing. Nothing to do with time, but valleys I guess. Chuck the beanie and use my new army balaclava. Its clumsy and I somehow end up breathing through my mouth.

Another checkpoint and he tells me I can reach Padum by 10.30! Rangdum it is for today I think. At some point, I see red flags on the road. As I approach them, from nowhere a man appears and tells me to wait, while he hails unseen ppl up the hill. It seems blasting had happened yesterday and today they are clearing it. This continues for a stretch of 10 kms. At yet another awesome icecap view, I stop and eat some chocolate cookies and take photos of myself.

The sun is sinking, the temp falls, and the wind gets colder. Rangdum is about 10 kms away, when fields pop up, with ppl working in them. One hails me and asks where I’m going and If I’m staying at Rangdum to check out ‘something’. I repeat the name wrongly as usual. Then he says also Dorje guesthouse. I say tell me one and how much. He says normally 300, but Indian ho toh 200. Ask if he wants lift. He says no, I’ll come later, have to work. About 30 ppl are working in groups all across the valley, collecting grass.

About 5 kms from Rangdum, a group calls out and I wave. Somehow feels more at peace, when I know I can say Julley and everyone knows. Had got confused near Kargil, where I just nodded to everyone I passed. That’s another new thing – I nod, wave or call out Julley to all I pass, sometimes even animals! This waving was somehow different, so I stop. A girl comes running down and says Rangdum chodo. She hops on briskly, while I stabilize the bike with all the wrist strength I have left.
Calls out to everyone on the route. Happy I guess. There are iron ass rides and now there are iron wrist rides (forget the iron back or spine parts, that u need anyway – thank god for the yoga TTC, my spine would have collapsed ages ago otherwise).

As I enter Rangdum, a village of about 20 houses nestled in this valley surrounded by snowcaps, a lady beckons me. I slow down but go ahead. Am sure she has a homestay too, but the guy had said the ‘something’ guest house was after the TCP checkpost, and I already have some sense of ‘loyalty’. Drop the girl off at the TCP and give the name, license, bike to the old guard. He has a radio on, and India is batting. Surrealness seeps in, and I ask whats the score etc. Seems Sachin has made another century. Yay. Do the usual chitchat and the second helmet story. Ask him where Dorjee GH is and its across the school hut. Ride to it and see NunKun guest house board. So it was Nunkun. So different when they say it. A lady comes and shows me the room, which is basically the living room. Its fine, but no electricity, but they have light with car battery. I don’t think I will get any better, so I ask how much. She looks at me and says 200 without food, and 300 with. I say fair enough and unpack bike. Everything is covered and soaked (yes its possible) in dust.

She asks if rice is ok for dinner; I say yes and please some tea first. She asks Lipton or mita. I says Mita. Lipton is the namkeen chai. She steps in the house and comes out with a pail. Goes behind the house and starts milking a cow!

Dump stuff inside the house and come out to see the sun set. Venus is shining bright. All around the cows, sheep etc. are being herded in, and people are returning with the grass bundles on their backs. One by one, lights come up in the houses, all car battery operated. I have my tea and walk down to the TCP and sit listening to score. In 5 mins, my feet are numb, despite the woolen socks. Its dark now and the houses and the sky is lit like a british Christmas tree. I can even recognize the patterns in the sky now. The same starting points of some stars and that galaxy in the middle. I trudge back to the house and read the BG. Around 8, a guy pops his head in and says pahuch gaye. I’m like huh, then I think it’s the same guy who told me abt the place, only I can’t remember his face! Around 8.30, dinner is served – rice and sabji dal, with a huge bowl of curd. Eat half, when another guy comes and asks if I want more. I give him plate, which comes back with double the rice. Somehow manage to stuff it all in. Original guy asks if I have mobile. I say yes, but doesn’t work. He says can you set alarm for 3 a.m. I am baowlaoed and ask him why. He says kaam hai.

I read for a bit and pass out.
(writing this after 4 days. took 1 hr to recall and write!)

Day 145 sep 15 tues
Rangdum – Anshu – Penzila – Phey - Saini - Padam
141 km
Wake up around 7.30. It’s a crisp morning. climb two ladders and get to roof of guesthouse. take
village photos. Ask about chortens and stone writings. Chortens are temples only. Writings are just like that. Like ppl tie threads etc.

As i head out, bunches of kids heading to school. They wave, i wave back, but one lot waves differently. Stop to ask what. One kid runs and practically clambers onto bike. And another one tries to follow - i nahi him off, the third friend will have to walk alone! Talk to the kid. wants to become a teacher. Drop him off at the bottom of rangdum gompa (monastery). There's an army post at the bottom beside a chorten memorial to 3 monks who were killed by 'enemy agents'. It's a mixed group of army guys- get prasad and tea; say no to breakfast. one guy from nasik; we talk in marathi. to pass time, they play volleyball, watch tv, play cards. Around 12, wind picks up. I joke so you fly kites, they say that also we cant do, they'll tear. Why are u going? its all banjar zameen. visit the gompa that you're here. I say uff not now.

Cross a valley full of color and marmots, families of them. try to take picture of a hole which one disappears into. Ride up Penzila. Icecaps all around. realize camera lens cover is missing, return 12 kms, back, no lid, penzila crossing, glacier, walk up and take pictures. sit there for 30 mins. a Lorry driver also stops and takes pictures from his phone. a stupa appears in the middle. crossing over from 'mozzie' territory into buddhist. enter zanksar valley, boring road, cows on road stop to drink water from the streams,

At a village, ppl sitting on ground do the different wave again. Stop. A old man in a monk looking outfit comes running and clambers on. And thanks me profusely. touches my face in gratitude. Is scared; when a rough part comes, he holds tighter and says om mani padme hum. Suddenly asks sharaab pite ho. i shake my head. he opens dress flap and shows flask, aise. i shake and say no. Wants to get off at Phey. Stop to drop him and he asks if i want sharaab again. i shake, he says paisa, i shake again. again the verbal and facial thanks and then he touches my feet. I say nahin nahin and move bike. Someone in a window nearby is laughing.

Stop ahead in village at an open shop and ask where i can get tea. They say nowhere. I anyway get off to take break and see what i can drink eat from the shop. They then say something in ladakhi? (can't be sure - here almost every village has its own language/dialect!) and then say go with this man, this man being a monk looking man. I am like no no, thakleef mat karo; but they insist. I think they are taking the lama's ass and shake head. They go quiet, so i say ok. Walk with the man, who turns out to be the lama/priest for this village. Go to his house and he makes tea for me. Life coming full circle - to think of all the priests and ilk i have made tea for :)
Sit and talk to him. Name is lama bicchi. My current 'saati nahin?' response of 'mein aur uparwala' evokes LoLs. Tells me to go check out zangla and karcha, and at karcha have tea with lama wangbo, who's his nephew. I take down memo. Can't remember the names. I give offering, which he refuses.

Padum is still a good 40 kms away, and I'm tiring. Its been a brutal ride. The villages are grouped closer. Town approaching. Kids returning from school. The wind picks up like no one's business along with the cold. Road work ppl are huddled behind rocks and even on the non-wind facing side of a road roller! 6 kms from Padum, paved tar road. woohoo, after 100 kms! Stop at Jnk tourism, which has place but only for a day, after that all booked caretaker says. I ask some kids whats the next best place. They say kailash. I anyway do usual town recce, but all hotels are grouped at start of town and some random guesthouse elsewhere. Head back and ask at kailash. they say closed yesterday for season, try in ibex. I go to ibex. has room. shows one but 500. i say boss single aadmi, cheaper. he says indian toilet, im like chalega! Dump stuff and get hot water and wash the dust of 2 days. Elec is supposed to come from 5 pm to 6 am, but nothing so far.

I step out for a walk, but the wind is howling now, bringing the cold from the snowcaps straight into the bones. Shops all around are shutting like riot affected shut like wildfire, wind wind wind howling cold wind. Cold cold. Ask where i will get petrol. they say puncture shop, but wont get now. its over. maybe after two days. I seem to have enough, but u neer know.

Step out for dinner at shop next door. 10 steps and im already frozen cold. Only food left is rice chana. No electricity coz of bad weather. Snuggle inside blanket and read BG. Pass out.

Day 146 sep 16 wed
Padam – zangla – karcha - padam
94 km
Elec comes at some point at night. Wake up at 3. Watch films. Have breakfast – feed rabbits. Talk to other guy, who's a guide for trekkers. Lamayuru to padum to darcha is 11 and 9 days. Total cost more than a lac. Mostly Europeans. In off season, goes to goa, then Nepal. Finish BG. Feel good, but still don’t know what. Petrol scene looks dicey. Ppl say need atleast 10. Might just make it. Pack day bag. Give dusty clothes for wash.

Leave for zangla. Good road. School kids – one behind, one on back carrier. Third climbs but bhagao. Pass stongay. Petrol seems to finish quickly. Reach zangla. Ride ahead, ask army jeep. Head back and into town. No one in sight. Ride to gompa. It’s a nunnery with gate closed. Head pops out. I head back, when they call. Park and walk up. Chomos cleaning stones using rope spade technique. Darshan. About 17 girls. Show other temple. Kids memorizing loudly. Show only apricot tree in zanksar. Take photo to show to lama wangbo. Bicchi is quite famous in these parts. Class going on. Lama jamyang. Kids from class 1 to 5. After that they go elsewhere. Jamyang has also studied for 3 years in benaras. Have tea. Both kinds. Refuse bread. Usual questions. Uparwala evokes smiles. Local man says we don’t feel cold. The biharis etc road guys start lighting the fire as soon as they get up. Even when there is (raises hand to show height – almst 6 ft), they still carry on doing whatever they do. Head to front area to say bye to first chomos. Ask who to say said apricot. After hestitation, wangmo. Mo is girl, bo is boy. Julley and head out to palace.

Wrong road, passerby says go back and up. Find route. Reach base. Old snobby couple climbing up with guide. Walk up slowly and then take pictures of palace and dramatic view. Major French help here. Helped rebuild chorten. Horses pack of trekkers go past. Sit for a while and take in dramatic views. You look and wonder about life and everything. No wonder these regions are so religious or spiritual. You cant help it.

Ride down back to padam. In middle stop to drink water and eat karn’s chikki. Sit for 15 mins. Just sitting, looking and listening to the wind and the river. U can just sit and not do anything for a long long time. Cold seeps in despite sun at noon. Head back. Petrol scene looks bad. Take turn off near padam for karcha. Those white spots on the faraway hill is actually the monastery. Take the road up to the monastery and enter the gate. Abt 15 monks sitting and cutting branches of poplar. Julley all and usual where from, how many, how long, why etc. uparwala makes them all laugh. Tell me to go have tea. Dirty cup and butter salty tea. There’s a whiteman helping them stack up the cut pieces. Name is Matt from England. Used to be a sports teacher, but now travels around world and teaches English wherever he can. Has been to south korea for a year, Nepal for 5 months and now teaches English here for the last 2 months, but will head home soon as visa is expiring and cant even go to Nepal as he has finished the foreigner limit of being in Nepal of 5 or 6 months. Talk to him for quite a bit, exchanging stories. Yoga, mountaineering, places in India, My visit to the UK, experiences of traveling as a ‘way of life’, what his folks say, when he will stop, how the momentum and constanscy of travel takes u to a place where u don’t know when to stop. Except for the visa and money constraints.

Stuttering old Lama gives darshn of 2000! yr old temple at foot of monastery. There’s a packed mandala that will go away to some place in a couple of days. Lama Wangbo isn’t here, has gone someplace. Come out and sit with monks talking to them and Matt. A girl with a few chomos comes, and talks to Matt, in a Bombay accent! Matt says even she is teaching English in some nunnery up north. After mustering breath, I walk up to the top of monastery and take in views. Main temple is locked but I knew that. Didn’t want to bother the working monk with the key. Walk back down and have lipton tea and goodday packet at 3 p.m. Young lama says why you didn’t see top temple. That bombay girl had key (crossed them when coming down); also adds that she said she’s bipashu basu’s elder sister! They are going to build a new room for guests who come visit. Even this place is helped by a French group. Have helped rebuild the kitchen and the dining room (doesn’t look like it, but there are some letters on the notice board showing a before and after; so am assuming it was much worse before).

Write down details of yoga course and mountaineering course for Matt and go sit by myself looking down at the valley. You can see the Stongay monastery to the left, Padam on the right and two rivers meeting in the middle, with snowcaps all around.

At 4.30, the wind picks up. I julley all, and say I have to go do jugad for petrol and can’t stay. Maybe will come tomorrow if possible. Ride back to Padam. On way, two kids wave out saying bike school. Same kids I dropped in the morning, now hanging out. This region is similar to Leh but a lil different. Everyone waves or wave when u nod.

Stop near the puncture shop to ask if petrol is available. They say nope, its closed and anyway no petrol in town and no idea when. Man says he can get for 100 bucks a ltr. I joke and say at this rate, he can open his petrol pump soon. He says that’s what he got it for, and come tomorrow morning. A group of teens stop by and ask what. I say petrol. One guy says let me ride the bike. I say nope. He says no ride, no petrol. I ignore him. Park bike outside hotel, dump stuff and go to find a phone. Two internet places in town and both shut. Call ananya but it says her incoming is shut off. Call mom and talk. Main news is death of my godfather. Am more worried about dad; his best friend now in the ground. Grandmother is with mom, speak to her too. She too wants to see me before she moves on. My last grandparent, and she has outlived so many uncles and aunts, but then again she’s only 2 yrs older than dad – thanks to child marriages.

Walk around. Chat with shoepolish guy who’s from Jammu. A maths teacher at the French-italian run school also chats. Says I can also go to some cooler places, but will have to trek for a couple of days. I say some other time. Walk around the market, window looking. Find this place selling king size Malaysian? Cigs for 20 bucks a pack. Smoke one – feel hit. We all joke about color of filter matching my face, and how this feels like smoking ganja. Have samosa and tea. Start reading Old paths, white clouds. Around 6.30, electricity comes. Notice there is no snarling wind today. Just breeze and cold. Dump photos, clean sensor of camera. Camera has dust spots, and display has a few scratches. I hope I don’t have to end up buying subbu a new camera, not that I can afford it now. And to think I wont find a camera cover till Srinagar – which is another 3-4 days away. Till then I have to use it wrapped in a cloth. Don’t feel like writing, so lay down and watch a film till 8 and go eat dinner. Come back, watch more and …

Day 147 sep 17 thu
At 4.30, someone knocks on door. Wake up and ask who. Says nadeem the caretaker. Open door and he gives me keys to 104, says 102 ka tank has frozen, so I wont get water. If I want, I can go to 104. I say thanks and go back to sleep. Wake up at 5.45 and watch rest of film. At 6, go and have tea. Start writing the logs since kargil. Its 8.30 now and I’m still writing. Have had breakfast, fed the rabbits (who have no names). Will go check out petrol scene at 9. May leave today itself or maybe not.

Read opwc. Nice one. Fall asleep and wake up at 3. Have lunch. Go to find 100 rs petrol guy. Hasn’t opened. Walk around. Get shoes polished. Watch cricket match. Hotel guy sends person to show petrol shop. Seems petrol has come to town, but now shop is closed. Another guy shows the house he might be in. almost everyone around hotel know my petrol scene now! Walk to the house; no one answers knocks. Walk behind to ppl getting ‘kali mutter’ out of chaff. Boy takes to room where petrolman has gone out and I’ll get petrol only tomorrow at 9. Walk back dodging imaginary bullets and real apricots from a little boy. Throw back some bombs. Go for my ‘walk’ and watch cricket being played with cork ball by teens. Sun is setting casting nice glows on the glaciers and snowcaps. Go to new shop to have tea and strike up convo with these 3 biker boys from delhi. All from BCM touring forum, one of them its moderator. Chat a bit, then decide to meet later at closeby bar. Come back and pick up shoes. Talk more. Another shoe polish man in town (there are 3) is from Khar Road!

Meet at bar, where they pick up booze. No soft drinks or snacks, so they pick up from outside. Then they get to know that drinking is 100 bucks more, so we head to their room in JnK tourism. They drink, I drink coke. Talk about bikes, delhi, money, my petrol shortage, routes, superbikes and their scene in India, other biking clubs. Again Praveen kumar’s name comes up. Seems he too has done a 6 month all India trip J we exchange cards and they ask me to join them on their ride back- will put up the req petrol. I tentatively agree and decide to meet later for dinner. It’s almost 10.30 when we meet and walk to the only open place where they say chowmein only, or go down the road and try another place. We head there, threatening to come back if that’s closed. Other place is open and we order fried rice, soup etc. Chat abt dubbed films being funny, casting couches, sachin, biker clubs, abuse those bald fuckers on MTV Roadies.. get back to room at 11.30. pack 95% of stuff, and watch film. Wake up on and off and watch film.