Day 141 sep 11 fri
Leh – Nimmo – Chilling
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
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
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
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
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.