This isn't a comfortable cruise on the Mediterranean. Neither is it a herded package tour to Europe. Nor is it a fast bus ride to the Taj. For miles at length, there is no guarantee of food, roads or people. Rocks and mud could slide down the slopes any time. Roads can also turn into rivers any time. If your vehicle breaks down in the middle of nowhere, you could be stranded for hours. There is uncertainty at every step. And it gets accentuated when one is on a motorcycle. And yet we wanted to do it. Why?
It all began in the winter of 2009 when me and three other Pegus- Ankur, Beni and Sukamal- just happened to mention our "plans" (mostly wishful thinking) to go to Leh the next year and how we should just all go together rather than bump into each other at the top. It wasn't about going there because everyone else was doing it or because we had any machoistic notion of achievement on getting to the top of the "highest motorable road" at Khardung-La. It could have been the seduction of the beauty seen through pictures taken by other people who have been there. It could have been that inexplicable itch to go out for some adventure and take a break from our mundane everyday city lives. It could also have been the need to be shaken out of our warped ideas of reality. Also, Leh is almost like a pilgrimage for most bikers- maybe we also wanted to check out what the hype was about. We are curious. We are young. We are definitely restless. We had to go.
I guess no one really had an answer to why we wanted to do it- but we did. And why not? Over the next few months, there were many emails that went back and forth about this and invitations sent to friends to join us. I was in Delhi, Ankur and Suku in Mumbai and Beni in Singapore- and we were grouping forces. The discussions culminated into a Facebook group, Skype conference calls, detailed maps, pdfs and even more emails. The planning was immaculate. All the gear was bought. the D-day was near. Our scheduled departure date was August 8th, 2010. There had been reports of landslides on the route on August 5th. And then disaster struck in the region on August 6th- 2 days before departure.
There were a few of us who were nearly adamant to go to Leh nevertheless. But this trip was not going to be about "being there, done that" or adding points on "Places you've been" and filling 100s of photos in our Facebook albums. Despite our disappointment and shock, most of us felt that it would be highly insensitive to go to Leh in such conditions where people have lost lives and property and there would be gloom all around. What kind of celebration would it be? What kind of achievement would it really be? Reports in any case suggested that this disaster was possibly the result of increasing human interference in that region. Mother Nature had spoken- and we needed to take the hint.
So, just 30 hours before departure, I & Beni started looking at maps of Himachal and alternative routes that we could take. Admittedly, spirits were low but we had already decided that we would still ride somewhere to the mountains. I had seen pictures and read few articles on the Lahaul and Spiti valleys but probably our decision was finally based on how much more probable it would be for us to get AMS (Acute Moutain Sickness) in the region. Saturday was spent convincing every one that this is going to be worth it- even though they were being hopelessly optimistic about the roads opening up to Leh.
There were many more who were in the original plan but unfortunately for them, they could not join us on this trip that is going to be etched in our memories forever. In the end, we were 7 of us who were ready to head out to the hills on Sunday, August 8th 2010. Our bikes were as eclectic a group as us- I took my trusty first-gen Pulsar 150, Beni san brought his brother's Avenger 200, Suku san borrowed his friend's Pulsar 200, Bijoor san stayed faithful to his '94 spec Bullet 350. Alok got his Karizma and Dev and Kaustabh rented RE Thunderbirds. By the end of Saturday, all the bikes were prepped to roll out early next morning.
All we really knew is that we were going to the mountains. Call it the spirit of adventure or hard-foolery, but we were definitely excited even if Leh hadn't worked out. What we were going to hear the first day of our trip defined the next 13 days after it.