Sorry readers that it took so much time, but then I write only when I get the urge to write.. So we shall look back a bit into our adventure so far…
After our wonderful time at Tabo we had managed to reach Kaza somehow with Dhanno suffering from a hip replacement surgery (i.e. shocker). We were now stationed at Kaza for two days and it meant we couldn’t risk going to Key monastery, though the others were not much interested in, something that they all regret now.
Scottish Highlands in India !!!
We spent the next day servicing our motorcycles and resting as me and Riya was suffering from fever. The others enjoyed their stay at the wonder that is Kaza. That night in Kaza we celebrated in the rooftop. With the moon shining brightly and reflecting on the huge mountains hovering majestically Ritinkar rightly quoted “It feels as if we are in Egypt“. I or to be exact we can never really explain the experience of that night to anyone who was not present that day and nor can anyone else understand. We drank, danced, romanced the beauty of the night, wished with our eyes closed on spotting a shooting star, shared each others stories and just lived the moment to the maximum.
We learnt on that very night that Ritinkar had prepared his resignation letter to join this trip, how Brajesh had lied about a medical examination to go to this trip and how Akash had fought with his family to do the trip. While we were enjoying and sharing our memories Bikashbhai had hired two guys to give him a massage to relieve him off the body pain. We partied hard till late night and as if there was no tomorrow.
But then hell, we were going to Chandrataal the next day. It was going to be an experience that we would remember the rest of our lives.
“The gladdest moment in human life, me thinks, is a departure into unknown lands.”
The next day we left the sleepy town of Kaza and rode further ahead into the unknown with Spiti river as our sole companion. They said Spiti was the Scotland of the East and surely it seemed so with the lush green fields amidst the barren rock mountains.
The roads after Kaza were a bit better compared to our previous experience and we rode through Rangrik, Losar and by 12 noon was looking upto Kunzum La at the distance. Ritinkar, Brajesh and Akash took a deadly shortcut through the steep mountain terrain and saved maybe a kilometer but earned much more in adventure. But I couldn’t try the same due to being the heavier motorcycle and also since Dhanno was fresh out of hip replacement (read Shocker replacement) surgery.
We reached Kunzum La and celebrated our first high pass with some clicks. The view of the Kunzum Stupas against the backdrop of the monstrous Kunzum glacier was a view to withhold. We met a guy over there who owned a few tented accommodations at Chandrataal.
After spending quite sometime we started on our way down from Kunzum La towards Batal. The rode down from Kunzum was a nightmare but then an adventure junkies dream road. Little rocks and boulders strewn randomly made the descent all the more nerve-wracking and exciting. We reached the diversion from where we were to take the road towards Chandrataal.
A few crazy clicks and a cigarette later we were on our way. Those 12.5 kilometers was one of the most adventurous and frightening roads I have ever rode upon. It was a gravel, stone and boulder layered road with a ominous looking mountain on one side and a steep fall on the other side. The road was very narrow and we had to be extra cautious because a small slip would mean a free fall into the Chenab. We crossed two massive nallahs and the Royal Enfield boot covers proved how worthless they were as our shoes and socks got completely wet.
Brajesh seemed a bit nervous while crossing the nallahs and his motorcycle stopped in the middle. Nonetheless, we reached the camping space around a kilometer and a half before Chandrataal.
There were quite a handful of tents available. After looking for a bit we found one campsite which seemed empty and cozy. It was owned by a warm,hospitable and talkative guy named Tenzing. After some prolonged bargaining we agreed to Rs.1400/- per head for lodging and fooding in his camp.
The tents pitched against the mighty mountains was a sight to behold and now we thanked our fate for bringing us to the wonder that is Spiti. After some tea and a warm bowl of maggi we unsaddled our luggage and then rode to Chandrataal. The road to Chandrataal was pretty bad but we reached anyhow jumping and flying.
We parked our motorcycles in a parking space of sorts and then started the trek towards the lake. It was an approximately kilometer long trek but then walking at 14000 feet was a tough job. We walked for half and hour before the first view of the turquoise blue lake came up and it was a relief for our sore eyes. Chandrataal also known as the Moon Lake has no visible source of water but still gets water from underneath. The lake is the definition of serene and peaceful. There were not a single soul except the six of us at the lake. We freshened ourselves and then the rest, except me and Bikash, went for a walk round the lake. I was not feeling too comfortable walking and hence decided to rest and wait for them to come back. Riya, Akash, Ritinkar and Brajesh went off while I and Bikash sat on the lake shore chatting and listening to music. A few minutes later the four took a turn along the lake and disappeared. Bikash was fast asleep and snoring and there were no one except me. I turned on the mobile and played music..
I don’t want pickle, Just wanna ride my motorsickle(read motorcycle) !!!
As Arlo Guthrie hummed his Motorcycle Song I just realised the reason why we ride our motorcycle and ride to such far off places, spend nights at tents and live on noodles and stuff. We ride out to experience such feelings and that is something we cannot make anyone else understand.
A herd of wild horses came towards us before drinking water from the lake and then going back to their home. I was just too overwhelmed with emotions and felt like this was where I should have stayed my life. It was just like I had reached heaven and I thanked the weather for having forced us to do Spiti.
We would have missed out on an incredible experience if not for the flash floods and rains. A few minutes later an Israeli joined and befriended us. They were camping just on the shores of the lake and were coming back from a walk by the lake. We chatted for quite a bit and then they left. Bikash was already up and there were lots of people arriving at the place disturbing the peace of the place. The four returned after about an hour and a half and we left the lake and rode back to Tenzing’s camping spot. We took some rest inside our tents and I dozed off for quite some time. I woke up to the sounds of the winds howling against my tent. The others had shifted inside the big tent which housed the kitchen and dining space. We spent the whole evening chit-chatting with Tenzing and listening to his stories. After dinner we went back to the tents as the chilly winds turned colder and wilder and I fell asleep listening to the whistling winds.
Dekho cheye, Noyon mele…Jogoter bahar
Din-er aaloy kaate ondhokar !!
The next morning we woke up to the view of the sun rays falling over the icy mountain peaks. The bathroom was unusable and the open field was the only other option. So we checked off another point from my bucket-list i.e. “Doing your morning chores in the wild with huge mountain peaks for company.” After breakfast we saddled up, bid goodbye to Tenzing and the tranquility of Chandrataal and moved ahead to our next destination – Keylong.
The date was 30th July, 2015 and it shall forever stay in our memory as “Nallah Day.” From the time we left Kaza we had heard stories of some dangerous nallah crossings. The most notorious among those was the chhoti-dhara. We started early from Chandrataal and reached Batal after crossing two-three nallahs. Just after Batal, all except me and Ritinkar moved ahead quite fast. We lost our way after taking the straight road and reached a dead end. The main road had been blocked by a landslide. We turned back a little and then took the dirt track road through the banks of the Chenab river before finally getting back on the seemingly main road. We crossed quite a few nallahs, with Brajesh getting nervous all the more, and then we crossed a big nallah. After crossing the nallah we were relieved thinking that chhoti-dhara had been crossed and took a little break. Just then a tourist taxi came from behind. Brajesh asked him if we had crossed chhoti-dhara to which the driver asked us to move fast as it was still ahead and should be crossed as early as possible.
We got up again and bumped, jumped and rode ahead. Around five kilometres later we saw a huge water crossing with two-tier system in place. We saw the taxi driver waiting ahead to guide us through the crossing and realised that chhoti dhara was here. A group of guys in KTM was coming from Manali towards Kaza and they showed us the path to take. Akash crossed first in full throttle managing to hold onto his motorcycle somehow. Bikash moved next and he too crossed after a bit of a trouble. Next was my turn and I too crossed the hurdle after being caught in the middle of the dhara a bit. Brajesh was terrified with the water crossings and it was evident from his face everytime we confronted a nallah. But somehow he crossed it without much trouble. Ritinkar’s motorcycle got stuck on the boulders and Akash tried his best to move it ahead but not with much luck. He finally managed a strong push and Ritinkar almost went ahead and hit the rocks. We were both physically and mentally exhausted and spent some time relaxing and clicking pictures.
I had bought a boot cover to protect the boot from getting wet. The cover had torn off, showing the poor quality that Royal Enfield produces, and my feet was wet completely. After a brief rest we moved ahead and reached Chhatru crossing atleast two dozen nallahs. There was only one shop and we stopped there for a break. We had some cold drinks and chips to soothe our tired souls. We asked the shop owner about the condition of the road ahead and how many more nallahs were there. The shop owner informed that there was only one big nallah and the road would smoothen up ahead. With renewed energy and motivation we started towards Keylong. But we soon realized that the owner just motivated us with false hopes as we kept on crossing one nallah after another and there was no hope of the road getting any better. Brajesh was having some trouble maneuvering his motorcycle in the nallahs and he was pretty dazed. The roads became steeper and the water crossings turned into waters flowing over the road. Bikash twice had a close shave with his motorcycle jumping over and fortunately not landing down the cliff. We kept on moving in the hope that Gramphu would finally bring us some good roads. After about two hour we reached Gramphoo and moved towards Khoksar.
The landscape changed from barren rocky to green-clad mountains as we moved forward and each turn brought in a new landscape. We reached Khoksar at 2 pm and after having lunch and completing the paperworks made our way towards Keylong. The road after Khoksar was being relaid and hence was broken and dusty with lots of traffic. We were dying to ride on tarmacked road after riding for a week through mountains and no roads. Finally, the road broadened up and I felt ecstatic to realise that my motorcycle still had its 4th gear about which I had forgotten almost. We refueled at Tandi petrol pump after a wait of almost an hour at the congested pump. There were lines of trucks, cars and people waiting to refuel as it was the last petrol pump before Leh. We refueled at Tandi, clicked a picture of the famous board and started our final stretch towards Keylong.
“Hey mama, look at me, I’m on my way to the promised land.“
The lines from AC/DC were ringing in my mind..We were finally on our way to the promised land – Ladakh. My dream of five years was finally looking to be fulfilled although God had something else in mind….