Biking to the roof of the world - LADAKH : A Ride to Remember

- Published by Anu 

“The land is so harsh and the passes so numerous, that only the best of friends or the worst of enemies would visit you” – Quote from the Land of passes.

 

Who visited me on my journey? Read below to find out.

 

This place requires no description or adjectives. Rather no adjectives can ever do justice to the insanely gorgeous and heavenly beauty of this place.

And yet here I am, already writing two adjectives for it in the above line. Well I guess there's no other way to write about it unless I use adjectives but lets give it a try.

 

This particular story is on a slightly different tangent unlike those truly dreamy bike rides and endless stunning places (For those ones you can have a look at my Ladakh Gallery images) you would pass by every single day on a bike trip to Leh-Ladakh.

As impulsive as I am when it comes to travel I talked myself into believing that I should just pack my backpack and leave on a bike trip to Leh-Ladakh for 3 weeks. 

Something I had dreamt of since a long time and guess what, I actually did it. It was 25 days of pure bliss and 4000 kms of an epic journey.

Well it's just a case of mind over matter really, isn't it !

 

But ... things din't go exactly as planned...(It never does I guess! phew!)

 

 

On a lovely day we started-off our first main leg of the journey crossing Rohtang Pass. It was as usual choked up with vehicles, trucks and bikes all alike. The slush created by the snow and the mud mixing together made it difficult for bikers to cross the pass without slipping or skidding. Yet after a grueling 5 hours we crossed Rohtang pass and a picture perfect smooth road lay ahead of us. I was in my bestest mood as my journey to Leh had actually begun and no one, mind you no one could stop me now, I was a free soul.

 

 

Click to enlarge the images : 

Rohtang Pass Manali
View from Rohtang Pass

 

A good 2 hours of biking into an extremely sunny afternoon the sun was piercing through the skin. Suddenly our bike started wobbling and as we realized our fears came true. Our front tyre had a puncture.

 

We stopped at the edge of the road, parked the bike on the main stand and started to open up the toolbox to fix the puncture. As soon as we started loosening the bolts from the nuts with the wrenches, we realized the wrench we had wasn't the right size to loosen the nut bolts. We tried different sized wrenches but the nut bolts wouldn't just come off.  Even if we did manage to take it off, we still didn't have an air pump to pump air back into the tube.

 

After trying hard for quite sometime we gave up and thought we could stop some biker or car passing-by to use their toolbox and fix it. After around 20 mins a middle aged uncle was passing by in the opposite direction on his bike. We tried to ask for his help in providing some different sized wrenches, so we could take off the tyre and fix the inner tube.

 

He gladly stepped down from his bike to help us. He took out his tool kit and tried but he couldn't remove the tyre. My friend who was the rider asked the uncle if he could lend his bike so my friend could go to the nearest mechanic which was few kms back on the road we had come from. He immediately agreed without hesitation. My friend asked him to stay with me because he couldn't leave me all alone in the middle of nowhere with nothing but mountains around.

Somebody had to stay along and so the friendly uncle who was from a distant Keylong village gladly obliged to stay back with me.

 

As my friend left with the uncles' bike he immediately got back to trying to remove the bolts and the nuts.

I was sitting at the edge of the road scared being with a stranger. It was my first encounter with a Ladakhi local and I had no idea how to roughly judge or how safe it was to trust people here in this part of the world. But both our gut instincts thought the uncle could be trusted and so we had taken a chance. We had to!

 

He sensed my apprehension and started talking to me making general conversation so I could set my fears aside.

Then suddenly he shouted across the road in the direction of one hut on top of a hill in his native language. Two ladies stepped out of the hut to answer his call. He signaled one of the girls to come down to the road. I thought he was trying to ask for help in terms of some mechanical instruments or something of that  sort, but to my surprise as soon as the girl came near us he asked her to stay with me until my friend was back.


I was stunned!  He looked at me and smiled and asked me to just sit nearby without worrying. I smiled back and thanked him. Completely touched by his generosity and down to earth nature which is so rare to find, I was so glad to have met him.

 

 

 


Keylong Rohtang Manali
The heart shaped waterfall spot where our bike got punctured :)

 

 

It was about two hours since my friend had left in search of a mechanic and hadn't returned back yet. We all started worrying since on our way here we had just crossed a land slide prone area. I was just hoping everything would be fine.

 

I took out 3 apples and we all sat down to eat trying to soothe the heat. Whilst trying to distract my mind temporarily from the anxiety.

Finally after another hour my friend returned back with the mechanic. Within twenty minutes  the mechanic fixed the tube of the tyre and we were good to go.

 

My friend apologized to the uncle  and told us that he had not found a mechanic in the nearby village we had passed by. So he had to ride to another village which was 40 kms to and fro to get another mechanic from there, hence the delay .

The uncle assured us that there was no need to apologize . He wasn't worried about his bike or the delay, but instead was worried about the safety of my friend due to landslides. 

He said that, at the end of the day it was more important for us to find a mechanic to fix the tyre and be on our way than him going to his friends sons marriage!

 

Both of us were shocked to the core. We were staring at each other thinking whether we heard him   right?

Who would have ever imagined a complete stranger who went out of his way to help us at the cost of missing his close friend's sons' wedding?  When we asked him why he dint tell us earlier, he said he knows how difficult things can get in a barren terrain like this where for miles ahead we wont find a single soul in sight if needed.

 

I almost had tears in my eyes. My friend hugged him and thanked him profusely.

I hugged the lovely apple-red cheeked lady and thanked her as well for being such a delightful company. For being an angel and sitting with me despite the harsh sun throughout those 4 hours.

 

The uncle shared his number and invited us over for lunch at his house the next time we come back to Ladakh. He waved us a goodbye as if we were his own kids and wished us a happy journey. He still had an hour more of riding to drop the mechanic back to his village, until he could finally attend the wedding.

 

As I hopped on the bike to finally catch some wind and feel the air, I realized how unexpected life is and how unexpected all the journeys are. What makes them worthwhile is when you meet such people in life. It is such incidents that re-instill our faith in humanity and make the journey more memorable.

 

They taught us the true meaning of the quote :

“Helping others in need is not a responsibility of life, it is what gives meaning to life”

 

Its when I learnt the first thing about the Himalayas and its people, how ironic it was that simplicity still existed amidst the ruthlessness of the nature.

 

 

PS : BUT, the story doesn't end here.

Read the part 2 of the story : Two Punctures and Then Some

 

I am sure many of us have come across such generosity, hospitality and help from completely unexpected people we met on our travels.

Do share such positive experiences in the comments below.

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