Ladakh – Part Two

… After Part 1

Part 2: The damn luggage and a lonely rider

30th May, 2013, Day 1

Those who are fond of Hindi classic movies, must have watched the famous movie Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron [http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0085743/]. Throughout the movie the excellent act of Satish Shah as a dead body and the endless efforts of Nasiruddin Shah and Ravi Vaswani to keep the dead body straight made it a cult movie of Bollywood. Well, the bag tied on my bike’s back seat was another kind of dead body. I was trying hard to tie it straight on the saddle bag, and every other moment it was slipping either on the right side, or on the left. With the modern dead body of Satish Shah I started my journey to Leh at the dawn of 30th May.

Target for first day – Jammu. Distance from Delhi – six hundred kilometers. The Sun has not arisen yet, but it’s about to rise. I started, a cool breeze blew past me, announcing the beginning of my journey. I shifted to third gear, fourth, fifth … and fleew past my knows localities – Anand Vihar, Hasanpur Depot, Karkarduma, Geeta Colony, Red Fort. The NH 1 starts from here. After crossing Majnu-Ka-Tila there’s Muqarba Chowk, from there the right turn takes me straight to Jammu. Last point of Delhi is Alipur, after that the Haryana state starts.

Slightly before I reached Muqarba Chowk, I felt again some problem in the bag behind me. Yes, I was right. Satish Shah’s dead body has now shifted leftward, the petrol jerry can is popping out of the right pocket dangerously. The entire nylon rope has loosened again. What the heck! I haven’t even crossed fifty kilometers, how will I cover 600 in a day, in this situation? No way, next I see a hardware shop, I’ll either buy extra rope or bungee cords. But where do I get the shop in this endless national highway? Ambala? Ludhiana? Jalandhar? Jammu?

Re-tied the luggage, but I was realizing, this is not going to help anyway. But there’s no coming back. I started again.

When I rode up the Muqarba Chowk flyover, the sun rose from the other side. We don’t see “blue sky” in Delhi, it’s always a pale, grey colored sky. The greyish canvas suddenly became yellowish, and from the eastern corner the morning Sun jumped up like a full Orange basketball. The day started. In few minutes I crossed the Delhi border and entered Sonepat (it is said, as per The Mahabharata, envied by the Indraprastha made by the Pandavas, Duryodhana built another city here, named Swarnaprastha. Today’s city Sonepat, is believed to be the ancient Swarnaprastha). In no time I flew past Murthal, Samalkha, Panipat. The luggage did not create much trouble in the meantime, so I did not look out for hardware shop or nylon ropes anymore. There’s no point of searching for bungee cord, it can be found only at specific shops for bikes.

Crossed Ambala at 9:30 am – two hundred kilometers covered. I took a break at a small shack near a Petrol pump for breakfast. Called home, talked to my wife, but did not inform her that Mandeep was not accompanying me anymore – I was going alone.

I inquired at the shack, can I get bread omlette? The shack-owner looked too ashamed by my query – this is a Vaishno Dhaba, they don’t keep Eggs here.

– So what can I get for breakfast?

Aloo-paraatha.

Whatever! Tried to kill an almost incredible inedible Alu-paraatha with a glass of tea. Now the temperature is increasing gradually, I am slowly feeling uncomfortable. Bought a one-liter water bottle, half-emptied it in single shot, packed the rest inside my backpack, wore the skin gloves – and started the bike. The Trip-meter shows I have rode 230 kilometers so far.

Gradually the population is now decreasing on both sides of the highway. The road is excellent, smooth like a runway. More or less four-lane throughout. At certain point I increased the speed beyond 100 kmph, after sometime I decreased it again – the back of the bike is oscillating. Stopped it again, looked back, and yes, the bag has slipped on the left side again. It has slipped so much that I cannot rest my bike on the side stand.

What the hell! Somehow I managed to hold the bike in one hand and untied the rope in other hand. The foreskin on my left hand middle finger slit by the friction of rope, but I was helpless. I have to tie it again, and reach Jammu – at any cost.

I had Band-Aid with me, wrapped the finger and finished fastening the luggage again. Now I am feeling nervous, can I make it to Jammu by the evening? So far I have made 300 kilometers. Ludhiana is still twenty five kilometers away, Jalandhar is at a good distance of one hundred ten kilometers. My waist is paining, everything inside my mouth is dried like sand. Took the bottle out, emptied it under the scorching Sun. The moment I finished water, immediately my tongue and throat dried up again. It’s so dried up, I am unable to move the tongue inside my mouth. The bicep muscle is paining, not because I am riding bike continuously, but because of repeatedly tying and untying the luggage. Why did I take so much luggage? I started cursing myself. But I know, I have started my journey with least luggage – without the bike kits, without the sleeping bag.

It seemed I have tied the bag perfectly this time, it’s not moving anymore. Slowly I increased speed – fifty, sixty, seventy, seventy-four. No problem. Road is super smooth.

Reached Ludhiana after some time. Probably there’s some carnival going on of the Sikhs, at places they are distributing cold syrups to all drivers and riders, pandals are made at roadside, mega-sized sound boxes are throwing up some Punjabi tune at full volume. I stopped at few places. Took the syrups offered, and again moved ahead. The traffic in Ludhiana is just horrible. Everybody is driving in every direction, no rule, no logic. That resulted into a massive traffic jam. Sun above my head is pouring extreme heat, there’s no tree near the road, no shed, no shelter. Wristwatch is saying it’s 12:30 pm. I am almost hallucinating.

The traffic condition improved outside the city. After sometime I noticed a gigantic robot made of car scraps in front of a large campus. Lovely Professional University.

Suddenly, I felt something had flown out of my luggage, I heard a thud sound from a distance. Immediately I applied brake, turned back and found the petrol can is lying behind in the middle of the road. Oh man, last time when I tied the luggage, I forgot to tie the can with the rope. It was just inside the side pocket of the bag, somehow in the inertia it went out and flew away. Five liters of petrol.

I stopped the bike, and ran behind. But before I could reach there, a truck appeared from behind, and before I could do anything, it just crushed the can under its wheels. In moments it happened, the road got wet in petrol, the truck passed me away. I just witnessed it, I had nothing to do.

Gone, man! I am a big failure. No water, no spare tool, now you don’t even have spare petrol. The luggage is creating hell lot of problem – what preparation have I taken since last three years? Worthless me, can I really reach Jammu by today EOD?

Started the bike again, half-hearted. There are trees, but far away from the highway, it’s not possible to reach there. I am loosing grip from the handlebar, my fingers are not listening to me. They are being curled automatically, I cannot make them straight. I know this symptom very well – dehydration. I somehow stopped the bike, somehow made the hands free from gloves, and started shaking them, one by one.

After some time I felt that my hands are now OK. I made a fist, opened and again closed the fist. Yes, now my fingers are under my control. Started the bike again. Met with few more Sikh gatherings at places, drank syrups, but it was making no benefit. Right after drinking the liquid, the tongue and throat are being dried up, immediately.

The last incident happened somewhere between Ludhiana and Jalandhar. The road stretch was bumpy. Suddenly I felt a pull at my ears, and then I found the headphones are hanging alone from inside my helmet, the mobile is gone along with the mount, from the handlebar. I applied the break immediately. There’s a caravan of trucks coming up from behind, and my mobile is lying just in the middle of the road.

I waived my hands like mad, while running towards it. I can sacrifice petrol, but can’t sacrifice my mobile. That’s not only my GPS, that’s my lifeline.

The truck stopped, and I rescued my mobile almost at two feet away from its front wheel. The driver threw some selective slangs to me and went by. … I slowly came back to the bike. My head is rolling, the veins are swelling, the muscles are paining. Can I do it? Can I not do it?

It’s almost two o’clock. Jalandhar is fifty kilometers away. I stopped at a shop, bought a water bottle, and finished it in seconds. Temporary relief. In some time, I reached Jalandhar. From here I have to turn right. The straight road goes inside the city. I turned right, the next milestone shows, Pathankot. Hundred odd kilometers away. Its quarter past two, I am not at all hungry, but still it’s not good to proceed empty stomach. Need to find an acceptable Dhaba or restaurant.

Right after crossing Jalandhar, the urban tone decreased. Farmlands on both side, small shops and shacks, otherwise empty highway, kilometers after kilometers. I have covered two third of today’s six hundred kilometers’ target. Two hundred more to go.

Stopped at a roadside small Dhaba. The old man promptly chanted out the menu – Rajma-Chawal, Karhi-Chawal, Chole-Chawal, Shahi Paneer … OK, OK, get me Paneer and rice. And water.

I have never eaten such a horrible lunch. Extremely bad tested rice and glueish Paneer-curry. A jug containing water, and a big chunk of ice inside it. Not sure where did they preserve the ice-chunk, it is floating with thick black dirty particles. My fingers are so paining, I can’t even mix the rice with the curry.

Suddenly I heard a train whistle, from very near. And then I saw a train is running right at the opposite side of the road, towards Pathankot.

Finished my lunch, bought one more bottle of water. Re-tied the luggage, and started again. Now my bike is hungry, he needs to be fed. My reserve petrol has been sacrificed to the National Highway, so I have to stop at the next petrol pump.

Filled up the tank at the next filling station. I was carrying some chocolates anticipating that chocolates can bring energy, if required. I opened a packet, and the liquid chocolate poured over my trouser. It was so hot weather, all the chocolates had melted inside the packets. I somehow licked one packet, and drank water, cleaned my trouser too. Now the shadows are getting longer, the heat is not that much unbearable, but fingers at my both hands are paining badly. Entire body is paining, actually.

Somehow, the luggage did not create any more problem. I slowly moved towards Pathankot.

At around 5:30 pm, I reached the Jammu & Kashmir Border. Jammu city is now just one hundred kilometers away. Road is good.

At around 7:00 pm, I entered Jammu. Now it’s a task to find a hotel to spend the night. But I could not see any hotel aside the highway. Asked a traffic police, he advised me to reach the city bus terminus, there are lots of hotels available.

Fine, let’s go to the bus terminus.

Jammu city is not so much stranger friendly. Asked this person, asked that person, took this road, bypassed that lane, and then discovered myself stuck inside an overcrowded marketplace. Somehow I rescued myself from that crowd, and finally reached the bus terminus area. First I noticed a hotel named Something Yatri Niwas. I stopped there, asked about the room. Yes, they have rooms, but only AC rooms, Thirteen Hundred and Fifty Rupees for one night.

I was half dead by then. Had they been asking Two Thousand bucks, I would have no strength to refuse that. I have finally completed six hundred kilometers, first time in my life, in an extremely hostile non-cooperating weather. I have lost the strength to speak even. Paid the bill in advance, and came out to untie the luggage from my bike. Now I know very well how to untie the luggage in 5 minutes.

Changed the cloths, took bath, and fell on the bed. The AC was running. Life was coming back in me. I calculated, I consumed seven liters of water today, did not feel to go to the toilet for a single time.

I brought glucose with me. Took a glass from the hotel, and finished three glasses of glucose water. Now I need to go to toilet.

After getting fresh, I went out, and bought a packet of potato chips and half liter of coke. That was my dinner, I was in no mood to eat anything beyond this. My run will resume tomorrow morning again.

Called up home, talked to my wife, updated her about my status (without saying that Mandeep is not with me). Then I pulled up the blanket. I need to sleep. I can’t keep my eyes open anymore.

But, oh God, why can’t I sleep? First time in my life, the hangover of my day-long ride is not releasing me. The moment I am closing my eyes, I am hallucinating like, I am still riding my bike, and I am about to collide with a truck in front of me. My body is shaking, I opened my eyes. No, I am not riding my bike, I am at the hotel bed, sleeping at the air conditioned comfort. Again closed my eyes, again a truck is coming towards me, why am I not focusing? The truck will crush me in seconds … no, I cannot lose my focus, I cannot close my eyes … again waking up, and discovering myself at the comfort of a soft bed, an air conditioned room. Again close eyes, again trucks are coming forward … don’t lose concentration …

Not sure when I actually slept. Finally I woke up at 6:30 am. Saw thick cloud at the sky through the window, it’s raining!

Switched off the AC, got up from the bed.

Today is the second day of my lonely trip.


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