Saturday, September 22, 2012

Some day, in the near future....

Some day, in the near future, I will invite all the amazing friends I've made over the past few years, especially those I have telephonic conversations and discussions with, from places far away, to come and spend an evening with evening that extends into the night and we should chat until morning, by the sea, on a lovely calm Goan beach....

This has been a recurring wish, and a dream too.

Nothing excites me more than to have the deepest conversations with a seeming stranger, nothing amazes more than seeing such friendships grow over time and experience the meeting of the minds...

Hoping the years to come bring into my life more wonderful people I can talk to and connect to.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

How I got LEH'd! ( Part 4)

Let's talk of the injuries , shall we?

Even before we started riding, the first to get injured was me! How? You may wonder!
The first night when we got the bikes , we went to the hirer's agency to collect the helmets. We were handed our helmets, and just then I saw this really cute, fluffy cat on the pavement, running, confused. And that was the first cat I spotted in Leh, and I love cats, and this one was big and furry and I was just about to say, "Oh my sweety pie", and this cat jumped on the road, and there was this speeding jeep I saw, and the last scene I saw was the cat was inches from the tire......and I couldn't take it anymore so I tried to hide my face in my hands, but there was the helmet in my hands and I hit my nose really hard on the helmet....and you do know how much it hurts when your nose hits, don't you?

For some 30 seconds I stood there burying my head in my hands, my friends thought I had started crying thinking the cat is hit and they started pacifying me, but I couldn't think, couldn't lift my head! The pain was unbearable! When I did look up, and told my friends that my nose was hurt, Rahul ( The dialogue king that he is) remarked ( in marathi), " Maanjar vachle pann naak gele!" ( means "We saved the cat but we lost the nose").

No! This is not his original dialogue. The story behind the dialogue goes back to centuries, it goes back to Maharashtra, to the battle of Sinhagad! Shivaji's fort "Kondana" ( later named Sinhagad) was captured by the Mughals, and the Marathas fought hard to get it back. But in that battle, Shivaji lost his closest friend, Tanaji Malusare. Upon hearing the capture of the fort but the loss of his closest friend, Shivaji is said to have remarked, " Gad aala, pann Sinha gela" ( We captured the fort but we lost the lion).

This nose injury created so much of a problem! I couldn't wear goggles because of it, and without goggles it's really difficult to face the harsh sun rays in Leh. So I had to wear the goggles, and that pain turned into a headache, and I misinterpreted it as altitude sickness and popped in another Diamox!

Caslino's broken finger: A few weeks before we started for Leh, these boys had a wild party by the pool side. All the boys jumped into the pool except Caslino, excited and drunk as they were, all of them pounced on Caslino and started pulling him inside the pool! Caslino did not get into the pool till the end, but his finger broke in the process. He did all the riding with that broken finger and a lot of Iodex spray!

Day 5:  Leh Market and the search for the local beer!

We took a break on the 5th day, went around the Leh market, did some shopping!

Tip Time: If you are on a tight budget, please do not buy jewellery, clothes in Leh. They are expensive, and way above market price in comparison to the rest of India. Souvenirs are expensive too. But I did buy a musical bowl, because it's Leh speciality, you could buy prayer wheels too.

We, the girls blew up money on silver jewellery and bracelets! Silver jewellery is priced at 60% above market price! Tibetan markets have the costliest stuff. You can get the same stuff on road side stalls. Go around and ask the prices at different stalls before you buy.


Those are not genuine smiles!
This photo is clicked just after we realised we paid way above market price for those cute rings and pretty earrings we  loved just a few hours back when we bought it! Now....we don't know anymore!

The Ladakhi Beer: Our boys asked across the market for the locally made beer, "Chang", but could not find a bottle. It is very difficult to find liquor and meat in Leh. Wherever we went, whichever restaurant, the first question the boys would ask was, " Chang hai kya?" , after a few such incidences, I was fed up!

Me: You've never had beer in your life that you keep asking every Tom Dick and Harry for it? They all are saying a no, it's not available! Get the message and stop asking!
Vignesh: We are not bagging for beer, we are asking for it and we are going to pay for it! Got it? And we like to taste the culture of the land, not just "see" it like you do. You stick to your continental meals, kindly keep the 'experimentation with food and drinks' departments with us ,okay?
Rahul: Okay Maatey?

Rahul teased. Rahul is like an echo of Vignesh. I ask Rahul, "Rahul, are you confident of riding the bike?"
Vignesh replies, " Yes he is." and Rahul repeats after him, "I am".
I ask Rahul, " What would you have for breakfast?", Vignesh shouts from somewhere in the background, "Muesli", and Rahul tells me, "Muesli."

Finally one day I told Rahul, "Please , use your head at least once a day, otherwise it will corrode!"
To which he replies, " Maanjar vachle pann naak gele" was my dialogue!
'Now I know what he uses his head for', I thought.

"It's useless talking to them", I said to myself and got busy on my burger while they ate something Tibetan! I know I'm missing out on the whole experience by not eating the food of the land. But I am extremely orthodox in food matters, and I'm adamant about it too.

 Ladakh + Goa connection:

Everywhere we went in the market, the Ladakhi's recognised Konkani and asked us if we were Goans. It turns out that the Ladakhi's own shops and restaurants in Goa during the Goan tourist season till April and they go back for Leh season from May to October and return back to Goa for tourist season starting November. So the stuff you'll find in Leh market is the same you find in Goa except for the woolens. And you get a cheaper rate for clothes in Goa. ( Go Goa 365 days a year! Issued in public interest by Goa Tourism Department!) :-)

Ladakhi people is the highlight of Ladakh! They are warm, friendly and very jolly. You will see the kids and the adults smiling at you, waving and greeting you with " Julay" everywhere. Julay means Hello, it also means Bye and Thank you. So you could keep saying it.

Day 6 and 7 : Nubra Valley, Khardung La, and the story of How I went blind!

Nubra is a very  pretty valley! There are a number of places to visit in Nubra and the whole round trip covers around 375 kms. In order to get to Nubra one has to cross the highest motorable Pass, The Khardung La at 18, 380 ft.

So there went in my last Diamox before we started for Nubra. After doing Pangong , all of us had got very confident, also we had found what Teju wanted! The Bajaj Avenger! After almost having her bum bones crushed on Pulsar, she told us she would rather ride a separate bike. And the only bike that is low enough to accommodate her is an Avenger. We spent 4 hours in Leh market trying to find an Avenger, but did not. Finally it came to a point where the group started discussing whether we should scrap the plan altogether.

I prayed and ran across the hiring shops, finally at 8.00pm, there it was....a brand new Avenger on the road side. I ran towards it and asked some guys who were standing close to it, " yeh kiska bike hai?"
They pointed at a shop and I ran in.
"Julay", I said. Smiling a bit too much with the excitement levels rising inside me.
The bike hirer got a bit conscious with my smile, "Julay", he replied cautiously.
" The Bajaj Avenger parked outside,  is that your bike?"
"Yes ma'am that is my bike."
"Is it on hire?"
"Yes ma'am it is."
"Is it taken?"
"Not yet ma'am."
"Then I want it!", I said with a greedy grin.
"Hmm......I'm not sure!",

"Wait a min." I told him.

I ran outside and called Vignesh and told him what had just happened, " You don't do the talking! You'll blow it, let me talk to him!"
Me: What do you mean I'll blow it? I found the bike! Not you!

Somewhere in the background I heard Sharvani asking him to hurry up and not waste more time in arguments, so he got to the shop in 5mins. And when he was just entering the shop , told me, "Stay out!", "Get lost!" I replied.

The Hirer, when he heard that Teju was to ride it ,was a bit worried. It was a brand new bike after all.
"Is it safe with her?", He asked.
"You be sure of that. Let me take you for a ride." Teju took him for the test ride and when they got back, he handed her the keys confidently, and told us, "In my 7 years of experience in hiring bikes, this is the first Indian lady I've met who rides one so well! Best of Luck!".

Khardung La:


We exhibited the extent of our "Being Tourist Madness" here! We climbed the slippery, snow covered mountain top once we were at Khardung La, we had series of snow fights and pushing and pulling around. By the end of it, we were tired, wet and exhausted, but not sick :-)

( Following is an unedited video. For those who know Konkani, please excuse my language!)

 There were so many tourists who were having a hard time dealing with the altitude, many of them were resting in the restaurants. I did not see anybody as happy as we were with the altitude, the lack of oxygen, the chilly winds and the slippery roads- I silently thanked the makers of Diamox!

The ride downhill from there was gruelling, a bit boring, a bit harsh! It's long, and curvy and it takes quite some time to reach the beautiful valley. It tests one's patience! When we descended the hills ,we stopped for  a tea break at a small shop, and the first question Vignesh asked the shopwala was not, "Get us Tea or biscuits!" ,
he asked, " Yahan pe Chang milega?",
I was exhausted and cranky and I did not have the heart to move an inch from my comfortable "non vibrating seat" like the one on Bullet on which my Bum was getting a constant grind  , but I swear I would have thrown a shoe/helmet/ any other heavy object at him!
But believe it or not,
180kms from Leh, the shopwala answers, "Haan ji. Hai!"

"Chang hai?" , all of us asked in unison.
" Mein leke aaonga. Aap yahan se vapas jaate waqt collect kar lena.". ( I will bring it and keep it at the shop. When you are returning  to Leh , collect it from me. )

On hearing this, Vignesh turns to look at me, his expression was as if he'd just won an Olympic Gold for India in some event where India has never won in its history!!
In return I wanted to say something witty, something nasty and rude but the pain in my nose, the over sized helmet having hit my head for over 3 hours, my shoulders aching with the heavy backpack and my bum bones on the verge of crushing into a thousand pieces, I thought it better to let go, this time!

( To be Continued....)

How I got LEH'd! ( Part 3)

We reached Leh around 8pm. The first thing that we all noticed was, it doesn't get dark until around 8.30pm or even later.

Leh : Day 1:

J's Journal:

All these years I thought I get along well with boys. I thought I understood them well! 
I was so wrong!

It's 11 am, on our first day in Leh! 

There's something called as enthusiasm, excitement about being in a new place! But no! Boys don't seem to value anything more than sleep! 
I don't understand how these boys act lazy on a holiday?? 

Here we girls are all ready, we had breakfast, we had bath ,we even applied all 3 layers of sunscreen lotion! And when I go to check on what the boys are doing, all 3 of them are tucked into the bed! And when I scream at them , they invite me to jump in and join them??##$$ ??


So the three of us, the girls, decided to get the important work done ourselves, such as getting the permits, hiring the bikes, planning out the next 9 days, working out the budgets, getting the cheapest and the best deals, going around the market and meeting tourists and asking around as to which places are the best to go to etc.!

Girls Day Out : When I'm out with the girls I feel strong and a strong sense of feminism sweeps me over! I marched ahead of both of them, on the steep slope leading to the Leh Market. When both of them started falling behind considerably, I wondered when my stamina had improved so much? But then I remembered that I had dutifully taken Diamox after breakfast. My body now showed no signs of nausea, headache, tiredness or uneasiness!  I looked back at Sharvani and Teju and felt proud of my achievement.

We went from one task to the other,and the boys called after a few hours to ask where we were.
 (Tip: Pre paid mobile cards don't work in Leh. Post paids do!)
I was in no mood to meet them, so Teju and I headed to one of the many German Bakeries in Leh and Sharvani and the boys took on the task of checking out the bikes for hiring.

In the Bakery, I bitched to Teju about the boys and their laziness and how I plan to set them straight!
Teju knows me through Sharvani, she's her cousin. We met for the first time only in Delhi, I think the first couple of days she was a bit shocked by the things I do and say. Here too, she remained quiet and listened to all my planning and strategies.

By the end of the day we had our permits, the bikes @ Rs.700/- a day, we had 2 bullets and 1 pulsar. We were all set to check out the Monasteries and Palaces around Leh.

Day 2:

My frustration over the boys not able to keep to the schedule, and wake up and get ready on time continued on Day 2. And it was around 11.30 that we finally got out of the Guest House with our bikes. I sat with Caslino, Sharvani with Vignesh. Since me and Sharvani cannot ride a geared bike, and we were on bullets there was no confusion over who would ride. The 3rd bike was the Pulsar and Teju is quite a rider but Rahul is not. But Teju is too short for the Pulsar but Rahul is not.

As we started towards Hemis Monastery, I knew there was some confusion on bike 3. Sometimes I saw Teju ride it, other times I saw Rahul experimenting with the gears! Rahul is quite our miracle man for many reasons! This man does not have a license but in 10 days of staying in Leh he not just learnt to ride a bike , but rode it well and covered the most difficult terrain and road one would ever witness in his/her life!

Miracles apart, I personally feel Leh is not a place you learn to ride a bike in. Especially if you don't have too much time on your hands.You need to know to ride a bike well by the time you get to Leh! I did meet some foreigners who were learning to ride a bullet in Leh, but then, they spend months there.
Though Rahul proved me to the contrary, I wouldn't recommend it to any new rider. Me and Rahul had quite an argument over the issue, but well, it was just one in the many arguments between different people that would follow in the days to come!

<------ That's me on our Bullet. No. I do not know how to ride it! And that's obvious when you see my face!
People who ride the bullet have that attitude! It's like , "Dude! You don't mess with me" Types!
You don't see someone smile like I am when one knows to ride it!
I'm yet to know the reason why.
Well! Maybe, when I learn to ride one, I will know!

It's no much fun going around sight seeing in Leh! The Monasteries and the Palaces have somewhat same structure. The first time you see the prayer wheels and the interiors, you go WOW! But after you see a couple of them, it's nothing special. Our gang, and Bike 3 with Teju and Rahul performing their circus on it alternatively , covered ( slowly...because we were testing the bikes and the riding skills), some of the places around.

We got home early, the next day was a big day after all!
Pangong Lake ( approx 120 kms). We had heard stories of the water streams flowing on the road that makes a biker difficult to get his bike through it! Of how you need to cross a particularly difficult water stream ( The Paagal Naala) before 12 noon, because after that the glaciers melt rapidly and the water level rises till the knees, making it difficult to go through and one might have to return back to Leh etc.

We were all worried, what with Rahul and Teju doing their stunts on the Pulsar. We were worried about their safety, about our survival, and the big question loomed over us, whether at our speed of riding we will make it to Pangong in one day?

Day 3: Pangong Lake aka "The 3 Idiots Lake"

I thought the boys would be a bit worried about making it in time to Pangong and get ready early... But No! They woke up a bit early, but by the time we started out our journey it was 10.30 am.

One tip: Petrol Pumps in Leh are always over crowded. Please fill your tanks a day in advance. Also arrange to carry extra fuel , the day before setting out for the journey. We, obviously, the smart asses that we are, did none of this and were stuck up with the fuelling process for over an hour! This in turn fuelled a lot of arguments between me and Vignesh over "Why the tanks were not filled the night before?", to which he replied, " If you knew better, why didn't you fill it?"
Me: You are the rider, it's your responsibility!
Vignesh: You are the pillion rider, you are not flapping your wings and flying to Pangong, are you?

As we continued our arguments wasting another 10 minutes, the rest of them chewed gum and cracked some silly jokes!

As the ride started towards Pangong and we started climbing up the hills and covering mountains, and every turn got riskeir, and every valley got deeper, the oxygen levels were falling, and the tar road was getting thinner, I held on tightly to Caslino, sometimes the bumps were so strong I would fly up my seat and at one point I landed on the handle behind the seat, at other point I landed in mid air behind the handle and somehow caught hold of Caslino's jacket and climbed up the bullet!

When the climb was steep and full of rocks and streams, Caslino would announce, " Brace yourself!", and I would hold on to him tightly! Vignesh and Sharvani managed the climbs too. Pulsar would get stuck on difficult climbs and Vignesh had to handle both the bikes at some points. Ride up the bullet, then come down running and ride up the Pulsar or vice versa.

At 3pm , we reached Chang La Pass. ( 3rd Highest Motorable Road in the world), and the Paagal Naala ( The crazy stream) was still few kms away. We were so exhausted with the ride till Chang La, and so happy to be up there, that we rested one whole hour in the restaurant. I think my appetite was at it's maximum on this Pass. I generally eat less, but here I ate more than anybody else.

After this, the ride down the hill started, the bumps got bigger, the roads got wetter and after struggling on the bikes for half an hour, I spotted a rescue van and the girls jumped in it with the luggage. The rescue van crossed the Paagal Naala , helped some bikers whose Bullets had given up, to load the bullet into the van and turned back for Leh.

Our Heroes ( The Boys) started for the Paagal Naala, first to go for it was Caslino. Then Surprise! Surprise! Rahul crossed the naala without getting stuck in it, but fell off the bike in a mysterious way right after he was on solid ground! ( I told ya, he is our Miracle Man! He does things nobody else can do!)

Vignesh got stuck for a while but there wasn't much to worry about. The whole drama took another hour and Teju who was sitting pillion on Pulsar declared that she couldn't push it anymore, so did I, so did Caslino!

Another Tip: Sitting Pillion on Pulsar in Leh is a super bad idea! Please DO NOT risk breaking your back and bum bones!

So around 7pm, we found a guest house in a small village ( yes, there are small villages of around 300 population , after crossing Chang La, and there are good Guest houses. We were surprised to find human habitation at those far off, cut off from humanity type of locations!)

But Vignesh, Sharvani and Rahul continued the ride to Pangong. I don't know what exactly they saw in the dark, but they returned by 9.30pm.

Teju, Caslino and me treated ourselves to hot tea and bread and toast, after which I casually popped in another Diamox because I had started feeling sick. I had head ache, and Zandu Balm was our major companion along the way!
Yet another Tip: On this trip, Zandu Balm troubled everyone who applied it on their foreheads, by somehow making way into their eyes. I hate Zandu Balm for that reason, it makes matters worse with its stupid untimely jokes!
Use Vicks instead, it's milder. Doesn't burn as much as Zandu.

Day 4: To Pangong Lake and back

Most riders make this trip in one day. We took 2.

I always wondered, looking at the tourists in Goa, why they act crazy when they see the sea? Why do they scream looking at the waves? Well! I got the answers when we saw The Pangong! The blue sky , the blue water, the vastness of it all fucks your mind and one gets excited on seeing something so beautiful! We ran around the banks of the lake, clicked a lot of pictures, someone was meditating , someone else was sleeping, someone wanted to take a bath in the was all an alien experience.

It is said, " It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end." 
That's so true, I thought , when I saw the Pangong!
Yes, it is beautiful, no doubt about it. But take away the road that leads to Pangong , and Pangong would have been just another touristy place, crowded by a million people, polluted and spoilt! 
Pangong is like an award you get for having the courage to make it till there! 

And it's not just the roads, it's not just the bullets and the bikes that's those conversations you have with your friends, those new friends you make at  food stops, those "Julay's" you exchange with a total stranger, that smile and the thumbs up you get on the way from some biker, it's about those million new thoughts that pass through your mind on the way till there, and it's that total silence of the mind you experience for maybe half a second when you see the depths of the valley's, the hugeness of the mountains, when your feet touch the cold water of the streams, when your heart beats and you can hear it, and you don't know whether this is the last day of your life, and even if it is, you show the courage to live it up fully! In that small journey till Pangong, you learn to live your live in the moment! Every moment is important, every moment counts! 

Leh I realised is not about the adventure alone.
It's so much about the lessons really that it teaches on every turn of the road. 
Leh teaches you to live your life, to love it , be thankful for what you have in your life. 
Leh teaches you to smile, to pray, to believe in miracles!
Leh teaches you simplicity, 
It teaches you what fear is, and it teaches you to have courage!
Leh stands for friendships, it stands for humanity!
This, and so much more that my heart felt in those 10 days in Ladakh....., sometimes it's not possible to label an emotion, but it's something that remains with you for a lifetime!
This connection and warmth that I felt in Leh, this relationship with it's ruggedness, truthfulness and strength, is something that I will cherish eternally!

Friday, August 3, 2012

How I got LEH'd! ( Part 2)

J's Journal:

Manali to Leh: 
16th July
1:39 PM

For the major part of this journey, I can't believe I'm finally here!
For the other part, I can't believe this is in India! The landscapes, the scenery, the feel of this all is just mindfuckingly beautiful! I can't seem to fall asleep even for a few minutes. I want to breathe in all of this, store it in my memory and never ever forget that yes, I know that I have lived my life well, just because I made it to Leh!

The road route to Leh from Manali is one not to be missed. For you will see some of the most spectacular landscapes you have ever witnessed in your life on this route! We had arranged for a cab to take us to Leh with our cab driver, Mr. Bunty being throughout stuck on a bad mood. We all tried to make some jolly conversation with him, but nothing worked. We finally dismissed his case on the grounds that the guy must have had a bad fight with his wife/gf just before leaving for this journey!

 Throughout the journey, I saw more foreigners in and around Leh than Indian tourists. That is probably the reason the place is still clean! The stamina and the enthusiasm of some of the foreigners who were cycling on Manali to Leh route was beyond belief for me , on that rough terrain, where our bodies ached by just sitting in the cab, with the rough cold winds blowing and the altitude sickness showing it's earliest signs in all of us with nausea and mild head aches, these men and women cycled, paddled their way through the rocks, through the wind and the scorching sun and the gravel and sand! Wow! I wondered when was I going to be that fit? I wondered when was I going to have the guts to do something like that? When ? If not now?

We met a foreigner couple,  they said they were from Australia. They must have been in their 50's. They were on a bullet and this was their 3rd time in Leh. They told us they had an option to visit England, but they felt there was nothing like Leh! So they came here in stead.

We met many foreigners along the way who had come to Leh for the 4th, 7th, 10th time! Some of them were staying there for months. We met people from Holland, France, Germany, Czech, America...they came from all over the world. 70% and more tourists in Leh are foreigners!

The Indian bullet riders mainly come from Maharashtra and Karnataka. With just a few groups from Delhi, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu. We were over joyed to see GA registration on the way to Pangong, on getting a bit closer, we realised they were all foreigners!

Well! Hopefully, the next time I go to Leh, I will take my bullet with GA registration and I will be riding it.
97% were male riders, with just 3 females ( foreigners) riding  bullets. One on the way to Pangong, the other a french woman who was leading a troupe of bullet riders from whom I took a ride to the hospital on one of my tougher days in Ladakh, and another female I noticed in Leh market, gracefully riding the bullet!
And of course our own Teju, with the Avenger was the only female Indian rider I found on the Leh roads in those 10 days.

 Leh can be easily identified as the Bullet Capital of India. 98% of 2 wheelers on the Leh roads are the Bullets. I never ever took a bullet so seriously as I did in Leh. I remember my uncle had one, but then I was just too little to notice what the big deal was all about? Then my brother in law bought one, and I still did not know why the guys went all ga-ga about this machine! But I spend 7 days with a bullet? And man, I love it! There's undoubtedly no other Indian bike that can do what a bullet can do on the rough Leh roads. Yes, people do those roads with Pulsars and Avengers....but I recommend something as strong and sturdy as a Bullet! Period!

Well! The whole journey in the cab was comfortable until we reached this point! The world's 2nd highest Pass!
After booking the tickets for Leh by end of April, I had got too busy with studies and after exams had hurriedly rushed to Tumkur for a Vipassana course that I just about squeezed into my schedule before the Leh trip. In short I did no homework on Leh. The thing about me is I trust Sharvani to study all the literature and give me the highlights that can help me get through the situation. But, the Vipassana course put me into 10 days of noble silence, and after that was just some mad rush of taking care of pending work in Bangalore, and rushing from one state to the other, in which I just about took a look at things to pack but not at what things to expect! I have done Himalayan trekking when I was younger and I trusted myself to deal with the altitude. What I did not know was the altitude sickness that hits most people who travel too fast from lower to higher ground.

The first thing that was noticeable about my behaviour in the cab was the general irritation that did not let me sit in peace. I tried to sleep, but couldn't. I couldn't appreciate the scenery outside. Every bump, every jerk the car would take, would have me clenching my fist. The sudden change in my mindset got me confused! Within a few minutes I was having a mild head ache which soon turned into a splitting head ache, there was general uneasiness. I couldn't really point to one factor that was getting me troubled, my stomach lurched, my ears were blocked, I couldn't breathe properly, plus the head ache! I couldn't stand , nor could I vomit if I tried to.

Soon I heard some group members talk of altitude sickness. Everybody in our car was troubled!

Then someone searched through some prescription, and came up with a tablet. It is called Diamox, and it is taken for altitude sickness. I don't know if other's pounced on this pill, but I did. I'm generally uninhibited in taking unprescribed medication. And I was to learn the biggest lesson of my life in Leh for taking Diamox, not one, not 2, but 5 of them in all!

  The sickness did not go even after taking the pill. It loomed over us for over 8 hours! Someone said it's a precautionary medication, to be taken before you start ascending to a higher altitude. Someone else said it's to be taken every 10 hours. I noted this fact in my mind. After all, I was to be in Leh for only 10 to 12 days! I did not want to blow up my vacation with any sickness, I would take whatever medication/ remedy that can help me survive here.                          

 By the time we got to Leh, we were exhausted, and in no mood to hunt for the cheapest hotels! Luckily, we found a guest house within the first 5 minutes of getting to Leh. It's called AlimJaan, and it rented us rooms at Rs.700/- per day per room with no extra charge for an extra person.
If any of you are going to Leh, do take a note of this guest house because you won't find anything cheaper and cleaner for that rate in Leh.

Now that we are already in Leh, in the next part I'll talk about the most interesting ride of my life, to Pangong Lake and to Nubra Valley, and getting till the highest motorable pass in the world, The Khardung La! Also , the side effects of Diamox that got me blind for 36 hours straight!

I'll part with this interesting short film shot in Leh of a F1 racing car making it to Khardung La in 8 minutes! It's a world record!

Also, I will upload some of our funnier videos shot along the way.
Until tomorrow,

Thursday, August 2, 2012

How I got LEH'd ! (Part 1)

 J's Journal:

28th July 2012:
9:08 PM:

 It's my last day in J n K. Tomorrow I'm flying back to the coast.

I don't know whether I want to go back. the madness, to the crazy competition, to the exams and the results, and jobs and salaries, to the society, parents and relatives, to the entanglements of life, to stupid and outrageous questions...and to all the logical reasonable decisions I'm supposed to make....

I want to be free this....Just fly free!
Is this a holiday that is actually telling me that I'm happier on my own?
Or is it just a treat before I face another storm?
Do I want to go back to that world? Do I want that same life again? Or do I want to take a leap of faith.....Should I dare to try something different for life or just return to the tried and tested?

I don't know.....

But what do I do in these mountains? Be a monk? 
What source of income will I have?
Gosh! Am I seriously thinking about this?
Another life turn?
Am I strong enough to take it?

My friends were out for dinner. I had opted to spend the last dinner by myself. Now , sitting on the lawn , in our small ,comfortable hotel ...I was seriously thinking, of whether I should just pick up my bags, throw away my mobile and run.....

In Leh, I'd seen many foreigners trying to make a living out of selling souvenirs or some food stuff. I know English and Hindi, I could work in some hotel or a restaurant. I could organise some trekking, or meditation classes maybe....or... be a guide around Leh, do something interesting or different. I could make a living, a small and a simple one. But yeah, I could live here on my own!

I'm 27, and I'm facing many questions that my mind and other's minds pose to me.
And seriously speaking, I don't have all the answers.
I don't know whether I want to risk my life in a marriage, or whether I want to have kids, whether I would be happy with a corporate job, whether I want to stay in Goa all my life ( highly unlikely!) , or which city I want to spend my life in, who I want to spend my life with, whether I should choose my boy best friend over that guy I dated a few weeks back.....I don't know.....I don't know many things a girl at my age is supposed to know.....but I don't feel like a loser! Even though I don't have a job yet, and I'm still studying, I don't have a boy friend, I have to my credit a couple of failed relationships and a list of jobs I don't want to ever do, and an impossible dream I nourish day in and day out! Girls and boys my age have real jobs, real relationships and yeah, kids! People are having kids here.....they are settled! They behave responsibly! They don't think of going on a vacation in a military infested area and think of throwing away their life and running away on the mountains! Have some sense J! Please....think logically!

This is not a guided tour of  where I went in Leh, which hotels I stayed in and which mode of transport I took to travel around and how much it cost me.
Every person who comes to Leh has a story to tell, and this is mine!
To start off with, I travelled to Leh on credit!
Throughout my life I had this crazy desire to get a loan! Since I don't work, no bank gave me one.
But finally, I can be at peace! I do have a loan to pay off to my friends( at least)!
"The Leh Loan"...Should I call it?

In all, 5 people got on to my nerves through the 15 days that we were travelling!
I have to introduce them, for more clarity:

Caslino :

6 Feet _ inches.
 ( "_"  inches because, everytime I asked him what his height was, he gave me a different answer, depending on his moods of course. On days when he was really happy, his height would be 6'4'', otherwise it would fluctuate between 6'2'' and 6'3''!

Caslino and me rode on the same bullet. He was the rider and I was the pillion rider. I did , absolutely , everything in my power to get on to his nerves!! But nothing ever seemed to affect him. His explanation to him keeping calm when I threw my tantrums was, " I have 3 sisters at home! I know how to deal with girls! No matter what you do, I know how to handle you!".

One complain that Caslino had throughout the trip: "I won't fit in that car/bike/vehicle!"

One Example:

We both started our journey together from Goa. When we had to get on to a crowded local train in Mumbai, and I was all ready to jump into the train, Caslino steps back and says, " You go. I won't fit in it! I'll find a not so crowded train!"
"All trains are crowded here at this time Caslino, get in. You don't have to worry about fitting in, just push people man...just get in.", I tried to argue back.

"No go man. I'll see you at Bombay Central."

" You go", "I go" discussions finally landed us both in the local. But with him in the general compartment and me in the disability compartment! For a few minutes after I got into the compartment I couldn't believe my luck, because it was almost empty! Then I looked around and found old men, some with broken limbs.

" This is a disability compartment. If the TC finds you here, they'll fine you for Rs.500/-. Get off!", An old man told me in a stern voice.

We had almost touched the next station and so, I immediately got down, and realised that the women's compartment was the last  and I had to sprint towards it in DDLJ style, like how Kajol ran with a heavy bag in her hands. Since I always over pack, I had a huge backpack with 2 shoulder slings tucking me down on all sides. Young men in the train whistled and also extended their hands in true SRK style! After all, it is the land of Bollywood! But I did not have the time nor the humour to respond to any of them, and just when the train was to leave the platform, I made it in!

Women in the compartment looked at me with the expression, " Who the hell are you?"
I responded with a cute smile and let the stares pass.

Well! That's how Caslino's height issue got me into trouble in the beginning and throughout the journey, as I will tell you when the time comes. But I have to admit, his Bullet riding skills are fantastic and without him around, I probably would have ended in tears several times on the World's Highest Motorable Pass.

 Teju :
The shortest group member! Also , the only lady rider of our group!
This female took a Bajaj Avenger on Khardung La, without any hassles! Even the guys who hired her the bike saluted her for her skills and her confidence!

Teju is this complete "No hassle girl". She's always ready on time,  doesn't argue and doesn't get on to anybody's I did her a favour! I got on to her nerves from day 1 when I met her in Delhi. I also taught her some interesting konkani abuses, which she started using on me by the end of the trip!
Over all, she was my comfort zone, someone I could cuddle up to early mornings, or tell her some boy tales to, to which she listened with great interest! We both also missed our pets a lot on certain mornings! So I told her about my dog bubu, and she told me about her cow, Dattu! Or, was that a buffalo? I don't know!

Rahul :

This man and his love for stupid hindi songs n dialogues!
He did not spare anybody, from Himesh Reshammia , Anu Malik, Bappi Lehri, to some unheard music directors....he worships them all! Plus he watches those flop old hindi movies like "Gunda" in which Mithun Chakravarthy Starr's....and the dialogues in that film? Oh man! Unbearable!

At night, in the cab, in the middle of nowhere, with all of us exhausted, Rahul picks up the silliest songs and hums them in my ear like he's some fly!I had the strongest urge to pick up some magazine and slam it on his face...but we were still new to each other then, and I had to bear the irritation.
But I did not bear up with it throughout the trip, I came up with my own special mix of dialogues, and behavioural traits to counter him whenever he got started.

The guys would always wake up late, would never follow any schedule, we girls had to run around waking them up, ordering the breakfast, then call the guys to eat it before it gets cold. So one of the days I call up Rahul, to come have his tea before it gets cold, to which Rahul replies in Amrish Puri style, " Kya hua? Kyun gala phaad rahi ho?" The waiter who was serving tea, started laughing uncontrollably , thank god he did not spill the tea on me!


I don't know how to introduce her, again , because she has appeared in so many of my posts!
My usual partner in crime, as a group member, she's been the calmer, quieter one.
She was the official photographer on the trip, so getting one of her snaps up here was difficult. She also served as the official mediator between me and Vignesh, whenever we argued.
One of the striking difference in her appearance once in Manali, and throughout in the cold weather was that her usual curly hair got straightened !


 aka Baba

I know him since primary school, and that's the only reason I bear up with him, because I know him half my life already! We've fought throughout school, and we continue the tradition till date. Yes, we did not spare Leh with our fights. We even fought on Khardung La, at 18,380ft! We argued on cab fares, on room rents and on the cost of getting the permits, we fought about which places to visit and where to take a halt. The only time we both conspired was when the group was considering whether to ride bikes to Khardung La or hire a cab or cancel the plan altogether. We both tore across Leh to find an Avenger for Teju so that we all could make the ride. And yes, we did find the Avenger and we did that amazing ride!

And the final member of the group: Me!

If I have to write about myself as a character in a group, I would describe myself as talkative, funny, entertaining , moody and argumentative!
I will keep my introduction the shortest, let the others traits come out as I tell my story!

Well! So here we are!

There are more characters, who we met along the way, who helped us in the cities we took a stop in. Many thanks to Sneha Chodnekar (Mumbai), Akash Bhatia (Delhi) for letting me and my friends take a stop at their homes. Akash especially spent the whole day with us, taking us to the Chandni Chowk and to the Parathewali galli, he gave us a ride in his brand new car and took us in Delhi Metro! We hit the right tone for our tour in Delhi with drinks, toasting for Delhi, Leh and friendship!

More in the next Part------------>>>>>>>

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