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!
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.
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?
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!",
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!".
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!)
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!" ,
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....)