Roads, river, dust, mountains, food, bikes all mixed well as I and my band of brothers did the Leh’ed thingy in June 2017. The trip was phenomenal but I fell ill a week later and then circumstances, mood, impulses and a lot of “stuff” took over so could not write about it. Finally, I started the blog series couple of months back. So what got covered so far?
Blog 1: The preparation needed for a long trip. We eight from BAC Bengaluru decided to do 7600 KM ride trip. Bangalore, Leh, Bangalore. So what is needed to get prepared for a trip like that?
Blog 2: The Rule of plans and murphy’s interventions. Blog 2 was on how our plans went out of the road and all the falls we had and mistakes we made.
Blog 3: Was on the rush to Amritsar in June heat and our stupidity
Blog 4: The last blog was on reaching Kashmir and checking into Sonmarg.
Ab aage ( and then):
Mountains had calmed the minds. Air was cool. Group had bonded. So far we had done a rude dash from Bangalore to Sonmarg on eight of the Avengers. The pace was furious. So the Kashmir Himalayas chilled air was mandatory for me to get sane once more. At Sonmarg we went out to the make-shift market to top up on our warm gear. Caps, gloves, waterproof pyjamas etc. etc. No matter how much you read, talk and prepare you will need something at the last shopping mile. That is the law of long rides.
Next day we set off and soon enough we were thanking our purchases. We were crossing the Zoji-la pass. Mountain passes allow for crossing from one mountain valley region to another. These passes they are high up. The air goes rare, a chill comes in and brings snow. In that snow cooled roads, we navigated the pass with brittle fingers. The far-off mountains were sparkling in the morning sun. Golden glow on white tips. Few from group stopped to capture themselves with the pass and few of us were bound in the in a spell just rode it through.
Treks, trips, rides if long enough will hypnotize you. On small trips, you squeal about the beauty, then try to nervously capture it lest the moment is lost. There is a “group mutual admiration” of nature and the groups’ luck to be in that place at that time. In the long trip and treks, one goes inward. Each one reacts differently. Few are still enamoured by the beauty and want to photo it and photo themselves with it. Few look for an answer to their troubles; to relate to their near ones, to sort out the function of their life, to solve that one last thing before a mega market success. Few go spiritual. They see the oneness and contentedness of the works of nature and their connection to it. See God, Divine or think they are a step closer to the revelation.
I was thinking of homecoming to the dear mountains. How the blood seems to know a Himalayan oxygen and makes mind happy. Why do I get more contended and surer of immediate and distant future in the hills? Why doubt spurs anticipation here while it sparks a fear in the plains?
Past the pass, we were into territory for courage, bravery, sacrifice and national pride. We were hitting Dras. The scene of conflicts since independence. The army fought and defended the Tololing and Tiger hills and much more hereabouts. LOC and Kargil war is still fresh in our heads. It is coldest human-settled region. And in this chest fluff able land we were hunting for a good breakfast joint. My worn out Sprocket was holding but the chain was threatening to upset the trip. Post breakfast Manjunath bro did another round of adjustments. There was this niggling question. Will the steed hold for the day till we hit Leh? We were hoping to get a new chain and sprocket set there. So if I manage today I get a breather. Like I said the mountains were reassuring me that it will be ok. Not sure why but I was not hitting the panic. Caution yes, fear no.
With our tanks full and a thought to the soldiers who suffer so we can take this “adventure” trip we started towards Kargil. Tiger hill where there was a major escalation of forces a decade back. It is the soldiers that keep borders tight. It is the Army that makes the roads fit for a ride. We do it as a dare for a few days, they live here for years.
At Kargil, we got the details of the war incursion since independence. The War Memorial and museum give the stories of victory won by clever, committed forces. We also saw why. There was a dress rehearsal for a General’s visit. So music, march past, speeches, wreath placement all were being practised, timed. If this was the level of preparation for a visit, for protection of the nation, the prep would be awesome. It is this planning, training and preparation and then on the ground presence of mind and self-organized decision making that make a troop win.
The mountain curves were testing the nerves while riding. I was looking at the lead and others take them with speed and confidence and I was learning. The group marvelled at the Lamayuru monastery and its majesty. How did the llama’s work with nature yet stamped their presence while sorting out their soul’s grand meaning? Do the religion structures have to be monumental? Grand, tall, imposing and timeless? Yes, the achievement was grand. Showed the power of human vision and spirit. Awesome and awe-inspiring. Yet I was thinking what was the need? The seed thought is about no desires and zero attachment for contentment. Yet I was seeing the structure that is a magnet to draw people to the fold that its makers preach. Create religious attachment? Bhudha himself cautioned against religious hoarding. So we move from materialistic attachments to religious attachments. And then the results are all to clear to see in this world.
See told you, long ride and mountains make you go inwards and think of the meaning of the outside world from within. The revere was broken as I saw blinking indicators of the bike ahead. We had stopped to lunch. Once you cross Sonmarg please get used to a fixed menu of Maggie, Bread butter, Allo paratha or Rajama ( kidney beans ) and rice. A short ride after that we hit the and another pass. Paused to pose.
The early morning start meant we had time enough. The next leg would take us to Leh. And that was a short one but for the next blog. The ride so far showed the venerability of this region and ever-present incursion threats and its side effects. There is a large Tourist flow to the region. Why? The army needs to be prepared and may need to mobilize quickly since the neighbours keep testing the borders and resolve of the troops. So it needs reliable roads. That makes others take to the roads and that brings tourists and adventurers and over time the land loses its originality. It becomes tourists’ friendly and then the traveller needs to do something else. All this is of the least bother to the soldiers who are on the LOC. Their bravery, presence and courage enables the BAC to think of this road adventure.