Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Day 3: Rum and arrack to keep warm...

Day 3: Manali to Keylong

Everyone slipped into their respective thermal wears after the intimidating warning which said that we would be crossing the first pass. This meant that it would be cold enough to freeze the blood in our bodies. After riding for a few kilometres through a traffic jam (which surely didn’t hamper the bikers’ flow), I could not believe my eyes. We had reached Rohtang pass, a hot-spot tourist destination which was clogged with tourists delighting in and playing with all the snow. I took a cue and spent some time on the top myself, lest I would regret later for not playing in the snow. It was an innocent little thought, as I didn’t know what was to happen in the days to come.

After crossing Rohtang pass, we reached the Koksar village, which was our re-grouping point. I saw a small shed that was serving Thupa (noodles soup) and momo’s, which I ordered in mutton. I was quite glad with the choice of delicacies they were serving but never knew that it was just the start of the trip and that all the villages ahead would offer were momo’s, noodles and thupa. We filled up our tanks our bike at the Tandi petrol pump after which there was no fuel station till the next 375 kilometres. It was dark and we had just started to feel the tough terrain with bumps and potholes.

We reached a camp in Keylong. It had luxurious tents with attached toilets and bathrooms, though half of the group chose to go to hotel rooms in the nearby town. It was cold and for the first time in my life I actually made the largest number of camp-fires. Fingers were going cold and numb, and so, the campers made sure to almost touch the burning fire wood while getting their palms warm. Everyone was simply enjoying the warmth of the fire and no one wanted to speak. Speaking would not have done any good either considering how the voices were expected to crack and vibrating due to constant shivering. Some insisted to start singing, but no one would take the lead. I finally went back to my tent and took out my cell phone’s external speakers. They asked me to play a song to brighten up everyone’s mood. I had something in store for them alright. After I pressed the play button, I could see people grooving to the song Riders of the storm, the remixed and hip-hop version of it. The song proved memorable for many, as some asked me to transfer the song onto their cell phones through Bluetooth.

To beat the cold, I chose to try the local brew, ‘arrack’, made of barley. I liked the malt. Also, much to our surprise, we saw some exotic dinner which included mutton, dal and rice. After we were done with the exquisite dinner, we couldn’t wait to go to bed. We were instructed to wake up at six and be ready to begin riding by seven. My roommate woke me up at 4.30 in order to ask me what the time was as he had seen some brightness in the tent. We later learned that we had entered a land where the sky brightens up right from five in the morning. A dog started barking incessantly, while I could hear some guys discussing and suspecting a snow leopard passing by, for they felt that that might be a reason which had set the dog off.

It was the morning which had astonished everyone, for all we could hear was exclamatory expressions like ‘Oh my god’, ‘beautiful’, ‘I don’t believe it’. We were actually surrounded by five ice-clad mountains and it was undoubtedly one of the best locations for camping in the world.

We felt bad for all those who missed the camp and chose hotel rooms.

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