Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Day 5: Freezing....

Day 5: Sarchu to Rumtse

After having woken up all revitalised at five in the morning, with the intention of brushing my teeth and washing my face, I went into the attached bathroom in the tent. I changed my mind and decided not to brush my teeth as the water in the bucket was frozen, the tap was in a similar state and the drinking water in the bottle was chilled enough to freeze my mouth. I was not alone, for nobody in the camp brushed or took a bath that day. Everyone admitted that too, without hesitation. Stepping out of the tent, we saw our bikes covered with snow and wondered if they would start at all.

It however didn’t take more than two kicks to get those monstrous-machines into action. What diverted our mind were the grey, brown and white coloured mountains which seemed calmer than what they looked like a few hours before.

I thought of having a cup of morning tea and found out that my counterparts had been up since 4.30 in the morning and were sipping tea cups after cups since then. The good news was that it had stopped snowing and the sun was showing up (though in a teasing hide-n-seek manner). The bad news was that we had to cross the snow-clad Tanglang La pass, which was also the second highest motorable road in the world. We entered Jammu and Kashmir after riding six kilometres.

After crossing the Lachungla (Lachung La) pass, we had the first re-grouping at Pang, 69 kms from Sarchu. The shacks there had chocolates, omelette, maggi, soup, dal and rice to offer. I could see crows with yellow beaks, while dogs looked like they were wearing the hide of a sheep, for they literally seemed to be the cross of Lasas and Rottweilers. The yaks, sheep, goats and mules had shiny and silky fur, which the riders made it a point to capture with their lens. The roads became grimy and overtaking the slow proceeding trucks left us with no visibility again. The 40-kilometer straight roads were called More planes and had a surprise waiting after every kilometre. The rear wheel of the bike would leave a zigzag mark and the bike would skid and move the way a snake would crawl.

After the More plains, there were Gata Loops, a road with hairpin bend turns and rock-strewn concrete. The terrain pumped up the heartbeat and many thought of their loved ones. The road did have some patches of tar stuck on it, but it made no sense as we were convinced that we are on a path that can be termed as pot-holes with some road in them. The Gata Loops had 21 loops with high-inclined and low-declined turns, where breaking was something that wouldn’t stop the bike’s motion, thanks to the roads. The sign boards saying ‘Inconvenience Regretted’ brought some cheers as we thought good tar roads would now start. But, the board actually meant that the sorry roads were about to begin. Bumping into a thousand stones and potholes, my body surely needed a massage. Biking skills here were all about judging the sudden turns and not skidding down the valley.

Finally, we reached the camp in Rumtse to know that all the luxuries were now passé, as the tents in the camps could only accommodate two people without the baggage. There was no snowfall but the climate was cold and dry. We had seen the worst so nobody complained about the tents. The toilets, however, did it. The so-called toilet was a zipped and tall tent. All it had was a pit for a commode. Some chose not to use it, while others preferred relieving themselves in open air. A few made the most of what was provided and I was one of them. After all, we don’t do this everyday in our life, do we?

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