Thursday, August 02, 2007

Running through Ladakh.

It took me a month to realise that time is actually flying. Its been about 32 days from the time I hit the my room back from Ladakh. It does still feel fresh to an extent, or may be not. A months work has obscured the mind well enough to feel that the trip was fine, just fine.

Now the trip. It all started 3 yrs back. A strong craving to hit the mountains. It was supposed to be done by me and Vivek. I wanted to do it, that’s why Vivek wanted to make it, from all that I saw during those 2-3 yrs. Vivek never had the time to make it to Goa for a vacation, forget the Himalayas. I almost gave up on Vivek, and then time had brought me to Parag and then Anup. Yea we guys were the SAPpers. We were SAPpers, simply because we hit the road on every opportunity we got. The vagabonds of the type in Goa, who didn’t care about being seen and spoken about as ‘Rastad’..yea all Goans reading this will understand. We worked enough for the whole week and then we hit the roads.
Somehow for whatever reason me and Parag got Vivek to move, and then we got to booking tickets, not knowing what work or commitment will confront us as we were closing in the time to go the vacation. Some changes in the original plans got Anup in the boat. We made our decisions.

And most importantly the reason such a hasty decision was taken by me was the fear of falling into the pit, as we all call it. We knew that the axe was hanging on mine and Anup’s neck, and that some point of time we were likely to be hit by the axe of commitment. This is not some Axe deo that I am talking about.

16th June, 2007

Flights from Goa took myself, Anup and Parag from Goa to Delhi. Vivek was flying from Bangalore to Delhi. Vivek was the first to hit Delhi, followed by Anup and after all the confusion at the Goa airport with airDuccan we managed to hit Delhi at about 11:30 pm. From there on we hit the road straight to Manali. We had 2 drivers, one sardar and another greedy chewed up asshole.

17th June, 2007.
We were on to the roads in delhi and in not time the Grand trunk road. It was past 1 am and we were at the dhaba throwing ourselves at the parantas and the curries of the land of Punjab, and not to miss, we had the elixirs of Goa. Along the road to Chandigarh, we were hit by a filmi style ‘aandhi toofan’, beserk rains and winds… I was actually scared, for the roads were new and we had no clue how efficient our driver was. After all the traffic block, courtesy the truck that had overturned, we managed to hit the road again and I couldn’t get my self to sleep off. It was 4:30 am last when I saw my watch and pitch dark. I woke up to a jerk on my neck and looking around realized it was wide day and sun was almost at the horizons. Our sardar driver was playing with his Tavera at about 80 kmph. Vivek, Anup & Parag was happily sleeping. And in no time we were all awake. It was bloody wide awake 5:00 am.

We stopped by at a so called dhaba, none of us wanted tea for the obvious reasons. We knew that we wouldn’t see civilization for kilometers to come and that abstained us from eating. Finally out of Haryana and into Himachal Pradesh. We were happy that we hit the hills in Himachal, but Manali was about 245 kms of hill terrain driving. It must have been about 8 am and we were reassured by the driver that we will not hit Manali before 4 pm. That was fine but what about some place to stop by for the download and some upload. We hit a road side dhaba with a hut besides it that proclaimed Toilet. Holy cow that was a toilet. Vivek was the first to invade and run back in defeat. It was followed by some guts by Parag and Anup and then me, but we were all loosers. As we hit Bilaspur and moving on, just along a sharp curves at Nauni, I had my eyes on a small place, Hill View, with a Vegetarian board that stretched all over the façade of the hotel. We park and move on and I ask if they got bread omlette, only to be scorned by the owner of the hotel. Settling down we agree to the vegetarian breakfast, but our minds were somewhere else. We wanted to a clean toilet. And yes, we did manage to get the keys to the well aired, spacious, hill side toilet of hotel hill-view and thereon we gobbled all the puri’s and sandwich. Ahh now were set up for another 24 hrs of whatever that came our way.

Moving on we drove on the majestic hills of Himachal Pradesh and we knew it would only get better with time. Sleep was avoiding all of us except Vivek, he was at peace with his blinds and off to sleep any moment. We drove along very peacefully to the sightings of deep gorges and sometime gorgeous pahadi girls. And at times, I would turn my mind upside down for not having my bullet with me, moreover when I would see some stray bikers going around on bullet. As we were nearing Kullu, we were driving along the Beas river. At a small place nearing Kullu, we stopped to feel the Beas river. I was reluctant to get into it. But Vivek has no second thoughts, he was all in it and out. The water temp must have been close to freezing, and he sat in there for 10 minutes, comfortably numb. Motivated by all the calls from Parag and Vivek, I made it to the banks, believe me, the water was freezing cold. Less than 2 minutes and my feet were partly numb. The excitement of the cold water stayed with us for a long time till it started fading from out minds from the sights of the tall peaks, Pashmina goats and the comfort of the thought that we were heading straight into Manali.

For the first time I had my eyes on the snow covered peaks. It was a real excitement which I can now laugh off, but having moved from ground zero to about 8000 ft above sea level, was something for me at that point. I was staring at the peak that stood wide mouthed just at the beginning of Manali town and the real sense of the adventure that lies ahead was getting into our minds. We were all excited. I couldn’t resist the temptation to smoke in some more extras for all the good weather and the sense of achievement that catapulted into me when were hit Manali. As a delicacy, Vivek bought some coconut kernel that was out for sale in Manali. I was thinking to myself, look at the way dry fruits are sold in here, Rs. 70 for 2 kgs of almonds and there in goa, dried almonds cost about 400 bucks a kg. Anyways we had palm feni and we could comfort ourselves to the cold realities.

Now the most important introduction -- Kaushal Desai – I got to know him a year earlier when I was planning to hit Ladakh with a pal from Bangalore, Gautham. For whatever reasons, I could not make it at the last minute. He is the guy who is, I would say, Above 14000 ft. I had conversed with him for a number of times over planning the entire trip. He was the guy who was to bundle us off from Manali and drop us off to the Leh Airport –after we were done with all the fun in the 8 days ahead. I called up Kaushal to know that we were booked in a place at Manali called Hotel Lhasa. And that he would be there for us in sometime. We managed to find the hotel in Manali and before we had even checked in, Kaushal was there with his wife Indu. And offcourse, Sushmaji who was to be with us on the remainder of our trip from Manali along with Indu. Sushma was a trained mountaineer and believe me, I envy her. Its so easy, yet so difficult for us to do what Sushmas has been doing. Its easy, because all it takes is leaving all things behind and moving to the mountains, and difficult because, we cant take the decision to leave all behind. Anyways those are the matters of the heart and don’t matter here much.

Ahh what a room. Opening straight into the streets of Manali and over looking the majestic, Dhauladhar range of mountains. I was half insane. For a moment I did not want to come back to sea level. It was amazing. I was lost on my own world while we talked with Kaushal at the small 2 feet open balcony that hung over the roads below. I can still feel the excitement of that evening, lingering somewhere deep in me. Then after all the settling down, we paid off the taxi back to delhi and woke up to the reality of non existence of any goodness in the taxi drivers of Delhi. No offences. I always thought that Mumbai was a unsafe place to be, but believe me, I have been again and again cheated at Delhi, moreover by the taxi guys. Those guys are ruthless. They only think and want money. The goodness is never looked at.

Well, then Kaushal left and we were left in to decide which bed was for whom. Vivek hit the pot and Anup & Parag were experimenting with attainment of some nirvana in some yogic posture, which later turned out into some competition. I have a picture here in below to check it out. Later on we moved to Chopsticks, a restaurant recommened by Kaushal. The place was really nice. Great ambience, good food and awesome Tibetan music. And not to forget the great Rhododendron Wine that took us high above the Himalayas. We were all excited about all the elixir that we were carrying with us from Goa all the way into the Himalayas, its only later in the trip that the disappointment sets in. You’ll know why, as we go through.

18th June, 07
We started our day early after the runover of the dream or the experience that Anup had over night. He heard, felt, saw and escaped some foot steps in our room, I don’t know if it was one of those surreal dreams that one experiences at high altitudes. We planned out on some acclamatisation trek in the hills, We took an autorickshaw to a place called Vashisht, from there on we trekked through the beautiful villages around Manali and then to the Jogini falls.

Vashisht was on the outskirts of Manali and a Israeli joint. Just like you got Palolem in Goa. There were Israeli restaurants and café and bikers and women. Vashisht is the place where you got the temple of Sage Vasshist, which also has a hot water spring. Thanks to Vivek and his love for experience, we ended up dipping our feet the hot water of the spring. Vivek saw this Boa and got to him, with his instincts to taste whatever crawled, I was sure he wouldn’t want to kill it. He romanced the Boa for a while and then we was out romancing a Angora Rabbit.

And from there on we started our trek to Jogini. It was nice fun amidst all the excitement that ran through our heads. Jogini is a beautiful waterfall, although with little water, it pours from a very high place( above 100 ft) in the mountains, getting down freezing water to a small place with a temple, that I assume is a few hundred years old. I decided to settle down at the temple and not join Anup, Vivek and Parag to the climb up the Jogini falls which did not seem to exist from the point where I Stood. In the mean time I befriended a old Isareli couple and talked about their life. They were retired school principals and both husband wife had traveled almost the whole of the world, including south America. Ahh…you know I was jealous. And then moved on to a demi BABA who was churning out some charas for his smoke, he offered to sell me some great stuff Manala cream for about 500 bucks for a tola, which was the Indian rate and not the firangi rate. I am not sure why is that Manila and Manali, are the producers of the best Hash in the world. No Clue..

As the trio were up, exploring the Jogini, I decided to hit a small hillock and settled on a small rock and watched the small village below. It took about 3 hrs for the guys to come down and by then I had befriended a guy who was running a tea stall and was familiar with Goa. Offered me tea for 4 bucks, which otherwise cost 10 bucks for the firangs. Some 2 brits sat next to me at the teastall, smoking off some weed or some stuff. One of the guys was shooting some voyeur of a babe who was enjoying some music down below, also making me realize the instincts of the papparazi are not restricted to India blood. Later during the evening, when the guys came down, we took off to Vashisht and then hired bikes to ride our ways in the hills. We rode from Manali to Solang and then a call from Kaushal made me aware that we got to be leaving at 5 am the next morning for Leh. That turned us back half way from Rohtang and back to Manali. We gave off our bikes and then set off to Manali town for the dinner. Vivek and Anup managed to get a autorickshaw to the town while myself and Parag decided to walk it back to town along the Beas and the across the narrow one way bridge in Manali town that carries the entire crowd across the Beas.

Then we were back at Chopstick, again on Rhododendron and some more of elixir when we got back to the room. We called it a day at about 1 am while Vivek was deep in his slumber, in some surreal dream that would make a hot topic for mastication the next morning.

For Pictures :

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