Disclaimer: I have tried to recreate the events, locales, and conversations from my memories of them. The below-expressed views, opinions or analogies are personal and may not be in line with the widespread conceptions. Please go to Motorcycle Diaries -> India: Ocean To Mountains (or Click here) to check out the previous events.
Date: 11th August 2016; Intended Route: Manali – Rohtang La – Keylong – Baralacha La – Sarchu
Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.
Have you ever woke up to a riverside view with a calm breeze smoothing over your face? I can’t describe that feeling but the only thing I can say is I haven’t slept like that before, I guess only the golden slumbers (by Beatles) can justify my feeling. We went to trance while the river whispered to us that night. I didn’t want to leave that place but we had to reach Manali as soon as possible to avoid the rush to get the permit for Rohtang La. We had our breakfast from the Motel and started riding towards Manali. The landscape was beautiful and I had clicked quite a few pictures that morning.
We reached SDM’s office on time to get the permit. When we enquired about the required documents, we found that we also needed the pollution test certificate which my partner didn’t have. So he went ahead to get the emission certificate for his vehicle which he can get it done at some of the petrol stations.
Since I had all the necessary documents, I went on to apply for the permit. I smiled and said: “Hello ma’am, I need the permit for Rohtang La Pass”. She laughed and I didn’t know the reason, I thought she was crazy! I didn’t crack a joke, I didn’t have anything on my face and my pant’s fly was not open. I was wondering why she laughed. So I asked her, she said: “La refers to the Mountain Pass”. I said “Okay, but I still didn’t get the joke”, She said, “You said you need the permit for ‘Rohtang La pass’ which is same as “Rohtang pass pass” where Rohtang is the name of the mountain.” Oh, then I got it, my bad! It was a blunder. Well, if you guys are going to Ladakh keep this in my mind, either you can say Rohtang La or Rohtang Pass, even Rohtang would be just fine but don’t say Rohtang La Pass. Otherwise, you also would be an object of laughter just like me. Anyway, the lady issued the permit and as soon as I came out, my partner also had his vehicle pollution test certified. Next task was to get the fuel can. While my partner was getting his permit, I stopped at the Manali market to buy a pair of bungee cords and a set of jerry cans to carry additional fuel which was required in the Ladakh region.
And then it was time for us to climb the first Mountain pass, Rohtang La. At first, everything was normal, the road was awesome, the weather supported us but things got worse with the elevation, the bad road started and the rain complimented it. In an hour, the bad road turned into a swamp and the temperature dropped drastically, it was around 9 degree Celsius. We knew about the roads, but till yesterday it was not raining in that region and when we arrived, everything had changed. Our luck, rather bad luck!
We had to ride the whole way on 1st or 2nd gear; the skill involved was to drift the bike and not to make any sudden manipulation (including acceleration or braking) in the mud. While crossing Rohtang, my bike’s rear tire was stuck in the slush. I struggled for a couple of minutes. Funny thing is when you are helpless even couple of minutes feels like an hour. Though I was accelerating, the tire was rotating in the same place and I wasn’t able to get the grip on the marshland to push it myself. I needed help. A good man coming from the opposite direction stopped his jeep, got down in the mud and gave the thrust from behind to get me out of that mess.
As I was about to thank God, the bad luck struck again, my partner tasted the mud. Luckily he fell at the inner edge of the mountain and since we were moving at a very slow speed nothing much happened. He got a scratch on his right palm and the bike’s mirror was broken. If it was the outer edge, I wouldn’t be referring “we” anymore. After that incident, we became much more careful.
We were not able to bear the sting of the rain and the bite of the cold. After three and a half hour, we were done with Rohtang Pass. As soon as we completed the pass, we saw a Dhaba. I was shivering with cold. We had to soak our hands on fire to feel them. The stove was just 2 to 3 cm below my hands to make me feel normal. The hotel guy served us steaming hot soup and lunch followed by ginger-honey-lime tea, the best drink I had in a long, long time.
We decided to stop at Keylong itself, I was in no condition to reach Sarachu, which was our interim destination. My body was still shaky. Since my motorcycle was running on reserve, I stopped at a fuel station to top up. Though I was wearing a waterproof winter glove, the rain water had gone in and my fingers were frozen; I was struggling to open the fuel cap of my motorcycle. A couple of riders waiting in the queue helped me to open the cap. They also gave me a medical glove which they told me to wear on top of my riding gloves to make it water and windproof, which was, in fact, a great idea. They were from Bombay and they asked us to ride along with them to Jispa but we weren’t in a right shape and decided to give them a rain check.
We had covered only 180 KMs, thanks to the worst riding conditions. We saw all the colorful mountains after Rohtang but I was not able to click even a single snap. My fingers were paining badly because of the cold. When we pulled out the clothes from our bag after checking in, we felt like they have been kept in the freezer, it was that bad but it was fun 😀
P.S. God didn’t stop testing us and we were not gonna give up anyway 😛