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: 15th August 2016; Route: Leh – Thikse – Shey – Khardung La
“To conquer your flaws, you must first accept them”
69 years ago, on the given date, India attained its freedom from the British Empire. When I was planning our trip, I wished to be at Wagah border on this memorable day. But in order to plan our trip efficiently, we had to visit the border a week prior. Though we couldn’t make it to Wagah on the intended date, I wanted to visit a place which will make this day an unforgettable one for the rest of my life. So I improvised, now the plan was to ride the (arguably) highest motorable pass in the world but before that, I wanted to check out Thikse monastery and Shey palace which I missed the day before. Since I was not able to fully utilize yesterday, I was adamant to make the most out of today.
After a long time, we were starting our day on the right note; my buddy was back on his feet, the weather couldn’t get any better and we had acceptable riding conditions ahead of us. Despite my co-rider running a bit low on energy, we covered Shey palace and Thikse monastery before lunch. Both the places were beautiful but if I had to choose one, I would any day go for Thikse monastery. It’s one of the must visit places in Leh.
Then it was time for the big one, the one for which I rode thousands of kilometers from ocean to mountains – Khardung La. There were 100s of riders who were riding from Leh to Khardung La on that day. We were unaware of the rally happening in which Kiren Rijiju, Union Minister of State for Home Affairs would hoist the Tri Color at the Khardung La Top. It was an epic moment for me to ride the highest motorable road along with hundreds of motorcycle enthusiasts on India’s Independence Day.
By the time we reached Khardung La Top, it was jam-packed with Riders, Reporters, BSF and the Minister’s Security Guards. The crowd began to clear up after the press conference. As my buddy was photographing me, I had a sense of achievement, standing beside the milestone saying “You are on the highest motorable road in the world”. I felt that I had accomplished something great but then I saw something, a group of cyclists holding their hands and hugging each other. They were eager to take a snap beside the milestone too. All of a sudden, I noticed that all the cyclists were amputees and I was surprised to know that they rode from Manali to Khardung La in the last 10 days. At that point, it was not the highest motorable road which gave me the goosebumps it was their smile and enthusiasm, their zeal and zest; they demanded respect, in fact, they commanded it. Riding on top of an engine is one thing, but to be the machine is totally different, and they were the machines. I felt, it was something that I could never achieve if I put myself in their situation. As they say, only disability in life is a bad attitude, and they proved it.
It was indeed an unforgettable day. We rode back to Leh by evening and checked into a cyber cafe to plan the route map for the coming days. Oh and I also bribed our room boy to reduce a day’s rent. That brings me to another advantage of traveling, I had gained a set of skills in the last few days which I never thought I had.
P.S. It was not easy to bribe a 15-year-old but there is nothing a plate of Momos can’t do 😀 And FYI, nobody got laid 😛