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: 18th August 2016; Route: Diskit – Sumur – Khardung La – Leh
“There are no traffic jams along the extra mile.”
We got the adequate amount of rest the previous night and that helped in compensating my lack of sleep. The lady at the paying guest offered us Ladakhi bread for breakfast. As they served the food, she looked eagerly at me with a smile on her face. I hadn’t even finished my first bite and she asked: “how’s it, do you like it?” I swallowed that nibble and said: “It’s… great, mmm, very yummy”. It was like a pancake but a bit ugly and less tasty. It was not that bad but I murmured in my mind, “What is this shit, regular bread would have been better“.
We vacated our room and started riding towards Sumur. We wanted to check out a Monastery over there, and it wasn’t that great. As I thought it would have been better to skip it, I saw few 6-year-old kids along the roadside with a broad smile on their face and their hand stretched out. Initially, I thought they wanted a lift or some help. I slowed down to see if everything was alright. They started cheering for me when I was approaching them real slow (I had no clue whatsoever!). One of the kids shouted, “bhaiya, haath do (give your hand)”. I was like, huh! Anyway, I stretched my hand to my left and the kids gave me a high-five real hard. I was wearing gloves but I still felt those clap. Damn, that moment just made my day. Can there be a better feeling than getting a high-five while riding your motorcycle? Naah. Skipping Sumur would’ve been a mistake.
As per the itinerary, we had to reach Leh by the end of the day, and for that, we had to cross Khardung La again. This time, it was not very pleasant. It was damn cold and cloudy, I was afraid that it might rain and if it would have, I will not be writing this post now. One way or another, we crawled to the top. And unlike last time, it was not crowded at all, so we had our small photo session at the top giving all the macho poses. We crossed Khardung La and reached Leh by 4 PM.
Since we had a couple of hours left, we decided to go the extra mile and head out to Drass. The minute we went past Leh; man, I was mesmerized. I challenge you, if there is any national highway in India which is more sensual than NH1, I would ride on that too. However bad your mood is, that road will undeniably bring a smile on your face. If it didn’t then you must be dead, because there is no way on earth that it won’t happen. As I was enjoying my ride, I saw a set of people standing underneath the hoarding which said “Magnetic Hill, The phenomenon that defies gravity”. I had heard a lot about it. People say that when we park the vehicle on the marked lines, the vehicle starts moving uphill by itself. I felt it was a scam, though it looked like a plain road, I could see the slope of it. The vehicles were not moving uphill, they were actually moving downhill. And that disappointed me.
Anyway, we decided to move and mark our trail on NH1. After covering around 35 KMs, I told my partner to stop. I wanted to ride that stretch again. We rode backward for 10 KMs just to relive that moment, I was addicted to it. NH1, you beauty!
Finally, we decided to call it a day at 6:30 PM. We checked into a room and went out to have a cup of coffee where we met a doctor from Srinagar. He was quite interesting and a travel freak too; he had been to many parts of India including Kochi and Bangalore. Generally, people of Srinagar are kind of Jihadist (pardon me, for my poor choice of words) but he was quite open during our conversation, I guess the reason being traveling, it moulds you as a different person altogether. He explained to us about the situation in Srinagar and gave us a workaround. He advised us to cross it after midnight. And we just hoped the situation in Srinagar to improve by tomorrow. If we don’t complete the circuit by crossing Srinagar, we had to ride all the way back to Manali which will take few additional days and put us behind the schedule. I just hoped for the best.
P.S. I still dream about NH1 😀