It is the month of July. In the plains, it is the month of long and hot days. It is the month of the Sun. But hills are different. In the hills, the sun is kind. In the hills it does not burn. it gives warmth, like a mother wrapping her child in her arms to protect it from the cold. Yes, the weather is pleasant in the hills in the months of the Sun. These are the months of celebrations.
The streams are fierce, they are strong; for this is the month of the Sun. They are little kids playing in the street, with not a care in the world. They are reckless, they are well fed, for the Sun shines upon the mighty glaciers; melting their pride and providing enough for the streams to celebrate. But all kids are afraid of the dark, and so are the streams; because then the evening will come and Sun will be gone; and the cold will threaten to freeze them to death.
Trees have no such worry. They rejoice whether its night or day. For now is the time for them to show their true colors. The color of green. The color of Orange. The color of Yellow and so many.
Colors are available in plenty, all around. It is no loner the winter when everything is white. Flowers blossom and present a feast for the eyes.
And where there are no trees and flowers, colors still prevail. For they are also in the sand; In the rocks, and in the hills.
Kiangs are back. There is plenty of grass available for them to graze upon in the valleys of Changthang.
The Ducks and Cranes are back too, to enjoy the warmth of the season.
But the glaciers are angry. Its their time to fight the heat and retain the snow, their pride. They are anxious for the winter to return.
And the locals are angry too. They are upset, they are upset about the terrorist attack at a Buddhist site in Bihar. They are protesting, they are calling for a bandh, a chakka jam. They are furious.
And to this land of beauty and colors we went. To this paradise we went. Yet again, we crossed the mighty passes, some in the dark.
We traveled on roads so good, so bad, so confusing, and even where there were no roads. We witnessed the cold of the land, we witnessed the colors in the sand. We witnessed the fury of the locals, we were threatened by cops, almost manhandled by a mob, questioned by the army. We were lost, we were tired, we saw the kiangs so magnificent, birds so beautiful, and chased by dogs so dangerous. But again we went, to the paradise.
I look at the watch in my cellphone. It is slightly past 7 PM. The sun is setting down and the skies are red with evening twilight. Karzok is merely 40 kilometers away as I am being told by the locals; and if we hurried, we will comfortably make it there before it gets dark.
I am in doubt. My mind tells me that we should continue but my heart is set against it. I don’t know why but somewhere deep inside, I had a feeling that we should call it a day and not ride any further.
I look at my watch again and then the skies. It is going to be a dark night, with no moon in the sky. As dark as the last night was. It was going to be pitch black. I am hesitant but there is no other choice. It is not the fear of riding in the dark but the fatigue that has taken control of all of us. We are tired, nearly exhausted and none of us wants to travel anymore. But there is no choice. Either ride or stay here and spend the night in a nearly shattered room with no glass on windows, dirty mattresses & blankets and with a strong stinking smell. I look at my watch again.
I think of the roads that we have been riding on that entire day; if you can call them road at all. A ride of 10 hours on a bumpy dirt trail; full of lose gravel, stones, water streams and most of all; dangerous threatening dogs.
Yes; I am worried about being chased by the dogs in the dark; in the middle of nowhere; where there is no road.
“Are you sure the road is good?” I inquire of the locals again.
“As good as it is here” They tell me.
I look at the road, fresh black tarmac. Riding 40 kms on this should not be a problem. I look at Sunny and Shoaib with inquiring eyes but they just shrug their shoulders. The answer was clear, “Whatever you decide”
I ask Rohit and he immediately says no, for he does not want to risk riding in the dark. But there is no other choice. I kick start my Royal Enfield. She roars back to life but tells me nothing about her rear tire that already has a nail piercing through it. She keeps silent about the air that is slowly escaping through the punctured tube. And so we ride again, the last 40 kms of the day, to Karzok. To the banks of Tso Moriri. Little do we know that these last 40 kms are going to take us nearly 6 hrs to cover and that all of us are about to risk spending the night on the road.
That we are about to risk getting lost, in the middle of nowhere, on a dark night.
That the place we are riding to does not have even a single room in any of its hotels available.
The Journey Ahead: Day 1 – Delhi to Manali
Planning a trip to Ladakh? Got questions or need any help? Feel free to ask in the comments section below; or at our Community Forum; and I will be glad to answer.