Top 9 tips while touring

It’s been quite a journey. After having enough of falling off cycles, I hopped on to motorbikes (more on that here – https://musingsinlife.com/2017/11/29/a-bikers-musings/). The thought was it should be easier right, no effort of pedalling. But now, two motorbikes, many a trainings from riding gurus and after clocking over 1,00,000kms, I’ve come to realise that I have a lot more to learn. But more on that later.

For now, after learning what not to do from my experiences with my better ‘three-forth’ AKA my small-decision-maker, have listed down top things to do/not do when you go touring, especially if you are going solo.

  1. KEEP YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS INFORMED: Learnt it the real hard way. Once, during one of my initial jaunts, after a long day’s ride, reached Sarchu, a place between Leh and Manali. There’s just no mobile network coverage out there. Yes, I should have called my small-decision maker before starting, maybe I was lazy, maybe I didn’t want to disturb her early in the morning. Anyway, that’s now history, couldn’t update her, and couldn’t reach her till the end of next day when I reached Manali. What happened next is, err, let’s leave it as being understood?
    The lesson learnt is that you should call your family and friends and keep them  informed daily. Give them a call before you start the ride for the day and tell them where you’re headed. Call them (or text) again to let them know you’re ok after you stop at the end of the day. If you know that over the next few days, you are going to be somewhere remote and telephone/internet connectivity might be a problem, let them know. It is also a good idea to let a friend know as well – preferably one of your regular riding buddies. A simple text updating your ride status 2-3 times a day should do. In case of an untoward incident or a mishap, a family is bound to get panicky. But a rider friend is likely to keep a cool head and will use his instincts to help you get out of the mess, and keep your family posted.
  2. INSPECT YOUR BIKE EVERY MORNING: I’m infamous for seeming to love my bike too much. Be it lubing the chain, checking the tyres or going through T-CLOCS checklist (https://www.msf-usa.org/downloads/t-clocs_inspection_checklist.pdf). But I strongly believe that a happy bike ensures a happy ride. Nothing can be worse than something going wrong in the middle of a ride, especially something that could have been taken care of before starting, that too with some support around. In the middle of the road you have no tools, no support, no spare parts. Biggest telltale sign of an unhappy bike is oil stains on the ground where you parked. Also, when you start, instead of gunning right away, go easy for a few km, letting both your body and bike to warm up while paying attention to anything unusual in the bike’s performance.
  3. PACK LIGHT: This is something everyone says, and no one follows, that is until they
    WhatsApp Image 2020-04-19 at 7.49.19 PM

    Not my bike, just in case you were wondering 😉

    experience it themselves. The first time I went on a long one, I thought I had to be well prepared, planned for contingencies and back-up for contingencies. But the way things panned out, I didn’t need any of what I thought I needed, let alone the contingency or its back up. Worse still, the ones that I actually needed were buried under the contingencies and couldn’t be easily accessed. Lesson learnt – most of the day you will be riding, and your gear is good enough to last you through the day. The only additional clothes you will need is a pair for use while retiring for the day, and a couple of undergarments. Have multiple smaller bags inside one large one while packing, one for tools, one for clothes, one for eats, one for accessories for you camera, one for extra gear like raincoats/thermals et al. This helps you get to what you are looking for easily. Travelling light makes it so much easier to pack and unpack. The best way I’ve realised over the years is to keep all the things that I want to pack and then fight with myself to categorise them as a need or a want. I then ditch all the wants and half of the needs and I’m good to go.

  4. HAVE A PLAN, BUT BE WILLING TO DEVIATE: This is akin to “trust in god, but lock
    Screenshot 2020-04-19 at 8.14.09 PM

    BRO clearing a landslide

    your bike”. Having a plan is critical, but flexibility to change it is paramount. Plan helps you with point 1 above. While in unfamiliar territory, knowing where the next fuel spot is or good place to halt is critical. Also, to know what distance you can cover in a difficult terrain, a simple rule of thumb is to plan for 20-25kmph or approximately 25-30% of the distance you cover in good roads. The same 200km you cover in under 3hours in the plains can take well over 10 hours in the hill, maybe more in case of landslides or roadblocks. Tiredness will set in easily. And trust me, after riding a long patch of pathetically bumpy roads, more so in the rain and cold, when you get off your saddle, every part of you will be totally numb. Having a day or two as contingency or a zero day would be a life saver. If your body and/or bike is tired, call it off for the day. Relax and start afresh the next day.

  5. EAT AND DRINK RIGHT: If you are like me, who enjoys exploring new cuisines, new  menu, then this is not for you. But for some, eating alone while travelling can be boring affair. To some, breaking the momentum by pulling over for lunch or snack seems to be a drag. But skipping meals is not a great idea. Just like you do at home,  setting regular times to eat is a good idea. Be flexible, if you find a good spot to eat, ±30 minutes from the planned time, go for it. For one thing, you may not find the next good spot very soon. It would be a good idea to avoid anything heavy or anything that feels you drowsy. Fresh fruits or salads, energy bars and chocolates can act as that meal between meals. And most importantly, drink lots of water throughout your ride. You can get dehydrated very soon, without even realising it.
  6. WHEN TO START IS THE KEY MANTRA: I usually start late in the night or wee hours in the morning when near metros. The main reasons include, beating the heat and traffic. Usually there is an embargo for heavy vehicles in the day and they usually start at 9:00PM, best to avoid that time, especially near the outskirts of any city. It can be particularly unnerving to see a heavy vehicle going at 40kmph overtaking another going at 39kmph, blocking the entire road. In the hills however, I start early, as soon as there is a hint of sunlight and finish early. Many reasons to this, the flow of nallahs (water from glaciers flowing on the road) is much lesser thanks to it freezing over the night, you are better prepared for unexpected events like a flat, a roadblock, a landslide or simply bad weather. Best part is that the photos that you capture at sunrise are simply priceless. Also, nothing can be worse than trying to look for a place to sack out after sundown, given the fact that life almost comes to a standstill in the hills after dark. And when all goes well, you end up having time to spare for a little walk around or take in the sights.
  7. CONTROL YOUR TEMPER: There will always be jokers on the roads, people in cages
    Screenshot 2020-04-19 at 6.39.00 PM

    Truck in a hurry to overtake a van!

    overtaking in blind curves, yet others getting irked at a puny two-wheeler overtaking them, or some moron busy on phone and not spotting you. It is very easy to get irked, get into an altercation or at the very least show them the finger. Have been there many a times. Well, don’t. It’s just not worth it. He is not worth it. For one think, as sure as hell, within a few minutes, you too will mess up, karma of sorts, and you will be at the receiving end. No, I’m not superstitious, but with the incident on top of your head and/or you looking over your shoulder while riding will for sure get you into a spot, sooner than later. Instead, just ignore the joker and go ahead with what you are there for, enjoy the vistas and the ride, let the morons be. Worst case, take break, click a picture, a smoke or what ever that calms your nerves before you move on.

  8. ID AND IN CASE OF EMERGENCY (ICE) DETAILS: Always keep an ID with you and a list of ICE numbers. Your driving license should serve you well for the ID purpose. Keep another form of ID if you can as a precautionary measure. Have a list of In Case of Emergency details with you. Mention your address, phone numbers, blood group, contact numbers of at least 3 individuals who should be contacted in case of an emergency. Keep this on you all the time. Another important but oft ignored fact is that we don’t remember phone numbers anymore. The mobile phones have killed that capability of ours. When your phone runs out of battery or worse, losing or killing it (by accidentally dropping it into water for instance), you are completely done for. Have a small piece of paper in your wallet with details of your important contacts. same goes with spare keys to your bike, for sure dent keep them locked inside your panniers, you’ll need your keys to access the keys.
  9. GET FRIENDLY WITH THE LOCALS: I just can’t emphasise this enough, the
    Screenshot 2020-04-19 at 6.44.49 PM

    Helpful localites (Unintentional capture from my GoPro)

    number of times the locals have helped me, be it about road conditions, or a local delicacy or information on a place that’s not mapped, or a great place to stay, or relatively inane thing like how old the road is, more scenic detours that are available, well I could go on and on. It is a lot easier when you are solo, people tend to be intimidated interacting with a group. People themselves will approach you to talk to you when you are solo. Get friendly, click a few pictures with them and share the same with them.

Do let me know your views in the comments below.

________________________________

About the author:

Muralidhar (www.musingsinlife.com):

A biker | A blogger | An adventure junky | Animal lover

Tries to fit all of the above whilst working as a brand marketing professional. His blog is a product of contemplations, reflections and an unquenchable thirst for self-deprecating humour. It is the world as seen through the eyeballs of a salt-and-pepper *sixteen year-old* fighting off #MidLifeCrisis. No doubt perspectives will be different when seen by others and those are equally welcome in the comments section.

Disclaimer:

  1. This is written with a sole intention of laughing at and with the author, no offence meant to anyone else.
  2. No bikes or animals or bystanders were harmed while writing this.

 

Why I stopped driving…

It started way back, even before I could legally acquire a license. My folks didn’t own a car. That meant only one thing, I was ever more desperate to have what I didn’t – opportunity to get behind the wheel, as often and as much as possible. I’d beg, plead, cajole anyone I could. More often than not, (read 0.001%) I’d succeed. I would visit many a showrooms, pretend to be a rich rice distributor’s son and request a test drive.

Finally, 6 months into my first job, I got myself my first car – a Madison Blue Maruti 800 standard, had loads of fun, but getting into it means I’ll have to digress.

And then I upgraded to a Maruti Zen. These two Marutis amount to the maximum fun I’ve had on four wheels. I used to think that the more expensive cars are simply over-rated and I used to think that any car priced over INR 10Lac are simply a waste of money (looking back, I wonder if it was a manifestation of ‘sour grapes’). I remember being very vocal about it too. This line of thought almost cost me a job, I didn’t know the interviewer was a passionate BMW owner and this opinion of mine really irked him.

When my wife needed a car, I got a Honda City, the CVT variant (over a decade later, we still have it). At that time, she was the only auto-transmission available in the market. Runs like a gem to this day, not a scratch under the bonnet (yes, read again, I meant under the bonnet).

Finally, I bought my last car (the way it looks, probably will remain the last car) – Land Rover Freelander 2. Had my bit of fun with her, a few long drives, a bit of off road, quite a few adventures.

dsc_0411-e1536646083653.jpg

Finally, as suddenly as she came into my life, she was gone.

Which brings me to the topic of this blog – why I stopped driving.

dsc_0012.jpg

My three girls, yes, shoot me, am partial to white, so much so that I even sport my hair white.

I found a new love, actually a few of them. It was a passion that was lying dormant for over 40 years finally erupted. My love of two wheels completely overwhelmed me. At first, it was the bicycle (read more here) and then the bikes (read more here). Once I started, I just couldn’t stop, commuting, joyrides, weekend jaunts, vacations, everything was on two wheels. The freedom, being one with the elements, the sheer thrill that the two wheels gave resulted in the cars feeling neglected. Many a reasons for this:

  • The sheer experience:

Realised quite late in life, but riding a bike is therapeutic to me. The sheer joy of wind whistling in your ears, being one with the nature is an unparalleled experience. To quote Robert Pirsig, “Driving a car is like watching a movie. You’re a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame. On a motorcycle the frame is gone. You’re completely in contact with it all. You’re in the scene, not just watching it anymore.”

You smell everything, feel everything, hear everything and everything around you is a blur. Over 1,00,000kms in total with these three sets of wheels and I still haven’t had enough of it, not just yet.

  • Camaraderie:

Whether you ride in groups or prefer going solo (read more on the pros and cons of group v/s solo rides here), camaraderie is a given. Even when solo, there is a brotherhood, a feeling that is very hard to put in words, there’s instant bonding, usually. Motorcycles definitely are conversation magnets. People feel less inhibited to come and have a conversation with you. They always end up saying one of the two things – “I wish I was doing what you are” or “I wish I knew why you are doing this.” Either way, it is an awesome feeling. On the other hand, if one is in a four wheeler, there usually is a wall that seems to prevent people from coming close.

  • Solitude:

A complete contradiction to the point above huh? Actually no, while riding is enjoying the company of other like minded folks, it still remains personal, very personal. It is you, your bike and your decisions, Despite being in a group it is that feeling of solitude the second the helmet is on.

  • Practicality:

    • Time: This is a big saving. Without necessarily riding the bike faster than cars, one can save 15-25% of time. The ability to squeeze in and out of traffic, makes it much faster on two wheels, be it powered by man or ‘horses’.
    • Space: The small footprint helps you park closer to your destination. Further, the real-estate required to park one car is more than adequate for 2-3 two-wheelers.
    • Cost: This is a topic big enough to ‘earn’ its own mention as a head below:
  • Cost:

    There are multiple aspects to this head. Will try and break the cost factor of a car down below, the bikes typically are immune to this, provided you are comparing like to like. This would hold no water if  you were to compare a super bike to an entry-level hatchback:

    • Acquisition cost: With the vehicles from INR 3lac to over 3 crores, there’s a different dream car that each one of us aspires and it almost always is just out of reach. Now, in hindsight, I wonder if the basic need of mobility is defied by such a priced possession as you may not dare to or may not want to take it to many a places. Surely it is heart over brain choice.
    • Maintenance & repair: This is a biggie, more expensive the machine, costlier is the upkeep. Don’t know if it is just my experience, but there seems to be a direct correlation between the cost of the car and its propensity to get pick up a scratch or a dent. One could argue that the repair is well taken care of by the zero depreciation policies, which brings me to the next cost head
    • Insurance: Zero depreciation policies are a big boon, given the cost of the repairs, but then the premium is a handsome amount, also, they are usually offered for a maximum period of 5 years. Post that, even a minor accident can set you back in a major way.
    • Depreciation: The value of the car goes southward faster than ice melts in peak summer. In fact there are times I wonder if it is more profitable to push the car down a hill and claim the IDV value as that is surely more than the resale value of the car

Sure, one could argue there are tonnes of cons of riding a bike – safety, open to elements, limitation on how much you can carry, bugs, dust and grime all over you. More often than not you are a blind spot to guys with more wheels, even if they see you, they have little or no intention of sharing the road.

To sum up, to me being on two wheels is a pure, almost childlike joy of speed, immediacy, adventure and everything that goes with it. In fact the cons above challenge me and turn me on more! Sure, there could be a need for a four wheeler on certain occasions, for that we have the Olas, the Ubers and the self drive cars. I can proudly say that there is one car waiting for me in every corner of the globe, and I don’t even have to spend on maintaining them.

And now to answer the eternal question – “Why you are doing this to yourselves?” – To me, it is all about the lean and the bellowing tranquility. If you are not a biker, never mind, you won’t get it.

And if you did get it, please do keep coming back for more…

________________________________

About the author:

Muralidhar (www.musingsinlife.com):

A biker | A blogger | An adventure junky | Animal lover

Tries to fit all of the above whilst working as a brand marketing professional. His blog is a product of contemplations, reflections and an unquenchable thirst for self-deprecating humour. It is the world as seen through the eyeballs of a salt-and-pepper *sixteen year-old* fighting off #MidLifeCrisis. No doubt perspectives will be different when seen by others and those are equally welcome in the comments section.

Disclaimer:

  1. This is written with a sole intention of laughing at and with the author, no offence meant to anyone else.
  2. No bikes or animals or bystanders were harmed while writing this.

 

 

 

A biker’s musings…

A biker’s musings…

When my spills from a cycle became more frequent than frequent, I decided to move on to motorbikes – a safer option (??). Went through a really long cycle of evaluation – REs to Continental GT to Thruxton to Daytona to Tiger to a Night Rod. Now, that’s quite a range with nothing in common what so ever! Even the cost of the shortlisted bikes ranged from INR 150,000 to IRR 2,200,000, in hindsight, guess I was looking only at drool-factor or at any one specific aspect of the bike while shortlisting. Incidentally, when I was on a test-ride spree on the above shortlist, what hit me was that I hadn’t ridden a bike since I was 18! My dad used to own a Bullet, obviously I would monkey around with her. We used to stay in a township where technically everybody knows everyone else. Eventually complaints from well wishers about my monkeying around forced my dad to take action and he sold the bullet off and instead got a Bajaj Chetak.

Finally, 25 odd years after I rode a bike, I picked up the good ole Bonnie #TriumphBonnevilleT100, #Bonnie. Yes, it was not even in the shortlist. The practicality of having usable rear seat (to convince the #SmallDecisions maker that I wasn’t being selfish when I decided to bike) and a respectable ground clearance, yet having a drool factor helped me home into the Bonnie. Triumph calls colour scheme of my Bonnie – Aurum gold – talk about them ensuring comprehension, “just in case you don’t know what aurum is you dummy, it is gold”!
I rode her like the wind, literally, a sense of freedom that is indescribable. Despite getting on the saddle after a break of almost 25 years, it was almost second nature. In fact I would inadvertently upshift when I meant to downshift, the bullet’s gearshift pattern seemed to be hardwired into my brain. It took me 6-8 months to get used to the correct side and correct pattern of gearshift on my Bonnie, talk about old habits dying hard!

Joined a group of bikers, made new friends, explored new places, went on many a long rides including those to Rajasthan and a childhood dream – Khardung-La – the highest motorable road. More on these trips later, but the musings and memories of people’s reactions to the Bonnie:

Joined a group of bikers, made new friends, explored new places, went on many a long rides including those to Rajasthan and a childhood dream – Khardung-La – the highest motorable road. More on these trips later, but first, the musings and memories of multitude of reactions to the Bonnie:
Someone or the other invariably has always walked up to me and asked some or all of the questions below, even today:
Koi race-wace hai kya? (roughly translating to – Are you guys part of a race?) For the life of them they haven’t figured out why one would aimlessly roam around in the extremes.
Khud ke paise se ghoom rahe ho kya? (roughly translating to – Are you guys actually footing the expenses of fuel et al that too with one’s own money!)
Yeh kyon kar rahe ho? (roughly translating to – Why are you guys doing this?) Kaash mid-life crisis ke baare mein samjha paate.
Kitna deti hai? (roughly translating to – How much fuel does she consume?) The timeless Indian curiosity. #KitnaDetiHai
Light on hai bhaisaab (roughly translating to – The lights are on?) The good samaritans, unfortunately the Europeans think the bike lights must be constantly on!
Accha, do engine hain? (roughly translating to – Oh, so this has 2 engines?) Yes bro, its called parallel-twin.
Kitne ki hai? (roughly translating to – What’s the cost?) Another timeless Indian curiosity. #Cost
Is it the original Triumph? 😐 #FacePalm The best part, coming from a person in modified Gurkha with the coveted star on the bonnet.
Kitne gear hai? Accha 5, 1 up and 4 down? (roughly translating to – How many gears? oh 5, so 1 up & 4 down then?) Like I’m dying to hand over the bike to him for a trial ride.
And then one day I was peacefully cruising through the countryside. I suddenly heard really loud exhaust of an RE (#Bullet, #RE, #RoyalEnfield) that was really being pushed real hard. For a second I almost impulsively twisted my throttle, a typical male reaction to show that certain part of his anatomy is bigger than that of the other person in question. But then I decided not to, an alien territory, didn’t want to vex an angry local. He caught up with me and signalled that I stop. He was over 6 feet tall, really well built and his dress and mustache indicated that he was a local. To me it was redder than a red light. So, stop we did and had a brief chat:
Him: Bullt hai ke? (The thick Haryanvi dialect roughly translating to – Is it a Bullet?)
Me: Nahin bhai Triumph hai. (roughly translating to – No brother, its a Triumph?)
Him: Trump? (Trump? – no indication of political affiliations here, thats the Haryanvi accent)
Me: Haan wahi. (roughly translating to – Yes)
Him: Kitte cc ki hai? (roughly translating to – What’s the engine capacity?)
Me: Nau sau bhai. (900cc brother)
Him: Nau sao? Danadan bhagti hogi? (roughly translating to – 900? She probably races crazy?)
Me: Haan, lekin aapki Bullet bhi koi kam nahi hai. (roughly translating to – Yes, but your Bullet is not something to be ignored either)
Him: Haan, door se yo bullt hi laage hai. Kahan ki hai yo? (roughly translating to – Yeah, from a distance your bike looks like a bullet too. where she from?)
Me: England ki company hai, bilkul Bullet ki tarah, dono bhai-behen hi hain. (roughly translating to – From England, exactly like your Bullet, they are practically siblings)
Him (sheepishly looking at Bonnie): Bhai to yo hi laage se, ben to maari Bullt se. (roughly translating to – Yours looks like the elder brother, and mine the younger sis)
So much for my initial anxiety!
And then one day during a ride, I accidentally left the key in the ignition, overheard the exchanges when I quickly doubled back to pick the keys:
Him 1: Chabi chod gaya hai. (roughly translating to – He’s forgotten the keys)
Him 2: Lekin kick kahan kahan hai? Start kaise karega? (roughly translating to – But where is the kick start? How will you start it?)
Him 3: Bhaari hai, koi dhakka dekar bhi nahin ja sakta… (roughly translating to – yeah right, bloody heavy too, can’t push-start either)
Many many miles later, more so when one of the litre class bikes overtook me, I realized that the Bonnie can’t keep up with the present generation. The final nail in the coffin was when someone commented that it was an old man’s super-bike, I finally lost it. Went ahead and picked up a Ducati Multistrada 1200s.

About the author:

Muralidhar (www.musingsinlife.com):

A biker | A blogger | An adventure junky | Animal lover

Tries to fit all of the above whilst working as a brand marketing professional. His blog is a product of contemplations, reflections and an unquenchable thirst for self-deprecating humour. It is the world as seen through the eyeballs of a salt-and-pepper *sixteen year-old* fighting off #MidLifeCrisis. No doubt perspectives will be different when seen by others and those are equally welcome in the comments section.

Disclaimer:

  1. This is written with a sole intention of laughing at and with the author, no offence meant to anyone else.
  2. No bikes or animals or bystanders were harmed while writing this.

Khardung-La

Journey to the world’s highest motorable road (#WorldsHighestMotorableRoad):
It was June 2015, peak summer, just about when the mountain passes were opening up for traffic. A motley crew of 10 “young” men decided to conquer the world’s highest motorable road, a journey of a lifetime, one that I had been waiting for all my life. We were on 8 bikes and the remaining 2 in a car. We were quite an ensemble, some of us seeing each other for the first time. I for sure didn’t know all of them very well, definitely not familiar with everyone’s riding skills. The first halt planned was Jammu. Enroute, we witnessed crazy sandstorms and rains, visibility was down to few meters, forcing us (and other vehicles on the road) to a grinding halt, putting us way behind schedule.
A couple of breaks later (like broken rim, crashed bikes and broken egos, frayed tempers and some road kill), we reached Jammu, almost 20 hours after we started in Gurgaon! I was barely awake as I hadn’t slept a wink for over continuous 40 hours. Finally we did reach the hotel we had booked.
IMHO, could have been done in a lot lesser.
After a night halt and a much needed rest at Jammu we were all busy loading our luggage onto the bikes to start riding to Leh. A bunch of curious kids were looking at all the RE Thunderbirds, Classics, Desert storms and my Bonnie. It was very exciting to hear them speak in a dialect that sounded like Punjabi, but wasn’t. Later on I got to know it was Dogri:
Kid 1: Bhaiyya eh 350cc hai. (Bro, this is 350cc)
Kid 2 (the Bhaiyya): Arre oose chod, eh dekh 500cc (forget about it, see this, its a 500cc)
Kid 1: Eh bhi 350 (this is 350cc too)
Kid 3: Eh dekho kya mast miltree colour hai (pointing to the Desert Storm – look at this awesome military colour!)
All kids reach the Bonnie, looking really curious, until the smart bhaiyya looked at the T100 badge on my Bonnie and said very confidently Arre yeh to 100cc hai! (This one is 100cc) So much for the much touted 865 cc, 61 bhp bike. I was really foxed – do I join the others and laugh or go for a big #FacePalm!
The natural beauty of the hills is just unparalleled! It’s a non-stop feast for one’s eyes. We chose a lesser used path to reach Srinagar from Jammu. It is called the Old Mughal Road. It is a beautiful, winding narrow road via quaint villages. As luck would have it, it was raining cats and dogs, as we took shelter in the awning of this shop, the 3 beautiful kids, (don’t you adore those blue-green eyes…) offered us bread. To us tired, wet, frozen and hungry riders, it was heaven send! Another #FacePalm moment when the sweet girls told us that this was supposed to be eaten with subzi like roti, and not gobbled down like we did. When we offered to pay, the lil lad said Paanch Rupaiye, (5 rupees) we dug into our wallets the girls quickly said, koi baat nahin uncle, koi nahin. (It’s ok uncle, forget about the money). Do we lose this hospitality, the #Masoomiyat (innocence) once we urbanise? I wonder. Incidentally a common Indian way of addressing unknown men who are older than what one can call “elder brother” is “uncle”.

Our first Achilles heel was the Zoji-La pass. What made novices lead the way while the experts waited, I don’t seem to recall. But what certainly was out of this world was riding behind a mama bear and her cubs. Boy, could they run!

It was a case of scare them or drop your bikes and run back, there was no way we could do a U-turn in the slush and muck. I chose the former, wonder, in hindsight, if stand-off would have been safer. For, honestly, not sure we were more scared or them! We successfully crossed this pass with not too much further ado…
Riding further ahead, we met some chicks…
 Posed with battle tanks…
 Stopped over at the Kargil war memorial. An unexplainable emotion – just the question “why” kept coming up in my head constantly, why the wars, why the sacrifices, why hatred, why, why, why, WHY! No satisfactory answers ensured that I found one silent corner and shut myself down for sometime.
Continue from there we did, had to reach Leh. Stops enroute got us to meet some more local kids. DSLRs were out and flashing, kids posed, posed rather well, I dare add. But by the end of it all demands for Baksheesh got so loud that we had to scoot.
At a quick pitstop that soon followed, the disarming smile and happiness on the face of this kid on seeing bikes was priceless.
By the time we reached Leh district, some 80+ km from Leh city, it started getting cold and dark, we decided to call it a day. The quaint place was right next to the road, we sank into our beds. We convinced ourselves that this was the best thing to do to acclimatize ourselves to the altitude rather than racing to Leh.  The following day, we had a lot of time at our disposal, under 100km to Leh and the whole day ahead of us. We really took our time…
…crossed a few passes and felt snow fall for the first time… (before this, I had never seen snow falling, it has always been before or after snowfall!
Road was fantastic, for most parts we had amazing fun riding on one of the straightest roads, well maintained, with desert on both sides. We stopped for a few photographs.
And immediately after this photo, I tried to take a U-turn, most simple and basic of manoeuvres, but didn’t realize I was in 3rd gear. Bonnie couldn’t take this abuse, definitely not at this altitude. She stalled. And I dropped her, at 5 kmph! Doesn’t get more embarrassing than this huh? Broke my foot peg in the process. Quickly changed the one from behind to front and I was ready to hit the road again…
…not this way, if you know what I mean.
Continue we did, sometimes thumping, sometimes racing, sometimes waiting. But always ready to go…
…through the twisties at Lamayuru – moonland…
 …or one of the innumerable road blocks due to landslides…
 …or the magnetic (???) hills…
..or proving that I do not have ‘chicken stripes’…
 Got a royal welcome at the hotel, the place was awesome. Food was brilliant, it seems like a luxury to have a proper room with mattress, heating, laundry facility and even a WiFi. We kinda made this our base camp and after every expedition, we’d return to this hotel.
So continuing to thump, race, n wait; being eveready to go…

The customary pose at the mighty Khardung-La…

At the Khardung-La & Chang-La, Bonnie sure did grab quite a few eyeballs.
DSC_0564.jpg
Was overwhelmed with respect and a feeling of patriotism yet again. The presence of the soldiers patrolling there rain or snow is something that deserves a hell of a lot more than just respect.

It was quite a sight to see Bonnie merging right into the whiteness of snow. Bonnie purred along effortlessly through anything that nature threw at her, would have prefered a bit more of low end torque, but apart from that, it was perfect.

Visit to Nubra valley was something else. Dunno about you but seeing a sandy desert with camels amidst snow capped mountains was not something I had ever imagined
The experience at Pangong Tso was surreal! The color of water changing with time, the temperature changes, the very ride to the lake and the fact that we were literally at China’s border was something else
The tranquil peace at the lake made us all take off and do their own thing. Some took of for photography, other for a dip in the lake yet others rode of to more desolate spot to meditate, some chose to hit the bottle and yet others hit the sack!
 I guess I selfishly spent time with myself, mah gurl and stacking up a few pebbles…
 Finally called it a day in these tents. They were awesome in the day, when the sun was up. Once the sun set, I was breathless, no-no, not the awestruck breathlessness, literally breathless, oxygen deprivation. Was working up a sweat just to haul myself over to the toilet, yes sweating in freezing temperature! But it was an experience I’m ever-ready for an encore (anybody listening?)
And thence began the loooooooooooong return journey…
…many a nalah crossings…
…and a very interesting gent called Topi (the gent sporting the yellow helmet), life saver, literally…
…and one random skull in Mori plains, couldn’t resist the photo-op…
…and a few moments of peace and introspection…
 …and that of forced male-bonding (never before and never since have I slept so close to another man, there were 15 or so of us in mattresses and razaais good for I’d say 10). After a sound sleep (actually quite literally, for there were Harleys, Busas, RE w/o mufflers, Yams amongst our snorers)…
…and a lots of eventful-events later (omitting them here as they were less to do with biking and my running out of tongue-in-cheek ways to narrate them without ruffling feathers), when I was feeling rather pleased with myself and my achievement, saw this gent riding a cycle rickshaw from Jalandhar enroute Mumbai (a distance of 1800km). Saluted him and his journey, came back to mother earth, and returned home.
That brings me to a new beginning, but then that would be a new note.
Do circle back and check my page for new stories
Till then, continuare a correre Hmmm, #TheItalianConnection, story idea…

About the author:

Muralidhar (www.musingsinlife.com):

A biker | A blogger | An adventure junky | Animal lover

Tries to fit all of the above whilst working as a brand marketing professional. His blog is a product of contemplations, reflections and an unquenchable thirst for self-deprecating humour. It is the world as seen through the eyeballs of a salt-and-pepper *sixteen year-old* fighting off #MidLifeCrisis. No doubt perspectives will be different when seen by others and those are equally welcome in the comments section.

Disclaimer:

  1. This is written with a sole intention of laughing at and with the author, no offence meant to anyone else.
  2. No bikes or animals or bystanders were harmed while writing this.