Leh Ride: Lost Souls on a Soul Searching Trip – Peace on Pangong Tso

One of the interesting thing about traveling alone is the quest to find people to talk to. The monotonicity of riding alone acts as a magnet towards those whom we meet on the highway. And invariably the self often finds characters with similar disposition.

These are the stories of some of those people I met on a semi-solo trip to Ladakh last year.

This blog entry is part of a three part series on the people I met during my Leh ride in 2015

Part 1: Lost in Punjab

Part 2: The Bearded Lama

Part 3: Peace on Pangong Tso

separatorPeace on Pangong Tso

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I caught the space between two waves and the stone made small ripples on the blue waters of Pangong Lake. It was a first glimmer of success in twenty or thirty stones I had thrown. Those ripples were hard to come.

I was living a dream. Spending a day idling on the banks of Pangong. This I had wished for upwards of several years.

When I first started thinking of riding to Leh, every itinerary I saw stuck me as an attempt to fit more and more in each day. It did not feel like a holiday; it felt like a tour – a tour filled with things to do, check lists to be ticked off.

Mine wasn’t going to be like that. Yes there were return flights to caught and phone calls to be made home; still in between I wanted to spend a few unfettered days in the lap of remote Himalayas. It is the fantasy of the dormant ascetic residing deep within all of us.

BikeRide_Leh_1520Yet there was a lingering problem which I was trying not to think about.

I was left with Rs800/- and a little more than a full tank of petrol to make my way home to Nainital from Pangong Lake.

Since losing my wallet near Dras several days back. I was living on an emergency stash and help from biker brothers. My current companion has moved onto Chulshul. With him went my hope of withdrawing money from the ATM at Karu, for I had another friend transfer funds to his account which I was hoping to withdraw.

But that was an earthly problem. I wasn’t going to bother myself with that for the time being.

BikeRide_Leh_1449From the banks of the lake the water did not look so blue. It was somewhat shiny grey primarily because of the grey stones that showed through the crystal clear waters. On the far shores the brown hills of Chinese land looked down upon the lake. I settled my bum deeper into warm sand. It was nice here. The sun warming my back and light breeze caressing my face.

The water from the dip in the lake had almost dried off. It was freezing cold and I spent but a few minutes in the lake; just to fulfill another promise made to myself.

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“Juley”, suddenly a voice shouted out from the back shattering the peace of the moment. I was far enough from the road to not expect anyone. Turning around I found a young boy in lama robes and Yankees cap walking towards me. Greeting him back I watched him glide easily down the rocky slope to the water’s edge and sit down besides me.

On one hand I was irritated; on the other I was glad for the company.

BikeRide_Leh_1508-1515And boy he could talk. He was full of question, much like my son who is 10yrs younger than him. For a while I answered the endless stream of unrelated question; Who am I? Where I come from? What I do? What about my family? What was I doing there? Why?

Then he stopped and looked far into the mountains. Suddenly the silence was unsettling.

BikeRide_Leh_1350It gave me time to ponder over his questions. And then it hit me. Each question was leading me towards the next. The questions had a purpose. The same questions I was asking myself; but in a more structured way. A way which made the answers easy.

I turned to look at him with a newly garnered respect. But he was gone. I frantically stood up and turned around, searching for him. There he was, his head disappearing beyond the top of the rise.

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I wondered why he left suddenly. But he had left me with a clear set of question and a clear mind to find answers. I sat around longer enjoying the moment and the view. This was not a place I would have a chance to visit frequently.

I still had a problem to solve; eight hundred rupees and fifteen hundred Km to go.But that was a problem for later. For now the eyes and the soul were free to take in the feast.

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Leh Ride: Lost Souls on a Soul Searching Trip – The Bearded Lama

One of the interesting thing about traveling alone is the quest to find people to talk to. The monotonicity of riding alone acts as a magnet towards those whom we meet on the highway. And invariably the self often finds characters with similar disposition.

These are the stories of some of those people I met on a semi-solo trip to Ladakh last year.

This blog entry is part of a three part series on the people I met during my Leh ride in 2015

Part 1: Lost in Punjab

Part 2: The Bearded Lama

Part 3: Peace on Pangong Tso

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BikeRide_Leh_549Lama G was the odd one out. In my years of wandering the monasteries of Karnataka, Mcleodganj and Gangtok, I had never seen a young lama with a beard. He was also the one who could talk at my level. The others focussed on spirituality and religion.

When asked, G laughed at my question. The beard being the result of two weeks on the road, driving the group around. The group was on a tour of all the monasteries in the area, personally inviting the heads of each to a function at their monastery in Leh.

To prove otherwise he fished out a photo of himself show a dashing young man in aviators and yellow/red monk’s dress.

Yet the connection has been made and we spent the evening on the cold plains of Rangdum, Zanskar making each other understand the idiosyncrasies of each other’s life.

BikeRide_Leh_602It was early evening when we had reached Rangdum. The valley was beautiful. I was in no mood to proceed towards Padum and decided to camp there for the night. Choice of stay was limited – a run down tourist bungalow or a set of rooms above a shop cum restaurant. A roaring fire at the back of  the shop, for it was cold even in summer, decided it for me.

Having decided to stay the night, I made an even more surprising decision to stay the next day too. I intended to hang around taking in the beauty of the place and maybe ride around some short distances. After all this was not a race to complete an itinerary. It was wandering to heart’s content.

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G was enrolled into the monk’s school at a very early age at the behest of his father’s brother. While the reasoning was that he showed spiritual inclination, G himself felt that it was because his parents found it difficult to feed the growing family. Having one less mouth to feed would always be welcome.

Initially he did like the life at the monastery. But as G grew up, the masters to be realized that he was quite skilled with tools and machinery. So he was entrusted the task of the general handyman of the monastery, slowing down his education and thus the growth in the order of the monastery.

Frustration has crept in. G was at the verge of quitting the monastery. He had made his decision, yet did not knew what to do next. Going back to his parents home was an options. He would no longer be a burden, for as a strong grown up youth, he could work in the fields or even run a shop. Yet the shame on the family was to managed. He and his family would be looked down at by the villagers. Though leaving a monastery was not unheard of, it was not considered a good thing.

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So there I was, on the plains of Rangdum, entrusted with the burdens of a fellow human. I did not claim to be his savior. Yet I, being one of analytic mind, laid down his options in front of him. For each I played the devil’s advocate – at times scaring him and at others encouraging him.

BikeRide_Leh_774The cold evening forced us inside in the company of others. The fire was the refuse of all. G avoided me at the fire and over the dinner of Tingmo (steamed bread). Just before I went up to sleep, I caught up with him on the stairs. A firm handshake and good wishes ended my acquaintance with G.

The group would be long gone when I woke up next morning.

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Leh Ride: Lost Souls on a Soul Searching Trip – Lost in Punjab

One of the interesting thing about traveling alone is the quest to find people to talk to. The monotonicity of riding alone acts as a magnet towards those whom we meet on the highway. And invariably the self often finds characters with similar disposition.

These are the stories of some of those people I met on a semi-solo trip to Ladakh last year.

This blog entry is part of a three part series on the people I met during my Leh ride in 2015

Part 1: Lost in Punjab

Part 2: The Bearded Lama

Part 3: Peace on Pangong Tso

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Baljeet Singh K. hated everything – from the chip on his beer mug to the fact that he was obliged to his uncle (mama) for his job, education or as a matter of fact everything that mattered. For his age, 22, the bitterness went deeper than in anyone I had ever met.

As he cursed the not-so-cold beer, I wondered what I was doing in his company.

BikeRide_Leh_030It had been a long day on the road. Uttarakhand was in deluge since late night. There was flood and heavy rainfall warning everywhere. It seemed that my trip was doomed before I started. Yet I had braved the weather and set out despite the ominous warnings. The day had been fruitful and I managed to cover 450 odd Km before calling it a day at a nondescript hotel at a nondescript town near Ambala.

BikeRide_Leh_015Baljeet was sitting at the front desk when I came down the stairs. He was prompt in recommending a nearby restaurant and even more eager to accompany me there. It was evident that he did not care about his responsibility of manning the front desk.

On my part it looked like an opportunity to have some interesting company after a day of continuous solo riding in the rain. If his glassy eyes gave any hints of things to come, I conveniently ignored them.

BikeRide_Leh_005His father had disappeared during the days of insurgency leaving his mother and elder brother alone months before he was born. The family had then settled down with his uncles in a large rural household and that’s where his stories came from.

Those stories were as colorful as his language. Words never stopped flowing out of him. He had stories of the 71 war, of growing up in rural Punjab, drug fueled social life and most of all, his dislike of his family on mother’s side.

The most interesting was how, several years ago, he had run away from home and hitchhiked his way to Delhi. Once his money ran out, hunger made him find work as a chotu at a small restaurant in Kashmiri gate. He hated it there, yet ego prevented him from returning back home. Fortunately for him, he was spotted by his brother who was out in the area for buying spare parts. Two tight slaps and a big hug later the brothers were on the bus back home.

BikeRide_Leh_012By now I was fighting to keep my eyes open. As I convinced him that it was time to leave, he asked me his first question of the evening: why are you riding to Leh?

The glassy eyes were fixed on me, as if they would drill a hole in the middle of my head. I did not want to answer that question. Not to him. Not to myself.

I turned my head avoiding his gaze and stood up. We then walked back to the hotel in silence.

As he settled down behind the desk and I walked up the stairs, a voice boomed behind me: Bhaiji, jawab nahi doondhoge?

I would have a lot of time to search for answers and there were a lot of unanswered questions.

 

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Gallery

Bike Ride Leh – All Pictures

Nainital – Srinagar – Zanskar – Leh – Nubra Valley – Leh – Pangong Lake – Manali – Nainital

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Bike Ride Leh (Day 6: Rangdum to Drung-Drung Glacier to Rangdum) – Pictures

Rangdum – Drung-Drung Glacier – Rangdum