I woke to the sound of birds twittering around my tent, trying to bore holes into it as they spoke amongst themselves about a topic I did not understand. It was a perfect morning. The sun was rising in the east; the mountain air was fresh and crisp. I checked the level of the engine oil, inspected the tyres and the bike for problems. Another day had dawned. The past few days had been similar but the scenery had changed greatly. I had left the roaring trucks and whizzing cars behind. I felt like an experienced motorcyclist now as it took less than ten minutes to pack up and get ready to leave. Two kicks later the engine roared to life and I was on the road again, hunting for a dhaba to find something to eat before I began cannibalizing my “emergency supplies”. Sighting a small shack on the roadside with smoke emanating from the chimney I decided to stop and ask. The owner had just opened and said it would take a few minutes to get going. I was in no hurry whatsoever-riding a ten year old motorcycle which was designed in the 30s gave me a virtue which had long been forgotten in the automated, electronic world of today- patience. I put the bike on the center stand and started to pen down my progress after consulting the map and the dhaba wallah.
This was routine. I had no need for a map except for charting my daily progress and to see if missed something. I was interrupted by a scrumptious breakfast of a half burnt omelette, stale bread and strong tea. What I would have rejected outright in the city is what I ate now with pleasure. Food was just another type of fuel that kept my body’s motor running, petrol for my ride. The dhaba owner told me of a small monastery just off the road. I decided to ride till the monastery and then go back to the highway. Having no fixed destination in mind made me feel as if I had discovered something new every time a local mentioned a small temple, lake or ruin that was not on the map. This monastery was small but exceedingly pretty. I lit a butter lamp and tried to chat with the Lama. This was accompanied with butter tea that the monk offered me. I asked for permission to take some photos which he agreed to. I wrote down some info I got from him. He posed for a few clicks and I was on my way few minutes later. Tarmac had nearly disappeared off the surface of the road but I was not complaining. My eyes were hungrier than the rest of my body as they gorged on the beauty of the rugged landscape and goaded me on.
A bump and crackling sounds startled me. I pressed the brakes and decided to inspect. It was merely a fist sized rock that had come under the front tyre and had decided to shatter and hit the disc brake, causing the sound. No damages. I decided to take a break and go on in about five minutes. I looked at my watch and saw that it was already two in the afternoon! I was hungry! All of a sudden my senses switched their focus from the view to the sensations in my stomach. I munched on a half-eaten packet of biscuits that was stashed in my tankbag with some water and went further searching for a place to eat but in vain! Not a soul in sight. I could now feel every pothole, every bump and every misjudged turn which made me veer off the road a few centimeters. After 10 more minutes I decided to finally give up hope and eat something before going on. I stopped at a high ridge on the road and looked down the valley.
I thought I had sighted a dhaba a bit further off. I brought out my camera and pressed the entire focal length into service to confirm the claims of my eyes and I was right! There was a small dhaba in the middle of nowhere! I now felt like Gollum who had just laid hands on “his precious” once again. I mounted the bike again and drove furiously downhill. Halting beside the shack I ran in, asking for food. The owner said that lunch was over, but he could make me maggi. I guess he took the tinkle in my eye for a yes and started to make a pack of maggi when I said no not one, two! He shrugged and made two packets while I told him about my adventures during the day. He was aware of the monastery, the alpine valley, the wild horses and the hidden pools which I thought I “discovered” along the way! It took way longer than two minutes in the high altitude tent with a small stove but my maggi was finally ready. I downed it with lightning speed, drank a cup of tea he made for me and felt exceedingly pleased with myself. I decided to stretch my legs a bit. Half an hour later a thunderclap roused me. I ran outside to see and the owner said it seemed as if it might rain. I wanted to go further as I had not chewed enough miles that day and decided to ride on but was interrupted by large drops of rain.
I hurriedly began dismantling the web of bungee cords and nets that held my saddlebags together and as everyone knows- hurry only makes bad tasting curry, managed to topple the bike. The owner ran out with an umbrella, helped me get the bike up and the stuff off it. I thanked him and he shrugged it off. We took my stuff inside and he offered me a bed next to his for the night. I said I would consider it but would want to wait for the rain to stop first. He laughed and said sure, but let me know if you want to eat dinner by eight so I can make something as we’re the only two eating. I looked at my watch and it was six already! I sat outside waiting for the rain to stop for another hour but then resigned to the thought that the kitchen tent was my halting place for the night. I told him to cook anything he wanted to and put my stuff up on the bedside. He made me some tea and we sat chatting while he cooked. I decided to sit outside again and as soon as I did, the clouds started to give way and soon the sky was all clear! Just my luck! I decided to walk around a bit and felt the chill in the air increased tenfold!
I ambled back to the dhaba and sat outside for a bit, writing the events of the day in my notebook. Ate dinner while chatting with the dhaba owner and decided to call it a night after a short walk. Another day had finally drawn to a close in the life of a motorcyclist. As Lao Tzu rightly said “A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving”, I went to bed thinking of the ride the next day as I traversed through the frozen sands.