Takes guts!” commented Neha. She wasn’t referring to the dirty-jugged dhaba water I poured down my parched throat but to my riding solo through Spiti. “Stupidity!” I retorted. “Guts, for sure!” she insisted. I thought and retorted, “Stupidity! Clearly stupidity!”
I left Neha, her friends, my new found acquaintances, to tuck into breakfast. My thoughts drift to the reason for riding... My mind’s messed up professionally (overworked) and personally (existential challenges – as my wife put it). I figured a ‘soul searching’ mildly adventurous ride into the mountains would de-stress and relax me. I expected smooth winding roads, quiet monasteries and breathtaking views.
What I got instead was noisy monasteries with selfie-crazed tourists. Dangerous dirt tracks and rocky paths that wind precariously around the mountain edge (called roads). The view is beautiful and dramatically changes every few miles; but breaks concentration. A misjudged turn will take your breath away – forever. Literally to die for!
If that wasn’t bad enough I was in a rush to complete the ride and be back in Mumbai. Work and family awaited. The ride tested my physical, mental and emotional stamina; soul searching be damned. High on adventure it was, to the core.
Six days of riding behind me... Mumbai - Ahmedabad - Udaipur - Delhi - Shimla - Rampura - Reckong Peo - Khaza - Tabo - Chandartal Lake. Shimla onwards it was painstakingly yet thankfully slow. Now course set for Manali. The last leg to get out of the valley before heading back to Mumbai. By the time I complete my tour I’d have ridden about 4,600 kms; that’s about one and half times the length of India.
Other bikers were shocked and amazed I was on a solo trip. They asked where I was heading. I didn’t know. Most often I didn’t even know where I was, leave alone where I was going... sounded like my life.
A day earlier I’d run out of fuel and my spare jerry can strapped on the KTM RC 390 was empty too (sounded like my life again).
Not many venture into the Himalayas on any other bike except the Enfield then again nor do it unplanned or alone. Then again not many are stupid. Last night again I was made aware how pre preparation would've helped. No warm clothes. I hid under a flimsy blanket as the wind howled through my tent searching for me. I shivered not just from Chandratal Lake’s 6 degrees cold but actual fear. I worried how I’d tackle the treacherous nullahs before Manali that too alone.
Nullahs are where the melted snow (freezing water) crashes down the mountain side and crosses the so-called roads flowing up to knee deep. The bike slips and slides due to the pressure of the flowing water, smooth river stone and uneven path. Bikers often fall or the bike stalls. You could twist a leg or earn some other injury.
In the last few days I’d drunk mineralised spring water that reeked of sulphur and had calcified the rocks... I'd avoided shooting stones and falling rocks. I'd missed being knocked off the edge by a jeep in a rush. On occasions I’d lost concentration and barely stopped at the edge of a drop. And an hour before I’d fallen on a rocky path.
Neha and the dhaba are now miles behind. I watch as a car gets stranded in a nullah. A local driver takes the wheel and easily puts it across for them. I suddenly realised that I feel no fear. I excitedly handover my phone to a passenger in another car to record me riding through the nullah. The fear of the unknown has disappeared. I laugh aloud as I slip, slide and bounce through the nullah.
The trip tested endurance and eliminated fear... fear of death, disability or being stranded in the mighty Himalayas of life. It answered my questions on life; “No matter what the challenge, conquer your fear and you can ride through it with a laugh.”
Mumbai and life, watch out here I come. Call me gutsy or call me stupid. But call me. Anytime! Not for a ride BTW as I prefer to ride alone.
Dominic CostaBir, Director, HTI India Pvt Ltd is a hospitality trainer by profession when not tackling stupid adventures