Ladakh Road Trip -2013 – Day 9-10

Mishap at Tanglang-La

Day 9 – 20th June, 2013

When we woke up in the morning, Avinash was feeling fresh but my headache was as severe as it was when I went to sleep. We drank the remaining Glucon-D and went to the mess room to have breakfast. I was feeling nauseous and didn’t want breakfast but thought that without breakfast I would feel weaker. So I decided to have some food. The cook had prepared chole-puri. I left half of it in the plate as I could not finish it due to my condition. 

Within half an hour we loaded our bikes and hit the road. We did not decide the destination but decided that we would stop wherever we reach before sunset. It was mid day, we were riding through mountains. We all were having good time watching Red colored mountains go past, and then suddenly Avinash’s bike stopped. For half an hour Avinash tried all possible things to start his bike but all in vain. Avinash even asked for help from the vehicles passing by but no one was able to figure out what the problem was. Then we saw two foreigners and asked them if they had any idea about fixing a bullet bike. They told us that their utility vehicle is coming from behind and they have a mechanic with them. After a while the utility vehicle arrived. Four guys got down from the vehicle. One of the guy looked at me and figured out that I’m suffering from AMS. He gave me Dimox tablet which would help me get rid of AMS. All the four guys were friendly. We all were having a friendly conversation while their mechanic Sunny was inspecting the broken down bike. He resolved the issue in no time. Avinash was very grateful to him and even offered to pay him. But he refused to take it. He said it was his duty to help him. We all were very surprised to see such selfless attitude. We bid good bye to our four new friends and resumed our journey. We were headed towards Tanglang-la (Tanglang pass). At 16000 ft, this was worlds second highest motorable road. But after a while we took a halt at Pang to satisfy our hunger pangs. 

I ordered plain tomato soup. We noticed a big group of foreigner bikers, most of them were from France. Pang’s altitude being higher than Sarchu we avoided staying there to escape from any more AMS symptoms.

My headache was growing stronger but I had to continue my ride because I knew if I stay in Pang my AMS would get even worse. The road to Panglang-la had very bad patches. This ride was getting torturous. We were almost near Tanglang-la when Avinash’s bike broke down again. I looked at the sky. Moon was just rising from behind the mountains. We were standing in the sunlight. Rajesh and Kinjal were nowhere to be seen. I assumed they must be very far behind. Avinash made numerous attempts to start the bike. Since we were at a very high altitude we were running out of breath. We must have had spent around one and half hour there. Moon had risen up in the sky and shadows of the mountains were getting elongated with every passing minute. Now we were standing completely in the shadows of the mountains and it was getting colder. After a long time Rajesh appeared on his bullet he looked at us and thought that we were waiting for him. He signaled us to start riding without realizing that we were standing there due to a breakdown.

We saw two trucks on the deserted road, approaching us from the opposite direction. Avinash signalled them to stop. He asked them if they can help him. The driver said he can tow the bike back to Manali. Avinash didn’t like the idea and let them go. While leaving, the cleaner of the truck suggested an idea. He advised to tie the bullet to my Pulsar and reach TanglangLa which was almost at a distance of 2-3 Kilometers from where we were standing. I was skeptical in the beginning about my Pulsar pulling such a heavy Bullet. But we had to give it a try anyways. We had no other choice, did we? 

Avinash tied his bullet to my bike and started the bike. To my surprise my bike pulled the Bullet effortlessly. We saw two army trucks on the road but they could not help us as the trucks were fully loaded. We continued our towing adventure. While Avinash was seated on the Bullet, Maithili was walking from behind. We must have had crossed around 1/2 kms when the nylon rope connecting our bikes snapped and tore apart. Avinash tied it again. Now since the road ahead was looking pretty flat, we tried pulling the bullet with Avinash and Maithili both seated on the Bullet. This attempt also worked perfectly. Whenever there was an ascend, Maithili would get down and we’d continue the towing. The vehicles coming from opposite direction gave us a message from Rajesh that they are waiting for us at the TanglangLa pass. 

My headache had reached it’s peak. I had never in my life had experienced such an intense headache. My headache was so strong that I thought my head would split open anytime. But more than my headache my mind was more occupied with helping Avinash and Maithili. We reached Tanglang-La and met Rajesh and Kinjal who were waiting for us. I pleaded them not to spend any more time in discussion and continue the decent towards Rumtsey, where we can take a halt. I wanted to reach down as soon as possible. We thought that the next journey was all downwards and we can easily make it to Rumtsey. But the descending road had many ascends in between at which the rope broke again. Avinash then tied our bikes with bungee chords which also broke after some time. This continued till we almost broke 2-3 cords. We were ran out of  bungee cords and this time we really panicked about how to get out of this situation. 

Meanwhile Rajesh and Kinjal had rode down to arrange for some help. Rajesh had planned to reach the Army base camp and request them to help us. It was complete dark now and only visible light was the moonlight. Avinash stood there for a while and took a very difficult decision. He decided to park the bike there and start walking down. He though that after all a bike is a materialistic thing and more than the bike, saving his and Maithili’s life was more important. It was getting colder and colder with every passing minute and the temperature would soon go below 0 degrees. I was shivering intensely and was worried about Avinash and Maithili. Avinash parked the bike on the road side. He parked it near a rock blockage which would avoid trucks hitting the bike in the darkness. Avinash took out all the important stuff from his saddle bag, wore his headlamp on the head and started walking down with Maithili. He asked me to ride down and get some help. I started riding down with my headlight illuminating the rocks and snow ahead on the road. This was a frightening ride for me. I was riding as fast as I could as I wanted my friends rescued. It was a pitch black darkness, I had severe pain in my head, my fingers were going numb due to coldness. I doubted if I could make it to the Army base camp. I saw two headlights approaching me in the darkness. The car gave me a upper-dipper signal to stop. I noticed that it was an Army Ambulance.

There were Army officers in the van, they told me that Rajesh and Kinjal have reached down at the base camp and ambulance is going to rescue Avinash and Maithili. I informed them that Avinash and Maithili are exactly at 13 kms from the current place. I had read the odometer reading where I left Avinash and Maithili as I wanted to be able to tell the rescue team how far they have to go to rescue my friends. The ambulance made it’s move. From there I slowed down as I was relieved that the help is on the way. After few minutes I came across an Army truck. The officer got down from the truck and asked me if I’m Rajesh’s friend. I explained him the situation and told him that the bullet is parked 14 kms from here. I thanked him for offering their help. And I started riding again. The base camp was still 10 kms away. After about half an hour, I reached the base camp. I saw Rajesh’s bike parked in the darkness. I parked my bike, climbed down from the road and started walking towards the base camp. I could see some officers walking by at distance in dim light. Some of the officers saw me and realized that I’m Rajesh’s friend and what situation I’ve just been through. They ran towards me, took the bag from my hand and took me to the room where I saw Kinjal. The army truck which I had came across a while ago had also come back. I wondered how they came back so soon. I later came to know they had misinterpreted what I told them and thought that there was no need to pickup the bullet. They thought that my bike was the broken down vehicle which was ok now and only Avinash and Maithili requires the rescuing. Since the ambulance could bring back Avinash and Maithili, they turned back little ahead from the place where they met me.

The officers offered me a chair to sit. They lit up a stove and asked me to warm up my hands on it. They then brought hot tea, cashews, peanuts and biscuits. I was left speechless by seeing the way they were taking care of us. Rajesh also entered the room. He was also there in the army truck and had came back with them. We all indulged in a conversation about how we got into the situation. I was still worried about Avinash-Maithili. After a while the army ambulance came back. We all went outside and saw Avinash and Maithili, and finally felt at peace. Officers brought Avinash-Maithili in the room and offered them tea. They both kept thanking the officers again and again for rescuing them. The officers kept on replying that it is their duty to serve the people. As a token of appreciation we offered them a packet of dry fruits which they strongly refused to accept. Avinash and Maithili gave them their phone numbers and told them that whenever they’d come to Mumbai they should give them a call and give them an opportunity to offer their hospitality.

After a long conversation with the officers we decided to leave. Officers took Avinash, Maithili and Kinjal in the ambulance to drop them at Rumtsey. Rajesh and I followed them on our bikes. The ambulance dropped them at a home-stay of a local village head (sarpanch). Officers spoke to the owners and explained them the situation. Without these officers nobody would have offered us a stay at such late hours. We got a stay at a very reasonable rate i.e. 150 Rs. per bed. We spent some time talking to the officers and then we came our room, recalled the horrifying memories of the day and then called it a day.

Rescuing the Bullet

Day 10, 21st June, 2013

After going through a very hectic situation a day before we had a very good sleep. We woke a bit late. Avinash and Rajesh got ready. They had to go to the Army camp to rescue Avinash’s bullet from Tanglang-la. When Avinash and Rajesh and other army officers reached the spot where Avinash had parked his bullet, they saw Sonu, the mechanic who had solved Avinash’s bullet problem a day before. It was such a great coincidence. When we needed help it came our way one way or the other. Sonu and his co-travellers in the utility van along with the foreigners bikers who had hired their service had taken a halt at Tsoker. When they were passing by Tanglang-La they saw Avinash’s bullet parked on the road side. Sonu recognized the bullet by the go-pro camera stand attached on the handle. He was just about to fix the bullet when Army truck arrived with Avinash and Rajesh. He told the officers that he can fix the bike in no time but officers refused to give him any time for tinkering with the bike. Avinash couldn’t say anything as he was grateful to both, the Army officers for getting this huge truck up at the Tanglang-La to rescue his bullet and Sonu for selflessly helping to fix Avinash’s bike. Army officers loaded the bullet in the truck and brought it down to Rumtsey where we were staying. They unloaded the bullet.

Sonu had followed the truck and was waiting to fix Avinash’s bullet. While unloading bullet’s tank cap broke and fell down. We had to get to Leh to get new replacement cap. We thanked the army officers many times and bid good bye to them. Sonu took 15 minutes to fix the bullet. Avinash’s bullet was up and running though it still had some problems. Due to lack of time Sonu advised Avinash to get it fixed at Leh. There was a good mechanic named Mohan Sharma on the outskirts of Leh. Rajesh’s bullet also had some problem. We thought it would be best if we leave for Leh early in the morning the next day, dump our stuff in the hotel and then visit Mohan Sharma to get both the bullets fixed.

Rest of the day went in conversation, coffee and food.

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