Can You Take Me Higher?! | Lot Like Freedom
Blog :One Headlight
Date: 1/21/2012 2:59:00 PM
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Day 12 – June 29,2011 – Part 8 There was no way wewere returning from this trip, sans our fingers! That very second, UK and I,jumped off our motorcycles and placed our palms on the tailpipe! Almost instantly,I figured this was not helping me one bit, and so I moved towards the forwardof my motorcycle and placed my palms on the engine crankcase! After about a coupleof minutes, I could feel the warmth of the engine radiate into my flesh.Strangely though, the bluish tinge, still remained. Looking ahead, wesaw that an asphalted road lay in front of us. However, based on what we hadheard from people who had gotten across RothangLa, we knew this stretch would not last long. As occasional vehicles passedby us, we got a few thumbs ups, and a lot more weird stares! A tractor driver,looking at us warming ourselves beside our motorcycles, offered us a smoke. Wepolitely refused, and sent him off. We had not killed the engines on ourmotorcycles because we were not sure if we would be able to get them breathingagain. You see, it was that cold (and wet too)! Anyhow, with the rain havingstopped now, and warm blood making its way back to my palms – things werelooking lot better. Even then, I put my hands in the way of exhaust jet everyonce in a while – because it felt that damn good! It was quite sometime now, and we had sufficiently recuperated from the cold (and the shock ofbeing frostbitten). But before we could get back on the road, UK and I decided toswitch to the gloves we had picked up from that store in Jammu. Of course, these were not armoured, but they were dry, andwarm; and choosing them was most certainly a no brainer. I quickly rummagedthrough my luggage and pulled them out. I slid the soaked riding glovesunderneath the stretch chords that held my backpack to the rear seat. I hoppedback on my motorcycle, slipped it to gear, and got back on the road again. Cursing along the asphaltedroad, with warm dry gloves, was definitely a lot more enjoyable compared to thetorturous ride under the rain since Tandi.The fact that I could now hear the motor revving beneath me was the icing onthe cake! Moving along, the snow cover increased rapidly, and the freshly laidroad resembled a serpent amidst a field of white. I was lost in the beauty Rothang had to offer and the odometerreading did not matter anymore. The ride up to here seemed like it was worthall the pain we had to endure, and I was smiling behind the balaclava again. I was trailing thepack, and I saw Shoib abruptly stop his motorcycle beside the road. The nextinstant, he was racing inside a shack! UK and I, parked our motorcycles too, (again,not killing the engines) and got into the shack ourselves. Shoib was perchedbeside a kerosene stove on high flame! There was a lady too, who I suppose,owned the place. We smiled at her as a courtesy, and found ourselves a spotbeside the stove! As we warmed ourselves, we got into a conversation with thelady, while she prepared some tea for us. In no time, she was abusing us forhaving ridden in the rain! Women, I tell you! The tea was ready by now, and Igulped it down, greedily. I could feel the tea warm up my body, as it went downmy oesophagus. Well, it was timeto leave the warm little shack and get back on the road again. We learnt fromher that Rothang La was just a fewcorners away from here. We thanked the lady for her hospitability and just aswe were about to exit the shack, a man stepped in. He looked like he was fromaround here. After a brief conversation with him, he told us hurry, as we wouldget to Manali by 2200! Ha, it was onlyabout 1800 and Manali was just over50 kilometres away! I certainly did not believe it would take us that long toget there, but I did not tell him that. Anyhow, we thankedthe duo, hopped back on our motorcycles and hit the road. Once the slope of theroad had reversed its direction, we knew we had gotten past Rothang La! Although it had been such atreacherous ride up to the top, the celebrations, when we got there, wererestricted to punching the air and yelling out a few profanities! Based onfirst person accounts, we knew very well that getting down to the other sidewas going to be a lot more challenging than getting to the top. Within a minute ofour decent, the tarmac disappeared and we found ourselves riding amidst soft,wet mud again. After getting past a couple more corners, we could see thevalley below, and the sight was truly better than most others we had seen inthis ride. Moving along, in the far distance, we could see an endless line ofvehicles, stuck one behind another – in either direction. As we got closer tothem, we realised why – the tyres of most vehicles had sunk into the mud sodeep, that it looked like they had been planted there. It was not verydifferent in our case either. Looking down, I could see that the brake disc onthe front wheel of my motorcycle was just skimming off the slush. There was no way wewere going to line up behind these vehicles. Just as we had done so many timesbefore, we made our way across the little gap that existed between the rows ofvehicles. Occasionally though, we had to stop to ensure there was enough spacefor a truck to go through. Most of these trucks though, slid backward than theyclimbed forward. The tyres from heavier vehicles had left behind deep ridges onthe mud. We had been advised by many to stay well clear of these. People who werestuck in their vehicles, cheered us as we passed them! Many of them, in fact,moved their vehicles a little bit to enable us slip through! In spite of it, wewere having to stop very often. And each time we did that, my helmet visorfogged up completely. Moreover, the speed at which we were descending was nothigh enough to clear up the condensation. The only option then for me was totake my helmet off. And that is exactlywhat I did. I tied the helmet to the rest of my luggage, beside the dirty pairof jeans and the soaking wet gloves. To speed things up, we decided to get toone side of the road than stay in the middle. The gorge, being on our left,meant that it was too risky to get past the stopped vehicles on that side. Sowe moved over to the extreme right side of the road and started our descent.Shoib took the lead, I followed him, and UK trailed us. I could see that thedrive chain on Shoib’s motorcycle was totally submerged under the slush! Well, Icould not see the drive chain on my motorcycle, sitting on the saddle; butconsidering that Shoib and I rode identical motorcycles, I figured that was thecase with me too. Argh, I could only imagine how much this was wearing out the drivesprockets! Along the way, wesaw many army personnel controlling traffic. Few of them were pushing out thestuck vehicles. The traffic pile up was so bad and stretched for so long, thatat one stage, everyone, except for the three of us on our motorcycles, were stationary!People, who were stuck, continued cheering for us. And whenever we briefly cameto a stop, they were eager to get into a conversation with us! This time, wewere more than just celebrities; this time, we were heroes! Following Shoib, I triedto stick to the same line as he was taking, but it was hard work. The gooey mudquickly fell over itself and covered up the little trail left behind, leavingme to tend for myself. Further behind, UK was having some trouble manoeuvring hismotorcycle through the limited space. Our motorcycles, with their tyres sunk inover half a foot of slush, were hardly responsive, and we had to put our feetdown to stay in balance. I was more than just glad that I was wearing rainboots! I so knew that UK would have to dispose of his shoes when he gets to Manali! As we crawledalong, we could see that the trail of oncoming vehicles ended, not very far fromhere. We knew that the ride would be a lot easier once we get past them, and thatthought motivated us to ride a little quicker. As I opened up the throttle, I realisedthe front wheel had just rolled over a rather big rock. I tried to brake ashard as I could, in addition to steering away, but the next instant, I heard athud, as my motorcycle came to an abrupt stop – the rock lodging itself underthe frame. I tried to move the motorcycle, but it would not budge. I figuredthe only way forward was to pull out the rock from under the motorcycle. I calledover to Shoib and explained my situation, and asked him for help. But consideringthe position he was in, there was no way he could get off his motorcycle andwalk back towards me. I turned towards UK, and I noticed he barely was able tostay in balance, and quite precariously at that. So the onus was on me, to pullout the rock from under the motorcycle. I figured I could not put themotorcycle in stand, and I knew I would drop the motorcycle if I were to getoff it. After a little circus, I managed to yank the rock out, while stillsitting on the motorcycle saddle! After what feltlike ages, we approached towards the end of trail. We had all agreed beforehandthat we would speed up a bit once we cleared the stuck vehicles. Well, this wasto get a decent gap over the other vehicles, which would also speed up, likeourselves. I untied my helmet from my luggage and put it back on. Soon, wecleared the last vehicle in the pile up.
UK and Shoib shutthe visor on their helmets, and opened up the throttle on the motorcycles. I,well, with the visor already taped shut in place, just opened up the throttle! Theroad got better too – um, it was dotted with many potholes and essentially was allgravel; but at least I saw that the drive chains were not submerged in slush! As wepicked up speed, it felt a lot like freedom! Manali – here we come!
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