You can read about the previous day, i.e. Day 6 here.
I had the luxury of a bed (I didn’t care good or bad) and a rotating fan. That was enougfh to set me up for the night. I woke up at 8 am, and behold outside my window was a sight I normally saw in bollywood movies. The surrounding was crowded & noisy with all its bells and whistles. It was a full fledged locality with a big market where you can find almost every thing a man needs. Even the famous Chillams (Smoking pipes), kept in huge baskets, resonanated well with the place I was in – The Himalayas!!! I was aware of a huge task I had, i.e carrying my 70kg luggage up the 50 odd stairs to the road where my bike was parked, but for now I just stood soaking in the surrounding.
I wrapped my morning pretty quick & reached my bike, only to find that me & my bike had encroached on the business space of a man running his shoe polish store. I apologized for my ignorance to which he gave me a pleasant smile and replied “Koi baat nahi bhaiyya” (Don’t worry brother). I had to ask him to spare me some more time till I loaded my stuff on the bike. Ever smiling he again said, “Bhaiyya aaram se aao, koi ghai nahi”. I was so obligated with his demeanour and the fact that he didn’t grumble & grunt at me that I had to take his service and get my shoes polished by him as a payback for the discomfort and inconvenience I caused. After my awkward little apology polishing was done I left speeding away from Rampur towards hills again.
Rampur has a hot weather, however, once on the bike the heat ceases to affect. The breeze and sweat acts like a cooler for the body, I know it sounds gross, but you tend to love this feeling once on the road. The hills began changing colours and the road became curvy yet again. The Border Roads Organization were working the mountains for making wider roads at the outskirts of Rampur city. I had my happy moment when I took a nice lean on a curve of a hilly road and raced ahead on the straight road. I must have gone for 50 meters when I saw few guys sitting on the grassy area on the edge of the road. They waved at me, gave me a thumbs up. I reciprocated the gesture and rode on. But soon I changed my mind and turned back to meet these fellows. I stopped beside them and engaged in some friendly banter.
Me: Where you guys coming from ?
Them: Europe. Slovenia
Me: Wow, Europe is a dream..
Them: Europe is not a dream.. (Pointing the index finger at the mountains) This is a dream..
And the converstaion went on peppered with good humor and dryfruits. I showed them the club T shirt I was wearing and they were fascinated to know the name of the club; Wolfe Pack India. On getting to know I am riding solo and my route from Mumbai, one of the guys mentioned he is from a Solo Riders Comminity. This community is a worldwide community and there are just two rules of this community.
- No rules
- If you happen to meet a solo rider enroute you treat him with a beer.
No prizes for guessing, I was accepted into the community & he offered me a beer. Having taken the oath of not drinking and driving, I politely refused but on insistance carried it along to drink at night when I take a halt.
He had suffered a near fatal accident two years back crashing at the speed of 150 kmph on a highway & thankfully his helmet saved him. Though his body suffered fractures, his head was saved and here he was riding again after being bed ridden for 6 months and under observation for another year. His story reminded me of this quote I heard; “Respect the person who has seen the dark side of motorcycling and lived”
As my interaction was coming to an end, they asked me if I am having any issues with the bike. The mechanic they had with them rectified some minor issues with the front wheel.
Them: Bro, at the rate at which you ride you should cover the whole of Slovenia in a day.
Me: I hope to ride the whole of Europe someday.. ;’)
Them: Hahahaha.. Sure bro.. you are invited…
The guy standing 1st from left, Mr. Dane took my business card to stay connected. Couple of day later, I got a mail from him which included the Solo Riders community details. As I revved up my bike, they said.. Go Ahead.. If you face any issues, we are riding behind you.
I realized we live with a lot of prejudices against people from other lands. There might be people who view our country in a sorry light, but not all have this approach. For many India is a dream they cherish dearly. Maybe its our insecurity that makes us feel that we may be treated as “Bloody Indian”. Whereas in reality people are same everywhere and they just need acceptance from people everywhere without the judgemental vision.
Getting this feel good factor at the start of the day was the much needed boost to me. It gave me the enthusiasm to take on the journey ahead. I kept throttling, judiciously negotiating corners, curves, and climbs of the hill. The altitude just kept getting higher by every mile. Just before I could reach Reckong Peo the road deviated through another mountains, the 2km straight road I envisaged turned into a 24 km of hill road. There was a huge vehicle jam in the mountains where two buses came in face to face and the other vehicles piled up subsequently. It’s in such situations the benefit of having a motorcycle comes to light. I could zip and squeeze myself out of the traffic from nook and corners and the gaps between the bigger vehicles and free myself out of the jam in a comparitively shorter time. It was here, in this godforsaken traffic jam that I met another biker and got chatting with him. After escaping the clutches of the vicious traffic & getting down the mountain just before Rekong Peo, we shared a chai while waiting for his buddies who were accompanying him in in a car. His buddies arrived after a brief halt of 20 minutes and I bid them goodbye to continue my journey (So much for the big vehicles)
The mountains are as mighty as they are humble. Call it coincidence or a sign of nature but here I was riding through one of the most treacherous roads in the world and my headphones sung Shaan’s evergreen “Tanha Dil, Tanha Safar”. It synced perfectly. I realized my adventures had just begun when I saw a man in a camouflage shirt, with a walkie talkie in his hand, halting upcoming cars on the other end some 100 mtrs away. I asked the gentleman about the issue and he said there is a possibility of a landslide, as few stones are falling. I froze at the thought of being stuck in a possible landslide and delaying my already delayed journey. The gentleman must have read my thoughts as he assured me not to worry as there were also chances that the stonefall was a result of Himalayan goats running over the mountains. Nevertheless they werent going to take any chances with the situation. The stones stopped falling and after a minute or so the guy gave me a nod to pass. Being very freaked out of being the unlucky one, I fired my bike to ride as fast as I can and clear the dangerzone. But then again the Himalayas had its own plan to play with me. Just when I was under the section where the rocks were falling, a stone of the size of a my palm came rolling down and hit the rear wheel of my bike. My heart gave a lurch but I didn’t bother to look back or stop and kept throttling. Last when I stopped near the car at opposite end, I turned back. There was no sign of landslide thankfully. That was a heart in mouth moment which gives me goosebumps even now.
Reaching Puh before 5 pm was a distant dream considering my late departure from Rampur and other deviation on the way. I reached Puh, a village 25kms from China border, at 8.15 pm shivering with cold, only to find all the shops closed. I rode into the village and turned back having no Plan B as the next village was Nako which was 40 kms ahead. That meant another 2-3 hours of riding in the terrain at night. Our mind has its very fine way of reminding extreme negative instances when in trouble, and I was constantly remembering the story of a guy who ventured out in the Himalayas at night to cover further distance, he was gripped by fierce storm and lost his life. Just when I contemplating what to do next, a guy appeared on his bike all of a sudden and asked me what I am upto. I am sure he must’ve thought I am upto no good. I introduced myself and said I am looking for a hotel. After he was convinced that I am a harmless biker , he warmed upto me. Hishey Negi was the president of the youth association of that village. We rode back together to the village to find in the dark. He turned to me and said “Dekho aisa hai, Hotel toh bandh hogaya hoga, aaj tum mere yaha ruk jao” to which I replied “Nahi bhai, ye sahi nahi hoga. Tumhari apni family hai” He said “Mere ghar mein sirf maa, chachi aur mera bhatija hai, tum befikar chalo, apna hi ghar samjho”. After a little thought I agreed. He made a call home and was talking for a while. After he hung up I told him I am carrying my tent and can pitch on his porch or garden. He replied that I dont need to say a word and just follow him. I did as he said.
I reached his place, which was a climb from the road on the top of the hill, I found it to be a house of Tibetan/Buddhist tradition. It was a big house with its own angan. He offered me lemon tea, arranged to keep my luggage in a room specially allocated to me and asked his nephew to switch on the geyser for me while we sat sipping chai. I took a much needed hot water bath in days and also washed my clothes which were lying dirty for well over last 6 days. We went to the dining room for dinner and was served the most delicious food prepared by his aunty who was an expert cook.
Later we went to the top floor of the house and started chatting sitting on the terrace of his house, I gazed at the billion stars and the glittering lights of the village below. He gave me the local wine prepared at his home which I sipped throughout for warmth. But what actually gave me warmth was the one thing he said. He said, he got a positive vibe looking at me on the bike and couldn’t see me going back away from his village without a shelter. This was one of the best feeling I got of being a human. His kindness provided me cleanliness, filled stomach, warm blanket and a shelter for the night. I will sleep easy now.
I woke up at 6.30 in the morning to a hot cup of lemon tea followed by a walk to the village. Hishey took me to his orchards of almond, apples, apricots and walnuts. I jumped at the opportunity to savour fresh apples and almonds plucked from the tree. We returned home after an hour for a yummy breakfast and even better conversation with his maa ji and chachi ji who have now become like my very own. I just realized, home was the feeling I got at Hishey’s place, it managed to take away some of my own homesickness. I am happy to have followed him the previous night, now I have a friend for life and will make it a point to visit him as and when I can.
I think it’s still the skeptic in me that fails to understand the reason that makes people selfless. The cynic that has seen so much of negative folks that this genuine concern towards strangers makes me perplexed. I have moist eyes writing this post as I remember the place & the hospitality of Hishey & his family. One thing I have learnt from this ride is that we are highly bombarded with negativity. The world is indeed a marvellous place with people still caring for each other just out of humanity & no self-serving motives and this is why we still have hope for a better place.
I am an atheist; I do not believe in existence of a supposed supreme God who controls forces. For me, nature; which includes trees, mountains, air, water, earth, animals, humans for that matter anything that lives and breathes is God. I believe humans don’t really need any God. They just ought to worship nature & everything in it as God. This makes the concept of religion so unimportant and unwanted. Maybe it was God that Hishey saw in me and helped me. Maybe the arrival of Hishey when I needed him the most was my miracle which makes him a God for me. Maybe that’s what finding God is all about.
P.S: He also gave me a bottle of the local wine prepared from apricot. He was indeed God. 😉