You can read about the previous day, i.e. Day 7 here.
Day 8 – Towards Kaza
Today I left Hishey and his family to continue with my journey further. Honestly, I felt like I left a part of me with them. How strange it was to have met a stranger, who became a friend and then like a brother, all in a span of a 12 hours. Its true, duration doesn’t determine the closeness. A random thought passed my mind – if one man’s humanity can change my heart in just 12 hours just imagine the power mankind has to change the world if it is more humane. I stepped out of Hishey’s house with a different perspective. I found the world more colourful, the trees greener & the skies bluer. And even people happier. I appreciated everything around me to the core.
Filled with the gratitude for my experience, I rode back to the highway to steer my handlebar towards Kaza, this meant leaving behind Pooh to cross Kinnaur district. I was aware of two small towns that fall enroute to Kaza – Nako and Tabo. These two places top the priority scales of people riding and touring the Spiti valley and BRO continued to widen roads till here. The Sutlej river flowed past all alongside the valley. 12 kilometres post starting my ride, I reached the point where the Spiti river confluenced into Sutlej river. Steering towards left on a bridge crossing the confluence, I rode alongside the Spiti river from therein. Awaiting me with open arms were the the Himalayas again. I just couldn’t get enough of the gigantic structures overlooking me, smiling at me and assuring me safety. Alone all the way, with no sight of civilization, I started talking to the Himalayas. Like a funny interviewer, asking bizzare questions and forming my own responses pretending to be the Himalayas. Was this how cartoons were made…need to devote some deep & serious thought.
My make believe drama ended on a hill climb where I noticed another group of bikers at a small hotel by the roadside. They signaled me and asked me to join them. With a smile beneath the bandana, I parked my proud stallion alongside their studds. They were a bunch of 12 people form Mumbai and Pune and we had the usual “chai pe charcha” about professions and passions. Must confess here that I enjoy shocking people with the fact that I am a Company Secretary, who was away from office on a trip without an end date. They just had 10 days trip. Anyone green?? Post our charcha, I was invited for lunch but as I planned to reach Kaza by evening, I had to move on. The road albeit not more than 100 kms was still treacherous.
I was back to my romance with the Himalayas and Spiti river. The colour of the river became turquoise blue with the pebbles and rocks of different shapes and colour. From a distance I could see the view of the mountains merging & forming a valley. It appeared like a different world lay beyond it. And I was in my own world listening to Farhan Akhtar’s poetry from Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, “Pighle neelam sa behta hua yeh samaan, neeli neeli si khamoshiyan, na kahin hai zameen na kahin aasmaan … sarsaraati huyi tehniyan pattiyan, keh rahi hai ki bas ek tum ho yahan … sirf main hoon meri saansein hai aur meri dhadkane, aisi gehraiyan, aisi tanhaiyan, aur main sirf main … apne hone pe mujhko yakeen aa gaya” (The surroundings flow like molten sapphire with deep blue silence, there is no earth nor sky … the rustling branches and leave tell me, only you exist … only me, my breath and my heartbeats, the depths, the loneliness, and me, just me …I believe in my existence)
Yes, I could feel my existence in the silence around. Whenever I took a stop I realized there was no element of man made sound around. No honks, no engines running, no trains, no banter, nothing. It was just me and the mountains. The gushing river sang its own song and brought home the truth that I had fallen in love with the Himalayas. Amidst these thoughts, while riding, admiring the colors of nature and shades of gigantic himalayas, I noticed a person hopping to the right side of the road. He held few green apples in his outstretched arms. I thought he was selling the apples, I took a couple of them and asked the price, he laughed back saying “Nahi Nahi, Bechne nahi hai saab, yehi bagiche se todke laaya hu, khalo”. By now, I was used to the hospitality here, such instances kept on adding to the cherished moments. He happened to be a roadworker who had taken a break from work and was having apples while he saw me coming. I sat with him on the concrete pipe they were laying on the roadside and started talking to him. I offered him a ciggarette which he happily accepted and we shared the smoke together. In no time, few others joined in and a brief 15-20 minutes were spent there smoking & eating apples. My journey had to be continued so moved on saying my thanks & goodbyes. The solo journey allowed me a lot of scope to interact with the locals, and I could do it deeply with emotions getting exchanged simultaneously. It had already given me more smiles than I can count.
I was bereft of mobile network since last two days, after I left Rampur. Totally disconnected to social media and phone calls. I rode across the small villages like Nako, Liti, Chango, Sumdo, Lapcha and Tabo was near. Kaza came only after Tabo. Another 55-60 kms and it was already 4 pm now. I stopped at Tabo for a chai and enquired with the locals who mentioned the roads were better ahead. I gave a sigh of relief for the last lapse of my journey.
Shortly after Tabo, I had an experience which still amuses me as I write. Couple of kids stopped me on the way. I gestured asking what was the matter and they came forward and gave me their hand. Just like that to shake hands with me. They curiously touched my gloves, jackets & knee guards like exploring the Iron Man suit. Probably they saw bikers on the route but never could get them to stop. I was smiling like a kid myself as I ruffled their hair and pulled their cheeks playfully.That day I chided myself dreadfully for not having few chocolates or something to offer. I quickly clicked a picture of them which made them more than happy.
PS : Just wondering, not boasting – maybe this is the way celebs feel when fans hound them. Ouch , my first celebrity moment.
Kaza arrived, and it was the most populated town after Rampur. Here the air was thinner owning to the altitude. I noticed a group of young girls in their early twenties walking in direction. So, now here is the part where I get brutally honest and admit that like any other guy, I am a great admirer of pretty faces & these Himachali girls from the mountains were no doubt, beautiful. But, as usual being a solo biker who can travel alone is different and mustering enough courage to talk to a girl is entirely different story. I have done this once in my life earlier but never at unknown place with someone totally unknown without a reference. I stopped my bike and after awkward tonguetied contemplation asked one of them the way to Kaza. One of them came forward and showed me a certain direction and also informed about a hotel which was cheap, had a wifi. Her confident parting lines were “Unko bolna Poonam ne bheja hai, aapko discount milega. – Tell the hotel guys Poonam has asked you to come here. They’ll give you a discount”. I mumbled a thanks and mentally scolded myself for not making any more attempts to talk to Poonam. I reached the stated hotel and gave her reference but sadly it had no wifi. And I needed wifi to inform my folks about my well being, least my parents end up thinking their offspring has lost his way or even worst. I roamed around the market of Kaza, it was 7.30 when I walked into a restaurant. The Thukpa and Momos there were fresh hot and delicious to elevate my spirits. The weather started to be insanely chilling and I was racking my brain to decide my course of action for the night. Having no idea of any accommodation, I finished my food, walked out of the restaurant and sat on the staircase smoking my cigarette. A man came and sat beside me. Although he didn look like a local, I took a chance and enquired about hotels with a wifi to compensate for lack of network availability. He replied, “I run a hotel myself and next to mine is another hotel which has wifi, come I will guide you”. I followed him and reached the spot which was probably the last few hotels while leaving Kaza. If I was lucky enough to meet someone who led me to the hotel with WiFi, I was equally unlucky to find it completely booked. My guide came to rescue again & gave me a brilliant idea, “You can do one thing, take the room in my hotel and you can access their wifi while from my hotel’s terrace.The devil inside me instantly connected with this man who had no qualms accessing the neighbour’s WiFi. Plus he had a pretty cool name as well – Jamaica! That is a name of a place in the Caribbeans and I wonder how I would have felt if I was called Mumbai – ok guess Prasanjit is much better.
I badly wanted to take a bath but seeing the weather decided against it. After all who in their right sense would attempt such a freezing painful way to commit suicide. I walked to the terrace with my camera but a stranger had already beat me to it with his Tripod and camera. Here I met Charanpreet Singh. We shared common interests in bikes and he owned a Thunderbird 350. That’s enough for us bikers to be friends. He lend me his tripod & guided me to take some long exposures of the sky. That was my first experience on capturing a night sky. Jamaica asked if we needed a beer. In my excitement, I shouted “Yes”. And as if the stupidity wasn’t enough I asked for 2 beers. The beers arrived and what followed next was me and Charan sharing ride stories and clicking pictures of the sky. By nightfall, I was considerably high and began to feel nauseatic. Sensing something messy with my body system, I took to the bed as soon as possible and slept like a bear in hibernation!!!