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Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Father - Son team
- A trip to Leh - Ladakh on Motorbikes
It all started as a dream wanting to go for long long adventurous drives on a bike with friends and family. In fact it has been some years since I last
rode a bike. My kids were growing up and after many years we had a motorbike in the house. My son was 17 yrs when I got him a Yamaha RX 0- 100 just the right one for a town and also for raving up the throttle.
Then after a year I got him a 350 cc Royal Enfield motorbike. Actually I got it for myself, but passed it on to him as he liked it after he rode it. Till then he really did not want a Royal Enfield popularly know as a Bullet Bike. He was frank about that though. Soon a 535 cc Royal Enfield Lighting was available for a song. Without blink I picked it up.
We decided that if we want to go for a long motorbiking trip one has to get used to long drives and we need to have confidence in the machine we are riding. It should be hassle free and no break downs what so ever.
We started off by going out every alternate Sunday for rides on unknown routes. Most of the routes would be through rough terrains and in the forests of Jambughoda, Devgadh Baria, Rajpipla and Chota Udepur.. It was fun but we discovered that by the evening we could do only around 250 kms and we used to get tired by the end of the day. 17 long trips we had before we decided that we are ready for the bigger trips.
Within the friend circle we would often spend evenings talking of going to Leh - Ladakh. It was exciting and almost 21 of us decided that we should make it to Leh. When I finally announced the dates of July 5th 2010 to set off I started getting set backs from friends and finally one by one all dropped out.
A shocking thing happened.
It was 2nd July 2010 that my sweet heart Bruno my Alsatian fell ill all of a sudden. His hind legs got paralyzed. Shocking however it may be, I got working towards it and found that thousands of dogs in the world get paralyzed. We could order a trolley on www.handicappedpets.com for his hind legs designed by Mark C. Robinson from America and he would be able to move and play and go for his walks just like any other dog.
We gave him the best treatment available in our country. The Vets had hope and gave him steroids in the spine but nothing helped. After a few days a doctor advised that we get a scan done on Bruno. We did get one done to find out that Bruno has a tumors, one in his lungs and a cyst in the abdomen. We went in for a biopsy to find out if we could operate on him. Before we got the results of the biopsy he left us within three days. It was one of the saddest moments of my life. I was shocked but only thank him for sharing his wonderful 9 1/2 years with us full of love and joy. He gave us so much that I shall miss him all through my journey.
The most difficult decision of my life.
A few days went by and I had to take this though decision, whether to go for the journey to Leh or cancel it. Knowing a lot about dogs and seeing many videos on the animal planet as to how dogs can send messages to the family they stay with, this decision was not easy. I was constantly fighting within to convince myself that, Bruno died of a serious caner ailment and he was not trying to send a message to me that the journey to Leh on motorbikes with my son, can be a disaster.
It took me four tormenting days to announce to my wife that I had planned to leave for Leh on motorbikes on 21st July 2010. She being an extremely sensitive person was already going through a shock, did not react. We had prepared her well in advance to make a trip to Leh on motorbikes against all odds. Her only concern was, why by bikes and not by car as we have had en number of holidays by car all over India for the past 20 years.
We prepared our bikes as per experiences shared with other bikers and being a heavy traveler had three fixed luggage metal boxes made with a neatly designed carriers (called Ladakh Carriers from Delhi) to mount them onto. We had the bikes throughly serviced by two different mechanics, especially the wiring, as Royal Enfields tends to have a snag in that. We replaced the clutch plates as we were to drive through steep altitudes, put in new tyres, replaced the normal petrol tank with a larger one of 22 ltrs, coz there is only one filing station between Manali, changed the oils, got new batteries, replaced the clutch wire, loosened the tapids a bit and carried a bigger jet to be fitted when we get to the altitudes.
We decorated our bike luggage boxes with well designed stickers all three sides. Our friend Hitesh, a mechanic by profession too, joined in the last moment. He was more than welcome as both my son and I are zero in mechanics.
Note: A word of caution to my son and ( all who would like to travel long distances or participate in a rally) before we set off was that the first few hours of the journey is very crucial and that he should ride with extra safety in mind. This is so as having organised many car rallies I have noticed that accidents often took place in the first few hours of the start as one is excited and looses concentration or on the last day of the journey as the person becomes tired and care free.
Day - 1
21st July 2010
Distance covered - 474 kms
Night halt at Chittodgadh
We set off in the morning at 5.30 am and before we started to our surprise A photographer from a media house called me to take pictures. We were happy but did not know how that fellow got to know.Later we found out that the only person whom we had informed was a friend in the media and that friend told his boss who sent the photographer without us knowing about it. We had plans to do the maximum miles we could do on day 1, as on the first day all are fresh and excited about the journey. At the start within 10 kms it started to rain and we had to pull out our rain coats. We broke journey for some bhajias and tea near Ahmedabad. We knew that after Gujarat we would not get Bhajiyas. Crossing Ahmedabad in the morning hours was a big problem with the rain pouring and traffic jams. It took us an hour and a half to get to the Himmatnagar highway. That was a bad. We had our first problem in the motorbike just as we were cruising comfortably towards Himmatnagar. One of the bikes would not start after a small break. Finally we realized that it was an electric fault. Even though we had the electricals checked throughly the wire on the left of the steering some how go cut off. We got to Udiapur in good time. Refulled our tanks and then decided to look for a highway hotel after Udaipur. We went on and on and no hotel would be in site. We were beginning to get tired and finally reached Chittodgadh off the highway by a few kms. We had traveled 473 kms and hit the first hotel we got too at 5.00 pm riding for almost 12 hours. We were not tired except my son Rahul had a portion of the back aching which we applied a pain killer to be ok by the night.
On day one break journey we realized that he boxes we had made to carry the luggage were not perfect. Due to the rain we had placed a big plastic bag in the boxes and put our things in it. Every evening we had to remove the luggage from the bikes into large plastic bag and them re load them every morning. It was quit an exercise which we got used to by the end of the journey. Instead, if the boxes were fixed in such a manner that we could detach the boxes it would have saved us a lot especially when one is tired at the end of each days journey.
Day - 2
22nd July 2010
Distance covered - 433 kms
Night Halt at Kotputli
The journey started at 6.00 am from Chtodgadh and was a pleasant one thorough Ajmer and Jaipur. We enjoyed the stuffed parathas at a local dhaba and had a great brunch. We noticed the common sparrow at the dhaba and felt so good to see them as they are rarely seen now a days in Gujarat. My 533 cc had a problem. The kick of the bike would not work. It was a small pin in the mechanism that was damaged for reasons we do not know. However no spares for the bike were available right up to Manali as we were on the national highway and would have to go in to a city which meant wasting time as so we push started the bike comfortably. As we were approaching Kotputli the traffic on the highways got heavy. We selected Kotputli which is 120 kms before Delhi as the traffic is very heavy and crossing it at the end of the day would be tiring.
Day - 3
23rd July 2010
Distance covered - 425 kms
Night Halt at Chandigadh
We took off at 6.15 am only to realize that the traffic had already started and was getting heavy in the early morning too. It was not a very pleasant journey as there were many diversions en route and but the only things we enjoyed were seeing the multi national large factories. As soon as we got to Delhi we were eager to get out as soon as possible towards Ambala. We stopped at a quite corner to ask for direction and within no time cops came up to us to find out what we were doing with huge bikes with big luggage boxes. They were on their duty and once convinced of our intentions, showed us the way out thro Azadnagar onto the highway towards Ambala. The lunch on the way was good at a Panjabi dhaba with curds, panner dishes, stuffed parathas and the local pickle. The highway upto Ambala was going through a major change and we were in for some bad roads and diversions all through. We reached Ambala at 2.30 pm. I remember the last time I had driven there was in 1996. I enjoyed the special chicken dishes here. I located the Dhaba where I had eaten then. It had this sign which was also there to my surprise which said "You can find me every where but eat me here." The Chicken delicacies were so good which made us over eat. We also bought the spares for the bike especially the pin which got damaged required for the kick which we replaced in Manali. Then we headed for Chanigadh and crossed it at 5.00 pm locating a place to stay on the outskirts towards Manali. We found this place THE ROCK which was a perfect example of "Nan bade darshan chotte" It was a lousy joint but did not have much of a choice.
We realized that none of us were tired but our inner thighs took a beating which made it uncomfortable for us to ride comfortably. One must address this when they set out for long journeys. What we did was, we bought good quality pillows of the size 18 inches x 18 inches and tied it to the seat. That gave us a great relief. It may be noted that the models of Royal Enfields available now have the redesigned seats which takes care of this problem.
Day - 4
24rd July 2010
Distance covered - 327 kms
Night halt after Manali - Palchan
Started at 6.30 am and headed for Bilaspur towards Manali. The distance to be covered was less than other days but the roads went from sea level to 5,000 mts plus by the end of the day. The journey was good as we first, saw the Beas river flowing as as soon as we passed Ropar. The climb to Bilaspur was a nice feeling as this is what we had come for. After Bilaspur we had our lunch at a dhaba and proceeded towards Kullu. On the way one of the bikes gave trouble. The power cable got cut off and took us some time to find the fault. This happened between a traffic jam where even the bikes did not have space to move. To make things worse it was raining cats and dogs. We repaired the bike and reached Kullu by 4.00 pm where we stopped to help a biker whose bike had broken down. We spend almost an hour to repair it but realised that the oil pump of that bike was damaged and needed a replacement. We had to let that biker stay back in Kullu and moved on in the dark to Manali. It was cold and dark. many small patches of river-lets flowing but finally we made it to Manali at 8.00 pm which is at 6745 ft and found our place at Palchan at 9 kms. Palchan is after Manali where we had our accommodation booked. We settled in and a good hot water bath was the best thing that evening. A good drink in the Mess and dinner and off to bed by 10.00 pm.
Day 5-6-7 in Manali
Stoppage for Acclimatization
We spent our three days relaxing and most importantly Acclimatizing which is absolutely necessary. One can do this by having a walk in Manali on the undulating roads which is not easy, for at least an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening without fail. This would help one in the heights where were to bike and which would make it relatively easy to do so.
We serviced our bikes, changed the oil, changed the clutch plates, put in larger size of jets and loosened the tapids too. We got our clothes washed at a local laundry. I met my school classmate Naushad Kaludi after 29 years. I was so excited and was a very great feeling to meet him and interact with him. He helped us in many ways and thank him for all that he has done for us. He runs the best and the most successful travel agency by the name Antrek Tours & Travels, in Manali and conducts customized tour too.
We eat good food at a variety of places and enjoyed our visit to the park and Hadimba Mata Temple. We also tasted the famous cold river fish - The Trout which is a high priced delicacy. We did our necessary shopping for the way. A good rain sheeter and boots for the rain. We also located water proof gloves for the way as the cold would bite into the palms if they got wet. We stayed at a transit camp of the Army and enjoyed their hospitality. It was very nice to interact with many young smart officers and most of them had not been to Leh and that to never on a bike for such distances. They were an inspiration for us and expressed their desire to do a biking trip some time in their lives.
I interacted with a lady officer, a doctor, as I had carried 2 emergency oxygen cylinders with me but had learnt to use it theoretically. We tried our hands at it and after some time got the knack of using it. Thank god I had asked her how to use it other wise in emergency there is no time for trials.
There was some disturbing weather for the three days we were in Manali. The way to Rotang was blocked due to a very big landslides. We kept our fingers crossed. We planned to leave early in the morning on the 23rd July 2010 if the passage to Rotang Pass had opened by then..
Day - 8
23rd July 2010
Distance covered - 134 kms
Started from Manali at 6745 ft
Night halt at Daarcha at 11180ft
We started at 5.30 am sharp from Palchan which is at a height of 8,000ft as the road to Rotang Pass had just opened. We saw tourist vehicles go by and felt happy that the road was cleared. We had hardly crossed 17 kms where we came to a traffic jam and saw a huge number of tourist vehicles stuck on their way. We wriggled our bike thro with great difficulty only to come to a big avalanche that had broken the way. It was a muddy, slushy bad road at a gradient of 40 degrees, approximately 87 ft long which is huge by all parameters. How the hell were we to drive through it crossed my mind. No one dared to moved their vehicles. A Scorpio tried to climb through only to slide backwards which is extremely dangerous. Some how he managed to hold on. After a while I got ready to try as I had never passed a passage like this one before. The public was full of cheers as I started my bike as if this was some biking event going on. I managed to get almost to the top and for a moment was sure that I would slide backwards which would have been disastrous but for two strong truckers extended their hands who caught the handle of my motorbikes and saw me through. I felt great getting through though. After I crossed over my son on his 350cc motorbike attempted and got through with some difficulty. I had extended my hand to pull his bike too. I was happy to see my son showing such confidence and skill at the same time. We could not drive fast as the terrain was very bad and also it was raining continuously.
To make things bad the side carrier holding the metal compartments for luggage cracked. We tied it with a thin rope borrowed from a biker to reach Keylong and found a wielder there. He was perhaps the only wielder on the way. It took us 45 mintues to do the repairs and moved on after a cup of tea and some biscuits. We also located a STD the one and only one en-route and called home to tell them that - All is Well.
The way to Dracha was not very good either. Broken roads and single track, very risky terrain and lots of rain. I was surprised to see Darcha. I was expecting some sort of a village. Instead there was this river flowing and a small kind of a bridge with two to three tents on either side. The place was quite and could only hear the rumbblig sound of the Beas River flowing. We got a bed in the tent for Rs 75 and had some hot tea and Maggie. The food was good and had rice, noodles and egg. This is all that they served. Perhaps some biscuits too.
The tents were warm and the nights cold, It was breezy. These tents are put up by industrious locals from the hills, families who see an opportunity of business in the few tourist who pass by. They get four to five months of business from July to October every year.
We started from Palchan 9km from Manali and at 8,000 ft, passed through Gulaba 22 kms at 9,200 ft, Marhi 34 kms at 10,820 ft, Rohtang 51 kms at 13.092 a place where tourist go upto and also the passage where when snow melts and the passage clears for motoring between Manli and Leh. From Rotang we went through Gramph 65 kms at 10,526 ft, Koksar 71 kms at 10,300 ft, Sissu at 10,296 ft where we stopped to take a picture as the rain stopped for a while and we finally saw some kind of good roads for a while. From Sissu we went through Gondhla 99kms at 10,290 ft, Tandi 108 kms at 8792ft where we came across the only petrol pump and refueled between Manali n Leh. Then came to a town Keylaong 115 kms at 10,020 ft. We then went passed Istingiri 121 kms to Jispa 139 kms at 10,355 ft where one would find two hotels there. Hotel Jispa and Padma Lodge. However we moved on to Darcha 134 kms at 11,180 ft for the night. A truck load of defense personnel came in late to fill up the tent. They carried the latest weapons and we felt safe that they were around.
Day - 9
23rd July 2010
Distance covered - 125 kms
Night halt at Sarchu
We got up late in morning at around 7.15 am. as the distances were not much to cover and felt more confident after day - 1. I got out of the tent in the morning and sipped my tea and felt the cold winds down my spine. I wanted to wash my face, if I got some hot water have a bath too. I talked with the lady there for some hot water who refused me. She told me that in this cold one should have a bath more than once a week and that to in the steam below. Otherwise one could fall ill. To my surprise I saw a person who had spent a night in our tent washing his hair with soap. I was dazed as the water was too cold for words. I talked to that person to find out that he was a local biker too from Leh.
He asked me what i was doing at 9.00 am at the tent when I should have left with the motorbike at 3 or 4 am for Sarchu. I quite did not understand what he was trying to convey to me. He told me that there are 3 very difficult water bodies to pass through and that 2 bikers had already left at 4 am. Explaining to me that the snow melts as early as 4 to 5 am the water starts flowing violently and by 9 am it would be at least 2 ft deep at these places. If one passes these water bodies early the water is hardly 6 inches and its easy to get through. Inquiring about him as to what he was doing here and where was his bike. He informed us that his bike was stuck after he got through the third water body 2 days ago and he had come back to Darcha for the night to get help. We requested him to join us as we had a mechanic with us and could help repair his bike and so he came with us to help us through the water bodies.
His name is Illano from Leh. We were just 17 kms on road and we came to the first water body. Seeing the ghastly flowing water I could understand what Illano was conveying to me earlier. I saw the snow melted chilled water gushing down violently and the depth of the water was 1 1/2 to 2 ft deep. It was the flow that gave me a shock. At some places it was 4 ft deep too. The water body was about 20ft wide and 70ft long. On the edge it was a fall of 2,000 ft if you got swept away. That site gave me the chill. I froze like a dead duck.
There were cars and some vans standing on either sides. They were there for a long time thinking how to get through this water body. I froze and refused to go ahead and decided to turn back. There was no way I could have got through this. I pleaded with Illano who kept telling me that he got through two days ago from here so I could too. It took me half an hour to decide to go for it. It was only after he walked through the waters a couple of times and drew a path for me to go through I got ready for it. He kept telling me " Shivji ka naam le kar jane doo yaar "
I wore large plastic bags up to the thy we had carried as the water was chilling. I started my bike and told Illano not to let the bike fall down in the force of the water under any circumstances and he kept telling me that the engine should be running all through. My son pushed from behind and I got through the water with great difficulty. We could only get through as Illano had walked through the waters and demarcated a path which had a solid stone base on which I could ride the bike through. I was so excited that I had crossed the path and happy at the same time. After me my son did it with support from Illano and Hitesh our mechanic.
I told Illano that he was God sent for us for I would have otherwise returned back to Manali. Then came the second water body and by that time we were confident of ourselves. Again Illano jumped off the bike to walk through the water and demarcate a path for us. This time we rode through like pros but with a high level of caution and concentration. Then came the third water body. This one was tricky as it was in a 'S' shape. We manage to get thro but lost a shoe in the flowing waters.
The ride was difficult but very interesting as the rocky mountains changed in shape and colour from mile to mile. The rain did not spare us all the way. We came to Zingzing Bar and took some pictures and then reached Baralacha La a pass in the mountains at 15,888ft. The air was thin and the place so soothing. We took some pictures there with snow on all sides, and moved on.
Then some thing shocking happened.
I saw a car stopped in the middle of the road and six people were standing in a line on the road asking me to stop. The first though that came to my mind was " Oh my god - hope not terriost " I slowly pulled over keeping a safe distance to turn my bike if required. I was all focused on the six of them. Our second bike rode by my son was coming behind a few kms away. Then one of them shouted that since I was a biker I could help a biker gone down the slope. I looked to the right as pointed but could not see any thing or any one. Then I parked my bike on the stand and walked over to the edge to see to my horror a biker had skid and gone down the slope with the bike but miraculously the handle of the bike got stuck on one of the small rocks. As I looked back on the road for some reason I could not understand all six sat in the car and took off. At that moment I felt very angry but there was no time for that.
I told the biker that we had just crossed some army trucks and they would be here in a few minutes and that they would get him out. After half an hour the army trucks came our way and as if I had ordered them, they took charge of the situation without a word, planned a strategy, lowered three jawan with a rope, tied the bike and six of them pulled the bike to the top with amazing ease. The slope was such that the moment you put a foot on the slope a small rock would go down 800 ft into the lake below. The lake below was SURAJTAL. The water freezing and the surrounding of the lake all snow. I go jitters thinking what would have happened if the bike did not get stuck and if he would have gone into the water 800 ft below and the rider would have frozen to death. Thank god it did not happen.
The person who went down with the bike was a local and appeared not much shaken by what had happened. I told him that I wish all bikers have the same luck as he had. The slope on which he went down one would not stop on the slope but go all the way down all the way, impossible to recover. We were felling so happy that we could save a life. It is important to note that there is generally no one around these mountains you drive. It was lucky that those people in the car saw him go down and we could help.
The silence in the mountains are deafening. The air gets you into a trans so adverse that you know only that you and god exist there. The strong winds remind you that you need to keep an eye on the road like a hawk. You cannot let the machine take over the man. This incident shocked all of us and from there on we decided to go dead slow. Safety was the ultimate in mind and we drove with utmost caution. I had my son with me on the other bike and did not want any untoward incident to take place. It was a great test for me as a father ahead. We got going as the biker who had the accident drove off before we could. We had taken the video of that person and his bike being pulled out. We reached a small shack after an hour and the biker who had the accident was sipping tea. The car with the six persons were also there. They recognized me and came rushing to ask me what happened to the biker who had gone down. I told them that he was here and all of them went to him and hugged him and took pictures with him too.
We left the place as we had to reach a camp short of Sarchu. We got there by 5.30 pm and it was a site to be. This place has 20 odd tents pitched. The wind there is a novelty. It is so strong that one would feel that the tent shall get blown off. We were assured by the manager there Mr Pawansingh that nothing like that would happen and the wind would die down at 9.00 pm. These tents belonged to my school classmate Naushad Kaludi and he was gracious of him to let us stay on the house there. The place was out of this world. There was a range of mountains behind the tents and in front a plain. It is like a dream place one must visit.
We took many pictures of this place and then the worst happened. As we were a bit tired we went back to our tents and tried to relax. My son Rahul went off to sleep. I was sleeping on my bed when the wind that was blowing hard started to disturb me. I felt my heart beats pacing. I started to find it difficult to breadth. I started getting worried as to what was happening and why I was feeling so. I felt terrified. I would go out of the tent and come back in as the sun was setting fast. I was almost mentally broken as the thoughts of the person we saved en-route who had gone off the road into the valley, started to replay in my mind again and again. What if we had such an accident ? What if we got into such a situation and no one was there to help ? What if my son fell off the mountain ? I could not stop thinking of the disaster that could happen as the route was very though and the rain added to our problems. I was worried more so for my son as I had promised my wife that I would get my son back safety. I was so disturbed that I started to find alternatives to get out of this place. I walked upto the manager and inquired if I could get a Helicopter as I was thinking of being air lifted from this situation. He told me that he could call a helicopter but it would take two days as the only way to do so was to give a note to a vehicle going to Manali and when the note reaches there a helicopter could be sent to us. As soon as he told me this I cancelled the option of leaving the place and being air lifted.
As soon as it got dark at 6.15 pm we were called for dinner and all I could manage to have was a soup. I was getting palpitations in my heart and was uneasy. I could hardly eat as I was extremely nervous and did not want to show it to my son under any circumstances. I do not know what was going through his mind. But he seemed to be more composed than me. After dinner we hit the bed by 7.00 pm. I could not sleep. I was still very very nervous. I applied some pain relief ointments on my chest, and was taking slow deep breadths too to ease my self. That was comforting but again the thoughts of the accident would not leave me. I am a heart patient and was worried as to why my heart was beating very fast. It was almost an hour after dinner, going through this and finally I asked Rahul my son if he had any music on his mobile. He generally has most of my favorite numbers of Engelbert, Kenny Rogers etc which he played and with the music I finally went off to sleep.
The route from Darcha to Sarchu was as follows: (Distances from Manali)
Darcha 162 kms at 12,500ft to Zing Zing Bar 170 kms to Baralacha La 190 kms 15,888ft to Kilinsarai 203 kms to Sarchu 222 kms 13,990ft.
Day - 10
23rd July 2010
Distance covered - 79 kms
Night halt at Pang
I got up early in the morning after a disturbed sleep but very light in the head and heart. We left Sarchu at 7.00 am for Pang our next destination but the route was dangerous with sharp and steep curves with stones all over the path. We met many army trucks on the way and waved to them wishing for a safe journey as we over took them. It was quite a task overtaking them as the road was single and until the truck gave you a small passage one could not over take the other vehicle. We came across many trucks which had gone off track camped for a few days cooking their way in the cold. We stopped to ask one of them who told us that he was there for 8 days as his truck had broken down and had sent the driver to get some spares from Leh. He also mentioned that in Leh perhaps he must have ordered the part and when they come will he be able to come back to the truck and repair it. Generally a trucker carries ration for 15 days in case of emergency.
We reached Pang early in the day as the distance was not much. We did not want to cross Tanglala La - the second highest motorable peak in the world in the dark so we stopped over at Pang. Pang has the Army Transit Camp which is also the highest transit camp in the world. Pang is at 15,582 ft.
It was nice to see many tents pitched at Pang as this is the last point for some delicious food and a warm night stay. We relaxed and talked to the locals and generally were feeling good that we had some time on hand to just laze around. Here we met an Australian who could speak better Hindi than most. It was nice to chat with him. We ordered for a lot of food but could not finish more than half. The food here is expensive as this a place out of no where. Transportation costs are very high too. We had Thupka - a Tibetan delicacy.
Next day we stared early at 6.00 am only to be stooped at the transit camp a few meters away as the right to passage is first for army trucks. The road stats with an immediate climb and so the trucks which may be 80 in number took atleast an hour to clear through. It was a night mare over taking the trucks one after another. We finally hit the snow on the roads and all along the side too. We stopped to take photos and play with the snow too. We came to the biggest plains which stretched for 22 kms. We could drive any where and make our own path. We went crazy as we cold speed for a change. Although the mud was a little too loose at places and more so due to the rain we had to be careful but we decided to enjoy the speed for a change. It was fun and raced all thorugh. The trucks also had a wild time pacing through the plains.
Then came the most dangerous path. The way up to Tangalala La. This is the passage which gets damaged the most every year and the army bends its back to keep the pathway open. We came across many workers trying to keep the road motorable. We also came across many "samadhis" of young officers who lost their lives repairing the roads during heavy snowfall for the army to function all though. We salted the workers working there as the air is very thin and it was raining all through out.
One could not look down at the valley without feeling giddy. This was the worst patch where we felt insecure driving our bikes. Some blind bends were such that one felt that there were no roads onwards and that one would then ride into the sky. Believe me it was scary. We steadily rode upwards reaching Tanglala La at 17,780ft by 11.00 am. We felt as if we conquered the path. The air was very light and thin and we were told that one should not stop there for more than 20 to 30 minutes. The air is very thin and the oxygen levels in the body drop very fast. It was an experience to be there.
We took many photographs and the descended to Rumtse. I donot know exactly where Himachal Pradeshs limits ended and Jammu n Kashmir limits started but the roads in J&K are like the ones going to Mt Abu. We finally felt as if we were now coming back to civilization. At Rumstae we hit the first joint for some maggie and eggs with parathas. I also had my first shave in four days. On the way no one would give us a mug of hot water as the fuel is an expensive commodity. I paid Rs. 30/- of for a mug of hot water here.
We relaxed and then hit for Leh. We were taken by surprise when we reached a road sign of LATO. The mountains in this area were mesmerizing. They were Purple and Green in colour which we had never seen before. We were starring at the mountains as if hypnotized by them. My son went gaga taking pictures. Another unusual thing about these mountains is that they are very soft in composition. High velocity winds in this area cut them as like a sharpener shaves a pencil. They looked very pretty and we spend more than an hour clicking away. We waited to come across some locals to talk to them regarding the use of these mountain stone but did not come across any one there.
We finally hit a for Leh which was a few kms away. We were so excited that we were nearing Leh that the first photo we took was a sign reading WELCOME TO LEH. We had arrived. I recommend that one and all find their way to LEh. The journey is inspiring and worth every dime. We had finally reached our destination.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
We had expected about a 100 Rkcians but his charisma & respect SIR, commands, made the figure swell to 150! (We should have expected this!) It was nothing short of a Tsunami.
Invitations were sent to one and all around the world, thanks to the Internet. The Principal, Mr.Thakkar of The Rajkumar College was to be the Chief Guest; the present staff was given a special concession of Rs. 250.00 and the OBA Ahmedabad had requested for special transport to be provided for the staff wishing to attend. Senior Old boys were written personal letters requesting attendance. Hundreds were telephoned, emailed .Old boys in RAJKOT, BARODA, MUMBAI, PUNE, JAMNAGAR, JUNAGADH, AHMEDABAD, BANGLORE, U.S.A., U.K, MALASIA and many other regions got their act together and the result was HISTORICAL.
153 Old Boys from all over, many along with their spouse; were there for this august gathering.
By 9 am, the old boys started moving towards the hall and the first registration was done. Old Boys (OB's) were seen hugging, laughing, and back-slapping and the atmosphere was just electric. There was video recording of 2006 RKC TATTOO and a previous meet organized by the Old Boys Association to Honor Miss Cooper being screened. The hall was filled with RKC Tattoo music and of course the chatter. Old boys were moving around and refreshments (Tea / Coffee & sandwiches) were served.
At around 10.15 am SIR, Mr. Ayaazkhan along with Madam Kirtida and their lovely daughter Ms. Neha arrived. And my, everyone was seen rushing to meet and greet him. The scene reminded me typically of people waiting before sunrise at Srinathji for the Lord's Mangala Darshan- and the as the gates are thrown open, everybody tries to be the first. It is more than evident that SIR was, is & always will be the Lord in our hearts.
While all this was going on the OB's Ahmedabad team was frantically working to see nothing goes wrong and guess: Mr. Subodh Nath came to me, and he had panicked! He had lost his prepared SPEECH. But as perfect he is or rather we OB's of Ahmedabad are, he had a back up in the laptop!
By 11.30 am we all settled for the main occasion (after Mr. Yogendra Jadeja (Vice-President OBA RKC) in conjunction with Mr. Subodh Nath (President OBA Ahmedabad) successfully managed to prepare the list of people to be sitting on the dais. (An exercise in comprehension!!)
I will straight away go the felicitation part.
D.S. Shivraj Sinh Dhank being a very simple and down to earth person gave a speech in honor of SIR, which was well-spoken with reminiscences of their school days, without going into lengthy details.
The OB's of Ahmedabad presented SIR with a memento. It was in the form of a shield with a Silver plate on it mentioning SIR's dedicated service of 45 years in RKC. The honors were done by Mr. Subodh Nath.
Mr. Kumar and Mrs. Harsha Shah presented SIR with a lovely Scrap Book which was suggested to be called "Golden Leaves" with messages from OB's to SIR. Kumar and his wife talked about SIR in "Shayari" form and it reminded us about the skits we had in RKC.
Jayant Kaneria and Jayesh Anjaria presented SIR, with a lovely memento made of crystal on the behalf of Pune Boys.
Old Boys had a chance to come to the podium and say something about SIR. There was a rush for it. We had OB's STAMMERING, CRYING, EMOTIONALLY DRAINED, LOSS OF WORDS and more, while speaking about SIR.
Mr. Ayaazkhan hugged each one of them, and again I am at a loss of words to describe.
D.S.Punjawala gave a superb speech which in the words of Uday Mahuakar (Associate Editor of India Today) had the perfect wit & humour, style & substance and delivered with laudable dramatic gusto…also making the packed hall rise to give Mr. Ayaazkhan a Standing ovation. I (Anal) must mention that he was very instrumental in drafting letters of invitation sent to The Principal of Rajkumar College, Rajkot, The present Staff of the Rajkumar College, Rajkot and the general invitation on the Internet, due to his excellent command of ENGLISH.
Sanjay Joshi spoke about how he: a tribal boy was helped by SIR in school. Today after a stint at The United Nations, Sanjay is a high ranking Government official in Ahmedabad.
From far away (U.S.A) came, Mr. Vijay Yagnik, who was amazed to see such a gathering and above all to meet Mr. Ayazkhan after more than 30+ years. He recollected his years at RKC with SIR, Miss. Cooper and the late Mr. Peter Rogerson.
From Malaysia came forth Mr. Bharat Avlani. While talking about SIR, he became highly emotional. (I could see that as I was just next to the podium behind him) I, at that point of time was thinking about the tremendous impact SIR has left on us. Bharat had a message from Ms. Cooper for SIR, which was read out. It will be available on the Internet. He also had the prayer which Mr. Rogerson used to read in the assemblies, especially, printed on small beautifully laminated cards, which he distributed to all. Great. Bharat we salute you.
Many wanted to speak but due to paucity of time we had to cut short.
SIR touched upon his years at RKC, all the while showing gratitude to his predecessors, Miss. Cooper & Late Mr. Rogerson.It came as a pleasant surprise to all of us when he paid tributes to Mr. Wynter Blyth, as one of the best Principals RLC has ever had. He was very vocal in his praise for other staff members too, like Mr. Lavkumar, Mr. Vikram Sinh, Mr. Bharat Singh, Mr. Ghate and others. He put on record the role of D.S. Satyajit Kumar Jasdan, who was his student, then a parent and then a member of the Council as having been a pillar of strength and support to RKC overall and to him personally. SIR also noted the role of Rani Saheba Alaukika who is the very heart of Priyalok, if Miss Cooper is its soul. His emotions overflowing, he thanked all present for the overwhelming love and affection shown to him.
We (OBA Ahmedabad) requested Mr. Vijay Yagnik from U.S.A., to unveil two types of Stickers, one a normal type & the other, the glass type. The stickers have the name "Rajkumar College, Rajkot." the Crest of RKC and "RKCian" written on it. The design is like a shield. There was a big applause and we ran short of them by the end of the function.
Kumar Shah had got special leather wallets having the RKC Crest on them in a limited number for the old boys to purchase. He too ran short of them in a jiffy.
As the felicitation function proceeded further we arrived at the unveiling of the RKC ALUMNI web site. (www.rkcalumni.com)
D.S. Shivraj Sinh Dhank (OBA President of RKC, Rajkot) unveiled the web site. This web site has been possible due the relentless efforts of Mr. Rahul Patel and Mr. Amit Shukla. The latter explained the site details and requested all to upload one's details and to use the site.
Lunch started at about 2.30 pm. There was:
Soup: Tomato Dhania Sourba.
Green Salad, Russian Salad.
Panner Lababdar, Mixed Vegetable.
Naan, Roti, & Laccha Paratha.
Kali Dal, Green Peas Jeera Rice.
Chef's Choice of Chicken.
Mag ni Dal no Shiro.
Ice Cream with Hot Chocolate.
After lunch there was sale of Stickers which were priced @ Rs. 50.00 for a pack of ten, followed by registration for the full DVD of the function. The DVD was priced at Rs.150.00, which would be sent later.
This was followed by a group photograph and fellowship till SIR left to return to Rajkot. The parting left people floating in a sort of a vacuum in spite of the heavy hearts created by SIR's departure for Rajkot.
What a Man, What a Teacher, What a Fan- Following, What Love, What Adoration, What Respect… and What a Day!
It was a "DAY TO REMEMBER, ALL RIGHT"
D.S.Punjawala & Mr. Anal Dalal.
List of all attendees:-
Chandulal C. Janagi
Deepak L. Patel
Dhirajlal M. Patel
Dilip C. Patel
Anil V. Patel (Tidy)
Dipak I. Sheth
Dr. Dilip M Pancholi
Ashok I. Patel
Gautam H. Mehta
Mr. Manish Parekh
Harishchandra Sinh Vaghela
Mr. P B Bais
Mr. Sanjay Desai
Himanshu J Sethia
Mrs. Amit Shukla
Mrs. Bhavik Raja
Mrs. Dilip C. Patel
Capt. Nrupendrasinh Kachar
Mrs. Himal Ashit
Capt. Pruthivrajsinh Jadeja
Mrs. Ilyas Panwala
Mrs. Kumar Shah
Mrs. Nita Ashok Thakkar
Mrs. Porus Wadia (Jeroo)
Mrs. Prerita Anal Dalal
Mrs. Ramchandra Vala
Prithviraj Sinh Vreabar
Mrs. Shalibhadra Shah
Mrs. Shripal Shah
Mrs. Yogendra Jadeja
Ms. Neha Ayaazkhan Babi
Rajendra B. Shah
Rajiv H. Patel
Samir N. Patel