One Living Life: Motorcycling across Sikkim | Day 7 - Part 2 | Gurudongmar to Lachen

Friday, 24 February 2017

Motorcycling across Sikkim | Day 7 - Part 2 | Gurudongmar to Lachen



260m away from Gurudongmar when my Motorcycle gave up
I could have left my motorcycle there and walked uphill for the remaining hundred meters but probably, it was an emotion attached to my machine that made me push it as long as possible. I thought it would be an easy task considering that I had no saddle bags laden. But, when the engine finds it so hard to breathe, how well can I?


The air here is too thin to do such tasks. I pushed it about 10-20 m ahead and started panting. It felt as if my lungs could come out and start gasping for air outside. I kicked out the side stand and sat beside, letting both the engine and my body breathe. I stayed like that for 15-20 minutes until I started feeling better. I was foolish, trying to cover the distance like that. The 'Black Beast' was unable to take my weight and climb ahead. Now, instead of pushing it, I started the engine, kept the fuel knob closed and revved it slightly to help itself climb up, as I scurried along.  We covered the remaining distance without any issues.
Gurudongmar Lake (24th November, 2016)
The ride till now was full of hardships amidst darkness & sub-zero temperatures, facing raw cold, fighting numbness and without even being able to feel my limbs and fingers for a major part of the journey. But, tell you what? It was all worth it. Every bit of pain and passion paid off. It was like a surreal mix of fact and fantasy - A Heaven on Earth.
I took a few photographs and spent a few minutes admiring the beauty. The majestic lake was partially frozen and the snow clad peaks around adored it like feathers on its cap. Finally, the backdrop of a uniform blue sky and the bright sun shining on each of them, added to the incredible glory of the scene. When you start getting lost in its beauty, straining your eyes towards each of the snow capped cones, looking deeper into the reflecting mountains, it becomes hard to leave that place and move ahead.Being told that staying here for too long could have adverse effects on your body, I dropped the idea of walking along the lake. Probably, that would also be too tiring for me after the ride. Maybe some other time, some other day! This was surely not the last.
Entry to the Sarva Dharma Sthaal
The Gurudongmar Parikrama
There is a shrine nearby, the "Sarva Dharma Sthaal" i.e. the house of all religions where you can find reverences paid by various ranks of the Indian Army. Since, I could not walk along the full length of the lake, I decided to tread down the steps, cross a narrow footbridge and take a stroll as far as I could. The moments spent there are clearly etched in my mind. After my friends arrived, we took a few snaps together. As I rolled downhill, I kept smiling knowing that one in my wishlist was done. Once again, it was time to enjoy the breathtaking ride till the last check-post.
With friends
At some point, riding on this stretch, I started feeling sleepy and completely dozed off once. This was a serious warning as loosing consciousness even for a split second on a motorcycle could prove to be fatal. Knowing that the lack of oxygen was inducing this, I shook my head and limbs rigorously to enforce consciousness in my body. This sleepiness also indicated a few other things.

I knew that my health had to take a toll after bearing the raw weather early morning. By the time I reached the last check post, I was shivering. My temperature was around 104 degrees. I had some meds I was carrying and took some rest at the well equipped army canteen there. They had a nice room heater and you could have some hot coffee and pakoras as well. Incidentally, a middle aged tourist wearing an oxygen mask was also being treated by the army. It is always advised not to stay at such a high altitude for long, although I did carry diamox and some required meds as a precaution. I'll probably make a pre-ride preps video and post later on. Another guy, probably 20 to 22 years old also suffered from asphyxiation but because of his own fault. I heard that on reaching Gurudongmar, he got over-excited and started running around.

Coming back to my condition, I would probably have to wait there for another 1-2 hours until my fever came down. But, Sumalya being along, I had the advantage of handing over the baton to him. He rode from the check-post back to Lachen. This fellow here had a couple of torn ligaments on his leg and dared to ride down with a knee support. Well, riders come in all shapes and sizes and then there are ace ones.

The plan for today was to reach Lachung by night. We reached Lachen by 2:30 pm and had our lunch. My fever was completely down but I knew I needed some rest. It is very important to know your health and give adequate breaks to your body in order to cope up with situations like these. When you push too further and cross that line, only the Himalayas get to decide your fate. My friends coaxed me to ride till Lachung, but I decided to stay back at Lachen. It was again one of the best decisions I had taken during this journey. Lachen faced a load-shedding that evening, like many other nights.

Vodafone left company ever since I entered North Sikkim and my camera & phone batteries were dead as well. The power bank blinked its last bar of charge and I had decided to save it. The sun had set and the temperature was dropping rapidly. I felt a shiver through my spine. I knew that the fever would haunt me throughout the night and popped in another medicine as a pre-emptive effort to stop it from overtaking me. The homestay where I was staying had 3 floors and 6 rooms on each floor. 17 out of the 18 rooms were empty. There were no guests but me. The homestay owner rather turned out to be a sick, non-cooperating person who did not even care to provide an emergency light or a cup of tea. Help was miles away and it is during these lonely sick times when you wish your mom's hand was on your forehead.

Way back in Kolkata, it had always been a busy life. Work and daily schedule had eaten up every day. Even a spare second would probably be spent checking Whatsapp/Facebook. There was always something to do and out here getting to do absolutely nothing was freaking me out. I could not go out in the cold and neither could I sleep with the fear of a stronger fever.

It was a horrendous night spent alone in darkness and cold. I kept fighting the fever with some more meds. As the last rays of light continued peeking through the windows, I took up a pen and paper and started scribbling. I had to do something and this is what I wrote:


Sorry for the Handwriting!! Not used to Pen and Paper these days...
Later on, when the meds gave some warmth, I took a torch and ventured outside. The shop beside the homestay was occupied by a few localites. The usual smoky air had filled the chambers inside but, it felt warm and welcoming. I pulled a chair and sat beside them, showing no interest of ordering anything. It felt so good being in a social place and not alone in the dark 3rd floor basement.

The owner walked upto me and asked, "Gaye nhi aap!!" (You did not go?) in his broken Hindi tongue. I explained him my condition which he reiterated to his friends in their local language. They asked me to join them at their table and offered me some chaang. While the owner took to his chores, one of the person at the table was a taxi driver who was pretty well versed in Hindi and English. He translated to his friends and  back to me. I had a nice time chatting with them and enjoying the warm chaang.

Experiences gathered this day were worth treasuring and the mistakes I did and learnt are worth sharing. Sikkim still had a part left, the old Silk route. And, neither would this be my last time to Gurudongmar! As I write this, the Donkha La beckons.

The Vlog for this part:

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