Ladakh: The worst shit of my life at 15000 feet!

By | October 17, 2014

I was on all fours, just outside the door, below a makeshift roof to protect me from the ice-cold rain and the tornado-strong winds. It was around 7 PM, it felt like midnight. The second bout with vomiting was about to begin, and it was going to be a dirty one. The first round had left me weak and prone to hallucinations. It was going to be all downhill from there. 

It came out with the violence of a machine gun, really fucking hurt. On the bright side, now that I was done with it all, I could sleep peacefully for a few hours before the road beckoned again in the morning. But when God gives, he gives in abundance.

I suddenly felt the strongest need to take a shit….

********************

Since as far long as I can remember, I wanted to go to Ladakh. It is like the Mecca for bikers, and I think of myself as a rather serious one. No matter how much my parents and my friends resented, I tripped around India on my puny little Pulsar 150. Then I met a guy who had the same mental condition as I did, and we decided to chase our dream and conquer Ladakh.

We loaded up our bikes into the Rajdhani and set off for our capital city. Oh the anticipation! People saw our weirdly shaped saddle bags and asked what the hell we were up to. We replied with pride, our heads held high and a heroic smile on our faces. Their eyes were left wide open. I guess this is how it feels like to be a star?

The joy didn’t last for long, thanks to the asshole babus at New Delhi railway station. It took us 6 hours to get our bikes out of their clutches, what a nightmare! Our plan was to head for Mohali on that day, but now there were only a few hours left before sundown. We told ourselves that it can’t get any worse after the Indian Railways experience, so we started for the 280km journey at 3 in the afternoon.

We were at Mohali at precisely 6 PM.

The Delhi-Chandigarh highway is a miracle. The probability of such a road existing in India is negligible, yet it’s laid there, waiting for people like us, connoisseurs of asphalt. It was easily the most enjoyable highway we had ever ridden, forgot all about the railway pricks and rode the wind to our destination non-stop.

We started at 7 AM the next day, with the cross hair set to Manali. The road became progressively worse, but it couldn’t wipe the stupid grin off our faces. We were on the ride of our lives and nothing could stand in our way. We bunked for the night at a Himachal Govt. guest house, and slept with the roar of the Beas river for company.

Now was the start of the real trip, this is where men were separated from boys, and boys from infants, and infants from fetuses? Our plan was to start real early, cross Rohtang Pass, Keylong and then take a stop for the night at Jispa. I took a pill of Diamox to protect myself from AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) and we rode out before 6 AM. Now that I think about it, should’ve taken the pill much earlier.

The beauty of Rohtang is indescribable. The ascent takes you through areas that remind you of the scenery from the movie Avatar. It is so hard to focus on the road! Your eyes keep going after those ice covered peaks and the floating clouds. The beauty soon showed its dark side and it started to rain quite hard. Just below the apex, there was a long section of winding road covered in knee deep sludge. It felt like riding a motorcycle on ice.

I was pushing my little Pulsar 150 in 1st gear, and had to ride the clutch a lot. My left hand was paining like it was impaled on a badly cut bamboo stump. During all of this mayhem, an army truck was following me, right at the tail! Halfway through the sludgefest, I thought I’ll stop and rest my hand, and also let the army truck pass through. I turned back, signalled the driver to pass me. He smiled, and signalled that he’ll wait. They were actually enjoying watching me struggle! Carried on somehow, swearing inaudibly at the army men all the while.

We reached Jispa at 12 PM, we hadn’t planned for that. We had expected huge landslides and road-blocks and traffic jams, but we were lucky enough to come out unscathed. But this meant we were in two minds now, should we go forward or should we just stay here now? This is when we made our first mistake.

We asked army men for advice.

The same army men who were having a ball watching me slide at Rohtang had reached Jispa just behind us, so we asked them what to do? Army men are not men, they are immortal Gods who can do whatever their mind desires and bend the rules of physics and nature as they please. They said you can travel a lot farther, almost double of what we had travelled on that day. We also got greedy, thought if we can reach the halfway point between Manali and Leh today, we can complete the journey with only 1 night halt as opposed to our original plan of 2. We reset our target to Sarchu and rode like mad men.

We crossed 4 mountain passes in a single day, the highest one at 16,500 feet. We also toiled through the infamous Gata loops, a series of 21 continuous hairpin curves that can make even the most experienced riders dizzy. We had to go through actual rivers flowing across the road, and the water was colder than ice. Soon I felt the initial symptoms of AMS setting in, nausea and light-headedness, and I knew I was fucked. We took a break and I popped in another Diamox and a few dates to bring in some energy. Sarchu couldn’t be far now, could it?

It felt like if I let go of the handlebars, I would float away into space.

I can’t remember how I rode my bike, the automatic system of the body took control I guess. I can’t remember how long we rode, it’s just all a blur. We saw a few tents at a distance and I literally came in my pants with joy. We reached the place as quickly as we could, and the following conversation ensued:

“Is this Sarchu?” I asked.

“No, this is Bharatpur. Sarchu is 28kms away”

“Do you have a bed?”

“Yes”

I didn’t remove my luggage, didn’t take the keys out of the bike, didn’t remove my riding gear, just went inside and collapsed. Their idea of a bed was just some cotton over any hard surface, but I didn’t complain. The lady there was quite concerned, so she gave me a little garlic water. She said it will help me get normal quick. I took it and instantly felt better. That’s when I made the second stupid mistake.

I drank a lot of garlic water.

A little garlic water alleviates AMS, a lot of garlic water opens all the bodily doors that should generally remain closed. I vomited, violently. I was on all fours, just outside the door, below a makeshift roof to protect me from the ice-cold rain and the tornado-strong winds. It was around 7 PM, it felt like midnight.

I was trying to sleep, but the second bout with vomiting was about to begin, and it was going to be a dirty one. The first round had left me weak and prone to hallucinations. It was going to be all downhill from there. I got up from bed, ran to the door, only to find it locked. Ran back, woke up the lady running the place and noticed she looking at me weird. Turns out my pants had fallen off as I was running around. At that moment, I couldn’t give the tiniest fuck about looking decent. Pointed her to open the door, ran out as fast as I could.

It came out with the violence of a machine gun, really fucking hurt. On the bright side, now that I was done with it all, I could sleep peacefully for a few hours before the road beckoned again in the morning. But when God gives, he gives in abundance.

I suddenly felt the strongest need to take a shit…. There was only one trouble though, it was raining hell.

The place we were staying at had just a few tents for accommodation. Naturally, there weren’t any five star toilets around. The local’s concept of a john was any place with a hole, and a small wall around it. It didn’t occur to them that roofs had been invented long long back.

I sat there, in pelting rain, holding an umbrella. The rain was freezing, so was the water I had to use to complete the task at hand. It was at that moment that I really appreciated the power of mountains. If I had gotten worse, I would have died. There were no doctors, no medical aid whatsoever. All I did was miscalculate the awesomeness of these huge pieces of rocks. I did recover, thanks to sheer will power and buttholyness, and we did make it to Leh the very next day, where we stayed in a hotel and wept like a teenage girl at the sight of hot water and a western toilet.

We did cross the world’s highest motorable road, did see the beauty of the Pangong Tso lake, but we never conquered Ladakh. No one can conquer Ladakh, all you can do is cower in its shadow and hope it doesn’t smack you dead.

It was definitely the most epic shit I’ve taken in my life, but one that I sincerely hope doesn’t happen again!

  • Harsh Negandhi

    you really have the balls to go to ladakh on 150cc bike..so awesome man.

    btw, can you advise hows the build quality of pulsar and bajaj in overall. I have heard that it sheds after 1 year and has lot of maintenance issues. Can you highlight please.

    • Akhil Kalsh

      Na man, I faced none of those issues. The bike’s some 7 years old now, and still gave me 700 kms of fun through insane stretches last week.

      • Harsh Negandhi

        Superb man.. You are really an adventure freak..
        Thanks for the info 🙂

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  • Shivani Shankar

    My heart is telling me I can do it, but my mind disagrees. Whom should I listen?

    • Akhil Kalsh

      You know the answer already 🙂

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  • Harsh

    Looks amazing man. I scaled all the Himalayas around Dehradun but Ladakh. Had been planning for it from quite a while but never found the right people to go with, (Ladakh is not for pussies). Nice article, nice picture.

  • Vinzy

    “No one can conquer Ladakh, all you can do is cower in its shadow and hope it doesn’t smack you dead.”
    You have no idea I’m so glad to read it, I’m fed up all the un-thoughtful/hyperbolic/out-of-place expressions of conquering some destination as if they actually enslaved the rivers, the mountains and the climate.

    Good read it was.