5th August 2010 16:03: Kangla Jal, Himachal Pradesh
My feet are wedged tight between rocks, and the surging water threatens to tip the motorcycle over. When leaning into the direction of the flow only the tank and the handlebar remain exposed. Deafening thunder echoes through the canyon and I remember thinking that this was an almost impossible occurrence for this time of the year. Or anytime of the year, really – I’m in the high-altitude Himalayan Desert.
In moments of undue stress, sometimes better sense prevails: do not thumb the starter; hold on and make sure the motorcycle does not go over the edge. I step off and put my arms around the tailpiece and hold the rear wheel. It helped that hold-on-tight help, in the form of Anand, was a few minutes away.
Fifteen minutes seem like eternity and cold water pierces like needles through to my feet. The gushing waters start to push the motorcycle closer to the edge and there’s no sign of anyone yet. I must drag this motorcycle out before the both of us get swept away. The inch-by-inch tug of war begins as the freezing water has now penetrated through the innermost layer of clothing. One steady tug, one deep breath, one moment of rest. One steady tug, one deep breath… and after one final tug against the fury of the water, I find myself lying on the ground, motorcycle beside me, choking, gasping and trying to suck in the little bit of oxygen there is at 16,003 feet.
I help myself to my feet, trying to pick the Husky off the ground but fall over it before the last big heave puts it upright. I thumb the starter and the engine chokes and spits. I thumb it again frantically, till the battery is just about to lose all its juice and the engine sputters to life. Two options spring to mind as my pulse races and the adrenaline drowns the shivers that rack my body: find Anand and try to cross Kangla Jal, or head back to the Army camp at Pang.
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