If you thought AMS i.e Acute Mountain Sickness – the condition where people sleep around a lot and drink bland soup all the time – was bad, here’s news for you. There is something worse and in my own head, I’ve named it Acute Mountain Withdrawal Sickness. It is, put simply in non-medical terms, the uncontainable yearning to be in the mountains the moment you get back from that magical land. Not to go all Osho on you but at least for me, the charm is in how being in such an unreal land changes you, inside and out. After a fantastic time onboard Royal Enfield’s Himalayan Odyssey last year, a year and a half was spent planning the next trip up there on my own.
Blogs, Cleartrip's wonderful airfare calender, travel websites...the lot, all of them were becoming regular tabs on my browser. Of course, a motorcycle would be the weapon of choice, being only the best way to explore the mighty Himalayas. Sadly though, for one reason or the other, it didn’t happen and when I had almost given up hope of it happening this season, towards the onset of winter, two trips up there materialize all of a sudden, out of the blue! And proper trips they were – one with the Tata Aria taking it through the 2100 kms Lahaul-Spiti Valley loop and the other was the Mercedes-Benz Fascination Drive in Ladakh. Needless to say, both were incredible in every respect and thoroughly unique in the experience they offered. After all this though, I did what I was waiting to do for a long time – ride in the mountains. On the face of it, it might look like a bummer – alone on a beat-up Electra with odd wheels, wobbly running gear and reliability that was suspect, temperatures plummeting to -8 and -10 degrees Celsius as you go higher and less-than-adequate riding gear for such temperatures. But tell you what, hand on heart, it is one of the best feelings in life, when those surreal Himalayan ranges fill your helmet view port on an empty road that seems to be heading straight to the heavens and with air so pure and so cold, you discover compartments of your lungs you didn’t know existed as they get cleansed and refrigerated, both at once. It really does leave you breathless, in more ways than one.
Based out of Leh, the routes weren’t very lengthy but immensely enjoyable nonetheless. On a whim, even went up to Khardung-La for breakfast one fine morning and what a wake up call it is, the only thing going awry were my double-layer protected hands going sub-zero. They called in sick for the rest of the day. Just another day of small adventures in frigid remote places at the onset of winter. Now that I'm back, I'm wondering how the hell did I manage to get myself back from that beautiful land in the first place. But anyways, since I'm here and Leh is pretty much going to be sickeningly cold now, I might as well get online trying to figure out what my next destination is going to be. If living is about doing what gives you true unbridled joy, this is something I’m going to be doing for a long time to come.