Sonamarg and the road ahead – Part IV

It was only after reaching the hotel did Archana tell us what happened to her. It happened as we were cycling through killing uphills. She started cramping in the quadriceps and she slowly continued until her whole legs cramped up, hard and fast. She literally froze all over. Nothing was moving, she couldn’t make a single move, not even her fingers. It was that bad and excruciatingly painful. She couldn’t even get in the support van. So Vikram and Sonam had to lift her up straight and put her in the van.

They had to keep applying pressure on her legs to ease the cramps until she could feel some sensation. It was that bad. She was in shock. She was an avid cyclist, yes she was nonchalant about her cycling experience, but here was a woman who did the tough Manali – Leh circuit as well as the whole jazz of BRM’s.

For people who have no clue of BRM’s and it’s something I have only known thanks to cycling groups in my city. It’s accredited to Paris/ France cyclists associations and am putting this in simple terms. So cyclists go on 200/300/600/1000 kms rides, self supported mostly as a group as they can help each other with target timings. Yup yup yup it happens and it’s flourishing in India and I was also caught up in it, deciding to do a 200 km BRM the moment I finished this trip. But hell! The first few hours of cycling today was enough for me to decide NOT to do it!

Let me tell you this, a little off topic. Running and cycling has mostly been about mileage and kms racking up for the past decade or so. How many kms can one push to do it. I have seen crazies cycling 100 kms every day as a challenge. I wonder ‘how much’ is enough? So you do 300 then 1000 then what? Are you really enjoying the pleasure of riding? The journey? The reason why you started? This goes for runners too.

One thing I have learnt from the crazies of runners and cycling groups is what NOT to do. Life becomes one dimensional, all one talks about is that only. I mean are you getting any medals for your country? Any contribution? It becomes racking up kms to post on Strava/Instagram/the n number of WhatsApp groups you are in and you are still not satisfied! I have seen this and continue to see it. Well each one to their own but yeah this exists too because GREED need not be materialistic. It can extend to every sphere.

So yes Archana had done those BRM’s those crazy ones and being the practical one that she is, she decided not to do it anymore. In fact she busted so many myths on cycling and the cyclists I was gobsmacked and I am grateful for that. It’s easy to get carried away. So what I am saying is she was a very experienced cyclist but left all the above because it was not worth it. No point in proving to anyone about this. So imagine someone like her getting all round cramps. She froze in pain.

She was having water but that could have also been one of the reasons it cramped up. In the mountains and especially while cycling intake of water becomes haphazard, it is natural. You are pedalling, there is traffic, anything. But it is also this, NO ONE can predict anything in the Himalayas. And we have experienced this immensely through trekking. Why does something happen to someone? It’s not fitness at all, she just has a way to challenge you, Himalayas that is 😊

It shook Archana to the core and tomorrow would be brutal and I mean really brutal. 85 kms towards Drass crossing our first mountain pass Zoijila pass- considered one of the most dangerous and treacherous passes. Just seeing her I felt shit can I do it? What if something cramps up? What if I can’t do it? There were certain times where you would be cycling where there would be no mountain side.I mean a fall this and that side.And the roads were going to be bad with speeding vehicles. Shit!

But we didn’t want to think about the next day, instead focus on the next hour. With the crowds outside I didn’t feel like getting out. Just the view of the Glacier from our room was enough. Swati not wanting to be left out spoke about ‘similar’ cramps she was having, Archana and I just glanced at each other, this was not a competition atleast not when it came to stuff like this. But human psychology works otherwise. The next few hours were about her wanting to get the same sympathy from Vikram and Sonam. If you think this is petty, this is petty and the reason I am writing it is the atmosphere becomes negative.

Look for all of us it was a tough day, first day. Vikram was already showing signs of tiredness. Cramps, pains the whole lot was already happening. I had my own issues. I had heat boils and straight line scrapes and gashes in my inner thighs just with one day cycling and I was supposed to sit the next day and keep moving which would worsen. It has to be said because it’s not fun and games while going on such cycling trips. You need to know the realities.

Throughout my journey I grappled with gashes and heat boils everywhere to a point that wearing cycling pants became a challenge, hell wearing anything became a challenge. The moment we finished our cycling, we would get out our creams, pain gels, sprays, candida powder and apply writhing in pain. We knew the only way it would ease would be to give it a rest but we couldn’t and yes even painkillers every day. I had to share this.

So you should understand how it is when one goes on and on about their pain as if it’s the ultimate. It pulls you down. Yet you keep quiet, you avoid confrontation and you know the next day no matter what you will be on that bicycle in silence and solitude 😊

We had to have a plan for tomorrow. Sonam said we start as early as possible to avoid the crowds, even before they woke up. And what was the terrain? Decent for a few kms and then only uphill steep going deep into the mountains, we were going to cycle through a mountain pass.

And he minced no words when he said, it will be tough. And I remember Archana telling me, look no ego there will be uphills, lots of them, nothing wrong in getting down and walking up a bit and getting onto the cycle. She frankly said I will do it several times if need be. And that hit me like a lightening. This is it. This was it. This is where a thin line exists between courage and ego.

You need to let your ego go to hell and have the courage to say I can’t do this uphill so let me walk until I can get back. Such an important lesson I learnt from Archana. It changed my perspective. KEEP YOUR EGO ASIDE. You were not proving anything to anyone, least of all to yourself. Here you are, on this cycling trip you signed up for. What are your expectations? To enjoy the journey right? What will be the difference between you and those crazies who focus on racking up kms and posts? This is your journey and yours alone ❤️

To be continued 🚴‍♀️ 🚴‍♀️


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