The route to a Pass and freedom – Part V – I

We also got some news from Sonam, it was a Friday and it was a road maintenance day and no vehicles would be allowed, it had come to a standstill, would we be allowed? Then we decided to head out anyways, who would restrict folks on cycles? We were 6 including Karma and a small support van. And that decision to move ahead became a blessing indeed.

The crowded Sonamarg of yesterday seemed like a deserted town when we got out. Not a peep, no one had woken up yet. It seemed like we were the only ones among hordes of empty vehicles and so we set out taking in the views, the greenery and the quietness which was missing yesterday.

We initially zoomed through enjoying the few kilometres we had before the ascent started. Karma would be in the front leading the way and making sure none of us got lost.

Archana and I had made a resolution, to not wait, to not stop,just keep going on. She said , each one to their own and it was right. This was unlike trekking at all. To stop, to ponder, to chat with a fellow trekker or to go in silence, there were no choices like the above here. There was a support van behind and it would take care of us but for this time, this route this journey would be solely ours.

And absolutely no rushing this, it was painful slow and killing, but here was the biggest blessing we got. Being a road maintenance day, virtually vehicles not being allowed except army trucks and sporadic vehicles, we could do it that day. The route to the pass was treacherous with high rock fall areas, and I remember us getting through heavy wind with small rocks and pebbles flying at us as we cycled uphill.

Should I call it a moving meditation? More like a severe penance, the kms, the distance doesn’t matter, and am not philosophical here,you just think about going from point A to point B, that’s it. You won’t even dare to think about how many kms you clocked nothing. Not even the hours matter. All your bravados and the sense of doing adventures bubble bursts right then and there. Humility also seems like a big word. Your ego takes a huge beating. Also let me be brutal here. DON’T EVEN ATTEMPT to do this until you have an optimal BMI( Body Mass Index) this is not like trekking where you can get away with sheer mental strength.

Why am I saying this? Because there are many eager beavers out there saying wow you did cycling, so let me do this. There is a thin line between getting inspired and fear of missing out, and in today’s times mostly it’s the latter. I have seen this in treks too, the more difficult trek someone signs up, the other replicates it. YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO WHAT OTHERS DO ALWAYS. For all that individualism, figure out what YOU want to do, don’t try to lead an Instagram life. And as for BMI this is a hard fact, forget just being fit, you have to be lean to do this, and I am telling you I got leaner for this trip, I got my BMI lower even though it was optimal so it would help me take that extra step further. Are you ready to make those sacrifices instead of just getting carried away? Think about it.

I have been wanting to let this out since I started blogging about my treks, don’t look at the end product of fantastic views and landscapes, it requires hell of hard work, commitment, planning and giving up a lot of things in your daily life to be able to do this. I have to emphasise this loud and clear.

So imagine us all, dying inside out as we slowly made our way through really bad roads all uphill going on only one gear, and each pedal forward is a challenge. It is a slow killing process folks. And there was road maintenance happening so we would see workers, cheering us on always, and sporadic bikers who throughout our journey cheered us with a thumbs up sign, or a nod, like we were all in it together. And to be frank to see women, Indian women at that pedalling our way, because mostly it was the goras, the foreigners who did all this and today we were in a position, a space, had the freedom to do this. And believe me this space is something I will never take for granted.

Did we stop? No, only when the uphills were so killing we couldn’t keep pedalling so we would get down,walk with the cycle until we reached the top a bit and again get back on. It was liberating I tell you. Liberating to not fall for that pursuit of perfection. All that jazz about a cyclist should never get down or runners shouldn’t walk is bullshit, total bullshit.

Archana showed me the way, Vikram Uncle showed me the way. When experienced seasoned cyclists were realistic enough, to leave their egos aside and just walk up made me do the same whenever I couldn’t go further pedalling uphill. You see? You need the right kind of folks who can show you the path. As simple as that.

The views were breathtaking and dangerous at the same time. When either side is a deep gorge and you are on the left and can’t be too much on the left either you shit bricks inside! You can’t imagine how many times we counted our blessings it was road maintenance day! Otherwise the super heavy traffic would have caused us to double the time slower and who knows we would have given up mid way and sat in the support van.

This was so unlike anything I had experienced in my life. what was happening within me? It was killing me inside out physically, mentally all I was thinking of was, ok let me get on top of the uphill there will be some flat route and sometimes even for 50 metres there would be one I would be thankful then back to uphill. And this is the toughest part, you are going on first gear all the time, pushing and pulling and you do that for the next 3 -4-5 hours guys. There is absolutely no respite, none. The heat, the dust, no matter what gets to you. Your face is filled with dust, you taste it in your mouth, you can’t escape the construction part. Plus every time army vehicles, a convoy pass through, you are on the edge. You have to keep one leg on the rock and wait until they narrowly pass through and this happened a zillion times.

The route was bad, pretty rugged and virtually no road, and with high rockfalls on the side, no matter how much BRO tried their best to repair it, nature would show its own way. And this is where I salute them. Man if not for BRO none of those so called cool bikers, tourists could have travelled this far.

Would this ever end? To be continued tomorrow 🚴‍♀️🚴‍♀️

Army memorial en route
To lead to breathtaking views requires hard work and commitment
As I took a breather
Gathering all our strength before we start our killer day. Karma, Archana, me, Swati, Dhanya and the tallest and most elegant Vikram

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