That terrible feeling, as I dressed up in my cycling gear that morning was unbelievable. Zero energy, head was spinning and the mention of food would make me throw up. Archana told me to keep sipping ORS water- 2 litres before cycling and keep having more while cycling. She was a life saver. She gave me lots of ORS packets, calmly told me if I wanted to sit out for this for some time it’s ok. I could get back onto the cycle after some time.
I was feeling terrible was an understatement, I couldn’t take any smell of food, any food, not even a biscuit. How the hell could I cycle 67 kms to Saspol? I could only sip ORS water, took a couple of pills and sat in the restaurant with my head down in my hands. Seriously, sitting in that restaurant with breakfast smells was making me feel worse.
Then I asked Vikram if I could share some of the oatmeal packet he carried. He mixed my oatmeal with hot water and it was agonising just stuffing one spoon in my mouth. But I had to, the only way I could eat anything and keep it down was to keep it bland, really bland. Vikram wisely told me to stay off milk or anything diary , no risking this.
I could see Archana, Vikram and Dhanya concerned and checking on me, Swati, well as usual didn’t care. She kept rattling about her pain and cramps as usual. I wanted silence and I sat outside with my head down. I had two choices- sit in the van or cycle. And here was the thing, if I sat in the support van, it was not like it would zoom to the next destination, the van would slowly follow others keeping the pace of the cycles and I knew for sure in my condition getting clogged up in the van, going in loops slowly will make me more sick. I needed fresh air, I didn’t know if I could make it through the whole journey but all I said to myself is, I will go slow, take as many breaks, and keep sipping water. That’s it. Let me not think about the distance.
The good thing about today was it was rolling routes up and down not much uphill and lots of descents. No excruciating climbs just flowing uphills. I told the group I will start cycling now itself, it was a straight route, I need to get going before my mind starts to play tricks and I will be slow, I needed fresh air fast.
And so I set off with Karma, it was descending alright and I still have no idea how I did what I did that day. There were so many times I felt I would give up. No, this was not some stubbornness, but visualising myself sitting in the slow support van made me gag. It will be hot in the van and worse I might get motion sickness in turns and bends if am in the van. So my only motivation for cycling that day was ‘fresh air’. I would rather be out than in.
I remember Karma stopping at the famous landmark, the location where the mountains looked like moon craters. It was outstanding to look at. But I was in no condition to appreciate it fully. I clicked a couple of pics and told Karma I am moving ahead. It was a straight route anyways.
I was in turmoil inside, the weather was going from scorching hot to cold weather as I was passing through flowing waters and shaded rocks. My head was spinning and body was down and out. But there was also no one around, not a single vehicle as I kept on cycling. I feel now this was a blessing in hindsight. It was just me and my struggle to use the little energy I had efficiently. Archana thoughtfully gave me Peanut chikkis, just in case I felt that complete dip in energy. I was not ready to touch food yet, nothing.
I remember under the blaring sun stopping at a village, it was army centred but looked deserted. I felt helpless and tired, there was no one. No energy to go ahead, do I keep moving or just sit and wait for the van to pick me up? The Himalayas teaches you that no matter what, you are completely alone in this journey of life. And don’t take this negative or positive. This is life. This is how it is.
You are accountable, simple. This body, this mind, the self is all yours and it’s your responsibility, not your family’s, not your spouse/partner, no one else, it’s you. There is no escape. You can drown yourself in chaos, noises, complicate your mind, distract yourself with a million things around you but this is it. You must have the courage to confront this truth.
After standing for some time. I decided to move on. Yes the only way I saw was move ahead. Groaning I got onto the bicycle, with a blankness in my thoughts, I pedalled as slow as possible, yes I could do this, slowly but surely.
I reached a big police outpost that led towards Saspol. There I decided to take a break and wait for Archana. I didn’t have the energy to stand, so whatever rock or place I saw, I sat on it and saw the vehicles being stopped by the police that had to register names and details if they were tourists. I had to do something to keep this mind from giving up. We were half way through. So I went and got a slip registering 5 of us to get into Saspol. Sonam and Karma were Ladakhis so they didn’t have to register.
Archana finally came in and I felt better seeing her. She made sure we took a couple of pics near the outpost 😊 The moment Sonam came in, I gave him the slip and we both started cycling again. Slowly I felt some energy cycling ahead, I somehow managed half way, the other half was just a matter of time. I had to continue at this pace that’s it.
En route we crossed through one Himalayan town after the other, and let me tell you this, even the tiniest bit of ascent wears on you, you huff and puff your way up then take a breather at even the tiniest downhill and it’s on repeat. The body by now had stopped responding to any aches and pains because my stomach had dominated everything else. I would not touch anything except ORS water until we reached Saspol.
We took a small break nearby at a Dhaba, that’s when Archana and I came to know Swati had a near miss accident! And it happened right outside the hotel at La Mayuru. So right out of the hotel was a steep descent, and it’s very dangerous. So the moment she came out descending, she didn’t see the wide gaping hole in front of her, She fell right into it, got thrown out and fell flat! It was her lucky day that there was no incoming vehicles on the other side, otherwise she would have been gone.. The helmet saved her head, because she crashed. Bad. She had minor bruises around her elbows, but thank god not one single tear nor fracture! There was some energy from the monastery and luck on her side that day. Sonam told us this would have ended badly. Immediately I went upto her and hugged her hard. She was still shaking from it. I told her, to not think much about it right now, just reach Saspol and process it then. Trauma comes in later, it takes time, just take it easy.
Initially Sonam had suggested we stop at the monastery just before Saspol, eat lunch and make our way to the hotel. But the group wisely decided that it’s best we stop at the hotel first, freshen up and then take the support van to go there. We had 2 more days of cycling to go and the body was breaking down now.
But man, the route passing the monastery was rugged, rough and so beautiful. The sun was at it’s peak and it was so bloody tough as we cycled ahead. Archana and me looking at the monastery nodded and agreed. No way were we going to stop here and then again ascend to Saspol!
You can imagine my relief when Karma pointed us to the beautiful new hotel! 67 kms of cycling that day on an empty stomach and ORS water. That was what that got me through this. Another day was done. I was exhausted and down. I still couldn’t take a morsel of food. Nothing. But I was so glad we made it through. Archana and I came in first and we went to our room. And by far this was true luxury! What a room and what a view from our window with seating. I was so weak by then, sitting for more than 5 minutes became a challenge.
But issues happen right? So Swati after the near miss accident she had, you would think she would change a bit. But I hoped in vain. She had this irritating habit of always checking our room first before her’s to compare. Yes, Himalayas can’t change every person you see. So when she saw ours and she saw her’s, she started nagging. I don’t have a window with this view. I was too sick to get angry and Archana got fed up, she said let’s give her our room and move, anything to stop her from complaining.
But it was all assigned and we had unloaded our luggage already, but we were ready to pack up and go wherever, whichever room. Swati for the next half an hour kept checking every other room for the ‘same view’. First floor, second floor. You tell me how would anyone feel with an attitude like this. The woman was not satisfied with anything. I had enough, I told Archana, no we are not moving. First am sick and I need to rest. I didn’t want to feel guilty about not giving up the room. I was way too exhausted.
By the time this drama subsided, we got ready. Sonam was taking us to the monastery and we could have lunch there. I actually came down to the lobby thinking I could go out but Vikram quietly said hey just sleep in, it’s just a monastery and you need rest. And that’s exactly what I did. Went back up and lied down sipping ORS water. It was hot outside, really hot.
Finally I had a small bar of Peanut chikki. No spice, masala I could smell right now. So I decided that for dinner I would order only bread and light butter. By the time Archana came back, I started feeling better. She told me it was good I didn’t turn up, it was really hot and in the cafe they had nothing but noodles to eat, yes those thick maida noodles! Ugh! 🤮 Just that thought and I could vomit all over again!
I didn’t step out of that room until evening. We were requested by the hotel guys if we can shift downstairs as they had assigned rooms in the same floor to a group of guests who were checking in soon and they insisted on rooms next to each other. Sighing we moved our backpacks down, too tired to complain about anything.
The good part was we got another fresh cleaned up room 😊 I was in the room throughout while Archana, Swati and Dhanya sat out. Archana came up after sometime and was shaking her head. Swati was going on and on, complaining about this and that and eating their heads. We wondered how her family could take her nonsense, 7 days with her and we had enough. Vikram would move away the moment Swati would start talking. Archana and I noticed that from day one. Her negative energy was too much. And it was getting worse.
This is something I have observed. The masks go off under tough situations and out comes the person you truly are. We can be all civil and ‘love the world’ in our comfort zones but under harsh circumstances and especially in the Himalayas it strips bare all the hypocrisy, double standards, everything.
In the evening as Archana went down for dinner, I ordered bread with light butter and ate, atleast I could keep it down. Yes the stomach felt raw but the vomitting sensations had stopped, I felt better.
Sonam told us we had to start early to Leh, the earlier the better. While Saspol was at a lower altitude now we had to ascend towards Leh. A tough ride tomorrow. Steep ascents and climbs added to that, it would only get hotter tomorrow towards Leh. We would cross the famous ‘Magnetic hills’ and the ‘Sangam’. The confluence of Indus and Zanskar rivers, and all would be on an incline. It was a day of ascents. A whole day of tough riding.
Oh boy this was gonna be fun! To be continued 🚴♀️🚴♀️