The Aftermath, Tensions and Lessons – Part XII

The moment I reached where Vikram and Archana stopped, I saw Swati pedalling in confusion. She was like why did you stop? I want to cycle all the way to the hotel. Btw the hotel was another 7-8 kms away. Archana said this is it, I am done. The moment she said it, Swati said it’s ok then, if you are stopping then I will too 😊 I wouldn’t miss this opportunity now would I?? I told her, why do you want to stop? Go go, cycle because you so badly want to, we will follow you in the support van 😂

Basically she was trying hard to show us, that she could do the 7 km stretch to the hotel too if we didn’t stop, but this is the truth, none of us wanted to nor we had the energy to do it. We were spent totally. So I kept pushing her, ‘You go na, why stop for us? We are done with this but you have the energy! Ultimately Swati admitted No, I am also tired. How much ego it takes to let this simple truth out. There was nothing wrong to admit this is it. We had managed to finish what we started with. Srinagar to Leh and we did it. Without injuries, without collapsing or fainting and keep going and surviving. The human mind is screwed up isn’t it? Always greedy for more than it is destined for..

We loaded the cycles and sat in relief, laughing loud at the helplessness we felt today, and our condition. I remember rolling in laughter when Dhanya said ‘Arre, sometimes I felt I was not moving, I was on a stationary cycle! Everyone seemed like they were moving ahead and I was pedalling on a still cycle!’😂

The distance to the hotel was so far and so steep uphill we were glad we got in the van. It was even more hot in Leh and our operator Sonam was scratching his head trying to find the location of the hotel. What? Didn’t he check before booking these hotels? And he was from Leh! 😂

He stopped the van at such an odd location that we had to walk across muddy dead ends, jump over stuff to reach the place. What kind of a hotel was this?? This was Leh, a big town, not a remote village. The hotel looked nice from the outside, it seemed new. But there was absolutely no breeze, just heat hitting us and making it worse. And when we came to our rooms, the freaking window was not opening. There was no ventilation and it was unbearable. So we decided to take a shower and get out immediately to eat in the market. Anything but staying here during daytime.

Archana took the hotel towel and went in so I went downstairs to the lobby to ask for an extra one. Absolutely no soul in sight and it unnerved me. There is no staff? And this was in such an odd location though. Finally I saw a guy constantly on his phone and when I asked him, he curtly said, No towels as they have not come from laundry without looking up from his phone. I was pissed totally.

Something was off about this hotel and I didn’t feel safe. First of all, there were no other guests, there was no hotel staff, none and what kind of a response was that when I asked for an extra towel? Sonam and Karma unlike previous days would stay elsewhere. Sonam was from Leh and Karma would stay with some friend, in the end it was just us ladies and Vikram. I didn’t like it one bit.

Archana and I discussed this and we both decided to look for another accommodation tonight. It didn’t matter if we had to pay from our pockets. The hotel looked desolate, we weren’t sure about the kind of food we would get at night and we had to do Khardungla tomorrow. With this stuffy hotel room we wouldn’t get a wink of sleep, what the hell.

So we decided post eating we would search for an alternate accommodation. By then Archana decided she would not go to Nubra Valley with the other two ladies. She was dead tired, and the idea of going that far, spend one night there and again rush back wasn’t appealing, and most importantly bearing Swati! That woman had been shopping left right and centre since Srinagar, but that was not the problem, she was trying to push the extra luggage onto Archana and Dhanya, telling them to carry it.

What irked me the most was this. Archana arranged EVERYTHING and I mean everything, on this trip. She searched for the right operators, she took references from others, she negotiated and got us a good package. All we had to do was book our flights. She made it that simple for us. But this woman had not one ounce of thankfulness towards Archana. And while all of us paid full amount to Sonam through Archana, that lady with all her shopping still hadn’t transferred the remaining amount and it was quite a big amount.

I hate this, totally hate this. It is someone’s livelihood for god’s sake. It is a basic protocol to pay the whole amount. That man Sonam arranged everything. She had the money to shop left, right and centre, expensive ones at that and had the nerve to tell Archana she has to ask her husband and she can transfer it only after reaching Pune. I was hopping mad, we finished the freaking journey, it’s the least any one would do! Just pay the damn amount that’s due.

Aarghhh!! You could stay in the poshest area, be a fast runner, speak in Queen’s English and travel around the world but if you don’t have the basic courtesy of respecting someone’s livelihood, it shows your upbringing.

For Nubra trip, Archana had to again arrange everything for them. Nubra valley was an additional expense, and Swati could have done it through Sonam, he arranged it anyways. But she would tell Archana to take care of it as if it was her job to do it. What kind of confidence do you have when you can’t book it on your own? Just saying you are an independent strong woman won’t do, the lady didn’t seem to make independent decisions. Later that day, Archana bluntly said to her, ‘this is the guy’s number, talk to him and go. I am tired, stop asking me to arrange everything.’

I was counting the hours until tomorrow. It was not Khardungla but to not see her anymore. Such negative energy, and lessons I learnt? I learnt that I am sure I don’t want to see her again in my life. Not worth one minute of my time.

After searching for the original German bakery in the market which took us another half an hour, we finally found it. Relieved we ordered. I wanted to play safe but almost everything was bakery products, pizzas or desserts so I ordered a veg burger. I thought this was safe but the moment I started eating it, only the veg patty portion, constipation, bloating came back on. Now I wonder if it was just the burger or Swati’s energy. She kept on ranting.

As we were discussing hotel accommodation I remembered in 2016, I visited a good friend of mine there. She was one of the seven girls chosen to ride an Activa from Manali to Leh route. and they successfully did it. I remember it vividly because that was the day I also saw the handsome actor Arjun Rampal in the same hotel and yes he is way more good looking than in pics 😊

So I told Archana and I vaguely remembered the way as it was very near to the German bakery. Throughout Swati kept ranting I don’t think you are going in the right direction, I ignored her and there it was, the lovely hotel! It was as good as I remembered. I went upto the lobby and enquired. The manager at the lobby was very friendly and helpful, he immediately showed the rooms and I decided I am taking it. Archana just about came in. When I told her, she said you liked it right? Let’s take it! And while sipping our Chai in the lawns, then and there we decided why wait till tomorrow night? We will move in tonight. That’s it.

The hotel was so alive, vibrant and comfortable. Plus the safety part. Why do we have to wait? We decided we will pay for those two nights from our pockets. I was leaving day after tomorrow and Archana had two more days to go. So Archana called Sonam and told him, anyways he was coming at 8 pm to the other hotel, so he could drop us back. We gave that option to Swati and Dhanya too but they decided to stay at the same hotel. By then we cared a fuck about who is thinking what. We had a rough 7 days and goddamn it we needed comfort and good rest!

Sonam was utterly disappointed that we didn’t like the one he arranged. I told Archana, it’s time to stop feeling guilty. We cannot placate people. I don’t care if he is disappointed the fact is that hotel was the pits. What kind of hotel was it that towels were not available, not a single person was around? Let’s stop being apologetic all the time. And we have to give an honest feedback on this. Mistakes happen, he can learn from it so in the future he won’t get other guests there. It’s better to be truthful even if it hurts because in the end it is always helpful. He was a thorough gentleman, he said he would pay for this night’s accommodation as it was his responsibility.

We walked back to the hotel to pick up our backpacks and the place looked even more silent. The corridor lights were not switched on, it was dark so we switched it on. Not a sign of a person in the hotel again, absolutely no staff. Swati decided to shift to our room because as usual she felt our room was better than her’s.

Archana and I went down with our backpacks, and that’s when she told me she was not sure about doing Khardungla tomorrow, she was done. We had done the circuit anyways, what did we need to prove by doing Khardungla? To be honest we were down and out. After a tough day we didn’t get any rest, had a very late lunch, it was very hot and now we were moving to another hotel.

Archana explained in detail to Sonam about this hotel and she told him to come inside and check the rooms of the hotel we were moving into, the charges were way lesser than what Sonam was paying for this one.

We were so relieved when we walked into our room. It was pleasant even with the hot temperature at 8.30 pm. Yes hot air was permeating everywhere. We opened our room balcony doors and windows. My stomach condition was bad. Bloating, indigestion, how would I cycle to Khardungla.

And am being very open here. I do have a tendency to push myself beyond limits, now do not take this as some kind of motivation, it is also stupidity. I push, push, push until I collapse. Credit goes to my A type personality that I was in my corporate years, if anyone had met me then, they wouldn’t recognise the person I became now. Yoga changed me inside out 16 years ago. It made me realise to a great extent that ego works huge here. And over the years I had calmed down considerably yet sometimes it comes up. I push my physical and mental boundaries until I am sick and this is not healthy.

So I was in a dilemma to be frank, should I or should I not do Khardungla? Do I push myself and try or get my ego down? That it’s ok to NOT DO IT. I totally admire Archana for her clarity, she was very clear about it. And later into the night she was very sure she wouldn’t do it. As for me, it was eating me inside. Do I give up or do I go on with this stomach discomfort? On one hand, I could continue, I finished the Srinagar – Leh circuit in a condition that was worse than this but do I want to repeat it? Is it worth it?

To be continued 🚴‍♀️🚴‍♀️

The hotel that looked good at first and later gave us the creeps
The bustling German bakery and restaurant in Leh
Finally Archana and I could relax in our new hotel after a super long day

The view from the balcony

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