Reporting from Ladakh

{mosimage}Number of people = 15
Number of bikes    = 13
Who?                    = Highway Nawabs
Where?                  = The Himalayas
Why?                     = Why not?




After years of dreaming and months of preparation we were finally ready. Ready to conquer the Himalayas on a motorcycle, loads of enthusiasm and a head full of fears. On our ride we hoped to ride through the World’s highest motorable roads, 10 mountain passes (including the world’s 3 highest), many many mountains, rivers, cultures, various terrain, body and mind numbing climatic conditions and hours and hours of endless road.

Prepared is an understatement, we were more than ready. Over the past few months we had acquired all the spares and tools for the whole group including individual spares. The riding gear was bought a couple of weeks before and leaves were taken months in advance (except a few who decided to quit than miss out on such an adventure). A lot of people were either directly or indirectly involved in this expedition to make it as successful and comfortable as it could. Everyone had their tasks cut out. Some chalked out the route, some gathered maps, someone arranged the tools and spares, someone booked hotels (in places where they existed), someone passed on/shared/distributed information and communicated with the rest of the group, one guy went all the way to Delhi before us to buy some more gear and some just did nothing but wait. It didn’t matter who did what, we were all friends, united with just one thing on their minds “The Trans-Himalayan Expedition”.  

{mosimage}{mosimage}We were the largest contingent of riders from any individual group to have ridden to Ladakh from Andhra Pradesh. This route is known to be very treacherous and on the same hand one of the most scenic. Dangerous, because after Manali the roads were practically non-existent. There were stretches which had 1 ½ – 2 ft of sand and thick slush. We must have ridden on at least a million hairpin bends, most of which had a deadly drop down a gorge waiting for us round the corner. It’s not easy riding on this terrain, considering the road conditions one lapse in concentration would mean death or major injuries. Low levels of oxygen and Acute Mountain Sickness was another enemy we had to encounter.

{mosimage}The Highway Nawabs is the biggest and fastest growing riding clubs of Hyderabad. In the past one year we have done more than 50 rides to different locations far and wide across the country. This group was started by a biking fanatic Firdaus Byramji from Hyderabad on the popular internet community website “orkut”. The club boasts of more than 600 members online of which more than 150 regular riders organize and participate in rides to different locations. With the motto “where there is a wheel, there is a way”, we set out to explore the varied and beautiful landscape of India. People from all communities/caste/race/sex/professions with the passion for riding and adventure are members of this club. Our new formed association with “Max Foundation” encouraged us to honour this relationship and acknowledge the life saving work that the foundation does in the field of cancer. We chose to bear the flag of Max Foundation on this expedition and felicitate them (in our own little way).

{mosimage} {mosimage} {mosimage} Riding is fun, it’s pleasurable but in a place like the Himalayas it can be a pain and life threatening. Group riding is a skill one has to acquire in order to ride efficiently and effectively. You ride as a pack so if there is any problem, the whole group is affected.

Riding can bring you very close to nature, the simple fact that you are out, open and exposed to the elements makes the risk worth taking especially if the terrain and landscape is beautiful. This particular ride is very close to our heart because none of us had ever experienced danger so closely and that too nearly 100 times a day. The mountains, the rivers, the valleys, the sunsets and sunrises we experienced will never be forgotten by any of us. The 3 weeks we spent together as a group understanding, caring, laughing and crying has only brought us closer to one another. This is what life on the road can do to you, it can either break you down or make you a better person. I think the latter worked for all of us.  

The months of planning in the several group meetings we had kept us prepared, but there were many obstacles we faced everyday which we hadn’t thought of earlier. We learnt to deal with them with patience and a calm head (which was very difficult to keep at such high altitudes). Team work became the mantra and working with a bunch of brilliant people seemed to be fun. Issues and decisions were made on “group conscience” and the majority always seemed to think on the same lines. Riding as one big group was an arduous task so we decided to ride in 2-3 packs. The fast riders would usually make arrangements for everyone, the slow riders carried all the tools and spares incase there was a breakdown or puncture or even an accident and needed to be fixed. Yes, we did all the work ourselves on the road and tried to keep it as adventurous as we could. We camped in a few places of which Hundar in Nubra valley revealed to us the most beautiful morning we would ever wake up to. At this point I would like to bring to your notice the army camps present these high altitudes at almost every small village, every barricade and on mountain tops, jawans hiding in trenches, waiting and watching. In Kashmir (no exaggeration here) there were two commandos present on the road every 100mts, right from Sonamarg after Zojila Pass (proved to be the most dangerous pass) to Srinagar. All these men battling it out against the odds, the climate and the unseen enemy that seem to hide among the ones they protect.  

{mosimage}This particular ride was more than just an adventure trip, it was an eye opener. Most of us finally realized how ignorant we were, not only geographically illiterate but many a times we were surprised and astonished by the various cultures and people that inhabited the so called India. I was proud of my country many times over when I came across the mountains, the beautiful landscape, the greenery and the barren deserts which make the Himalayas. Another thing the Himalayas give you is persistence, strength, courage and humility, just as my mother who is suffering from CML does. They show you the force with which they can bring you down, also the magnanimity with which they show their presence, guarding our country, our territory. The mountains urge you, urge you to take them on. As my friend who had ridden there earlier said, “Don’t take on the mountains, just walk along and they’ll show you their splendor and great beauty”. 

Armaan Basher

“Armaan is our enthusiastic and energetic FOM volunteer from Hyderabad. He is always by the side of his mother Parveen at all FOM gatherings and has espoused the cause of FOM as his own. You can catch his lovely tribute to his lovely mother in our book of stories too. It has warmed our hearts to see the FOM Banner fluttering high up amidst the beautiful, breathtaking vistas that Armaan and his friends have been to. Thank you , all of you for this wonderful contribution.”