Lifestyle Awards 2013
Wellness & Relationship
Bullets over Ladakh
Harsh Man Rai
Every year I know summer is around the corner when I start looking through my collection of dog-eared roadmaps looking for that elusive, yet-unridden road that promises motorcycling nirvana.
I know it’s summer because my craving is stirring much like a lethargic grizzly in its den suddenly realising that it hasn't eaten in five months.
Ladakh always beckons, like a moth to a flame and there is no place on earth where the texture of its landscape can make my heart race, the sound of its name send a delicious frisson of anticipation down my spine.
Of course, it would have been even better without the butt rash on my ride there last year, but that’s life. And of course, I’m talking about riding there on a motorcycle, where you are infinitely more connected to your surroundings.
This is where deserts, mountains and rivers collide with a jagged scream under skies so high it’s disorientating—18,380 feet up at Khardung La, where the sun burns, the wind chills and the colours glow, strangely enough, on bare-naked mountains where below the road falls away like a coiled rope.
There’s no ignoring the smells, the temperatures, the 360-degree panoramas and the children’s hands outstretched in greeting, their cheeks stained salty with last night’s tears, top lips crusty with this morning’s snot.
This year, I was part of a foray into Ladakh with eight other riders on factory-supplied Royal Enfield motorcycles, from Chandigarh to Leh and back, routing on dirt roads through the lakes of Pangong Tso, Tso Moriri and exiting via Tso Kar back on the traditional route to Manali.
I had never been to the lake region of Ladakh before and there’s no more powerful pull than the lure of a new road and uncharted territory on two wheels.
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was to film the ride for this show and had invited riders from disparate backgrounds, some of whom had given up their jobs to be part of what promises to be an epic road trip.
A twisted lot we were, craving dirt, dust and rocks, extreme temperatures and a gruelling environment all in the interest of riding the high altitude desert locales of Ladakh on two wheels.
I’m 47-years-old now, no longer young and I’m not old but rather stand somewhere in the middle.
And it’s a big ‘middle’. In this stage of my life, I find that I owe most of my sense of adventure to my bike—the Royal Enfield Bullet Machismo 500.
With the Bullet at my disposal, I have the means to willingly succumb to that mysterious force which draws me away from the comforts of home and feeds the insatiable desire to unearth the source of the drumbeat only a few of us hear, and even fewer march to.
Once upon a time I always wanted my bikes to stand out in a crowd and leave the punters behind out on the roads that mattered.
When you watch motorcycle commercials on television, these are the essential themes. But for some reason, I seem to have gotten over that.
Today I want my bike to be capable of transporting me over varied terrain for long distances with as little drama as possible. The stock Royal Enfield is a good basic platform for this.
You want simplicity? One cylinder, one carburettor, one spark plug — you can’t get simpler than that!
With a few simple mods, the Bullet is a bike that can be ridden anywhere, eliminating boundaries set by either natural terrain or general infrastructure, so that those with the true spirit of adventure coursing through their veins can go where they want to go and do what they want to do.
This made it the perfect mount for my new adventure. I planed to ride farther, not faster, than I ever have before.
I wanted to ruminate in the shade of old whitewashed chortens, to feel the blur and bite of the atmosphere in that way that's so exclusive to motorcycle riding and, of course, get to scratch that old itch with extra seat time.
Multi-day road trips last well after you’ve returned because they resonate in a very different way.
Perhaps because by their very nature, lengthy trips take away the creature comforts you’ve grown accustomed to and instead wear you down in a very basic and primeval manner.
They beat you up mentally and they beat you up physically until what remains is the desire to ride for the sake of the ride.
This is what riding is about, actually being there and doing what can't be done, then reminiscing about the journey, sharing it with your friends and family, while all the time knowing in the back of your mind that because they weren't there, they truly won't comprehend the scope of your tale.
Still, you are compelled to tell it, and still they are compelled to listen. I'm looking forward to the long dirt road ahead...
Have never rode on those roads, haven't been so high either. Blogs like these are what adds colour ...
Wow, Harsh.. always the most calm and silent one on the trip... The steadiest rider we rode with.. a...
abbas shamael rizvi
luvly thots harsh... knowing u, the little that i do, i kno that these come from a man who has walk...
U say it best Harsh!
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