Saturday 3 August 2013

Everyone thought I was crazy to even think about going to Leh, on bike, all alone. Well, guess what? They were right. I AM CRAZY! Because sane people never found glory. Or guts.  

A sane person never uttered the words, "I want to climb Everest" OR "I want to jump from 39 kilometers" OR "Let me see how my coffee tastes when I add last night's Rum & Limca to it." (Believe me, the last one did happen. *Takes a bow*)


After months of convincing my parents and weeks of planning, the day had finally arrived. I was going to go to Leh. On bike. All alone.

I had planned to start riding from Delhi, since there's no point in riding from Mumbai to Delhi and stressing the engine which was anyway going to take a lot of beating Himachal onwards, once I hit the hills. Hence, I planned to get myself as well as my bike transported via train to Delhi.

Boarded the Duranto Express on T-1. Unfortunately, I had the side berth. While buying the ticket, I ticked the column that said "Window Seat." But, the cheeky bastard that Indian Railway is, fulfilled my wish but with a slight twist - gave me a side berth. For a 6' tall guy it's impossible to even think about sleeping in the side berth. Thankfully, while I was adjusting my luggage, a couple (it seemed like they were a couple but later turned out they were sis-in-law & bro-in-law) walked in and were thinking of exchanging their upper berths with side berths. I jumped in their conversation and told them that they can have my side berth and I'll gladly take the upper berth. Problem solved. 
Or not. You see, the cheeky bastards (Indian Railway) have designed these new coaches in such a way that it's impossible for anyone less than 3 ft tall to sit upright on the upper berth. Earlier, there used to be enough space for anyone to sit, have food, read a book, work on laptop or just laze around. But now, to hide all the wiring, noise reduction as well as well for water proofing purposes; the height of the ceiling (or whatever is it's equivalent in the train) has been reduced by about a foot. And that 10-12 inches has made all the difference between sitting upright and sitting upright with your head chopped off. Hence, my plans of a peaceful journey where I'd have my own space at the top, where I could work on the laptop or just laze around were squashed. As a result, I had to spend every waking hour downstairs on the seats and listen to the blabbering of other co-passengers. Apart from few dumb bouncers thrown by the young wife to her hubby, it wasn't too bad.

Reached Delhi. Train halted at pf. no. 2. I got down my ton of luggage. 

Just so that you get an idea of what all I was carrying: 

1. Backpack - It had all the gadgets including my DSLR, laptop, chargers; as well as other important stuff like maps, scissors, locks, biscuits and other emergency supplies.
2. Shoulder bag - Clothes, toiletries & other stuff that people carry while traveling.
3. Saddle bag - Toolkit, engine oil, spares (clutch wire, head lamp, oil+air filter, tube), two empty cans for petrol, maggi cup noodles and some food stuff.
4. A huge plastic bag to carry my helmet, gloves, bungee cords (to tie the luggage on the bike) and other misc. stuff. 
5. Biking jacket. Since you can't (and shouldn't) fold it, I had no place to keep it and hence I decide to wear it, in this Delhi heat. Also note, the jacket comes with a removable second layer that is supposed to be worn only during winter. Yes, I was wearing both the layers.

Before I tell you about my misery, here's another piece of information, I think, you should know. 
T-2 Days: Since I was going to start my trip Delhi, I had to transport my bike via train from Mumbai to Delhi. And as everyone knows, dealing with government authorities, in this case Railways, is a big headache. And for such tasks, agents are always preferable. I too did the same. Hired an agent for packing and loading my bike at Bombay  Central Station. That son-of-a-****  convinced me to not to send the bike through the same train in which I'm traveling but it should be sent via another train - Rajdhani, which will reach earlier in the day. Gave me a ton of bull*** reasons. Instead of arguing with him, I gave him a benefit of doubt thinking this was his daily job and he'd know better which train to send the goods from. Big mistake!

So when I got down at New Delhi Railway Station, I was with a ton of luggage and had to fend for my bike. Well, how hard can it be?

Duranto Exp. arrived at p.f. no. 3. I was carrying 4 luggage and were wearing a two-layered jacket; add to that, the Delhi heat hitting me in the face after I had traveled in air-conditioned train for 17 hours. Brilliant!
I climbed the footover bridge and saw 3-4 TCs. I asked them where the parcel office was. After debate among themselves for few minutes, they decided that the parcel office is at p.f. no. 1. 
I headed to p.f. no. 1. Got down the steps and 50mtrs down the platform, I met another TC. Upon asking, he informed me that the parcel office is in fact, at p.f. no. 16. Holy mother of god! Kidding me? Turned out he was not.
I climbed the stairs and dragged the luggage to p.f. no. 16. Beyond it was the parcel office. Found it. *Phew*

"But where's the freaking bike? "

I checked in the huge shed, where I saw few bikes tied up. Nothing.

Someone directed me to the inside go-down. Checked go-down # 1. Nothing.

Someone told asked me to check out go-down #2. Went there. From a distance, saw 8-10 bikes parked. I thought, "Surely my bike will be one of them." 
Nope, wasn't there. By this time I was dripping wet. The table fan was ON. I stood in front for couple of minutes. Just then someone asked me to get going because it were 5pm and it was time to shut the gates.

I walked outside. Found a porter-kinda fellow who told me that if I told him my bike's registration number, for 300 bucks, he'd find it, push it out and get it to me till the exit gate. I tried negotiation for 100 bucks, he laughed at me. 
I soldiered on.

I inquired at the official counter about my bike. They asked me when did I transport it. Told him, the bike reached Delhi the same morning via Mumbai Rajdhani. One of the fellows informed me that since the bike arrived that morning itself (less than 24hrs), the bike would still be at the platform and won't have been brought to the go-down, yet. He asked me to check out the platform where Rajdhani arrives - p.f. no.3
Kidding me? 
Turned out, he wasn't.

So, I again climbed those grueling stairs, this time dragging both - the luggage as well as myself from p.f. no. 16 all the way to p.f. no. 3. Down the steps. One step at a time, walked all the way to the end of the platform number 3. As I was nearing the end of the platform where goods were stocked, I got partial view of few bikes lying behind those huge brown packages. Dropped my luggage on one of the packages and went to fetch my bike. IT WASN'T THERE.

Asked the police constable manning the luggage at the check post at the end of the platform. He gave the following pearls of wisdom: "Why don't you check the other end of the platform?" 
Great! That's all I wanted.

After taking a breather for a couple of minutes, I dragged all three of us - my luggage, my self & my pride all the way to the other end of the fateful p.f. no. 3. 

Finally!! Found it!!!

There she was standing in all her glory - wrapped up in jute bag and bubble wrap.

I took the receipt out of my pocket (which too was wet with my sweat) and showed it to the railway employee sitting at the check post. After noting down the details from the receipt, he uttered the golden words, "Go and get gatepass made from p.f. no.16."


Turned out, he wasn't.

I even told him to anyhow get the thing sorted over there only since I was too exhausted to walk all the way, but he wouldn't hear a thing. Looking at my state, he offered to keep my luggage in his cabin till I got the gatepass from p.f. 16. I couldn't trust a stranger, that too in Delhi, but I had no other choice. I thought, even in worst case scenario, if anybody runs away with my luggage from that check post, I should limit my loss. Hence, carried the backpack, which had two of the costiest stuff - laptop & DSLR, with me. Thankfully, nothing happened to my stuff. While all this was going on, I saw 4 guys with 'MH' registration moving their bikes out. I understood that they're also on bike trip to Ladakh. We exchanged numbers and agreed to meet at the exit gate. 

While they pushed their bikes via the outside route, I dragged my pride, anger and self to p.f. 16 and got the gate pass made.

While I was getting my gate pass done, on the next window, I saw another bloke getting his bike transported. I started talking to me and turned out he's a jawan in the army. Was posted in Leh and were going home. I asked him about "non-touristy" places which only the locals knew. He told me a few which I gladly noted down in my notepad.

Took the gatepass to p.f. no. 3 and sorted the formalities. Loaded & tied all the stuff on my bike and started pushing the bike towards the exit - near p.f. no. 16.

And then began the sequence of people asking me about my trip (looking at my loaded bike and my attire complete with biking jacket and gloves) which would last till I'd reach Mumbai, 43 days later.

First up, it was a constable who was manning one of the gates just before the exit gate. I showed him the gatepass and soon we started discussing about my trip. Since I was too exhausted and sweating like crazy, he offered me water. When he learnt that I'm an engineer, he started telling me about his son who's also doing engineering. He looked like a simple man, didn't knew much about the world. I told him about campus recruitment and job opportunities that his son may possibly come across. I guess, our chat gave him little hope that his hopeless son might do something in life, after all.

After him, met a bunch of agents (like the jerk who loaded my bike in Rajdhani) near the exit gate. They too started asking me about my trip. Some people, for whom the world is just their work outside railways stations, simply can't wrap their heads around the fact that someone would go on a bike trip just for the sake of traveling. Never mind.

I met 2 of those bikers that I met earlier, near the exit gate. They were waiting for their other friends to get fuel for them from the petrol pump. I had got a tiny 200 ml. bottle of fuel with me to get enough fuel in my bike to reach the petrol pump. I poured it in and started talking to them. One guy said he could smell petrol. I told him it probably could be because I just poured some in my bike. Then we realized that the fuel line that was opened in Mumbai to drain the petrol, I forgot to fix it back; and hence, all the petrol that I poured drained out. Bummer!

Thankfully, those guys were there with me. When their friends arrived with the petrol, they shared some of it with me too - enough to make me reach the petrol station. 
(If you're reading this, THANK YOU ONCE AGAIN!)

I reached petrol pump and got 500 bucks worth of fuel in the bike. Two days later, while riding to Ambala, I realized that that petrol was adulterated. I barely did 150 km. for nearly 8 litres of fuel. Ideally, I should be doing double that. And since my bike's petrol tank was totally drained in Mumbai, there was absolutely no chance of having received adulterated fuel from previous fills. Not only that, I bike kept misfiring and giving jerks for next few days till all of that petrol got out of my bike's system.

Trust me when I say this, do not, and I mean, DO NOT refuel from the petrol pump that lies closest to New Delhi Railway Station's p.f. no. 16. My personal experience says that they sell adulterated fuel.

At the end of it all, I now had to find the way to the guest house that a friend had booked for me in Lajpat Nagar. By the time I reached there, it was already dark - 8ish. 

I checked in and after a cold shower, collapsed on the bed!

{ 4 comments... read them below or Comment }

  1. keep writing the lessons too somewhere in ur notebook.. like mumbai dalals, delhi petrol pump..

  2. Yea.. no need to work out... mat weight loss ho gaya hoga :P and the adulterated fuel thing... i thought only the sweets in mumbai were adulterated... but FUEL ALSO... Blown!!

    1. Not Mumbai, Delhi sold me adulterated fuel. And yes, you're right, all the while, I was thinking that only, that it's a good cardio workout and that it's aiding my stamina for the upcoming high-altitude bike trip.


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