21th September 2014, Sunday.
After a nice sleep got up very fresh on that Sunday morning. My hostess served me nice hot cup of tea with some cookies. After tea I went walking in the backyard of the guest house. It was full with blooming flowers and orchard full of ripe apples and peach. My hostess told me to pluck as much fresh apples and peach as much I needed. I think I plucked more than one kilogram of fresh apples and peach on that day. The lady did not charge me anything for them not even for tea and cookies which she served with so much love and care for two days. The people of Leh are so warm and big hearted.
I needed permit from DC office for the next part of my journey. DC office was closed that day due to Sunday. So I had full day off and nothing much to do. Since I had already done monastery sightseeing tour in my first visit to Leh in 1988 I decided to ride to Chilling along the Zanskar River famous for river rafting in summers and chadar trek on frozen waters in winters.
The Leh-Srinagar road was wonderful tarred road with amazing landscape all around. I rode with leisure and soon found myself on the famous magnetic hill spot. The magnetic hill has become a popular stop for domestic tourists on car and bike journeys. The alignment of the road with the slope of the background can give the illusion that vehicles are able to drift upwards.
When I reached at the spot, there was nobody around. Instead I saw a solitary wild animal roaming around near the spot. It ran wildly towards the hill when I reached. Then I rode up on the magnetic hill. After clicking few pictures rode back on the main road again. In the meanwhile few vehicles arrived at the spot. One of them was a smart couple from Israel on a red bike. We exchanged smiles and instantly liked one another. We chatted for a while, tried drifting our bikes on the road to check the magnetic effect, clicked few pictures and then decided to ride together to Chilling.
From magnetic hill we rode to a place called ‘sangam’ just before Nimmoo, meeting point of two beautiful rivers Indus and its turbitury Zanskar. The place was just amazing. There was a boat station on the confluence of water from both the rivers. Rafting can be done on the Zanskar river starting near chilling and ending at sangam.
Hila and Eyal decided to ride with me to Chilling. They had just landed in Leh few days ago and had already been to Nubra Valley. They were going to travel in India for the next three months. So we had lot to talk about. They wanted to know about India and Indian people and on the other hand I wanted to know about Israel and its people. So we had nice time all along till Chilling the last point on this road.
We were excited to meet one another as our chemistry matched right with the first look. We stopped a lot during the ride. Talked a lot. Clicked many pictures and had lot of fun. The terrain was just beautiful. The river was amazing. The road was very good for the first few kilometers which later became reasonably okay. There was hardly any traffic on the road.
We stopped for a while at a small eatery at Chilling and had nice momos and maggi. We met few people at Chilling. They were fair and very good looking. After spending nice time at chilling we decided to ride back to Nimmoo.
We sang songs all along the way. Hila and Eyal liked this particular song and asked me to sing again and again. ये दोस्ती हम नहीं तोड़ेंगे……तोड़ेंगे दम मगर……. तेरा साथ ना छोडेंगे. Mind you this was our first day of dosti. Thus singing, enjoying the ride, clicking pictures, we reached back to the meeting point of two rivers Zanskar and Indus.
We relaxed for some time at the meeting point of the rivers at sangam. Talked at great length about our lives and how we could improve it further. We talked about family system in India and Israel. Hila and Eyal were surprised to know that I was happily married for the last 24 years and that I never had any girl friend other than my wife. and that we have a loving, caring and close knit family. They were fascinated to know about this and wanted to understand what was it which keeps the indian families together for so long. I told that it’s not difficult as it is in our blood and culture.
I also told them that the place we were sitting, on the banks of river Indus is a part of great history. This was the same river around which ancient Indus Valley Civilization flourished. Even the name ‘India’ is drawn from the word ‘Indus’ which means ‘Hindus’ in old persian language and stems from the Sanskrit word ‘Sindhu’ which was the local name of this river.I told that the waters of all five Punjab rivers, from whom the name Punjab has been derived, merge with the Indus before ending its journey at Arabian Sea (Pakistan) which begins near Mansarovar Lake (Tibet).
Had a lot of ‘hot nd cool’ time with Eyal and Hila at the meeting point of Indus and Zanskar river. After spending some quality time at sangam we bade goodbye to one another thinking that we might not meet again. Hila and Eyal left for Khalsi and I turned towards Leh. When left alone riding towards Leh I immediately felt something was amiss. Later I realised that we have created some sort of invisible bond amongst us which has resulted in this vacuum.
After reaching Leh I went to me guest house. After some rest I went walking around the market area and bylanes of Leh. While roaming through one of the busy bazaars of Leh I saw Hila and Eyal roaming around the same way.We were excited to meet once again. It was if we were looking for one another. They had to board a bus to Manali that night. so before boarding that bus we wanted to spend some quality time together. We went inside a nice restaurant and ordered some snacks and drinks.
And guess what? We started chatting again. The topic was almost the same. Family life, love and joy in life. The chatting went along very well until it was time for Hila and Eyal to leave for their hotel to pack their stuff for night long journey on that amazing Leh-Manali highway. I felt bit sorry for them as I feel that journey should not be done during the night and that they were going to miss some of the most beautiful mountain landscape.
So Hila and Eyal left one more time that day with the feeling that we might not meet again. I felt the same thing again, a feeling of something missing. Guess what! We met again. Not one time or two times but many times later that year. Once at our home in Amritsar, then in Jaipur and again at Jaisalmer during our month long drive to Rajasthan in November 2014.
This ends the 11th day of my solo bike ride to Ladakh 2014!!!