Escape from Hell

What is the worst that could happen if you were stranded at night on a small country road with a flat tyre?

A lot as it turns out! Bikes can break down! We can get mugged! Or Arrested! Or Both! And our ride can come to an inglorious end!

I never ride/drive at night. And this incident just reinforced my previously held beliefs on the topic.

This story from the #RoadTales series is from 2007. Like every year around March, the topic of discussion at every biker meet was that year’s ride plans to Ladakh. My own preparations were already half done. I had already applied to get my annual Compulsory Leaves sanctioned for July. Project Plans were suitably kept updated to make sure nothing, NOTHING came in the way of the Annual Pilgrimmage to the Himalayas.

On my birthday, 3 other biker boys signed up for the Ladakh ride. Rahul and Me had previously done Ladakh couple of times separately. But “Crazy Cat” Nix and Rohan were “Ladakh virgins”. I had previously decided that 2007 would be my first solo, but somehow these 3 idiots convinced to make 2007 a group ride as well. So on my 30th birthday, we sat down to make our Ladakh ride plan!

We were to ride down from Mumbai, riding across Rajasthan desert to Amritsar, and from there do the Ladakh circuit clockwise finishing in Manali. Enroute, we planned to make stops to visit the Wagah border, Golden Temple and Pokhran, the site of India’s first “peaceful” nuclear test in 1974. Killer Plan!

In July, Nix and Me set out from Navi Mumbai and met up with the other 2 at “Hotel Fountain” in North Mumbai – the usual sync point in Mumbai for rides heading north. We did good speeds the first 2 days, reaching all the way to Pokhran in Rajasthan. We spent some time at the Nuclear Test Site and the Fort that is nearby. Perhaps it was a result of exposure to residual radioactivity at Pokhran, but that is the point where Acute Laziness took over the group!

We left the Museum/Shakti Temple in Pokhran a little before noon, targetting to reach Bikaner by 6pm. It was supposed to be a 3/4 hour ride! Instead the boys stopped for a leisurely Lunch at a roadside Dhaba and then instead of riding out immediately, stretched out on the charpoy, put a handkerchief over their eyes and went off to sleep! We reached Bikaner after 8pm! :rolling eyes:

The next day, we were supposed to do a medium haul from Bikaner to Amritsar – 600 odd kms across the desert in 12 hours starting at dawn and finishing at dusk. The boys drank late the previous night, woke up late the next day and started out riding only at 10am! One hour later, we had stopped at a roadside dhaba for a leisurely Breakfast. And then everyone took a siesta for an hour after that while I impatiently had a dozen cups of Chai! We were on the road again after a 2 hour break but then kept stopping every hour for Chai, cigarettes and Pee breaks! At 5pm, we stopped for “Lunch” followed by another long siesta. It was FRUSTRATING! Roads were narrow but thankfully in good condition. Nix was leading and I was sweeping with the other 2 in between. We were all following the Tail Lamp of the guy in front, our speeds down to 30/40kph by this time! The pic following is of the Road in the daytime. Now imagine riding through here after Dark!

This was before the era of smartphones and GPS. I remember all of us being hunched over an Eicher Road Atlas in the torchlight way past 10pm trying to figure out where we were. Turns out we had crossed a town called Suratgarh sometime back which none of us remembered crossing! But we got on to our bikes to ride ahead thinking of stopping at the next big town we could find. We were all totally tired out having kitted up over 12 hours ago but we had to push on! We were all plodding along at 30/40kph just hoping at that point to find the next sidey hotel in the next sidey town we reached where we could crash! That is the point when things went from bad to worse! Rohan’s bike had a flat tyre and Rahul discovered his clutch cable was partly broken. So there we were, at past 1030pm, trying to fix our bike tyre in torchlight on a lonely desert road in Rajasthan! But things were about to go from bad to worse! Much, much worse!

Rajasthan in July. It was a particularly hot night. The wind when it blew, was HOT wind and We were all kitted up. Needless to say, we were all sweaty by the time Rohan’s tyre came off! Thats when we discovered that we were out of Drinking Water! We were all so frustrated that Crazy Nix’s tasteless jokes were not funny even to this toxic bunch!

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