This was gonna be very challenging for me. Waking up everyday before the sunrise and start shooting. I started to get the feeling that my avg sleeping hours were going to be very less as compared to my Mumbai one. Checked the PhotoPills app and noted the sunrise timing the other night.
I woke up at the first ring of the alarm, gathered all my belongings and went upstairs on the terrace. The Augmented Reality feature on the PhotoPills app is wonderful and helps you to set up your camera angle exactly so that you get the perfect shot of the sunrise. It has timezone and as you scroll right you can visually see how the Sun will move along the day. Apart from that, it has bunch of cool exciting features. It is must have app for all travelers and photography enthusiasts. Apart from Sun, it tracks Moon and Milkyway too!
The camera went in auto mode exactly around 5:44am and I started exploring the place. Went down to the area where bikes were parked, saw their condition and they all were covered with a thin layer of ice on them. Did some vlogging and then again went up the stairs. The surroundings now had lit up quite nicely as the golden hour period had begun and I felt like I was in a dream. I was confused where to look as my eyes were just moving left and right.
Next in line to get up was Karan. He came outside and saw me with the DSLR and in no time he too was shooting. The first to go to bed and the last to wake up, finally, Bimal ji too joined us. Now, we were all doing the same thing. It’s just that each had chosen their frame carefully just as to not invade into other’s frame.
At around 7am the hotel guys woke up and since we were shivering with cold, told them to make a nice cup of tea. The hotel was really awesome and a top job. The hotel was run by boys who were younger than us. Everyone was pro. The cook guy had really prepared a lip smacking dinner last night. We told him to put his charm in ‘Tea’ too. Soon tea was accompanied by bonfire as with tea alone the cold had not escaped us. Our fingers had become bone dry by their constant exposure to outside cold.
When our hearts and eyes were satiated on seeing the surroundings we decided to move on. We had spent quite a decent amount of time on the terrace capturing photos and videos. The sun had really come up and we could feel the warmth of it now. The time was 9am. We decided to move ahead to Chitkul and not carry our luggage. Just the bike and us. Since we were gonna return by the same route, we decided to collected the luggage on our way back and then head towards our day’s destination which was Kalpa.
Chitkul is very close to Tibet border and it is also referred to as the ‘Last village of India’. It houses the famous dhaba titled ‘ Duniya ka aakhri dhaba’, ‘India’s last restaurant’. We had decided to do breakfast there. It was due to this specialty that we had included this place in our itinerary. We left the hotel around 9:45 carrying only camera gear with us. The rest luggage was neatly packed and kept ready in the room. We decided to pay the owner upfront be he kindly refused. He told, you give it to me when you return. What a customer friendly attitude.
There was snow everywhere and everything was looking white. Just the scenery we wanted. We were tired of seeing brown color now. We wanted white. Since it has snowed just 2 days back, the snow had accumulated in huge quantities. Luckily, there was no any snow on the roads apart from some patches here and there. As it was drizzling the night we reached Sangla, we has assumed snowfall today but, later that night only, the sky had become clear which also allowed us to pull out our camera. A benefit for a loss. Tit for Tat. Photos for no snow. Can’t do. Life is like this.
The roads were a mix of semi-good to bad with lot of water puddles formed in between. The snow was melting fast with the sun’s temp.
We stopped in between to take some snaps in the freshly laden snow. Afterwards, we moved ahead and approached the Indo Tibetan Border Police check post on the way where we had to stop and prove our identity. I had withdrawn cash and kept it inside my riding pant and kept the wallet at the hotel itself. But, luckily I got saved as I had my insurance paper hidden in one of the compartment of my bike which I gave it to the police. Something is better that nothing. The police recorded all our entries and let us go.
Just then as we were about to mount on our bikes and move ahead, we saw there was a puncture in the rear tyre of Karan’s bike. We knew we were doomed for big now. We had nothing with us nor the police could help us with. The things which most riders fear had happened. And with puncture at such place, help was not near. We cursed ourselves having not carrying puncture kit with us. In that excitement we had completely forgotten to at-least keep the repair kit handy. We were confused as to what our next steps were. Since we were more near to Chitkul than Sangla, we decided to move ahead to Chitkul keeping the bike parked at the post itself. We thought that we would get some puncture repair guy which we can get help from. I carried Karan as pillion and there was no puncture guy to be found. In fact there wasn’t any such shop we could locate there. Frustrated, we rode till the last place where we could go officially. We had almost reached the end point of India from Chitkul side. The green board near to us displayed warning signs of trespassing. We could almost see the China mountains from where we were standing. It was a complete breathtaking experience seeing only white color and nothing else. I was in love with Chitkul. We started returning and were in search of that dhaba once again. Ongoing, we has missed to spot it. Just then as we were about to exit the boundary we saw a small board on our left side on which the previously inscribed words were written. We parked our bikes up ahead and went near to it. The hotel was located below the main road and there was a big staircase downwards which led to the entrance of the dhaba. It was a normal 10′ x 10′ dhaba with wide frontal space where the chairs were kept for sitting and eating food.
We had bread omelette and Maggie as breakfast there only to end with special Tea. Karan was starting to get desperate and tensed. So we quickly rushed from the spot and started our return journey towards the check post again. We reached the check post in not time and figured out our next steps. The time was 1pm.
Bimal ji were to go to hotel and collect the repair kit and come back while Karan and me waited at the check post. It took Bimal ji almost two hours to go and come back. The distance was almost 18-19kms and the roads were not friendly. We had utilized that time to socialize with the police as well as click some photos. Photography at the check post is strictly prohibited so we had to be careful in taking the frames.
Finally, Bimal ji came around 3:30pm and we immediately jumped into repairing the bike. They had brought every possible tool kit which we were carrying. There were two options: One, using the MOTUL tyre repair canister and see whether it gets repaired and Second, if the first one failed, then put in the new tube.
The process started, and after some seconds it looked like the MOTUL was not doing its job. We thought it might have been expired. The same thing had worked last year when Bimal ji had traveled to Spiti and one of his friend’s bike suffered the puncture. It worked for him but was not working for us now. Bimal ji was not knowing the date when he had purchased it and we firmly believed that it had expired. After all, everything has its shelf life. We quickly moved on to the 2nd option. We were successful in removed the wheel from the hub and separate it from the sprocket but unable to pry open the tyre from the wheel. I think the chemical which has gone inside the tube from the canister was preventing the remaining air to escape from the valve. There was some pressure left inside the tube due to which we were unable to open it. Then, we went on to the 3rd option. We filled air as it is in the tube with manual hand pump which we had also carried. We could see some results. The air was going inside and the tyre was inflating but again the air started to leak not from where the puncture had happened but from near the valve area. We though the valve got damaged and instead did the second filling. This time the air did not leaked out. Just as to be sure ourselves, we told Karan to do a short ride after we put the wheel back into the bike. We had to be 100% sure that everything was OK now. Just as he returned back and stopped in front of us, air had completed leaked out. We had run out of alternatives now. There was nowhere to go.
It also started to get cold and dark since the sun had escaped behind the mountains. Luckily we had the hotel guy’s mobile no. He had Mahindra Camper which we saw parked in his campus the evening we had arrived to his place. We requested him for help and this time too without asking much questions, he pitched in. We had to wait another half n hour till he arrived.
Once we saw the Camper our joy knew no bounds. We were happy and thankful to him having being saved us. We were caught is almost No Man’s Land situation. We quickly loaded the bike onto the camper and headed straight for the hotel. There was now where to go. Entire day had been wasted trying to restore the bike. We also learnt a lot. Bimal and Karan were frustrated so much so that they decided to get their wheels converted into alloys once the trip completed. For wheels having alloys, you don’t have to mess around much. It’s only a 5 mins job to get the puncture work done. It was a day we will never forget in our lives. A life lesson learnt.
Later, that night we changed the plan and decided to skip the stay in Kalpa and try to push ahead as much as possible. We only decided to climb Kalpa, visit the Suicide point @ Roghi, take photos and push ahead.
I utilized that evening to capture night-time lapses of Kinner-Kailash mountain. This was my second time-lapse of the day, first one I captured when we were sitting idle at the check post and waiting for Bimal ji’s return.
We drank later that night cheering to our successful rescue mission along with the hotel owner. The hotel chef sparkled once more and presented us with a wonderful dinner. We had a normal food of scrambled eggs, roti, daal and rice.
We retired to our bed early as compared to yesterday.
Really had an adventurous day!!