The thing about Gurudongmar Lake is the conditions and here's the conditions. There is no road for 40 kms. No road. So what is there? There are rocks. Rocks on which you need to ride your motorcycle. Rocks that are not fixed in the ground. Rocks that move around. So you could land on a rock and it could move and you could lose balance. But it is not just the rocks. On one side there is the cliff. If you fall off, nobody will even find your body. I mean nobody can and nobody will even try. Your cold dead body will rot and animals will feast on it. But it is not just the cliffs. There is very little oxygen to work with and considering you just rose 9000 feet to Lachen and were going to rise another 9000 feet the next day, there is no chance in hell that your body can acclimatize. But it is not just the roads, the height and the darkness. It is cold. So cold that your bones shiver. And it is not just that. If you want to get to Gurudongmar, you need to wake up at 3.00 am and ride at 4.00 in the morning when the temperature is subzero. And that's thing about Gurudongmar lake. I left at 4.00. It was dark, cold, no roads, no visibility and the big man was now aware how big he really was. Bouncing and turning and shivering and stopping I soldered on. The only respite was the small shops with the fire and the kettle every hour or so. There was a lot of military movements and I was overtaking tanks and that's when I hit my panic attack moment. Ok it wasn't much of a panic attack but close to.
There was a stream that was passing over the road and this was a common sight on the mountains. And the water had started freezing so it was a bit slippery. I had experienced the slipperiness of the streams so I was careful and slow. But this time I couldn't control the motorcycle. I kept my foot on the ground but the motorcycle kept slipping and the same motorcycle that I ride everyday just felt so heavy that I had to slowly lay it on the ground. I can't call it "fallen" because it hadn't really, but I had to pick it up now. That required muscle exertion. And that required Oxygen. After a great effort, as the stream was slippery and the bike kept slipping when you try to lift it, I was able to raise it, but by that time was panting like I had run a marathon. The lack of oxygen does that to you. The air goes in and out, but the lungs are starved. At a time like this if you panic, your heart beats faster which means more oxygen required and you don't get enough so you get more scared. Luckily I had talked to the rider yesterday and I knew better. I put my motorcycle on the side stand and went and sat down for a moment closing my eyes. I breathed long and deep breaths and slowly recovered. Does make you think though. Something as simple as oxygen that we constantly breathe all our lives, how we take it for granted.
The lake was beautiful. Blue water, mountains capped with snow all around. But you can't stay there more than a few minutes. The lack of oxygen gets to you. I saw some people who had come there in a car faint. Others had headaches. Mine didn't start until I was half way down but once it hit, it was worse than a migraine. I went to the homestay in Lachen and and the owner gave me a dispirin. I took a small nap and I was better.
I was supposed to get to Lachung and it was already afternoon. I had to leave in a hurry I took the two cans of petrol that I had filled at Mangan and filled them into the tank. Packed my bags, bade goodbye to the homestay owner and left. The road was again, beautiful, scenic but ruthless. There were potholes everywhere and it was a climb down so I had to be even more careful. It started getting dark and I was getting tired. It was dark and quiet with absolutely no traffic and in the dead of the night I saw a red spark light up. It was two riders smoking a cigarette. I stopped and had a chat with them. One of the riders' names I remember was Amit. The other I don't remember. They were from Siliguri and had been riding with me since the last two days. I didn't notice but they noticed me. They were there at Gangtok, Mangan, Lachen, Gurudongmar and finally here. They told me about Lachung, about Yumthang and Zero Point and how I should plan the rest of the trip. There was some amount of planning until now but most of it was ad hoc. Every morning I would wake up and decide what to do. And that's what I intended to do the rest of the trip.
I reached my homestay at Lachung. The owner of this homestay was the same as the one at Gangtok. He had made the arrangements. I took a hot shower changed and went to the restaurant with my hip flask filled with old monk. There was a 19 or so old boy working there named Prakash who was actually from Rabungla. Simple boy trying to make a living. I asked him what time I should leave if I wanted to go to zero point. He said the roads are not that bad, and that I can easily get there and come back in 5 hours. But people usually leave early at 5.00 am. I was tired, I had done Gurudongmar today. I wanted to sleep. I told him I will be waking up late, I won't need breakfast till at least 8.00 am. It was cold… freezing. He gave me warm water to mix my old monk with. I had a simple dinner. I slept… like a baby.