Playing Poker With Death - A Ladhak Bike Expedition Story

22nd Aug 2014

Ladhak Bike Expedition Story

Photo of Playing Poker With Death - A Ladhak Bike Expedition Story by Bhargava Krishna(BK)

It all started when I decided to quit my job and go on a dream trip, in the heart of Himalayas.

I flew up to Delhi, went straight to my best friends (Rajesh) place & said, "Are you ready to have a trip of your life??"

This is the only chance we are ever going to get to do something like this, it's either now or never.

The next step was to convince his girlfriend that I am taking him on a bike expedition (problems of relationships). Instead, we just left without telling his girlfriend ( we definitely had to pay the price for that, Cont. at the end)

The Journey

We had 13 days to cover different parts of the Himalayas touching all neighbouring countries (Nepal, China, Pakistan) with a budget of Rs 30,000($500), a 250 cc Avenger & a heart of an explorer.

Photo of Playing Poker With Death - A Ladhak Bike Expedition Story 1/6 by Bhargava Krishna(BK)

Last Day Of My Life...(Supposedly)

It was the 10th day of our journey & it all started from Dras (coldest place in India). The road was covered with mud, gravel, water and surrounded by snow cape mountains to our right & a river valley on our left. So it was definitely the most beautiful yet a danger packed the place.

Photo of Playing Poker With Death - A Ladhak Bike Expedition Story 2/6 by Bhargava Krishna(BK)

Death Encounter 1 - Hypothermia

The weather couldn't be much worse, it was raining with a cold breeze. And all we had was a basic jacket, surely not much prepared for what was coming.

Rajesh offered to drive put on the only pair of gloves we had. As soon as we hit the road we realized this cold is way too much than we bargained for. It didn't take time for the rain to get into our clothes and started freezing our asses. Rajesh gives up saying he can't drive any more, making me the driver of the hour.

One thing about driving at high altitude is that there is not enough oxygen and bikes max speed was about 20 kph & goodbye any gear above 2nd.

Five min into driving I realized why Rajesh didn't want to drive. My hands were frozen & I couldn't feel my feet anymore, so kept the bike in 1st gear, accelerated a bit & placed my hands on it as a weight. The helmet's visor started to freeze & nothing of visible, so I had to pull up the visor. Now the cold wind was directly hitting my face, freezing the tears coming from my eyes, my body was under extenuating pain.

We are miles away from our house, in the middle of nowhere. If ever we die here no one would ever find us, it would take weeks for someone to even realize that we were missing. The only thing that was kept us going were these

Photo of Playing Poker With Death - A Ladhak Bike Expedition Story 3/6 by Bhargava Krishna(BK)

Suddenly, Rajesh asked me to stop because he had to pee. Then it hit me, our piss is very warm. Our clothes are already wet, so let's just piss inside our pants. I slowly started releasing the warm pee into my pants. Damn!!!! it felt like I came back to my life again.

Death Encounter 2- The Sliding Rock

As I driving in my pee fill pant, I hear someone honking from the backside, signalling me to move aside so that he could pass me. You dumb piece of shit, are you fucking insane, there is hardly any space on the road for one vehicle and this asshole wants to overtake. He kept on honking so I had to give him the way. As he was passing by, there was a huge rock which rolled down from the mountains and hit the car from the side. If it was not for the car, that rock would have hit us. And am pretty sure that rock would have dragged us into the valley.

I stopped the bike, looked in Rajesh eyes without saying anything and we just nodded. Thank god, we had a least some luck going on.

Death Encounter 3 - Slippery Ice

As we were embarking on our journey, feeling good about our luck of not getting killed by the rock, there was another challenge ahead waiting for us. There was this turn which was somewhere between a "U" turn and hard left which was covered with frozen ice. One little mistake and we would find our self in the valley.

I slowly started to climb on the icy road keeping my both legs on the ground. As the second tire tries to come onto the ice we slipped and fell on the ice & it was fucking painful. Our bike had literally no traction. We kept falling on our butt every time we tried to pick the bike. Then we both stood on either side so that he could push and I could pull. To my surprise, it worked. Later we both kept our legs on the ground trying to push like a kids bicycle. It took us a while but we were able to make that icy turn, probably the longest turn of my life.

Death Encounter 4 - Water In The Hole

So far the rain stopped, leaving behind water on the roads & wet mud everywhere. As we were moving forward in our journey, we reached low grounds completely filled with water. We knew there was no way we could cross that road, but there was no going back either. We then drove our bike into the water which stopping our running bike. Now we are stranded in this cold, immersed in water up to our thigh and a bike which doesn't start. We dragged our bike and tried every trick we knew to start the bike again.

The bike was already sustaining this high altitude, extreme weather and huge load, we were certain that the bike is going to give up on us at some time and we were sure that this was it. There was no one else around, as we were starting to give up our hope it suddenly started. I am not lying it was a freaking miracle.

Death Encounter 5 - The Empty Tank

Photo of Playing Poker With Death - A Ladhak Bike Expedition Story 4/6 by Bhargava Krishna(BK)

As we were happy that the bike is again working properly but our happiness didn't last long as our tank was very close to empty. To give a brief idea, every gas station is around 200 - 300 km apart, so we have to carry petrol in a separate tank & I believe, we may have missed one of the gas stations. As we expected, after 20 km our bike stopped again, sweet mother of god, this day is too much to handle.

As we parked our bike on the side and hoping for some miracle to happen, we hear bike sounds approaching us. They were a group of 15 European men with their custom made Harley Davidson's on an adventure with a truck carrying a tank full of petrol.

The amazing thing about Ladakh adventure is that everyone tries to help each other. They stopped near us and asked if there was any problem. We replied in a low dim voice that we were out of gas. The leader of the group replied, "We are on freaking adventure mate, filled that shit up as much as you want, we got a tank full of it".

"Help comes in all ways, we just have to be patient and ask for it."

Death Encounter 6 - The Sticky Mud

Photo of Playing Poker With Death - A Ladhak Bike Expedition Story 5/6 by Bhargava Krishna(BK)

As we were battling with an uphill drive, we needed to make a "u" turn. The mud was very mushy & our bike tires got stuck in it. The more we tried to accelerate the more it wet inside.

This was most probably the worst day of our life. One hurdle after another, it was like God was waiting for us to give up and we were staying adamant from giving up.

We left the bike in the mud and sat on a rock. After a while, there was a car that was approaching us. They stopped seeing us like no other way. They couldn't pass without taking out the bike from the way. Seven young guys came out of the car & pulled the bike from the mud, they all looked Kashmir's. From the beginning of our journey, every fellow traveller warned about one thing, be aware of Kashmiri people. As we thanked them asked if anyone wants to join them in the car. At first, Rajesh hesitated but later he knew he didn't have much choice so he got into the car.

I followed them from behind so that I would be safe from the sliding rocks & also I didn't trust them completely. After half an hour I switched places with Rajesh.

Death Encounter 7 - Drunk driving

Photo of Playing Poker With Death - A Ladhak Bike Expedition Story 6/6 by Bhargava Krishna(BK)

Countering the popular belief, the Kashmiris were very fun to hang out, the only problem was the fun got way over our heads. I sat in between them and started talking to them. We spoke about Kashmir and the beauty of the place, our journey and slowly started talking about a woman (men will be men), how the Kashmir girls are shy and traditional to their beliefs.

Everything was fine until they asked me how was I fighting the cold, to which I replied, I have rum in my bag so every day I am taking shots to sleep. Muslims don't drink alcohol and there aren't any alcohol shops in Kashmir. They seemed very curious and asked if they can taste a little bit. I didn't want to be rude & they helped us a lot so I poured shots for every person there including myself. They took it pretty well for the first-timers.

Now they became curious that they don't feel any change to which I replied: " no one gets high on 1 shot & it takes some time for the alcohol to kick in". They insisted on drinking one more shot and it hit them like a wave in just 5 min. Every fucking guy in the car got drunk with 2 shots of vodka. They started blabbering, one guy started talking about his girlfriends (plural), one started crying (god knows why), one started talking about how they are doing haram (forbidden by Islamic law) by drinking alcohol, one guy started touching and smelling me. I was there, just trying to listen to what they have to say.

I felt like we were no longer going straight. I asked what's going on, then the driver said: "I feel awesome, maybe you are drunk, I am driving perfectly". Then it hit me, holy shit he was drunk too. One mistake and we will ram our car into the mountain or fall into the valley. I offered him to stop to which he said, "no (classic drunk expression)". Everyone realized that he is too drunk & started hitting him on the head. Later another guy started driving who was a little sober.

That day I have decided I am never going to drink and drive again.

Death Encounter 8 Pit 'n' truck

After an hour journey, the road got divided and we departed in our separate ways. I started driving the bike and started discussing how crazy the day was going.

As I was driving there was a big pit on the road which I didn't see until I was near it. Then I applied hard brakes, which made us skid at 70 kph speed & pushing us on the middle of the opposite road. There was a truck approaching us & there was nothing we could have done other than scream and pray to god that we don't die under a truck. Thanks to the truck driver, he turned the truck onto the opposite lane and saved us from crushing us under his truck.

Holy mother of god, we literally shit in our pants (Not really, peeing is alright but not shit, that way too much..). We decided that we can't continue to drive today & we needed to take a halt.

Death Encounter 9 The wrath of an angry girlfriend ( Day 13)

The whole trip we totally forgot about the fact that we never really informed Rajesh girlfriend about the trip. As soon as we entered the house, his girlfriend burnt all the clothes and the gifts that she gave to him with this pure rage on her face. Rajesh stood they're shocked without uttering a word. When the clothes were turned into ash, she took a cricket bat and started running after him. I was happy until she turns to me and said, it is all your fault, you are the who took him.

Rajesh's girlfriend did what all that life and death experiences couldn't, scaring me to death. Till the day I haven't seen anyone or anything like it.

Every moment on that day was enough to end our life there but we survived them & god knows how? I am not a super religious person, neither I am an atheist. For sure I have seen some exceptional coincidences and miracle happening that day. I can't explain any single one of them but the fact is, it was the most memorable day of my life and the best story of my life.

The story didn't end here, you won't believe what happened the following day. Check it out here.