Day 3 – Steve Is My Copilot (6+ hrs)
I’m not sure what I said to him, or how many Immodiums he tossed down his gullet, but on Day 3 Steve decided to hop on the back of the Bullet. Steve was still draining his bowels quite regularly, and now he felt nauseous, but we agreed that, if he’s going to get sick no matter what, he might as well do it in a cool place arrived at on a badass motorbike.
So ten minutes of failed kickstarting and a downhill roll into gear later, off we went in the same direction as yesterday’s adventure, this time intending to take spur routes and visit some historic gompas, notably the massive one at Likir, home of some ancient water spirits or some such mystical deal.
As emaciated as our Get Sick and Eat Poorly in India Diet had made Steve thus far on the trip, I immediately noticed how much clumsier his weight made the bike. A brief explanation of leaning into curves and standing up over bumps made things marginally better, for him and me, but the lost power on hills, the less responsive steering, and the tremendously slowed braking was going to make this ride more challenging than I’d predicted.
To compensate we just rode slower, took the hairpins wider and more deliberately, and passed fewer vehicles. It was a more gradual, easier, and all-around less stupid journey. This, of course, according to my point of reference.
According to that of Steve’s stomach, however — which was essentially getting stretched out on a bed or propped over a toilet — the speed, bumps, leaning, sharp turns, blind corners, cliffs and traffic were a helluvalot to take in.
At Nimu he took a breather, to calm his nerves and appease his bowels. At Saspol, at the bottom of a tremendously windy descent, he puked.
(But as you can see, it wasn’t too shabby a spot to do it.)
Turns out, all road signs and printed maps proving as shitty as my navigation skills, we’d overshot Likir by 9 km — the exact length of the windy pass. I believe Steve’s acknowledgment of this fact were the words “Fucking hell.” So up we wound again to the top, this time catching the faded paint on the rock pointing to Likir, and veered off onto a dirt road, found the real road, and motored up the canyon towards the enormous gompa complex across the river.
There we dismounted, me exploring the site and snapping some photos and enjoying the view, Steve collapsing onto a cement slab inches from a 30-foot drop and trying to nap it off. Not more than twenty minutes later, Steve found a smelly unventilated long-drop composting bound-for-the-carrot-patch shithole and did his business; then we left.
.Due to the amount of fun Steve was having, we skipped the two other gompa trips and sped back to Leh.
Staggering back up to the room, helmets in hand, I tried to gauge Steve’s enthusiasm for motorcycling.
“So…. you and me, Chang La, the world’s third highest motorable pass, tomorrow?”
Day 4 – The Polarized Path to Pangong Tso (12.5 hrs)
Setting off Steveless yet again, Day 4 was to be an epic journey up and over 17,586-foot Chang La, the third-highest motorable pass on Earth, down the hours-worth of windy desert road to Pangong Tso, the enormous and rumoredly spectacular lunar lake whose 83-mile-long turquoise waters straddle the contested Indo-Chinese border, and then back.
What I experienced, even at a mere 23 years old with a lifetime left of potential motorcycling in me, I am confident will remain forever the unbeatable best riding of my entire life, followed by the most untoppably hellish and exasperating, both in the same grueling day.
The same goes for Steve, except for shitting.
To find out what happened on this bizarrely parallel Dual Day, read the next article.
Here are some quick links to the other articles, even though the saga is best read in order:
- Biting The Bullet: Motorcycling Ladakh
- Biting The Bullet II: Theory Into Practice
- You Are Here
- Biting The Bullet IV: A Tale of Too Shitty Days
- Biting The Bullet V: Topping It All Off