Day 50 – Kurseong to Darjeeling to Gangtok
Tragedy has struck. Ok, let me rephrase that. Stupidity has struck. I have lost all pictures since Diwali at home till the day I landed up at Gangtok. That means I have no pictures of this day when I did the maximum manual labour. Left the pictures on the desktop of a cyber cafe to be written on to a CD later. And they promptly deleted it. What was I thinking!
Anyway, the morning of the golden jubilee day of my trip started rather demurely. Nothing particular in my mind, I left Kurseong in the morning for Darjeeling. I had no plan. Nothing. As I approach Darjeeling, the first thought of the day strikes me. I am running out of petrol. And every 5 kilometers I am told that the petrol pump is 5 kilometers away. I am seriously short. When I do find the petrol pump, I am told the machine’s broken. This wasn’t supposed to end like this. There was no way I was going to push this pig of a bike up THAT slope. I caught a taxi driver and asked him. He said 3 kilometers. I said I give you 10 bucks, just lead me there. I didn’t trust random directions anymore. Thankfully, the guy was right. I tanked up. And went up.
Actually down. There is this place called Gangamaya just before Darjeeling which was highly recommended by the 4 time India tour dude. And as soon as I turned left, I understood why. The road did not go ahead. It went down. Literally. Just down. 70 degrees. Straight down. Constantly. Non stop. For the next 35 minutes, the top of my front wheel was below the bottom of the rear wheel. All fingers on the fron brake, foot on the rear brake and left hand on the clutch. I have never gone down a road like this. This was something else.
Gangamaya itself sucked royally. It is nothing but a tiny little stream made into a tourist attraction with some benches and stuff. Family stuff. Not my type. So I leave immediately. And then I realize, the wheels will be the other way round now. And with great anticipation, the ride up starts. I take another rarely used road up going through tea gardens and not really in good condition. The torque of the bike is holding good. I maintain a constant 20 kmph. Any faster would be impossible. And then a u-turn comes where the inner riding line is vertical. All the torque was needed and I was riding third gear. And I chose just the wrong moment to shift down. In about one quarter of a second, I was face first into the road. At that slope, the bike fell quite heavily too, slid for a little while, started leaking fuel (since it was almost upside down) and kept whirring the wheel in second gear. I was absolutely unhurt, thanks to Cramster and AGV. But the bike was a mess. Shut off engine. Took out the key unless a stray spark ignites the fuel which was now all over the road. Safety was not guaranteed.
The biggest task was obviously get this bike up. Easier said than done. With all the luggage and almost a full tank, the weight was close to 250 kilos. I have never lifted anything heavier than 15 kilos. And this bike was upside down. I had to literally lift the whole thing, not just make it stand up against the earth. My hands strained, my back strained, my strength gave way. Twice, I tried my best but couldn’t. Third time, the constantly leaking fuel made me more determined. I gave it everything. It moved but didn’t stand up. I slid it till the incline became a little more bearable. Let it go again and lifted again. This time the incline allowed me to lift it. With the last ounce of strength, I put it on the side stand. This was not a nice experience. Muscles in my hands were feeling like they had been stretched to twice their capacity. But the bike was up. And thank god for that. And then help arrive. 6 pick up trucks. Couldn’t they have arrived 30 seconds earlier? God’s way of testing people I guess. But I was alive. And had managed to lift something I never thought I would. It felt good.
By the time, I reached the main road to Darjeeling again, I had lost all intention to visiting Darjeeling. Same old hill station, I thought. I decided to head to Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim. About 3 hours away, I started right away and promptly got lost. 10 minutes later, the road finally showed itself. The road from Darjeeling to Gangtok is one of the most beautiful ones I have travelled on. Unfortunately, as I said, all pics are gone.