Over the coming weeks at Tashi’s garage I worked on my Enfield making general maintenance to my bike and soon Tashi, me and all his other buddies became good friends. We would spent most evenings drinking whisky tinkering with motorcycles and talking about the best mountain passes to ride over. It was soon apparent to me that the money I spent on the whisky and beer that I shared with the guys was far less than the money I would of spent on making repairs and maintenance to my bike. Now I was part of the gang I did not have to pay for anything anymore.
I also discovered why Tashi was called the drunken master by his friends and why he never opened before 11am. Tashi would drink pretty much every night, as soon as 8pm hit the clock he would open his fridge that doesn’t even work and grab one of the stockpiled bottles of whiskey and pour it into the glasses that only minutes earlier we were drinking chai from and if you did not tell him to stop he would keep on pouring! I also discovered why most of his friends would leave by 10pm as the more Tashi drank the longer he insisted you stay ‘just 2 more whisky’s’ He’d say. You can’t really say no to the drunken master and I frequently found myself the last one there at gone midnight.
I found it funny that all the other tourists were spending there evenings at various overpriced restaurants that were full of smelly wanabe hippies predictable conversation and crap beer and I nearly always ended up at motorcycle repair workshop with local guys where all we talked about was motorbikes and would leave educated and inebriated. Much better than listening to some spliff hogging vegan white guy with shit dreadlocks going on about how he lost his iPhone 5 and all his money because he was so out of it at a full moon beach party in Goa.
I was invited to join Tashi and his crew on a ride out to a place called Turtuk which is right on the Pakistan border. Feeling honoured and knowing we would have our very own Enfield mechanic coming along with us it was impossible to say no. The day before we were going to leave we all met up at Tashi’s workshop to tinker with the bikes and talk about the big ride. Predicting the type of drinking that would be going on once it was 8pm I made my excuses and made sure I would have a nice clear head for the morning since we were going to be meeting at 6am.
I arrived at Tashi’s at 6amish and was surprised to see Tashi already up and Tenzin and Oshok already there. When I got close to them they still smelt of whiskey and Tenzin told me that it got so late the night before that him and Oshok had to spend the night at Tashi’s. By 7:30am the rest had arrived and 12 bikes roared out of Tashi’s workshop and straight through the middle of Leh before ascending the mountain to Kardung La.
Just after reaching Kardung La my friend Oshok got a flat rear tyre but with Tashi and a group of Enfield enthusiasts this was no problem and the wheel was off and back on with a new tube in no time. The road from Kardung la descends into the Nubra Valley and is a very unforgiving and treacherous road that forces you to go slow and careful. The destroyed bulldozer lying on its side halfway down the mountain is testament to this. It was apparently taken out by a landslide. Luckily we made it through the beautiful scenery of the Nubra Valley without anybody being swiped out out by any landslides.
Down in the valley itself the road was a perfect and enjoyable paved road where we could really ride the bikes and have some fun. The sound of the 12 bikes echoed through the valley as we roared along this incredible road in the direction of Pakistan. Along the way we passed army roadblocks and dozens of army camps. Since the Pakistan invasion in 1999 it would seem the Indian government has stepped up its security along the border areas. Photography is prohibited near any military sites which was a real shame as the landscapes were like nothing else I had seen and the military was everywhere making it impossible to take any photos.
We soon reached Turtuk and the Pakistan border where all the kids in the village descended on us. They were all fascinate with the motorbikes, I suppose its not everyday the get to see and hear 12 Enfield’s pull into their sleepy little village and with all the permits needed and military road blocks I can understand why so few people come here.
We all had some chai tea and instant noodles as this is all they can manage in this remote area and then posed for some photos with Pakistan behind us. We would not be spending the night in Turtuk as it is no tourist town so we made our way back down the road to Hunder where there was a tourist camp.
It was dark by the time we arrived at the camp. We had been riding all day and were all feeling a bit tired and achy. We unpacked the bikes set up some tables and got the whiskey out. The time passed quickly and so did the whisky. I actually cannot remember the end of the night, all I know is when I woke up in the morning I had quite possibly the worst hangover ever. I was completely fucked and there was no way of hiding it. Unfortunately I could not sleep this one off as we had another full day of riding to do. Yey! Hangovers at high altitude are horrific.
At breakfast which I could not even look at let alone eat I found out the reason why I was feeling so rough. Tenzin told me that me and Tashi were up all night talking. Like I said Tashi is called the drunken master and really likes to drink, I think being in his company he must of kept pouring me whisky and once your that pissed you don’t know when to stop. In our case we stopped when the whisky was all gone. I think.
So yes the ride back was not as enjoyable as the day before and I felt like a right prat as I was the only one who was hungover. When we were riding the bikes I started to feel a lot better as I was to busy concentrating on the road to worry about the hangover. However when we stopped for lunch I again could not bring myself to eat any much to the amusement to everyone else.
Heading back towards Leh we took a different pass that I have now forgotten the name of. It is a less used road that in winter gives access to the Nubra Valley when the Kardung La road is blocked by snow. After completing the pass I now know why it is less used. It was a crazy road that was made up of loose stones and by the look of it was never maintained. Everybody including myself fell off their bikes at some point and some of the bikes simply could not make it up some of the steep inclines and the riders were forced to get off and push. With a valiant team effort though we all eventually made it to the top where we then had to descend to the village of Sakthi. The way down was nearly all sand and again everyone including myself fell off.
At Sakthi we stopped for chai and waited for the more careful riders to catch up. We all laughed and joked at each others spectacular accidents and luckily we could all laugh about it as no one got hurt and it really was a spectacle of a comedy watching us all try and get over that pass. Once all 12 bikes had arrived and all the chai finished we hit the road to make the hour journey back to Leh.
Back in Leh the bikes pulled into Tashi’s workshop and before we even sat down the door on that broken fridge was open and the whisky was on the table. Tashi could see the look of repulsion on my face and began laughing hysterically. Still feeling like a bear had shat in my head I said my goodbyes and headed for my guesthouse had a very long hot shower and passed out in bed. I was well and truly done.