A New Beginning

In search of Hope

Rohit has got a speedometer lock installed on his car. I think it is set at 75 kms/hrs; you drive on and expressway or on the town roads, you go into the mountains or start to off road; the terrain is never a concern, the car would always drive at this set limit

Afshan, Milind and Rohit had a quick lunch and prepared themselves for a long trip to Leh. Meanwhile, I put my doe on the Army to find a way to fix my car before Rohit and gang returned. I still did not have any hopes that they would return before I spent at least two cold nights here. Kapil had done a trip with me and Rohit once earlier; we drove thru Lahaul and Spiti couple of years back. But this was Saten’s first. I wasn’t even sure what was running in his mind at this moment.

Sick Afshan, was given a task to stay back in Leh and collect the permits that we would have otherwise done. Milind and Rohit were to go find a mechanic and Chinese Whisper the problem we had, get relevant parts and drive back to where they left the rest of us.

Pang is at 4600 m (15100 ft); has the worlds highest Army transit camp located here too. This was the place Rohit and I argued for over 3 months that we should not have a night halt. He was technically right; high altitude, less oxygen, first timers with us, AMS possibilities; spending a night in a place as this can cause a lot of issues. Hence, an overnight stay at Sarchu and Pang was avoided, even if it meant we drove only 4 hours a day and did 14 hours next.

Kapil and Saten stayed back and gave me company. I must say, with friends as these, you don’t need enemies. <3 😀 After a long tiring day, not resulting into anything productive; you don’t look forward to getting into an argument and fights with the ones those have stayed back to help you. But, Thank you both of you, for feeding me “The Dinner” that day.

“The Dinner” was nicely planned; I guess when they realized that the vegetable on the menu was something I would have never put my hands on; they worked out a way to crush all of it in the rice and lentil soup that the camp lady had prepared. Before I knew what was on the menu, a plate was put ahead with dinner nicely laid in it, mixed and ready to be relished.  I  A T E   T H E   D I N N E R; I always claimed, I knew they played me; but they claim, I did not have a clue. This is a mystery that still remains unsolved till date. 😛

In the afternoon earlier, Kapil and I went on a frantic hunt for a mechanic, Army is extremely helpful in areas as these and were our only hope. There WAS a mechanic – not one but two, both excelled in repairing small vehicles. Inshallah… what else does a man even need. 😀 There was a new hope, new will, once again a want, something to look forward too. At this moment, I must have had a longest grin of my entire life showing across my face.

But, could  life have been this easy? They both were out … on a job …. and were to return in the evening …. when a snowstorm was predicted that was to last till next morning. So much for all the hopes I built. One Army man helped us connect with a BRO (Border Road Organization) mechanic who specialized in Heavy Motor Vehicle like Trucks, buses etc. We tried our luck; but realized he has been helping a fellow traveler from Punjab for the last 3 days. It would have been unfair for me to ask him to stop his work and to take a look at my car. Nevertheless, seek’ed for his help when he got a chance. He was more than grateful to help us, it showed on his face very clearly

 

Stormy Night

The night was cold, storm had set in, sand desert outside had turned into a white Christmas night with stars twinkling bright on the snowflakes coming down. Mesmerizing it was. The most spectacular view that I must have ever seen. I went in to get my camera and quickly read up my notes on exposure / aperture etc etc  for night shooting. Just when I was about ready to set it up, a gang of bikers started to ride in.

It was beyond 2230 hrs. Why would they be riding so late on a stormy night and that too unprepared? It was a guided tour with 32 bikers, few single and few couple riding thru the storm. None of them had their rain protection on and neither were most of the rental bikes equipped with good lighting mechanism. Every one was completely wet and shivering of the cold that had hit them. Their luggage-van was stuck behind in snow and must have not made it up before the bikers did. Not exactly the night I would want to bike thru in this region. The landladies of the tent we stayed in, got together and made arrangement for few blankets and tried to comfort the bikers, not sure how much warmth they got given that they were still wearing layers of cold wet cloths underneath. Subconsciously, I wished them well and hit my bed. Barely slept that night.

The car was already bothering me. The bikers had added lot more problems to the night and I had not slept well; I thought of getting back to my car to get it going. It was around 0430 Hrs, the sun was yet not out and the temperature must be still below 0 deg. A perfect state to add on another car issue:
Was it too cold to get the car cranked up?
Where do I get warm water to warm up the diesel pump to get it churning some fuel?

Wild thoughts went on in my mind and I just prayed that the car does not give me starting problems now. I sat in the car, closed my eyes took a deep breath and flipped the ignition; the sound of the engine came to my ears like music; Morzart was playing his Symphony # 41.  <3

I looked around and all looked well, tried the electrical on the car and noticed that the lights wont come on. All lights, inside and outside the car, all shut down; roof lamps, instrumental panel, music system, head lights, flood lights, LED bar … all shut. While we had a clear plan of not driving after dark; it was not a good idea to not have the lights running.

We needed to be be prepared an emergency; the Engineer inside me woke up; I decided to fix the lights. Started by checking if there was a fuse that went bad. Found two, and replaced them. The inside lights came on; the music system started working but I could not get the outside lights to start. By this time the sky was getting brighter and I decided to check the lights later in the day. I fixed all the fuse in place again as it is supposed to be and started the car…

This time ….  no music. The car was dead. 🙁

Murphy’s Law prevailed again… the last thing I wanted was to add more problems and there you go, now we had two problems to fix.

But the car had started … just some time back

Godsend

It was almost daybreak, and I decided to walk up to the army camp to check if the mechanic had returned last night. Kapil and Saten were still asleep. I looked around, it was a beautiful morning, absolutely quiet, the nature was at its best. I started walking uphill. The Army camp was around 100 meters on an hillock from where we were parked. The old man within spoke to me for the very first time that he would never make it up there and wished for a UBER to come drive him. I was enjoying the nature, with every breath, I took a step closer to the transit camp.

And then suddenly … The peace was broken with a lot of honking and loud roars of engine. Someone I guess was in trouble and I was in the middle of the road walking like it was my kingdom. I never expected anyone to be driving thru pang at this wee hour of the day. So that I don’t get hit and crushed under the vehicle I jumped on the edge of the road and looked up. The car looked familiar. It was just six in the morning and Rohit had returned, but I wasn’t particularly happy to see him back; not so early, thought he returned empty handed. There were only two of them in the car. I could see Milind sitting by his side, no Afshan and a lot of laughter. Suddenly a head popped up from behind; I could not recognize this human…. looked closely and noted him as the GODSEND

 

It took him exactly 7 mins to get the car back in shape, of course, after he had finished his breakfast and tea. It was 0630 hours and we were ready to get Leh’ed.
Kapil and Saten were up by now and we all rejoiced. Not me …. not exactly….

 

Very humbly I went up to the gang and disclosed the bad news… the car wont start. Kapil immediately reacted saying “I thought I heard it running in the morning, what do you mean it wont start
Well, I … uhh …. u see…. fixed the fuse to get the lights going“. There was a long silence that lasted for a second or two, followed by sarcastic smiles; made me extremely uncomfortable 🙂

I had no idea what the godsend understood but he hopped into the engine opened it up and came up with an conclusion that the diesel pump wont pump fuel to the engine and so the car wont start. Wallah!!! QED

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Well, suggestions had started to pour in, even the bikers and fellow travelers joined in to help solve the problem, the most voted suggestions was to jump start the car. We needed a slope to push the car down. Given that we were climbing almost 2000 feet in less that 50 kms we found a slope very quickly; the problem was the climb.. what if the car did not start?

Noticed a JCB working and clearing debris from last night, spoke to him and hired his services in exchange of 10 Litters of Diesel. That’s was the last option on our list to bribe his services. We pushed the car down the hill, jump started it and surprise 😀 … nah!!! it did not start. 🙁 We spent over 3 hours just pushing and pulling and pushing and pulling again in various permutation combinations and the car would just not start. A realization was made at this moment that this did not seem to be a mechanical issue but could be a electrical. Now Rohit had to go back to Leh and get an electrician. Rohit started to prepare for trip once again.

Meanwhile, in the 3 hours that we spent, the electrical engineer in me had already woken up; even after I had got a lot of resistance from the citizen of Pang (by now), I kept trying. My theory was if at least we knew the problem, even a little, it would be easy for Rohit to Chinese Whisper it again.

The theory was simple; as per the manual and the fittings on the fuse box, the diesel pump fuse was the 5th on the row and the socket had broken for some reason, so even if I put a fuse in the 5th Socket the connections were not complete and hence no supply was sent to the pump. Since I had done this math over and over again by now, all of us agreed for this to be a problem.

Milind was still not satisfied, Quietly whispered to in my ear “did you check the manual correctly

With a frowny face I looked at him and opened the manual once again, pointed to the 5th fuse on the lower row of the socket box that was supposed to be …. “Empty slot“… “what in the world …..???”  I counted again “1,2,3,4,5 … empty slot” on the socket box “1,2,3,4,5 … there was a fuse in there (i put it remember?)” for the last three hours I was pushing a fuse in an empty slot expecting the car to start. Amazing … 😀 😀 😀 😀 😛 😛 😛

I told the gang I am going to fidget with the fuse once again, people jumped on me to hold me back from making another blunder but I explained “its anyways not working” what more can go wrong. One last try before he leaves would not hurt; reluctantly every one agreed

Went back to the manual, looked up for an abbreviation for the diesel pump and counted again “1,2,3,4… diesel Pump… seriously??3 hours I was working on the 5th slot and the manual now tells me its the 4th?“… now time to check the fuse on the Socket box. “1,2,3,4… diesel Pump… there is a fuse already in here???” just hoped that it had gone bad but the hope was low; nothing was working as it should have been. I pulled the fuse out checked it and it all looked good; asked our Godsend to look at it from his experienced eyes and he gave a nodding go ahead for it being good. But the engineer in me wasn’t convinced and so I went ahead and shot circuited the fuse with a thin wire I got from the army mechanic.

I remembered from the morning; I had sat in the car, closed my eyes, took a deep breath and then had flipped the ignition, there was music…. so I decided…. I will sit back in the car, close my eyes, take a deeper breath, feel it from within and crank up the car………………………….. Symphony # 41. <3 e v e n    s o u n d e d     b e t t e r     this time. 😀 😀 😀 😀  I truly believed it had nothing to do with the fuse; i just did not give enough love and attention for it to crank up 😀 😀

This was a moment of pride, an achievement, and no one even looked at me as one; Milind was looking at the mountains and grinning; Rohit, sitting in his drivers seat was staring at his pedals and smiling it away. Saten was laughing it out. Kapil was the only mature one; he, respecting my age said “its happens … sir 🙂

 We packed the car and off we were ready “To get Leh’ed. Now for sure

Pang → Morey plains → Tanglang La → Upshi → Karu → Leh

 

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