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Day 4 Keylong to Pang

21 July 2008:
So the fourth day morning we woke up by 6 and started packing things and still no signs of AMS? I asked other guys if they are getting any symptoms of AMS after all we were climbing altitude very fast. Keylong is at the altitude of approx 12000 feet.
No one complained till now. We were hydrating ourselves frequently as suggested by sources to cope up with it. We checked-out of the hotel and lubricated bike's chains and cleaned it (it was too dirty due to last day's ride). Finally we started towards Pang. We had some breakfast at a roadside hotel "The Llama Hotel".


We headed towards the Baralachala (the fourth highest motor-able road in the world, Alt:16002feet). En route we were greeted by some breathtaking views and also some of the baddest roads :(. BRO (Border Road Organization/Himank project), guys were laying out new roads and had dug up all the existing roads.



One of the sign boards on the route
Photographer: Prabhu


We stopped for a butt break near "deepak tal" (not sure if it was "suraj tal" or "deepak tal"). Prabhu straight away removed his clothes and took a plunge into the lake. The water was freezing cold don't know how did Prabhu feel :)

Baralachala mountains in the view mirror

Now we could see some more snow/ice covered mountains which meant we were climbing higher soon enough we started feeling cold because of the height and the cloudy weather. We started climbing Baralachala, the roads were newly laid and were super smooth. There were some off-road short cut route with steep climbs between the curves. I was taking the road and suddenly I saw Prabhu climbing the off-road track and was waving hang from the middle. I looked back at the other riders and they also started climbing the steep climb. I was hesitant to do so as my bike's tyres were not great to do off-roading and that too with the bikes struggling to breathe. But seeing others go I was tempted and decided to go ahead. As we were climbing soon enough I realised bikes were running out of breathe and also the rev range, yes the bikes were revving more than 10k rpm. Sunil sir and Chetan went past Prabhu with me behind, Prabhu was revving too hard to climb the terrain, I noticed there some smoke coming out of the gear lever and then Prabhu lost control of the bike and he fell down. This fall made his bike lose a lot of engine oil (around half a litre). I somehow parked my bike in the steep and helped him bringing back the bike up and Prabhu decided he isn't going up through this path. By this time Sunil sir and Chetan had successfully made it up the path and Sunil sir came down to us and he took Prabhu's back to the normal road and climbed up where the other bikes were standing. I wanted to make it up but didn't want jeopardize the trip due to the bike breaking down totally and so decided to come down and take the normal route. We were worried about Prabhu's bike as it had lost engine oil and also we were fearing if the clutch plates are also burnt due to the high revving.
We took some rest, had biscuits and water and then started again, the jeep had gone ahead of us and they were waiting on the other side of Baralachala. All this had left us in tension with our heartbeats going very high (lifting the bike and taking it back to normal road took the toll) and probably the blood pressure getting high too.
Prabhu complained his bike isn't pulling at all and he tightened his clutch cable and asked me to get to the jeep and get the spare engine oil. I went ahead and got the oil, there was a jeep coming from the other side about climb Baralachala. I handed over the oil bottle to them and asked them to give it to Prabhu on the way as I was feeling too tired to climb up again.
After the jeep left I thought I should also go and help Prabhu and others out. I reached where prabhu was waiting for the oil. He topped up the oil and now his bike was somewhat better and we moved ahead. By this time Chetan had reached where jeep was waiting in a hotel (Bharatpur). Now he had started feeling dizzy and he said it was total black out in front of his eyes for some time. He rested in the hotel and we some snacks. Obviously the dreaded thing called AMS has started taking over our bodies. First hit was Chetan. He complained of getting vomiting sensation, Prabhu said if he vomits things will get worse (which we found later that vomit is harmless unless it is a dry one).
Seeing his condition we decided to stop at some place and spend the night. But the locals there said it will be very very cold in the night and better for us that we some how reach Pang and stay there. Hence we continued our journey even though Chetan's condition was bad. By this time I was also feeling breathless and a little headache was there. I ignored it and kept myself well hydrated. Reached Sarchu, we got decent roads, stopped for refueling and rest and in meantime Chetan had stopped once and vomited, he said he felt little better after vomiting. We wanted to stop our ride for the day and stay at Sarchu. But our jeep driver suggested us to make it till Pang as for the next it would be difficult for to cover the distance till Leh which was 271kms. Again we decided to move on. Pang was only 70-80 kms ahead. The views enroute were breathtaking but sadly we couldn't stop much for photos as AMS slowly acting over all of us.

Sarchu

Soon we reached the 22 curves road which would take us to Lachlungla (Alt:16616 feet). We were slowed down considerably due to the oncoming Army convoy which consisted of at least 50 trucks and by the norms the civilians should give way to the army trucks and convoys. So I decided to take rest till the convoy passes completely. I was joined by Prabhu and we both sat on a rock complaining about the headache and dizziness.


Photographer: Prabhu

We came down from Lachlungla and again greeted by fantastic views. Next was Nakeela (Alt: 15547 Feet) after which Pang was only 20 km which our last stop for the day. We all were fully in the grips of AMS by now having vomiting sensations, dizziness and headache.
We met another rider who was alone on his Bullet. He was an American, name Jessey. He was feeling fine rather than struck by AMS. The reason being the pill he had taken before starting from Keylong. He told us that he had the medication 24hours before starting his journey and was feeling perfectly fine.


We were cursing ourselves for being careless and over-confident and not taking the pill. Anyways not wasting time we started again. I kept saying to myself "AMS cannot defeat me and I will keep my cool till I reach Pang" and kept riding. We crossed Nakeela and saw some of the most baron mountains with no vegetation at all, we had to cross over flooding streams on the way as it evening time and by this time the ice on the top of the mountain would have melted and result was those streams overflowing.
My bike stalled in the middle of one of the streams (they called it as "suraj tal") I had to keep my foot down to balance. Somehow I crossed the stream of my own. We somehow reached Pang reporting check post. The moment I had reached the check post my patience and will power gave up (as we had reached the day's destination and no more riding for the day was planned) and in a ditch I vomitted pretty badly with all the fluid and food, I had on the way, coming out.
We parked our bikes near the tent and went inside with all the luggage we could carry with our health deteriorating fast.
Obviously we under-estimated the power of AMS. We were just lying in the tent with no energy at all to even remove our riding gear and sleep. The tent owner ladies gave us all the hot water and garlic juice to make us feel better but nothing seemed to work. We had climbed too much of distance very quickly. In two days from Manali till Pang (15000 feet) which was the main reason of our condition.
At around 8 o clock somebody suggested us to visit the Army doctor and did visit the doctor. Doctor was very helpful, he gave some medicines for the dizziness and vomiting and asked us to wear the oxygen mask for sometime so that we feel better. And yes it did feel better. He asked us to have hot water every hour and keep eating something. But our condition was so bad we even didn't want to have water as it would feel that everything would come the instant we take in.
The Army doctor said "You coming for the first time and if you don't get this kind of feeling in the mountain, then it will be a disrespect to the mountains". So that was something normal which would happen to every other person. Even the Jawans told us that they themselves feel this even though they are staying there continuously.
After coming back from the army camp I again vomited and the medicine that doctor gave me, came out.
Anyways we all somehow had dinner, had the medicine and slept for the day hoping for the next day to be better.
The is how our Day 4 ended, It was a happening day altogether.
Statistics:
Distance Covered: 140 kms
Time Taken: 9 hours
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