I was talking to a friend, and mentioned that i lived in Ladakh for a bit, but realized I had no clue of when it was, so i started to sort out my memories of that trip, that without doubt was one of the high points of my life, literally and metaphorically. I just had to pen it down somewhere.
It was about 2006, I think, that I was getting bored of what looked like fairly mundane work, and not sure where i was going in general decided to take a sabbatical. I explicitly remember when i the moment i made that decision. I was hanging out with some old non software buddies and found that I could not relate to them anymore, They were talking life and I could only speak software and tech stuff. It felt like i was losing touch with real life.
I had done it in the past taking off for few months off to Goa, but that was another wierd adventure, so i decided it was time to do it again. I had vague ideas of where to go, and i am pretty sure Ladakh was one of the options, so was goa, but i had not decided.
It was around this time, that Vishy gave me his copy of Dharma Bums. I really liked the book and felt the same sort of urge to seek the truth in solitude. By the end of the book, i was pretty certain that I was going to Ladakh. I had been there before, but only briefly. Now i wanted to go longer. I booked a 2nd class train ticket to Delhi and that’s it.
A month or so later i was on the train to Delhi with the large Backpack that I’d just bought at Wildcraft(I still have it today, and travel with it in Indonesia), in the middle of the Indian summer, i was traveling through the Indian heartlands to Delhi, without the foggiest of ideas of what i am going to do once I get there.
I bummed around for a few days in Delhi, visiting the places i never got the chance to see, when I lived in Delhi, the book shops near Nai sadak, the chat shops in karol bag, the forts and the parks and mausoleums and all the things Delhi had to offer, i lapped it all. The evenings were spent in the cool air conditioned British library or a beer at Connought place.
I got tired of the heat in Delhi and decide to head north to Manali, I took a bus to Chandigarh, i wanted to hang out there for a bit, a lot of my friends recommended it because it had nice college crowd, but it was too hot and looked too well planned for my liking, so i decided to take the bus to Manali, it was the next morning, and i decided to wait at the station, and my first experience of sleeping the night at the bus station(the other one would come on a brevet, 8 or so years later)
I don’t remember much of the ride to Manali, but I remember taking a cheap hotel room next to the bus station in Manali, I was there for a week or so, taking day trips to some of the interesting places, like the hot springs, the strange temples, walking on the river side . smoking joints (I remember hanging with a group of crazy Israelis, One of them was an amazing flute player). What days were those. Reminds me of the Goa days. Also crucially, at a local market I bought fake North Face tent.
That had to end and I remember I was at the bus station early in the morning, I am not sure now, if i was looking to go to Leh directly or just to Keylong. Keylong is town at the cross roads, either you could go up north towards Ladakh (like most tourists) or go east towards Spiti.
But instead I got onto the bus to Kaza. Kaza is a small town in the Spiti valley. I don’t even remember if I’d heard of Kaza before. But it’s one of those things you can never explain, why I got onto the bus to Kaza, and not to Leh. Somebody said Spiti, i was fascinated and got on. That’s how I operated those days. It was a great twist of fate. I am so glad I went off the beaten track. for the next month or so there were no crowds no craziness, just fascinating experiences and people that are hard to describe and talk about.