The Apple iPhone

Yes, I’ve finally bought the Iphone . Just couldn’t resist !

And the first question I have is, why couldn’t Nokia or any other big mobile company think of this device before Apple brought it to the market. There is nothing terribly difficult about making a mobile phone, I’m sure, atleast nothing that the other companies couldn’t have overcome. The iPhone is a mediocre phone with an awesome user interface and (almost) the best mobile browser around. Infact, I’ve been using the browser more than the phone ever since I got the iPhone. That should teach the nokias of the world something.

Apple chose to not include a lot of common mobile functionality with the first batch of iPhones, like the ability to send a single SMS to multiple recipients, but it still went on to become a smashing success. There must be something they did right.

The developer community has already embraced the device like no other and there is a horde of third party software available for the device and all this before Apple has even released the SDK. Enterprising hackers have released an unofficial SDK by reverse engineering the libraries that ship with it. The fact that the iPhone is locked to specific carriers hasn’t deterred anyone and the developers have developed simple one click applications to unlock the phone to work with any carrier. The unlocking applications are so easy that even a newbie can do this.

I’ll post a full review once I’ve had a chance to play a little more with the device but so far so good. My impressions are mostly positive :-)

IBM testing Macs internally for employees

RoughlyDrafted got hold of a document which mentions that the BigBlue is running an internal pilot project for letting their employees use macs instead of Windows/Thinkpads. Ofcourse, its a lot easier now since IBM doesn’t officially make thinkpads anymore.

Apparently the results of their survey are quite interesting and even though a lot of the software the employees run doesn’t work on Mac OS X, most of the employees surveyed still chose to keep their macs instead of the getting back to the thinkpads.

Reasons why the IT dept. at IBM decided to run this pilot:

  • Alternative to Microsoft Windows
  • Less prone to security issues
  • Widely used in the academic world with which Research has close ties
  • Many new hires are more comfortable with the Mac and lately asking for it
  • Growing Mac community in Research and within IBM that finds the development environment on Mac more convenient
  • Growing acceptance of the Mac as a consumer and business oriented client platform
  • WPLC strategy includes significant investments in achieving the Mac platform parity

Best in class Open Source Software

I’m collecting a list of open source software which are actually the best in their class. Please feelfree to comment and correct me or add to the list. I’ll keep adding to the list as and when I can think of more software.

1. Browsers: Firefox

2. WebServer: Apache

3. SMTP Server: qmail

4. Proxy Server: squid

iBook G4 review

This is a “repost’ of a post I wrote on one of my other blogs a long time back. Republished here since it goes with the theme of this blog and hopefully someone somewhere will find it relevant even today.

Its been about two weeks since I got my iBook G4 and I must say, I’m loving it. The ibook looks more like a toy than a ‘real’ computing machine and that would deter most ‘corporate types’ from using it. You, obviously, wouldn’t want your boss catch you playing with a white thing in office. Geeks like me, on the other hand, should have a field day with this one. Apple has, in recent times, been working hard to change its image, as a company admired by the creative people, to one admired by the creative people as well as the geeks. And we all know, the world uses tomorrow what the geeks use today. The ibook and powerbook lines as well as the biggest draw of ’em all, Mac OS X, are excellent geek pullers and OS X in particular is what pulled me towards apple.

Let me tell you, though, that apple makes excellent hardware too and you would appreciate this only once you’ve actually used an apple machine. The ipods as well as all their computers are engineered almost perfectly. OS X does take the cake because, simply speaking, is the best looking Unix of them all. Yes, I said Unix. Apple is probably the first company to have released a commercially supported desktop operating system based on Unix, or FreeBSD, to be precise. I’ve used FreeBSD on the desktop earlier and have been dabbling with Linux since the better part of the last decade, so I’m not new to PC unixes. What’s different about OS X is the way “It just works”. Probably because apple has tighter control over the hardware that goes into those machines, but that does’nt make OS X any less ‘cooler’ than it already is. Finally I can get some work done, instead of trying to get some stupid hardware or software working with my system. And yes I did load up linux on it. I loaded up the latest darling of the masses, Ubuntu Linux, on the ibook and when I powered it up, it looked so pale and featureless in front of OS X that I couldn’t bother touching it even with a 10 feet pole and so I’m back to OS X only on my lovely ibook.

Coming back to the machine that this review is all about – The 12″ iBook G4. Not trying to sound like a paid reviewer, I must say I’m pretty impressed with the ibook, so far. Despite being as portable as it is, apple doesn’t seem to have made any compromises in making this machine. Almost everything about this system is perfect – The size, price, features. The screen at 12″ still manages to pack in enough pixels (1024×768) to be comfortable enough to use. And the slot loading combo drive makes me think, why aren’t the PC notebook makers using it. Let me warn you that if you’ve never seen an ibook before this, you are going to get a culture shock, like I got. If you, like me, believe that a laptop is/should always (be) black, the ibook is going to give your ego a beating. The ibook is white. Pure, simple white and it shines too :) Atleast the Apple logo on the back does light up when the ibook is powered on, and it doesn’t hurt the appeal of the ibook one bit ;)

The first thing I tried with the ibook was playing music and I was kinda surprised. The tiny speakers do have a lot of power in them and, though, not loud enough to make you do the macarena, the quality of the sound produced is pretty decent considering the small package they come in. I tried watching a Jimi Hendrix DVD on the system and it played flawlessly in the iDVD player which comes up as soon as the system recognizes that a playable DVD has been inserted. OS X also displays different icons when you insert a CD-R and a CD-RW. Though, a small thing, it does make the system much more pleasant to use.

Have you ever tried connecting a PC portable to a network socket and struggled with the location of the ports. Most, if not all, PC portables have all the ports at the back of the system which makes them pretty hard and difficult to reach to. The iBook has all the ports on the left side of the system and the optical drive and the power socket at the right side. Simple and neat and you don’t have to lift the turn the notebook 180 degrees ever just to attach a network cable, Exactly like it should be.

One gripe I have with apple is that they still ship one button mouse/trackpads with all their systems. Maybe, its just their way of doing things, but I do miss the right mouse button at times. As of now, I’m still getting used to their ctrl-click combination in place of the right mouse button.

Day 8: Tang Tse to Leh

The accomodation that we stayed in at Tang Tse was easily the most luxurious we’d stayed in ever since the trip started. That showed since none of us wanted to leave our cosy beds in the morning. The guest rooms were next to a small stream and overlooking a garden with ducks and rabbits for company !

Woke up everyone, loaded up our bikes, had a nice breakfast and in between all this called the officer in-charge of the mess to thank him for the accomodation and to ask for a favour :-) None of us were able to figure out the problem with Akhilesh’s bike and so we asked the officer if he could get someone to look at it. We were in luck since he found someone at the EME workshop and sent him to our rescue. He diagnosed that the vehicle’s ignition switch has a problem and the proposal that he had was, well, a little extreme but it worked for us. He changed the wiring to bypass the ignition switch and managed to start the bike. That worked for us and we asked Akhilesh to stay ahead of all of us and to not stop anywhere.

Read More »

Day 7: Karu to Tang Tse (and Pangong Tso)

This was the day I’d been waiting for. A ride over the mighty Chang La and a glimpse of the Pangong Tso. I was looking forward to this even more than the ride to the highest motorable pass in the world, Khardung la. This was going to be an exciting day :-)

Apjoo, btw, decided to skip this part of the trip since he wanted to acclimatize properly for the ride to Khardung la, and get permits for Nubra, if possible.

Except for Sandhu, Kunal and Akhilesh who got petrol filled from leh, the rest of us needed to get petrol filled as there wasn’t any other pump on the way to pangong. The only petrol pump was about 5 kms before Leh and that meant a 70 kms round trip for us. Fortunately, we found shopkeepers in the Karu market selling petrol in black. We decided to take our chance and get petrol filled from here only.

Akhilesh and Pandey went back to Leh in the morning to get Akhilesh’s rented bullet repaired, which had given them problems last night. Kunal’s rented pulsar was so far doing well.

Petrol topped up, permits in order we started around 10 in the morning for Pangong. The road was pretty good for the first 10 kms or so and the ascent for Chang la started almost as soon as we left Karu. This was going to be easy … or so we thought.

Read More »

Day 6: Pang to Karu

Today was going to be a tough day. Our energy levels were already down and two of us, Ashok and Pandey, were suffering from high altitude sickness, and the rest of us weren’t feeling too upbeat ourselves.

Joshi and I somehow managed to drag ourselves out of our sleeping bags and went to wake up the others. Even walking around at that altitude felt like a chore. I was also quite tired and even though I didn’t have a headache or anything, I was in an irritable mood. The nice guys at the mess gave us hot water to freshen up and we all were ready in time for breakfast. The breakfast was amazing, typical mess fare of aloo puri and curd.

By the time we were done with breakfast and loading our bikes, the convoy had already started moving towards leh. This was bad news because crossing a whole convoy would be tough in the hilly terrain. We decided to let the convoy move ahead of us and give them a head start.

Ashok’s altitude sickness was also quite bad by now, so we took him to the MI room and got him a couple of minutes of oxygen too. It felt nice, according to him :-)

Read More »

Day 5: Keylong to Pang

We were going to cross three high altitude passes today and stop for the night at a place called Pang. Pang, at a height of approx 15600 ft, has the world’s highest Transit camp, according to the Indian Army. Most people who travel to Leh prefer to stay at one of the campsites at Sarchu which is at a lower altitude and helps people acclimatize better. Ashok wasn’t very happy with this decision as he wasn’t if staying at such a high altitude was a good idea. Well, Ashok was right in a way and we did have problems because of the height, but it was all well worth it :-)

More on that later.We got up late (again by Joshi’s standards) this morning and had a leisurely breakfast, tied our luggage to the bikes and took off by around 9AM. The road was supposed to be nice from now on, right ? Well almost ! While not as bad as what we’d been through, there were long sections of the road which were under repair and so the ride wasn’t as smooth as we’d been hoping. We still had a nice time but only because we’d seen worse. We stopped at the base of the Baralacha la pass to register ourselves at the police check post, had tea and refreshments and continued on. The climb to the pass was quite easy with excellent tarred roads and nice weather. We crossed Suraj Tal on the way, which, is the source of the bhaga river.

Thanks to the good roads, we would have missed Baralacha la if we hadn’t noticed the board. After all the stories we had heard about the pass being dangerous, this seemed too easy and actually disappointing, but hats off to the BRO for maintaining the roads in such inhospitable conditions.

The pass was quite windy and after a small photo stop we all moved on. We climbed down the pass pretty fast and reached bharatpur which is just another collection of tents. A lot of people prefer staying here instead of going further to Sarchu cause its cheaper. We didn’t spend much time here and moved on since we had to reach Pang which is another 70 kms ahead of Sarchu and time wasn’t really on our side.

Sarchu is basicallly a cluster of tents and campsites run by various travel agencies and locals. Its a decent place to stay for the night and the facilities, though basic, are good enough. Sarchu is situated in a valley of sorts and the road, which is quite nice, runs absolutely straight for a couple of kilometers. After hours of slow speeds we decided to let lose here and started racing with each other. From Sandhu’s own account, he smoked Pandey’s pulsar :-)

The road was nice and inviting but quite bumpy and I, after a couple of bad bounces, took things easy and carried on at my own sweet pace. The bumps, I’m told, are because of the himalayan mermots that dig holes below the road’s surface and so the surface of the road sinks because of that.

We had lunch a little after Sarchu at a place I can’t remember the name of. Lunch was pretty uneventful … couple of us had maggi and the rest daal chaawal towards the next challenge of the day, ghata loops. The loops are a series of 21 hairpin bends over a distance of approx 13 kms which would take us from a height of approx 13776 ft to 15302 ft. The loops can be quite a strain on the bike and the biker since after this the chances of hitting AMS are quite high. The idea is not too exert yourself too much after reaching the highest point and do what we did … take a couple of pics and move.

By this time Pandey was down with a pretty bad case of AMS, even though he wouldn’t admit ;) We crossed two more passes today and all he would do wherever we stopped was lie down. It was quite a sight :-) This is at Nakeela.

The passes themselves weren’t too hard. We crossed Nakeela (15547 ft) and Lachulungla (16616 ft). Didn’t spend much time on the passes. Pandey had AMS and Ashok also wasn’t feeling too well. The roads were quite bad and we weren’t in a very good shape and quite desperate by now to reach Pang. So, we took the obligatory pics and moved on. Btw, in the pic below, if you see closely, you can see Pandey lying on the ground with his back against the board marking the pass.

The scenery was pretty awesome and it would have been a waste not to stop for some photos. We were close to Pang now and were sure we’d reach in time, so we took easy from here on, taking quite a few breaks and clicking through our quota of pics for the day.

Pang (15640 ft) is another small settlement which is basically a collection of tents with basic food and lodging facilities. Even though, accommodation is available at Pang and it is closer to Leh, I’d still suggest one to stay at Sarchu since Pang is a lot higher than Sarchu and unless you’re acclimatised, its probably not a good idea to spend the night at this height. Pang, like I said earlier, has the world’s highest transit camp and this is where we were to spend the night.

Pandey’s AMS was getting pretty bad and he went to sleep in his room as soon as we reached the transit camp. The rest of us unloaded our bikes and Amar and Ashok went to sleep and Joshi, Sandhu and I went for a walk around the camp and to make some calls from the STD booth. Felt nice walking on our feet after a whole day of riding. Its quite amazing that the Army has STD facility through a satellite for the troops at this isolated place.

Pandey’s luggage was still on the bike when we came back, so we untied it and kept it in his room and decided to take Pandey to the Medical room at the camp, which as usual, he refused. But we persisted and he finally relented. The doctor gave him a 10 minute dose of pure oxygen and he was absolutely fine after that. He was back to his running, jumping self and looking at him, we all were in half a mind to get a couple of minutes of dose ourselves :-) Anyway, we went to the mess for dinner, saw news on TV after 10 days, had an awesome dinner and went back to our rooms.

The rooms were nice and cosy and warm enough. It was freezing outside and we were tired so we went to sleep pretty soon after dinner. The sky outside was amazing. This sounds like a cliche, but I don’t think I’ve seen so many stars in my life ever ! Too bad, we didn’t have the energy to go to our rooms and get the cameras out. We had a nice sleep thanks to the sleeping bags in the room and didn’t really feel the cold.


Day 4: Chandertal to Keylong

It was a cloudy day and the lake, frankly speaking, was not as beautiful as we’d thought it would be. Don’t know about the others, but I was kinda disappointed. All the mirror shots that we’d seen on the web, the snow capped peaks and the awesome scenery just didn’t make sense at the time. I regret that now. I think it was the weather. Cloudy, raining and gloomy. I’d love to go to Chandertal again and see it in all its glory again … on a bright sunny morning.

Joshi and I got up early this morning after a good night’s sleep. The time had come for the thing we’d been dreading all this time, ever since we started planning the trip. There were no loos here and we had to go !! We contemplated paying the Japanese tourists some money to use their toilet tents, but they were dismantling the tents and so that idea was out of the can. We looked at each other and it was clear … joshi needed to go first ;)

So, off he went, with the soap strips. The lake had a small stream emerging from it (which I think would go on to become the Chandra river). And the rest, as they is history :-) It wasn’t as uncomfortable as we thought it would be. In the end, a task well done :-)

By this time everyone had woken up and we went for a bit of photography. Walking was tough at that altitude and I chose to stick closer to the lake shore, while the others went up to take better pics. This is what I got.

Do you blame me for thinking that this detour wasn’t worth it. Trust me Chandertal has her days. This is what it is capable of.

Given a chance, I’ll definitely go back. I’ll just be better prepared this time :-)

By the time we finished breakfast, the drizzle had turned into proper rain and Joshi and Sandhu were, for the lack of a better word, terrified. They were worried thinking that the muddy road would become a slushy muddy road and the streams that we crossed in the evening would be torrential rivers by now. There would be landslides, avalanches and what not along the way and we’ll never be able to get out of the place.

I was not terrified … Just too lazy to tie up the luggage and start moving. Ashok and Pandey, both nurturing their headaches, couldn’t care less. And Amar had gone on a stroll along the lake. I got up, rather reluctantly, packed my stuff and somehow managed to climb the 20 mtrs to where the bike was parked. and thats when we realised that we had to climb a pretty steep slope to reach the main road. Now, the bikes weren’t already performing well and now we had a slope to climb on a slushy mountain trail. We figured the only way we could this was to push our bikes and push we did. Joshi went first, Sandhu pushed his bike. I went next, Joshi pushed my bike, I pushed Ashok’s and so on till we all reached the main path. The rest of the road was, to be fair, easy. The rain had been just enough to actually help pack the sand and it was easier to drive on now. And we were more careful about the water crossings this time and made sure to remove our shoes before we attempted them. I also made sure that I had the bike on first gear before stepping in the water !

We hit the main Kazaa-Batal road pretty soon and after that it was all downhill till Batal, where we were hoping to have a small butt-break. The roads were slightly better in the sense that atleast they were now atleast wide enough and we weren’t scared of falling off the road. Batal, situated at the at the foot of the kunzum, turned out to be a big let down. The village, whose boards we had been seeing since the last 50 kms was just one small dhaba. Nothing else. Not even a single house. I mean, chandertal had more population than this place. Anyway, since this was the first human settlement after the kunzum pass, almost every vehicle stopped here for a while. We did too. Had tea, cold drinks etc and moved on. We also met a foreign couple riding 500cc enfields here. It was impressive to see the tiny girl riding the 500cc indian beast.

We’d be seeing them again in a while …Even though the pass was over, the condition of the roads didn’t improve. We were riding along the Chandra river and the road at times looks like just like a river bed. My guess is that this part of the road must have been under a glacier during the winters, which would explain the condition of the road.

A little further down the road, we met the bike riding couple again. The girl’s bike had a puncture and they looked quite helpless. We had a foot pump with us and tried filling the tyre with air so that the bike could be run for some distance at least. But it seems that the puncture was pretty big cause the air in the tyre was not holding up at all. We waited for some time with them, stopped a truck going towards manali and helped them put the bike in it. The girl sat in the back of the truck along with the bike and the guy rode behind it. Hopefully they reached Manali safely.

The road from batal to gramphoo passes through a narrow valley with awesome views of snow capped peaks, water crossings and glaciers right on the road and even more streams formed by the melting glaciers.

Gramphoo is another small 3 or 4 dhaba place at the base of the rohtang pass, on the manali-leh highway. This is where the road we had been travelling on joins the main manali-leh highway. For people coming from Manali, Gramphoo is the place to turn if you have to go to the spiti valley, or carry on into the lahaul region and further on to Leh.We reached Gramphoo around 2 in the afternoon and had tea and lunch at one of the small dhabas. We also found some vaseline cream to put on our cracked lips. The cold creams that we were carrying were of no use at all in that region where the air hardly had any moisture. The vaseline was a life saver really.The road improved from here on and we managed to reach Tandi, the last petrol pump before Leh, pretty quickly. Tanked up here and also took extra petrol in the bottles that we were carrying.


Tandi is about 7 kms from Keylong which was to be our night halt for the day. We reached Keylong with plenty of sun to go through. I found a garage and got my bike’s silencer and horn fixed, and Pandey who didn’t know that Tandi was the last petrol pump, and so didn’t get petrol filled, went back to Tandi to get petrol. Joshi and Amar went ahead searching for the place where we had our acco booked, which we found was another 40 kms away, so we decided to take a room in Keylong itself and not push ourselves too much. Keylong is the district headquarters of the lahaul region and has plenty of accomodation options. We got a decent deal for a 6 bed dorm at the HPTDC guest house and took a bath (with hot water) and slept like babies that night.

The next day we were to cross the infamous Baralacha la and were going to stay at the highest transit camp in the world at Pang. And Ashok wasn’t too keen on that :-)

Day 3: Tabo to Chandertal

I disagree with people who say that motorcycling is all about riding. A motorcycle trip is so much more than just riding the bike. It is about taking in all that nature has to offer. It is about being one with the bike, with nature and getting the hidden explorer in you out. The freedom of riding a bike cannot be had for all the money in the world on a four wheeler. This was the reason why we chose to reach Leh via the Spiti route instead of the more popular Manali-Leh route.

We’d read a lot about the wonders of the Chandertal lake, or the moon lake and were desperate to catch a glimpse. Our plan for the day was to start early from Tabo and reach Kazaa in time for breakfast and tank up at the highest mechanically operated petrol pump in the world. After that we planned to visit the Kye monastery and Kibber village, which is considered the highest village in Asia connected by a motorable road.

Joshi got up early (again) and woke us all up (This, by the way, would be a regular feature throughout the ride. The dude won’t let us sleep !) Anyway, we were on the road by about 6:30. It was quite chilly and the thump from the 5 bullets was enough to wake up the whole village. I was a little behind and as soon as we crossed the village, I saw a huge stream.

There was a bridge over it and all seemed well, or so I thought. Reached a little closer and saw that the bridge was broken, washed away ! And I wondered where did the rest of the people go ? Till I saw a small trail to the right which went about 50 mtrs upstream and to a small temporary bridge, to my delight. I was in no mood to cross a stream that big that early in the morning.

The rest of the journey to Kazaa was pretty uneventful and except for the cold, we reached kazaa well in time and even managed a couple of photo breaks on the way.

Kazaa is the administrative headquarter of the Spiti region and is a big town compared to spiti standards. A lot of people make Kazaa their base to travel around this region. The petrol pump at Kazaa is the highest in the world.

We reached kazaa in time according to the plan. In fact, we reached a bit too early for the people of Kazaa as the petrol pump was not even open at that hour. And it didn’t look like the dhabas had any food ready. So, we asked the dhaba owner to start making paranthas for us and till then we searched around for the petrol pump attendant. We managed to get his phone number from a local and called him to the pump, and he came … in about an hour. Till then, we all had breakfast, called home from the STD booths, went shopping and roamed around aimlessly around the town.

With the bikes and our tummies full on fuel we left for Kye monastery, a majestic structure built on a hilltop. The monastery is about 12 kms from Kazaa and the road is in a good condition. Or atleast it was when we were there, and we reached the monastery in no time at all.

It was already quite late and we decided to skip riding to Kibber since that would have meant having to cross Kunzum la late in the afternoon, which is a bad time to be at high mountain pass. The high winds start picking up in the afternoon and there is every chance of the weather getting bad and since this was the first pass that we were crossing, we wanted to play it safe (Also, Ashok had really scared us ;) ).

Losar is the last village before Chandertal and the last chance for us to buy any essentials for the night. We wanted to camp at Chandertal and none of us had any idea what was in store for us. The road to losar was absolutely beautiful with a lot of small villages and the mountains for company. It was quite inviting and we all decided to have a little high altitude race of our own. But what we didn’t realise was that the bike, like us, was oxygen deprived and it refused to go beyond 60-70 kmph, and of course we must have burned a lot of fuel on that stretch … but it was all worth it :-)

The whole stretch that we were driving at was 3500 to 4000 mtr above sea level and the lack of oxygen was beginning to show its effects. Joshi was the first to be down with symptoms of AMS, nausea and headache. I had a slight headache while I was walking but I was fine as soon as I got on the bike. Joshi, on the other hand was struggling.

We reached Losar around 1 in the afternoon, got ourselves registered at the Police traffic control post, had a forgettable lunch of maggi noodles, took a couple of packets of instant noodles, bread, boiled eggs and moved on towards Kunzum La.

The Policemen at Losar did warn us about the condition of the road ahead but, trust me, we had no idea what we were getting into. Well, take a shot, how bad do you think can bad be ? FYI, the following pic is of a portion of the road we were driving on and the fact that one of us managed to stop, park the bike and took a picture means that this was not the worst stretch. On the worst stretches we didn’t even have the energy to stop, we just drove on.

The scenery around us was beautiful which was the only motivation we had to be at that place anyway. If only the roads were better, we could have actually stopped and enjoyed it. We still managed a couple of pics.

The ride up the pass was pretty uneventful for all of us, except Ashok and Sandhu who in their eagerness to reach the top (and fed up of the bad roads) took a short cut which didn’t turn out to be a good idea. The shortcut they took was pretty steep and the bike was anyway not performing well at that height. As a result, Sandhu’s bike stalled halfway up the shortcut and wouldn’t budge however hard he revved. So, he did what any self respecting sardaar bulleteer would do … got off the bike, put it in the first gear and pushed and revved it to the top :-)

Ashok, on the other hand, was not so lucky. You see, he had a house full of luggage loaded on his bike and that wasn’t helping a bit. He fell, rolled and let the bike go. He tried picking the bike up but couldn’t. In the end, both Sandhu and Ashok with a lot of effort managed to pick up the bike and Ashok decided to take the longer route to the top. Smart … right ! Before I forget, I might as well let the world know, I was ahead of both of them and also tried taking this shortcut, but failed miserably about 20 mtrs down, rather up, the route and bowed and came back gracefully to take the longer route.

To keep things short we all reached Kunzum la as safe as we could have and boy, what a feeling it was ! We had conquered the first high altitude pass in our journey and were totally blown away by the view.

It was cold, windy, we were absolutely exhausted and the rarefied air was not helping the cause. We waited for Sandhu and Ashok, took a few more pics and proceeded towards our halt for the day, Chandertal. Btw, the view of the Bara Shigri glacier from the pass was mind bogling. Bara shigri is the second biggest glacier in the world (after the polar regions. Siachen is the biggest). None of us had seen anything like it ever before.

The road to Chandertal till a couple of years back was just a trek and was made into what we’d heard was a *jeepable* road some time back. Well, jeepable it was, but was it good enough for motorcycles ? Well, lets just say, we learnt it the hard way.

The road could be called anything but a road. There were rocks the size of baseballs on the way and the track was just about enough for a jeep to cross through. One slip on the rocks and you would go crashing down the valley, which ofcourse is a very scary thought now :-) Amar and Pandey were usually ahead of the rest of us and crossed all the streams before we did, so the rest of us had someone to tell us the route to take, if the stream was particularly deep or something, like this one:

We crossed two such streams on the way and the second one hit me hard. Hit the bike harder though. Sandhu and I were the last ones to cross the stream and for some unpardonable reason, the rest of them did not wait for us. Well, Sandhu crossed the stream first and then I braced myself for it. Engaged the first gear lightly and moved forward. Or maybe I didn’t, a couple of metres into the stream and I realised that the bike was not moving forward. I revved and revved and it wouldn’t budge. I thought it was stuck in some rock and Sandhu fearing the worst rushed towards me and came to pull the bike. The water, btw, was freezing cold and we were not wearing shoes. And guess what question he had for me the moment he reached ? “Gear lagaaya kya ?” (Have you engaged the gear ?) Man, that was the single most embarrassing moment of the trip for me. I put the bike in the first gear and moved on and crossed the stream quite easily :-)

Easy for me, that is. Not for the bike. Somewhere while crossing the stream, the bike must have hit a stone or something and the silencer clip broke. Little further down the road, Sandhu yelled at me to stop since he could see the silencer hanging from the bike. It hadn’t fallen off completely and would have taken the whole assembly with it if I’d continued to ride in that condition. So, we took off the silencer and put it with the luggage and moved on. The bike wasn’t sounding that bad without it, btw, and the sound helped to keep the wild animals away ;)

Anyway, with all the trouble behind us we reached chandertal and were, frankly speaking, unimpressed with the lake. Maybe because we were tired and exhausted but all this just didn’t seem worth it. There were a couple of Japanese tourists camping at the lake that day and, to our delight, a dhaba, which also had arrangements for sleeping for people like us. But, we were going to camp, right ? Well, after all that we had gone through, none of us was in the mood to put up the tent, except Sandhu (who btw had this brilliant idea in the first place ;) ). We had a small arguement over there and unanimously decided to the dhaba owners generous offer of food and cheap accommodation and stay there for the night, instead of dying in the cold. Sandhu and Pandey, hats off to them, still wanted to rough it out and started pitching the smaller of the two tents that we were carrying. Only after the tent was setup and they were ready to go to sleep in their sleeping bags did they realise that they couldn’t close the zipper of the tent. Sanity prevailed and Sandhu came running to our tent while Pandey, who was going through a bad case of AMS, thought this was just migraine and stayed put. Joshi had to use all his persuasive powers to get Pandey to come and sleep in our tent. It was practically freezing in his tent and he wouldn’t listen !

This had been the toughest day of riding till now and we were all tired. We had reached the famed Chandertal lake but, ironically, we were so tired that none of us went out to see the Moon lake in all its glory in the moon light. We sat in our tent, ate the forgettable food (egg curry and rice) and slept like kittens.