The cold mountain water gushed out from the left embankment of the road, formed a big pool of water and then gushed into the valley below. Ordinarily, we wouldn’t have bothered at all and walked through. But this was different. This was ice cold water that none of us wanted to wade through.
After our first day in the mountains, all of us got wise and bought ourselves gumboots. Perhaps the best accessory purchase decision we made before the trip.
We were somewhere on the way to Leh, having started from Manali. And to add to our woes, we were on two non-mechanized human powered wheels. Also called bicycles.
If cycling wasn’t foolhardy enough, we were also trying it with gumboots. Wasn’t exactly a very pleasant activity. There were times when I badly wanted to throw them out, but the thought of these icy water crossings would keep us going.
We were a set of 10 brave souls who decided to weather the cold climes, the non-existent roads and unfriendly terrain to cycle up to Leh. And no, we hadn’t accounted for the cold water crossings we would encounter. Brrrr!
Have you ever felt the first sting of ice cold water on skin? You brave yourself, shiver in anticipation, say a small prayer or mutter an expletive and then take the plunge. No sooner than having put your feet in water, the cold chill envelops you and you try and run. Which makes it worse, of course.
By the time you cross over, you’ve already got your feet wet. And by such time, the cold seeps into your socks, your feet and even your clothes. It’s at this crucial juncture that you start wondering what on earth possessed you to even venture into this alien land.
By the time were on day 3 or 4, one member of our tribe, decided that he had to get a taste of what it really felt like. He decided to have a bath right there. Probably a good thing, since he hadn’t actually had a proper bath for a few days!
Some of us weren’t that brave.
But the more I think about it, the more I feel that even despite the cold, even despite the icy waters, there was something that felt so good. It was in the fresh air, it was in the sparkling water. It was everywhere!
It was one of those times when we went with the flow. We didn’t care for the date or day of the week. We would sit on the cycle everyday, with a simple goal of making it through the day. Alive and dry.
Those ten days in the mountains, were some of the most memorable times we’ve had… Come rain, sunshine, slush or even icy river crossings, we’d be on our cycles riding hard and giving it all. And we’d never felt so happy and alive!
More in this “Alive is Awesome” series for Cinthol: