Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Destination Leh

It had been a good 3 days since I had called home. It had been almost a week since my phone served its purpose. BTW, Vodafone DOES NOT work after Manali. You are better off with an Airtel or Reliance connection I guess. It was funny, because when I was talking to someone about my situation that morning, he said the army camp in Pang has a Sat phone that I could use! That was great news.

I packed and left early to the camp and filled in some forms, "proved my identity" and I was shown the phone from where I could call my folks. My parents were pleasantly surprised to hear my voice. Mostly surprised that I had called them from a remote place such as this. Because, I rarely call home or keep them posted on my whereabouts. You can say that entire "lost fuel can" episode the previous day was the cause. I was after all human.

The Army Camp

A short call with my mom, I was on my way. After Pang, you climb a little to reach the most amazing place. The More (aka Morey, Morre) Plains.

View of the Army camp after the ascent towards More..

This would be the last bit of gravel roads towards the top, after this, it magic ...

After so much of  dirt and off road riding, The deeper person in you wants that bit of Tarmac to compensate. Thats exactly what you will get in the More plains. In short, it was a time to ride. At almost 15500 ft, Its pure bliss to ride on tarmac like this.

I felt privileged, as there was no one on the road that morning. Its certainly an experience I wouldn't trade for anything else.

BRO rules.

When I said there was no one, There was NO ONE & I could do this.

Today was going to be a piece of cake when it came to the riding part. With so much of fun on tarmac, I had very little bad roads to cover. In fact, it was just the ascent of Tanglang La that was going to be bad, the climb to the second highest motorable road.

So towards the end of More, I decided that I would ride through the off road part of the plains. Apparently till about 2009 or so, there was no tarmac. It was the most dreadful part of ones journey where people on bikes, local taxis and bus drivers frequently got lost following trails that lead to nowhere. And, not to forget the fine "talcum" like of sand that makes it impossible to ride. It was not even a challenge for my motorcycle. Just saying.

The patch of off road that leads to some desert like sand

Climbing Tanglang La

It started to rain a little, time to get the rain gear..

Mountain ranges everywhere as far as you can see. Welcome to the Himalayas.

A Dutch dude up on top was kind enough to take this photo of me. It was impossible to get me in the frame without a second person as all these photos are from my phone that did not have a timer. crap.

Prayer flags are common on top of the passes. They are supposed to bring good omen and luck to the travelers.

The greatest bit of roads of the entire journey begins from the descent from Tanglang la. Its pristine tarmac all the way to the little village town of Gya in the foot hills of the Himalayas. Once again, Thanks BRO.

Gya: I was forced to take a break here. The landscape changes from pebble like terrain and no vegetation to plush greenery with creeks and massive river beds & Guest appearances from the Himalayan marmot to cover the fauna part.

I felt blessed to ride a motorcycle that could negotiate these terrains and ride upto the creek itself.

 I decided to wash my boots and riding gear that had gotten quite dirty from the days rain riding, accumulating some serious slush. It was a comprehensive yet concise expression. It was a well deserved break.

These series of mountains lead to the Indus.

Road to upshi.

Mighty Indus

I reached Leh early in after noon. I found a water service station to wash the dirty bike.

Pampering time, lets get a nice wash.

Today was the day to indulge in Continental and Mediterranean cuisines. I no longer needed to eat Maggi or settle for a simple staple like eggs, dal and rice. It was quite interesting though. In spite of options available, Leh did not have Power, Fuel or Money in the ATMs the day I reached. To add to that, my phone (Vodafone) did not work in Leh.

Leh Market, Main rd.

View from a local pizzeria, where I had lunch.

Some serious veggies on display by Ladhaki women. Lettuce to appricots.

A shop where you could shop for junk.

One of the many Tibetan refugee markets in Leh.

You can buy some beautiful puppets from the "Ladakh House". Its sad that I couldn't carry back much.

Now, It was time to wait patiently, figure out a strategy to reach my friends as my phone did not work. I did exactly the same and met one of them a couple of nights later, randomly in the market. The fella who had crashed his bike had succumbed to AMS and was bedridden for a good 2 days after reaching Leh. It took us a day to move into the same hotel. By now, I was already familiar with leh and had found a group of people who I would later join on a 4 day trek from Zingchen to Chilling in the Zanskar, across Hemis National park. This means, climbing Kand la - A 5000 mt pass to complete the trek. Before this, we would scale the 3rd highest motorable road to Pangong, the second largest salt water lake in the world close to the Chinese border and the Highest motorable pass - Kardhung la - A Ride to the Top of the World.

There’s a famous Ladakhi saying – "The land is so barren and the passes so high that only our best friends or worst enemies would want to visit us"

Ladakh is indeed the roof of this world.

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