The past couple of nights we would reach our destination
late past sunset not knowing what the terrain looked like around us. In this area there are no lamp posts to see
the road, it’s up to your headlights to show the way. After acclimating back to the cold once I
would open my eyes in the morning, the first thing I’d do is pull back the
curtains to see the view. The scenery
was a gift every morning.
We had another long day ahead of us. After the always filling breakfast of
paranthas and a couple of Dispirin tablets (basically high dose aspirin for
altitude sickness) we went on our way.
Right from the start it was a cloudy day which had us a bit worried with
what the weather was like higher up in Tanglang La. In Darcha we were stopped by the police at a
checkpoint at the edge of the city. They
told us that it was kinda late in the day to push on (9am) and that bad weather
was forming higher up. We convinced them
that we had some important supplies to deliver to the Raid organizers so they
allowed us to go on after they noted down our license plate and information
just as a safety precaution. Today the
terrain was very different—rocky, little vegetation, almost like a different
If I drink a glass of water, it runs right through me. After downing a couple of cups of chai with
breakfast it was time to release. This
was my first encounter with the mountain toilets. We stopped at the Patseo army camp and asked
some of the jawans if we could use their bathroom. I opened the stall door and found a 5×7
rectangle cut into the dirt ground. It
took me a minute to assess the situation, if I went too close to the rectangle,
would it cave in? Taking me down with
it? Anyways, I did my business and did
not fall in the hole. But note to
others, these bathrooms are elevated, meaning any gust of wind that comes by
comes through up the hole which can prove to be very messy. It’s kinda like in the national parks in the
We continued on to Sarchu passing through the vast plateau
that felt like we were at a very low altitude but in reality were about
12000-13000 ft up! It was arid and dry, the plateau was cracked like soil in
drought. Midway to Sarchu we passed the
third highest motorable pass in the world, Baralacha La (altitude 16040
ft). Along the way we found remains of
landslide after landslide and large potholes full of water that were obviously
frozen from the early morning. By 12pm
we hit the tea stall in Sarchu where I recognized a stranded van next to the
typical nomadic round tent make-shift tea stall you find in these parts. We decided to stop for some much needed Maggi
(one of 3 food choices found in this remote area) and yaks milk chai. The inner perimeter of the tent was lined
with mattresses and blankets, there we found 4 members of a service team of one
of the bikers that was taking part. They
had two flats and had sent a guy to get some replacements. They had been in the
tent for the 2nd day and were taken care by the two sweet Ladakhi
ladies in the kitchen. We talked to the
service team for a bit and they assured us that we wouldn’t be able to make it
to Leh (still 250 some km to go) and we’d only make it to Pang. Obviously these guys had no idea what kind of
crazy they were dealing with…first off…Pang was only 77km away and it was only
12pm. Secondly you don’t know the kind
of crazy I live with—we’re getting to Leh damnit.
The scenery on the
way to Pang was amazing but the road was crappy, landslides, standing water,
frozen water, frozen waterfalls! There
were these amazing rock formations sticking out of the sandy mountains laced
with icy blue streams of fresh water.
The Gata Loops led us up to Nakeela (altitude 15,547ft) and Lachung La
(altitude 16,616ft), two of the highest motorable passes in the world. At Nakeela I dropped our camera case and
forgetting how high we were ran to pick it up.
Big mistake…I felt as if I was in slow motion, I gasped for breath and
felt like I could only speak one word a minute.
Nick told me to conserve my energy and breathe through my nose and
expend as little energy as possible or I’d continue to feel the effects of the
altitude. We got to Pang, had some chai
and headed out only to see that the weather was not improving at all but in
fact building up. One of the coolest
areas for a biker is the Morey Plains.
Morey plains is a flat 30km some stretch of road flanked either side by
mountains that bikers love to go full out on.
After the plains we were ascending up to the second highest motorable
pass in the world, Tanglang La. As we
ascended we saw wind sweeping up snow on the peaks and throwing it about. Yikes!
It was around 5pm when we got to Tanglang La (altitude 17,582) and the
wind was really picking up. We took a few pics then headed down. According to the GPS our temperature started
to drop into the negatives and soon enough snow started to fall. We felt like we were on top of the world—it
was creepy and mystifyingly beautiful at the same time to be so high up amongst
the peaks with snow falling! Looking
down was not an option! After the descent from Tanglang La we found the most
beautiful sight of the sunset behind the peaks.
Our little camera could not capture it to it’s full beauty. Due to Raid we took the small Sony camera,
next time we’ll definitely be taking the Nikon.
We stopped in Rumtse for some chai, just out of curiosity we asked the
shop keepers how much it would cost to stay the night…only $2. That’s a deal! It was pitch dark by this time and we headed
out for Leh. No street lamps just our
trusty headlight, which is actually pretty good! On the way we saw the destruction of last
year’s cloudburst over Leh that caused major flooding and mudslides. I can only imagine how scary and how
miserable it must have been for the people to lose their homes and ancient
sites. Leh is the land of stupas, so
after Rumtse we started to see hundreds of old white Buddhist stupas scattered
on the road side. I couldn’t wait for
daylight so we could discover more about India’s only living Buddhist
We got to Leh by 9pm, greeted by our ever warm
and friendly biker friends. They always
had a room waiting for us along with a glass of Old Monk. Great friends!