So I have been on a break of sorts. Quit my job in December with the idea of chilling out for a while. December flew by with family visits and Christmas… January with some nothingness and a long trip home. February saw me nursing a bad bad back injury that kept me in bed most of the time. March was for goodbyes as our cousins Anant and Divya moved out from Bangalore and here we are in April. In these four months did I not find time to get back to blogging ? Nah… if there was one thing that I had lots of.. it was time ! Then why no posts here… I always told myself that my blog is dying because I had no time to spend with it… I have realised that I am PLAIN LAZY and this is an attitude problem ! Terrible !! Ashamed !!
This travelogue is three years in the making.. by now people would have gone back to Ladakh at least once more and even probably published a book on their experiences ! I owe this a finish.. to this blog and to my loving friends and family who have always appreciated my writing ! Here it comes…Part VI
Leh to Tso Moriri
Looking back at the pictures, I realised that this stretch was perhaps the most dry one that we had done in days. Rocky mountains, the sun on you and a gurgling stream by the side, we rode towards Tso Moriri. I remember our stop here for breakfast… the aunty at this small eatery was almost like super woman ! She dished out Rotis and Omlette at top speed…. using just a two burner stove. And it wasn’t just the rotis… there was maggi and much more !
As we rode out..
On the ride to Tso Moriri, we reached a small little village called Sumdo. If you stop at Sumdo and look around you, you will think you are in a ghost town. We took one of roads leading to God knows where ! You see deserted homes… something that looks like a deserted school maybe… just some buildings or let me say the remainder of what were once buildings. And then… we saw these two men…riding towards us on horses ! Full Cowboy Style ! It was just like a scene out of a movie…. Anyway, we decided to head back and take another road that would lead us to our destination. We made a quick stop for something to eat and drink and soaked in the surroundings.
All deserted !
If I thought that Pangong Tso was a beauty I was unprepared for, then Tso Moriri puts every such thought to shame ! Totally ! From afar we got the first glimpse of a beautiful shade of blue… oh there it is I said ! Steve said, no… that is not Tso Moriri. We still have some distance to go ! I thought to myself… this blue that I see is so beautiful already ! Ride on !
What I first thought was Tso Moriri
And then we saw her….. from far still but what a beauty ! I had never seen a blue so deep..so rich… so majestic ! We reached a beautiful stretch of road, the kind of road that makes you want to just ride on. We kept going ahead, until someone stopped us and said that if we continue we will be nearing the border to China and if we ride on… we will just ride away ! We turned back and after a while made a stop.
And this is Tso Moriri !
We were trying to figure how we could reach the banks of the lake and get to the village. We could either try to ride back and find the route or ride down the sandy path and get to the banks. Some of them decided to ride down to check if it was doable on bikes while Steve , Anant, Sellu and I waited on top. One by one they all went down…. it was quite a slope and after a while we needed to use our camera lenses to zoom in and try to spot them. The bikes were struggling in the sand. Pretty soon we lost sight of them !
And there they are… maximum zoom photo !
The four of us waited on top, thinking they will return in a while. We sat talking, taking some pictures…. and just generally waiting.After quite some time we began to get worried. It was obvious that there was no phone network and we could’t spot a soul around anywhere. We decided to make our way to the village and get some help. We reached the camp-site and were wondering what to do.Luckily for us, a group of retired Army officers, also on a trip to the area, came by to the same camp. They were doing the trip in their Fortuner. We told them what had happened. One of them took us towards the bank and started scanning the area with this binoculars. He asked us to look as well to see if we could spot our friends. Those binoculars were mighty powerful… we could see the banks so clearly…but no sign of our friends.
Helpful people that they were, these officers offered to take us in their vehicle to the spot where we were earlier and look for them. Anant left with them while we stayed back. A little later, a couple on a bike came riding to the same place and said that our friends passed on a message to say that they were fine. We had met this couple over breakfast just that morning.The Fortuner returned and soon after that our friends. We were so happy to see them.
Since the bikes got stuck in the deep sand when they rode on towards the banks, some army officers had helped them get to their base. They were moving their base spot that time and were wrapping up with some food and chai. They helped our friends load the bikes into the army truck and asked them to join in and eat. They would bring them back to the road later.
Our friends came back loaded with chocolates and biscuits and so much more. While they were all in a joyful mood, we were miffed as we had no clue where they had vanished and we were getting really worried here with the sun slowly setting and no sign of them. An argument ensued… the ONLY part of this epic holiday that I remember with sadness ! We could have done without this … but it happened !
By now it was night-time. Tso Moriri can get really really cold.. so cold that at the camp they give you hot water bags to hug and sleep at night. We all went to bed… not much was spoken.
The next morning, we woke up to the beautiful view of the lake. Everyone going to Ladakh, you MUST MUST have Tso Moriri in your itinerary. It is the largest of the high altitude lakes entirely within India and entirely within Ladakh [ this is what Wikipedia says] but what I want to say is…. it is the most beautiful lake ever. Not that I have seen many other picturesque lakes elsewhere but I know… this is the most beautiful 🙂 . With snow-clad mountains as the backdrop and this beautiful blue water body before you, you can just stand and stare. It is said that when this lake freezes in winter, the Army plays cricket and hockey on the ice !
Before we headed out from here, we came together and sorted the differences from the night before. What happened was unfortunate but what was important was that we be done with it and not let it spoil the rest of the time that lay ahead. That done… we all hugged.. heaved a sigh of relief and rode out ! And until we had the last glimpse of Tso Moriri in sight… we stared !
TsoMoriri to Sarchu
We headed back towards Sumdo Village and stopped to take a break. We made friends with not just the people there, but some dogs and a baby goat too. Prashanti had begun giving all animals on our journey names.. sadly I don’t remember them anymore !
I think this one was called Moon Face !
Or wait… is he Moon Face ?
Riding on, we encountered a crazy stretch of bad roads… completely rocky and an uphill climb. And if you stop and look around, between all those rocks will be herds and herds of sheep ! We then crossed a lake which had a lot of sulphur deposits. We did not make a stop here as Anant has a dangerous allergy to sulphur ! We rode on and stopped at TsoKar a little later.After this the good roads were back ..leading us to the More plains and then to Pang.
If you look closely you will spot Anant and Sellu !
Our faithful ride !
Oh.. and these are the many many many sheep ! 🙂
This is not a clear picture… but I somehow like the wilderness it depicts
Taking a breather .. them all !
The More Plains were an experience too. Having heard about Steve and Philip’s experience from their first trip I was waiting to see what exactly were the More Plains. I don’t remember a road as such… just a lot of gravel and mud and mountains on either side. In fact I remember at one point asking Steve how much longer to More Plains and he laughed and said we are riding on the More Plains ! Sheesh !
Anyway.. we rode on and headed towards our stop for lunch – Pang. Now as you get closer to Pang, you see these mean, menacing mountains… absolutely rugged all around you. You begin to admire them and by then you find yourself pushed away by strong winds… really strong winds that can really throw you off-balance ! We stopped at Pang for lunch – a lunch that made you wonder – Did we just pay sooooooooooooo much money for some maggi and omlettes ! We were fleeced ! Sigh !
See the rock formations !
From here we reached the famous Gata Loops – 21 loops that would take you down to Sarchu ! Once down the loops we headed towards the campsite for the night. For some reason this was one long ride… and tiring one too. Oh and before we reached the Gata Loops, Steve and I had a mini adventure of our own. He decided to try a shortcut downhill and it was almost like how we read in the rhyme … and Jill came tumbling after ! Okay.. okay it wasn’t that bad and we went skidding down together. It was a bad decision, one that Steve realised right after he decided to go down that road…oops not a road.. the rubble !
The Gata Loops !
By the time we reached Sarchu it was nearing night and we were quite beat. The tents at this camp were a bright and cheerful yellow but that night we were just too tired. There was a bit of worry as well and we were low on fuel and we paid quite a bit to arrange for some spare petrol… just in case ! Sarchu was colder than Tso Moriri and no one gave us hot water bags :(. We went to bed in our riding clothes – Cramster Jackets and shoes on ! Yes – we were feeling that cold ! The next morning not all of us were lucky to get some hot water to have bath either !
The camp at Sarchu
Sarchu to Manali
You begin this leg of the journey and the first stop you make is at BarlachaLa – another pass that can be a little tricky to cross if there is a lot of ice on the road. But we were lucky – the weather was good and it was a smooth ride. Now on this route, you slowly begin to bid the snow-clad mountains good-bye. You see them fading away behind you and patches of green started to appear. Strangely enough for me.. I was not liking the greenery. I wanted the snow-clad mountains back. When we entered Keylong, I was like – Nooooo, I don’t to see these trees !
Us.. at BarlachaLa
We bid this goodbye…..
…as this welcomed us !
After all these days of the cold, the sun was now seeming harsh [ Okay, I admit it.. I have a biased hatred towards the sun ] . I suddenly felt all stuffy and had this urge to take off my Cramster and the muffler – everything warm ! And I did… so for a long time after this I was the only one without my Cramster on and no gloves etc !
We began the climb up to the Rohtang Pass. This I loved – we were back to the snow and the cold was back again ! But this ride was scary as well. It was raining and there was snow and ice and water and slush… everything possible together ! I was so afraid that we would slip that I was praying all through ! This ride I captured on video – coz it is truly worth capturing ! It was the last of the majestic mountains !
Well Rohtang in itself is a disaster – crowded and dirty.. all you want to do is get away from here fast. A popular tourist destination, you will find people all around you, enjoying the snow [dirty snow] and food packets strewn all around ! By the way, Rohtang means Pile of Corpses , just an info that I thought you should know !
We kept riding until from afar we saw the MOTHER OF ALL TRAFFIC JAMS !
For those familiar with it, the road connecting Manali to Rohtang can be the worst nightmare for anyone. Standing above we could see cars and jeeps and buses in a neat file… like a row of ants until the distance our eyes could cover. It is a narrow winding road that allows two-way traffic – taking turns for each side. We were so happy that we were on bikes and decided to just hit the roads and cover as much distance as was possible. Bikes can make way between all these jammed vehicles you see ! Before I forget, in the midst of all this you will also encounter donkeys making their way home after a day out and also human beings who decide to take a walk bored of sitting in their cars/jeeps etc. At one stretch some of us pillion riders were asked to get off the bikes by the cops and walk to the other side as the slush was so bad and it was best for a rider to cross over single. Somehow we made it past all the madness, on the way crossing people dancing on the road with loud music blasting from their cars – well people had to do something right if they were to remain in that jam for what looked like forever !
The ride into Manali, after this, through meandering roads was a much-needed mood lifter. Cool breeze and lovely roads – we were happy. Like this, we reached Manali at last ! And after us reached our luggage ! [ Guess I forgot to mention that some of us hired a Sumo to dump our luggage in and make the bike lighter for this last leg of the journey since it was not going to be an easy ride and we had seen the bikes struggle ] . Our poor Sumo driver had to experience the traffic jam in its glory !
At Manali we were put up at this really beautiful guest house, in an apple orchard. The guest house belonged to a friend of Philip and Steve.The place was new and we were one of the first guests. Chetan joined us back in Manali to complete the rest of the journey with us. We spent a day here… just chilling at the guest house, trying some outdoor cooking which did not work out as it rained and we never got a fire started. We tasted some yummy trout at a quaint little cafe called Cafe 1947 and even had Anant entertain us with his singing !
The picnic that did not last long !
Anant singing at Cafe 1947
From here it was a straight ride to Chandigarh and after the halt there for the night it was Destination Delhi. Back at the same place where we started our ride, the best ride of our lives till date !
Back to where it all began !
The journey was complete and so is this humble attempt of mine to document it !
Thank you Steve, this happened because of you… my biking trips are all because of you ! I look forward to more..with an excited heart and lots of love ! To all my fellow riders and new members who have joined the family – Let’s Go I Say !
PS: Hope this post marks the end of my writers block as well !