Extra Day in Leh
Day 13, 24th June, 2013
Today was an extra day in Leh that we had to helplessly add in our plan just to get our permits ready for our journey further ahead. There are certain places in Ladakh which are very close to the Indo-China border. To visit these places one has to carry valid permits issued from the Leh D.C. office.
Me, Avinash and Rajesh walked out of our hotel. We didn’t know the exact location of the DC office. We first walked into the market area and asked the local people for directions. We went through many narrow alleys. After walking through the twist and turns of these alleys we reached a big open ground. We crossed the ground and arrived at the DC office. The place had many multicolored flags hoisted all around. Police and Army vehicles were parked on the ground in abundance as if it was a used car showroom. It didn’t take us long to get our permits made. The attitude of the clerks in the DC office was very good. We were not accustomed to seeing government clerks behaving nicely to the public. It may be because we were from Mumbai, one of the most overcrowded cities of India. Our permits were ready and within half an hour we were out of the DC office.
We went to the local army outlet shop as Avinash wanted to buy Army shoes. He liked a pair of shoes but his size shoes were not available. Rajesh and I bought an army waist belt and we came out of the shop. We went back to our Hotel and spent the rest of the day chilling out. We had to sleep early as the next day early morning we had to leave for Pangong lake.
The Mighty Chang-La
Day 14, 25th June, 2013
Today we had decided to leave early for Pangong Lake. By 7 am everyone was ready. Everyone except Rajesh’s bike. It took collective efforts from all three of us, but majorly from Avinash to get it started. Once all three engines revved up, we hit the road and rode for a place called Karu. From Karu we took a diversion for Pangong-Tso (Tso is a ladakhi word for Lake). The road so far in our journey was good hence we could cover long distances in a short time. The only challenge that was before us on our route was the Chang-La which is also known as the Mighty Chang-La. I totally agree with the adjective given to this high altitude pass. I would say that this was the mightiest of all the passes that I had crossed. Read further to know why. As soon as we approached Chang-La, the smooth tar road turned into a bumpy patch of gravel. Calling it gravel would be wrong, they were more of boulders, which made our ride even tougher. Maintaining balance of the bike, observing the road ahead and making out a simplest easy way out from the numerous choices was a task that was consuming much of our brain power. The ride was so bumpy that our whole body was shaken up. Then to make the matters worse, came the water streams. The water level of the streams seemed to be going up as it moved further up towards the pass. The bottom of these streams were made up of smooth, round and loose pebbles due to constant flow of water. No matter how hard you try, these streams would try their level best to knock you off of your bike. To avoid this you would think of using both your feet for support, but once the bone chilling cold water of the streams enters your shoes and your socks get drenched, you’d feel a surge of chill going through your spine. This occurred many times but I had made up my mind to ride hard. Since my bike is more of a street bike, I had to keep my both legs down for support while crossing the streams. But I must say that I’m very happy with the performance my bike had given on those tough terrains. I felt as if like me, my bike also waited for a long time to have this real adventure.
As if the water streams were not enough, the challenge ahead was to ride up on a steep inclination. Avinash tried this inclination first. His bike couldn’t make it, therefore Maithili got down from the bike. After a while an Army truck arrived. Maithili took a lift from the truck and then Avinash could easily cross the inclination. Then Rajesh-Kinjal arrived. When Rajesh attempted this inclination his bike also gave up and he applied brakes to stop but as soon as he stopped the bike started skidding down backwards. Rajesh and Kinjal were terrified and looked behind to check if the bike was moving in the direction of the cliff. But luckily the bike stopped at the right moment. Rajesh reckoned that the bike is losing power due to engine overheating and therefore decided to let the engine cool-off for 10 minutes. Meanwhile Kinjal also took a lift from an army truck. After 10 minutes Rajesh and I crossed the inclination. The remaining route till Chang-La was even tougher but we managed to cross it. We all met at the Chang-La and concluded that this was a MIGHTY Chang-La indeed. From there we started riding down towards Pangong and felt joyous at the sight of the smooth tar road. This smooth road was never ending. It stretched for so long that we lost track of time. Just when we were getting bored after riding for hours and hours, we saw a sign board with a message “First view of the Pangong-Tso”. We looked far ahead and saw the famous blue colored water body surrounded by snow capped mountains. Pangong-Tso also happens to be the world’s highest salt water lake.
After what seemed like an half an hour or so, we arrived at Pangong lake. It took us a while to take in the beautiful view right in front of us. The sky was pitch blue with few puffs of white clouds. Snow-capped mountains stood tall all around us blocking the horizon from all angles. And among them lies the famous Pangong lake with it’s significantly blue crystal clear water.
After appreciating the beauty of the place we started searching for accommodation. Since the tents near the lake were out of budget, we decided to go to the Spangmik village, which was around 7kms ahead. At Spangmik we got a nice, cozy home-stay at 700 bucks per room. We booked three rooms, dumped our stuff and decided to take a rest.