A Tourist’s Tale of Winter in Ladakh

Discussion in 'Travelogues from North India' started by Yogesh Sarkar, Jan 2, 2012.

  1. Alpha

    Alpha Going to Neverland

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    Pangong looks awesome..:)
     
  2. Yogesh Sarkar

    Yogesh Sarkar Administrator

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    28th December, Chushul - Rezang La War Memorial - Loma - Hanle

    After reaching Chushul, we started looking for a restaurant, where we could have some maggi and move on. Unfortunately, almost everything seemed to be closed. Eventually Rigzin managed to convince locals to go fetch one of the restaurant owners, who came around 5 minutes later and started preparing maggi for us.

    One thing I noticed at the restaurant, as I had noticed at a few other places, including Tangste, restaurant had a poster of Lhasa. But not the usual ancient Lhasa we are used to seeing at Buddhist and Tibetan areas, but a more modern one with the Chinese High Altitude Train and what not in frame as well. A poster which seemed to be computer generated with the idea of projecting a modern and developed and I guess, prosper Tibet. Not sure about others, but I found it a bit disconcerting.

    Anyways, after gulping down maggi, we headed out of Chushul and towards the Chushul War Memorial. Sadly in front of the Chushul War Memorial (which Rigzin said was for artillery), there was a huge trench dug up and thus there was no way we could get down and pay our respect, so we shot a photograph and moved on.

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    Thankfully at the Rezang La War Memorial i.e. the Memorial of Major Shaitan Singh, there wasn’t any such issue and we were able to get down from our vehicles and pay our respect to the bravest of the brave, who fought in the face of certain death and showed the Chinese, the ferocity with which Indians can defend their homeland.

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    All of us couldn’t help but think, what the fate of the battle of Rezang La would have been, had Major Shaitan Singh received the appropriate backup in time and support of the artillery.

    Alas, it is at times like these, we cannot help but feel proud and at the same time, ashamed of Indian Army. Proud that there are individuals like Major Shaitan Singh in our forces, who are willing to lay down their lives to protect our country and ashamed because the army utterly fails to give due to respect to such individuals, in front of the civilians and usually goes to length to ensure civilians aren’t able to visit such memorial and learn about the valiant history of our forces!

    Guess things are finally beginning to change with at least the local authorities ensuring fair excess for the civilians, but with the Chinese already several decades ahead in these areas and local population seemingly more and more attracted towards them, it might just be a case of, too little too late.

    Anyways, we just moved on from the Rezang La War Memorial with such thoughts and more and were finally awaken from the open eye slumber by the sight of a girl (there were two others behind her) running down from the hill, in a bid to stop our taxi. They turned out be working at the Tsaga Army Base as dish washer and were heading back to Tsaga. Rigzin who usually doesn’t likes to give lifts, decided to give lift to these girls, since there was no way, they were going to find any other transport and would then have to walk for miles.

    After dropping them at Tsaga, we were caught in a bad sandstorm which dropped our visibility to only a few feet and at times, completely engulfed the road with sand, making it hard to judge the route. Rigzin as always knew the route by heart and was negotiating it well, despite the sand storm making progress difficult.

    It was only when we eventually reached the Loma bridge, that the sand storm somewhat subsided and we were greeted by a setting sun.

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    The last bit of stretch to Hanle proved to be a bumpy affair with at least one major bump managing to fool Rigzin and shaking us all like twigs in a storm.

    We finally reached Hanle by sundown, only to be greeted by other four’s Scorpio driver. Turned out that the group of three guys from Bangalore and one from Hyderabad, whom we had met at Tangste, had managed to reach Hanle before us; taking the Karu and Chumathang route and even though their room booking was for yesterday, Hanle Observatory staff had already allocated them the only two functioning rooms!

    To make matters worse, they weren’t ready to allocate us rooms and when I insisted, showing them the confirmation email, they once again, went back in to a huddle, in order to come up with excuses like, you should have gone to the Leh office first etc. and when they got rebuttal for it, they once again went back in to a huddle!

    Eventually they agree to give us rooms, but informed us that the attached toilets weren’t working, there was no gas powered heating and that the rooms were quite cold.

    Well beggars can’t be choosers, so despite having booking for today as well as tomorrow, we had to agree to stay in the first floor rooms and told them to get them ready. Only to be confronted by them a little while later, offering us space in their living quarters, and informing us, that those living quarters were warmer. We decided to check them out and they were indeed hotter at that time, but only thanks to the kerosene bukhāris, which were supposed to be run throughout the night.

    Last thing we needed at such a high altitude was the smell of burning kerosene throughout the night, so we decided to stick to the room, even though the one we got was letting in quite a bit of air through the space in the windows! Sai and Anand too decided to stay in a room next to ours.

    We also arranged for a bed for Rigzin in our room, but he informed us, that he would be going down to the village. Since the little bit of diesel which had dropped out, had completely frozen in matter of minutes and diesel inside the Scorpio had frozen in couple of hours flat!

    With no protection from the wind for the vehicles, it would be a disastrous for the drivers to stay here and thus the drivers would have to go down to the village, find a parking space for the vehicles and keep getting up every couple of hours, to keep the engine and diesel warm!

    For the first time during the trip, Rigzin was really serious, especially knowing the fact that Rahul and I had plans to stay another night in Hanle.

    Now the last thing we wanted was a driver who hasn’t gotten any sleep, so we decided to leave the next morning for Chumathang, an idea which seemed to cheer Rigzin up.

    In the meanwhile, one of the guys from the other group came up and started chatting with us and informed us, that they have even managed to get permission to go up to the Observatory at 6:30 in the morning, since they were planning to visit Tso Moriri and Tso Kar tomorrow, before eventually heading back to Leh through Tanglang La. And were here in Ladakh to essentially explore the places which aren’t visited by tourists and are blocked (or something like that). He also told us, that it was his 10th trip to Ladakh, and he had earlier done Ladakh on motorcycle, cycle and even in winter.

    It was really nice to meet such an experienced explorer, and that kind of brought down the disappointment of not being able to go up to the observatory at night, due to restriction on the usage of headlight at night, as they hindered with the operation of telescope.

    Anyways, it was time to have dinner and all 8 of us tourists (plus 3 drivers) had a nice and filling dinner at the Observatory Dinning Room. After dinner we headed back to our respective rooms and while Rahul, Sai and Anand decided to do some night photography, I decided to stick to the room, knowing that there was no way I was going to be able to shoot star trails with such harsh winds and temperature which was probably around -16 or so outside and well below freezing even in Sai and Anand’s room, where the electric heater had at least some effect (unlike our room).

    The trio came back soon after, disappointed and literally frozen, while I had to drop the idea of taking a dump, due to the floor of Indian style common toilet on the first floor being completely covered with layer of ice, making squatting down a unique balancing act, I was unwilling to indulge in.

    To make matters worse, the window directly overhead my bed, turned out to be letting in air as well. As the lights went out (and so did the electric heater), I tried hard to tuck myself in to the bed, so that wind wouldn’t somehow sneak in and the mattress of my bed took ages to even start showing some sign of getting warm, I couldn’t help but smile and say to myself, welcome to the winter of Ladakh :).

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  3. prakhardeep

    prakhardeep Guest

    Awesome !!!

    Have you used the GND in third pic ?
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 9, 2012
  4. Yogesh Sarkar

    Yogesh Sarkar Administrator

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    Thanks, no only used a CPL.
     
  5. prakhardeep

    prakhardeep Guest

    Ahh..ok

    In 2nd pic why is it that the left side of the sky is dark but right side is light :confused:
     
  6. cheguevara

    cheguevara Guest

    Bakar...Why have attached all the pics again in your reply???
     
  7. prakhardeep

    prakhardeep Guest

    Where ???

    Get your eyes checked :p
     
  8. cheguevara

    cheguevara Guest

    Bloody Liar...
     
  9. goodlookingrascal

    goodlookingrascal Banned

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    :lol:
    More on dump please! :grin:
     
  10. vedi

    vedi Ankit Chaturvedi

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    great pics yogesh...just loved the colors of Pangong Tso
     

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