Coming back to life - Zanskar, August 2017

Yogesh Yadav

Travel is the healthiest addiction.
Zanskar
Since February, when we started planning for this trip, the name Zanskar would constantly haunt me. Tales about a remote land, rugged, cold, unexplored and with roads in absentia were everywhere. The need for extensive preparation with respect to equipment, fitness and mental strength accompanied those tales. I had googled images of Zanskar to get a fair idea of what lies ahead. Sejal Sheth’s travelogue helped a lot however preview pictures don’t really do justice to actuality. This being my first motorcycle journey ever, Zanskar being on the list was both a laurel to be added and a cautious note at the same time.

8th August 2017. We left Kargil around 10 AM, destination Rangdum.

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We stopped at Riverside Café just outside of Sankoo village for breakfast. We hugely recommend Riverside café on this route serving delicious food and the most amazing coffee to be enjoyed with sights of the Suru river flowing by.

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With Breakfast done, we continued towards Rangdum and passed an Army memorial on the way. Nelson had been on this route years ago only to turn back just outside of Sankoo due to the horrible condition of roads back then. I remember Nelson being hugely annoyed this time because we were witnessing just paved roads. So were all the apprehensions about Zanskar going to be confounded? I wondered as we rode along.

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I didn’t have to wait for long for an answer. Just suddenly, the paved road vanished, and it started to look like this.

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We then stopped an army outpost to document our vehicle registration numbers.

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With the documentation done, we were ecstatic that we were now truly underway. And knew that loads of off-roading was up ahead. We stopped for some water and noticed children playing in an adjoining field. Me and Nelson had carried some goodies to be given to children on the Zanskar route and here was an opportunity.

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Now what we did not know (we found out about this when we were returning and stopped at Riverside Café again) is that the space we had parked at Riverside café had dozens of nails lying around. As luck would have it, one of those nails got embedded into my rear tyre. I was going through a puddle just after seeing off the kids and suddenly lost traction on my rear tyre. I immediately realized it was a flat tyre and struggled to push the loaded bike out of there. By the time I was done getting the bike out, I was breathless, confused and struggling to keep my breathing down. AMS had set in. Allroy and me offloaded the stuff from my bike while Nelson and Ajay who were far ahead turned around to check on us only to find us with a flat tyre. This was it. Time to put all the puncture practice done leading upto the trip into action. Ajay, Allroy and Nelson worked on the tyre while I lay down trying to get my breath back.

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With the puncture done, we moved on. For reasons unknown, each time I would get hit by AMS (I got hit twice on the trip), riding on, would in fact improve it. Maybe I am one of the weird ones. We stopped at this cut off bridge in Parikchik that takes you to the Nun-Kun peaks for some tea. That’s the Nun peak in the background. Nun or Kun? Kun or Nun? One of them for sure.

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The road ahead was no road ahead. Streams, rocky terrain, mud, gravel, almost everything was thrown at us all at once. I drool when I begin to explain what a joy it is to ride the Royal Enfield Himalayan on these roads. It is well and truly built for this kind of terrain. It is sheer pleasure and a faithful companion to have on this kind of terrain. I particularly enjoyed going through streams on the Himalayan. The tall front end would make it all seem so easy and enjoyable.

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My special moment on this day was when Nelson rode upto me and put up his thumb and shouted ‘Superb riding’. That coming from Nelson had me singing with joy upto Rangdum.

Finally, we made it. And treated ourselves to some delicious Sabzi, Dal and Chapatis at the La Himalaya Guest house and Restaurant possibly the only eatery in Rangdum. We put up our trip sticker on it’s entrance.

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Next, it was time to find a lonely, suitable spot to camp for the night at Rangdum.
 
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Yogesh Yadav

Travel is the healthiest addiction.
Camping at Rangdum - 8th August 2017

Nelson and Ajay were too keen on camping wherever possible on the trip especially Zanskar. Having camped with Nelson about a decade ago (my only camping experience ever), the opportunity to camp several times on this trip and with experienced folks was something i was looking forward to. We skipped about a kilometer or two from the La Himalaya hotel at Rangdum and found an isolated spot in the meadow flanked by mountains on all sides. We started putting up the tents at about 5PM. It was very windy. And the chill in the wind was a sign of what was to come as daylight turned to dusk and dusk to dark. Me and Allroy were combined in one of the larger tents with Nelson and Ajay putting up in the two other tents with all the luggage. I couldn't even fathom staying in a tent all alone out there. Kudos to Nelson and Ajay. Night came and it was extreeeeeeeeemelyyyyyyyyyy cold. Without the whisky and rum, we couldn't survive hanging outside our tents at 8PM in the night. The sky was mesmerizing to say the least with possibly a million stars to gaze at. It wasn't a comfortable night with the mercury dropping really low and very strong winds causing the tents to flutter constantly.

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Yogesh Yadav

Travel is the healthiest addiction.
It was around 7:30AM. I could hear something snorting on the walls of our tent. It was pushing it's head against the wall. There was no way I was going out to investigate it. I decided to stay put and wait for it to pass. Within minutes, it sounded like there were hundreds of whatever it was outside. Ajay and Allroy starting yelling in an effort to scare it away while trying to step out of the tents.

They were yaks, dozens of them. We had camped close to the stream and naturally were right in their path. They were harmless and were going about their routine. After a bit of stretching and morning chatter, it was time to bring down the tents, pack and head back to the La Himalaya hotel for breakfast and then onward to Padum.

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