My Journey to Leh

Khagesh

Well-Known Member
Day 12 : Khalste - Leh 4th Oct 2013, Friday:


Last night, as the Dak bungalow was after the Khalste, no shop or hotel here. Just ate the apple in my bag and then my Chikki from home. This food item really helped me a lot during emergencies.

As usual got up early in the morning, geyser on, bath. Waiting for the sun to come up. No tea. Next to the bungalow, some workers working on the bridge were staying. These were from Bihar. They had their own make shift kitchen. I asked them if I can have a cup of tea. They kindly offered and even Chapathi. I just had a cup of tea thanked them. By this time the sun was up. Waited for a while for the watchman. No trace of him. Started off at 8:20.

10:05 Saspol Odo 56404. A sleepy village. Somehow I liked this village so much. Something like Ladakhi version of Malgudi of R.K. Narayan. I preferred places like these to Leh, Srinagar or even Delhi.

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Looks like a bus shelter, a prayer wheel inside. Don’t know which bus comes here. Never seen a single bus all along. Get ready for office, spin the wheel of prayer, wait for a mysterious bus to come. What a cool life and lucky people here. I know, the saying, the grass is always greener the other side.

Soon, I am at the confluence of Zanskar and Indus rivers.

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The heart of Himalayas, sangam of two rivers. This small river as it looks here, caused the wipeout of entire civilization once; Indus Valley civilization, about five thousand year ago! What secrets this harmless looking river could be holding.

The barren topography of Ladakh:

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Soon reached magnetic hill. No need to stop there, still I stopped my bike with neutral and obviously the bike was moving back. No doubt where else it would move, very clear to the naked eye that there is a slope. A car was parked there, obviously a tourist came to see this from Leh!. Poor fellow. Anyway he comes to me starts talking in Tamil, obviously seeming my TN registration. I can manage with Tamil. He also confirms its all fooling. I read much in the travelogues, much discussion , scientific, data, GPS reading and what not which ran for pages together. Any fifth standard boy would be able to tell that the land slopes there. I did not even get off the bike. To my right, I can see tracks going up the hill a bit obviously made by some people who rode there curious about magnetism.

I want to hit Leh as soon as possible before DC office closes for Lunch. So, I hurry.

I silently pay my respects to Gurudwara Pathar Sahib. And continue further. At 11:00 I cross Nimmu Odo:5640. A tea break.

Finally Leh in single digit km distance away, near Hall of Fame which I decided would come back tomorrow

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By 12:30 at DC office, Leh. There is a board in front of the office saying Khardungla visit is not allowed between 10 am and 3 pm because of some road widening work and inconvenience is regretted. So, I just have time to find a place to say, leave my baggage and proceed to Khardungla.

Straight went inside for my permit. Got it done in about quarter an hour or so. Paid Rs.240 and enquired about stay options. Everyone was pointing to Changspa road which leads to Shanti Stupa. The winter had set in and many hotels and guest houses are on the verge of closing and some have already closed for the season.

With some hunt for about an hour or so, I find a room in a guest house with attached bath for Rs.200. At first the lady said, everything is closed for the season but when she saw me all alone, she accepted me in. Just untied the baggage, left it in the room and checked the sky. Its clear, little cloud formation over Khardungla. No food right from the morning and last night apple and chikki. Decided to straight head for Khardungla. Food can wait. They said last day it snowed at Khardungla. We can not predict weather. So I pushed. Some said not to go as it is already late. It was 3pm by then.

I continue with little cloud formation over Khardungla pass. Till south pullu the road is ok. They take my permit paper there and I ask one military man who was checking how far is Khardungla top. He shows me a tower at the far end over the mountains and says there! Had a quick tea since already threatening long shadows are casting indicating the fast approach of evening. No one on the roads. Literally alone on the road. At tea shop I can see snow here and there from last night and the winding road in the snow up there.

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Before it is dark I must come back as far as possible. With this in mind, I started. Again the bad road from here onwards till top about 15 Kms to go to top. How much my fears urge me to turn back as it was almost getting dark. In conditions like this, the worst enemy is our own fears. I paid a deaf ear to those urges and continued. Soon I was passing through the snow covered area

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Once in the snow, I remember the picture that my principal had asked me to take, luckily one car was coming down and more lucky is that it stopped. I asked the occupant to take a snap of mine.

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The snow was powdery, dry. This photographer was much better for he had taken good pictures than myself. He asked me to go bit further into snow and like a fool I obeyed, digging my feet into powdery snow and he took this picture:

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I thanked him and hurried up. I said I was fool to go into snow, because, the powdery snow had entered into my shoe which in my hurry to reach the top I forgot to dust it off before started my climb. Soon, this powder, with the body warmth melted and wet my shoe and socks. With the sun disappearing behind the mountains, the chill weather, wet shoes and even those gloves offered not much protection. I could feel the pain in my finger tips and toes. No option, I must continue for I am committed now. Having reached all the way here, return? No.

The climb was slow, very very cold. I was thinking of Shackleton coming back from the South Pole just 90 miles short. Plus, our BCMTian Prabhaker, if you had read his blog on EBC, returning just a few mins walk from EBC in the similar conditions and his Raj and other friends stuck till midnight endangering themselves and the rescue party. All this was going on in my mind. Am I doing something sensible? I don’t know how others felt who were alone, first time, in those conditions, but that was what I was thinking on the climb.

The thoughts anyway, kept me busy while bike rode on well. The only problem was with me, not with the bike. The last kilometer or two the roads really turned worse because of the road widening programme. The climb seemed never ending like Zojilla. But it did and I reach the Khardungla top. Time:5:20 pm and odo: 56511

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There was not even a single soul there. I can see some tea shops, and other shops but everything was tightly shut. I know at that altitude I must not spend much time.

You can see the approaching darkness. The snow was not so bright, as I told you the light sensors ion the camera were too sensitive I think. Same happened when I crossed Zojilla.

Luckily from nowhere one guy appears, looked like a BRO worker and I request him to click me.

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I was in no mood to go bit further back into the light or remove my gloves or helmet. I thanked the guy and asked him what he was doing there at that hour when everything was closed. He said he was waiting for some transportation. At that hour? Well, a truck did come. Obviously he was sitting at some little shelter out of sight of me and saw this truck approaching and he came out. Lucky I was. But the the truck left. I too left the place and started down hill. I was pushing the limits of the vehicle a bit further I know; because it was turning dark fast.

The cold was too much, I never experienced a snow bite, could this pain be the indication of a snow bite? So much pain on my forefinger tips. No option, I must continue. Somehow reached Southpullu and it was pitch dark. I did not stop there to check if someone was there. I carryon with heald light on. Road was good but I could not go fast because of extremely cold climate. Whatever I cover and helmet, still that chill wind, rattling my teeth, but as Leh is nearing it was ok. I track my way back to my guest house. Phew, what a trip that was to Khardungla top!

I park the bike inside and go out to have something to eat. The time may be around 8 or so but nothing seems to be open excepting some travel and antique shops in the market. May be there are restaurants, but I did not have enough energy. Finally I find a small sweet shop. Last stock of two samosas available. I eat that and some sweet. That was ok, . Came back, logged the entry and retired to bed. Curiously, not that tired after all after the food in my tummy. Mind still active. But having nothing else to do, slipped into sleep.

Tomorrow I must do something about this chill wind entering into helmet, plus the sunburn on my hands. Lets see. Tomorrow is yet another day. I know, Leh – Manali road, is not fun. I must check tomorrow if the traffic is coming down from Manali side. Plus bike mechanic Sharma just to do general check. Well, all that tomorrow. Did not call home because, it is difficult to find STD shop. Before I started from home, I already told them the phone situation while in J & K. Anyway, for now, I slipped into sleep unaware of what was to follow the early next day morning.

Odo reading: 56553
Run for the day: 165 Kms
Run for the trip: 3,333 Kms
 

Khagesh

Well-Known Member
Great going Khagesh!!!

You did it my friend :)
Thank you Prabhaker. Quick to respond.

But I did it? no, we did it. Even this is not entirely true. I had read many travelogues saying I conquered, I achieved etc. Really I do not know what this means.

Truly, from my heart, my feelings when I was in these mighty mountains were that, we are humbled. We are just infinitesimal before the might of the mountains.

When passing through the road cut in the mountain, no need if the cut gives away and the mountain slides, just if a stone of pumpkin size rolls down on you from that height, it would possibly have the force of a cannon and me and my bike would be an undesired casualty. So, where is our pride? To what extent it can save us.

On the contrary, I was feeling proud too, but in a different sense; to be a part of those mighty mountains, so content, so serene, so safe in their presence. So, what I did it, is, becoming part of the surroundings around me which gave an immense sense of satisfaction but not of any achievement, to be frank.

When compared to your experiences at EBC, mine is just a speck. You would understand what I mean.
 
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Khagesh

Well-Known Member
LOL !
Now I really believe that You were at Khardungla !
Congrats for Great Achievement on Platina !
LOL !
Thank you Satinderji. With that dark photograph, helmet on top of it, you could make out its me. lol

Platina was performing very well, no problem at all with the bike. The only problem was with the rider. As you know, its not me the first timer on Platina. Pareesh did it about two years ago.

Stay tuned, the journey is not over yet. We have reached only half the way. The most dreaded (atleast for me) AMS and water crossings and the terrain of Manali route, Bhind Morena at night yet to roll on.

I purposely did not put any teasers at the beginning, just want to make the travelogue as I experienced travel unfolding each day.
 

Khagesh

Well-Known Member
Day 13 : Leh local 5th Oct 2013, Saturday:

I don’t have any long journey to make today. Thought would laze out a bit. But, once your biological system is set, it wouldn’t allow. I got up as usual early. Wanted to get fresh. Then to my horror I notice, I lost strength in my right hand, I mean in the fingers. Cant take the weight of tooth brush even. They just were limp. I was able to move them but they don’t support any weight. I was worried. Not a panic but worried for sure. No panic because I am still able to use my hand and my reasoning was that last night’s chill, lack of sufficient oxygen must be taking its toll.

May be the hand was like that last night itself, but in that Khardungla excitement I did not notice? Could be. But no, later, when I was searching a restaurant, I was perfectly normal. Anyway, may be its just that I did not notice it.

I did bit of Yoga, ‘surya namaskara’ for two or three times to warm up my hand. Believe me, I was doing ‘praanayama’ on the bike while riding when I was on the passes, to consume whatever the bit of oxygen molecule. It helped me a lot. Restore my breathing to normal. Now, this hand, not completely out of action, but its not supporting any weight. Later that day and till I reached Jhansi on my return, I could not break the Chapathi with my right hand. I was trying my best to conceal this even with Pareesh when I had lunch with him. Nor I informed home about this.

For now, I finished my wash then waited a bit, massaging my right hand. I applied Zandu balm also. I know its too cold outside and nothing would be open. I have to wait for the light to come up. And it did. First thing, on priority, I have to get ready for Manali highway tomorrow, so the bike mechanic. Having read about Mohan Sharma on Manali Road I want to check my bike for there is a little oil spill on my front shocks. But he wouldn’t open this early. Had to go into lanes and bye lanes, hunting for tea. Had two cups of tea.

I can manage the bike even with almost limp fingers of my right hand. That’s good. But seriously I must think of return journey seriously before something serious happens. The dreaded Manali road is still ahead. So, no more Pongang Tso and Tso Morriri according to my original plan. Better be a live rat at home than a dead lion on Pongang Tso. Plus, as everyone says, in your Leh trip, you must leave something for next time. Plus, whatever the places you cover, still there is this missing, that missing. There is no end. With this mind set my thoughts are bent on the drive back home now from here on.

I trace Mohan Sharma mechanic with little asking here and there on Manali road. He was there. He says vehicle is perfectly alright and I ask him to take a ride. He did and says it needs nothing. I was so happy. The front oil seals, not available in Leh, so on the plains somewhere service. He says not to worry its just fine. He tightens the chain tension, lubricating this and that. I am so happy that there isn’t a serious problem with bike.

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I asked Sharma about Manali road condition. He said two days back he met people coming from Manali. But it might be snowing a bit on passes. I tried with truck people, they say no problem I can go the next day unless the weather turns out to be nasty suddenly that evening. Little cloud formation towards Manali side.

That being done, another tea on the way, straight headed towards Shanti Stupa. Leh gateway on the way.

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I reach Shanti Stupa. Not even soul there. Nice place. Went up the steps, had a pradakshina sat for a while there. Bike is not allowed inside. Hence just a photograph

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Never knew I could hold the camera so still. The picture is ok. What amused me is the Ladakhi sky and the contrasting stupa.

As I was coming out of the gate a couple came, obviously to visit the stupa in a taxi. I asked the Taxi driver if he has any idea about the condition of Manali road. He says, he just returned yesterday. Nothing to worry. In addition Morey planes all tarmac. Oh, that’s good news!

The AMS and the water crossings on Manali road are the two things that I dread. Slowly I am getting used to AMS with my mobile pranayama and Diamox tablets, one in the evening and one in the morning. But water crossing? Still an unknown factor.

Went back into Leh market area. Bought some essentials: Batteries for Camera. Some sun screen lotion. Few Cadbury chocolates for emergencies on the way. Then I want to buy a balaclava so that I can prevent wind entering into helmet. I bought a nice thick, double layered one. Checked with helmet on. A nice tight close fit. Satisfied. Now I will see how the air enters inside while on the move.

Now, I must eat something. Found a restaurant in a complex, a Punjabi dhaba. Nice place. Pure vegetarian. Had a good meal and went back to guest house. The balaclava was working good. Nice, warm inside the helmet. That’s good now. Plus, I got used to the gloves now. I rested a while. Pondering over my inactive right hand. So far so good, why worry.

In the evening I took the fort road and the fort is here. Curious construction:

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Inspite of Diamox I can feel the persisting nausea and headache all along. I go through military area and join Srinagar highway right at the Hall of Fame. A nice place. I click many pictures here. Apart from armory many navigational equipment on display which interested me. One of the item which caught my eye and fired my imagination is this:

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This simple instrument was used to take the bearings of longitude and latitudes and ground positioning at a time when there were no artificial satellites which feed GPS, nor radio. One can imagine using this instrument on a small boat in a storm where it is impossible to steady on the horizon on those raise and fall of high sea waves. You make a mistake of one degree and Shackleton with his team would have missed the land and pushed into oblivion of South Atlantic rough seas. What a courage these people they had. Courage, not on the journey itself but, the courage to have faith on their knowledge when the lives of seven (?) men depending on the decision made on the readings taken on this instrument in unsteady conditions.

GPS: There was this pilot who crossed north Atlantic on a microlight was carrying two GPS instruments. On the way he was flying so low due to the storm almost the spray from waves below on him and the these two GPS gave up, in the middle of the ocean. What rescued him?

His sense of direction, his ability not to panic etc. So, what ultimately counts is the brain of human being, not the instruments which he created. And then, who controls this brain or our thoughts? It is Him/Her to whom we all bow. Is that not the essence of Gayatri Mantra? When I read the people talk about the sophisticated instruments they carry which in fact not necessary, somehow it gives me a feeling; are they proud of their being in possession of expensive instruments or the journey itself.

Better leave this here, otherwise we miss the essence of a travelogue and enter into theosophy or metaphysical aspects. But those were my thoughts while in Hall of Fame.

Another item of curiosity is the bullet proof jacket. Never seen one nor imagined it to be like this.

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Spent quite a bit of time. And finally out, this persisting headache, I cant shrug off.

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Its already getting dark. I must fill petrol. I filled the tank at that big petrol bunk at the junction. This tank full petrol saw me till Delhi. Unbelievable, but that’s the mileage I was getting on my Platina.

The main bazaar area is a mini Thamel of Kathmandu. Loitered a bit here and there, went to the same Dhaba had my dinner. I must sleep early, tomorrow long drive. Aim to reach Sarchu. Avoid Pang, I know it from the travelogues I read how they suffered here for AMS plus extreme cold. Plus with the off season, the tent accommodation, doubtful. I decided to sleep early and start early. Plus my hand condition.

But before that, I want to check the weather conditions on Manali route. I stopped at a net café. No information on this area on IMD, I have to depend on my senses and whatever meteorological knowledge I have. Just updated my position on BCMT, checked mails and off to guest house.

Once in my room, gave a serious consideration to my further journey. Hunder, Warila, Pongang Tso and Tso Moriri were planned. The temptation is too great to visit these places, especially having come all the way here, leaves and money in my hands. But these limp fingers are bothering me. Not scared, for I know once in to warm climate of plains I would be alright. But I have to reach the plains first. My flying training takes over, and we always follow the norm ‘safety first’. There is a saying in flying community. “There are bold pilots, there are old pilots, but there are no old bold pilots.” I have to reach home safely, that is the priority.

Decision made. I would return home. It doesn’t mean all smooth from now on. The notorious Manali route, water crossings, passes. These however, I can not escape. Moreover, this route is more fun than Srinagar route which is comparatively easy. So, the real show, weather permitting, is on for next three days.

More rubbing of my limp fingers and I don’t know when I slipped into sleep.

Odo: 56586
Local run: 35 kms
Total run of the trip: 3,368
 
So a Pilot On Platina
Got More Than 70 km per Lit.
LOL !
You Hide Your Problem from Pareesh ji.
He knows something was wrong with You.
Army Hospital was there at your service.
You can ask them at least.
They are experienced for such problems.
In Plains not much experienced person are available.
 
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hiambuj

Moderator
Staff member
Awesome update.

Yes Hiambuj, you are right. And another curious thing that I noticed about this Ladakh weather, especially enroute Manali, when my back was turned to the Sun it was scorching heat and my front freezing cold. Both at a time. May be terrestrial radiation and wind velocity. Further to this I did not break my head to reason it out. But that is Ladakh and these features, as I understand, continue upto Tibet and even to Mangolia.
Haha, I was burning my hand, which was exposed to sun while driving & the rest was cold. ;)
 

Prabhaker

Active Member
Thank you Prabhaker. Quick to respond.

But I did it? no, we did it. Even this is not entirely true. I had read many travelogues saying I conquered, I achieved etc. Really I do not know what this means.

Truly, from my heart, my feelings when I was in these mighty mountains were that, we are humbled. We are just infinitesimal before the might of the mountains.

When passing through the road cut in the mountain, no need if the cut gives away and the mountain slides, just if a stone of pumpkin size rolls down on you from that height, it would possibly have the force of a cannon and me and my bike would be an undesired casualty. So, where is our pride? To what extent it can save us.

On the contrary, I was feeling proud too, but in a different sense; to be a part of those mighty mountains, so content, so serene, so safe in their presence. So, what I did it, is, becoming part of the surroundings around me which gave an immense sense of satisfaction but not of any achievement, to be frank.

When compared to your experiences at EBC, mine is just a speck. You would understand what I mean.


Hi Khagesh,

Mountains really have a hypnotic effect on people, and it is something that I have felt every time I have been in the mountains. There have been times when I was so lost within myself that had I not been fully conscious of what happens, I would have stayed back for ever ;)

When I said "You did it." I actually meant it. It's not about reaching the top of the mountain and feeling proud of it, but it is about conquering numerous peaks and the mountains that we have within us i.e. overcoming your own fears and still going ahead and doing it. In that sense, yes, we both did it. However, don't compare your experiences with mine at EBC. Both our experiences are unique and we both have taken home experiences and memories that nobody can ever take away from us.

You see, recently I have been following Din Malekar's and your travelogues and you know what, both are unique in their own ways. I have been to Leh many many years ago, and had also attempted it once on my bike sometime in late '80s on my Kawasaki but had to return home due to a major landslide. There weren't too many bikers in the late '80s and the road condition too was not up to the mark. But now that I am going thru both your logs, I am trying to convince my wife to accompany me to Leh on our Bike.

I think "convince" is a mild word in that sense because I am trying to "bait" her with a visit to "Vaishno Devi and Kashmir" en route ;) She has done many bike trips with me in the past, the longest being the one to Badrinath till date, but you know convincing a wive for a much longer and hard trip is a much bigger challenge than actually doing the trip.

In that sense both the trips are working out to be reasonably good guides for me.

Keep writing about your unique experiences, my friend :)
 
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