Day 8: 22nd June, 2011
We had to start early morning as today’s was going to be a treacherous ride. We first encountered the Gata Loops which was an assortment of 21 hairpin bends on mountains placed precariously next to stunning rivers and greenery. Next was Nakee La pass which was splendid, but nothing compared to what we had seen so far. Most of us flicked the flags from here and tied them to our bikes for “good luck”. Next we entered the Lachung La pass and then descended to the Morey plains which was a fantastic stretch of flat as rubber lands extending over about 50-70kms. The roads were mostly straight as a ruler. The quality of the roads however varied drastically. There were long stretches of roads that were beautiful, straight, flat, black and would make great runways. Then there were roads that were under construction, which was kms of just rubble. Then there were make-shift roads that was just bare sand, riding through which was like a desert safari. All through though, the heat was unbearable and the winds were very strong. We had to take drinks break every hour. Every time we took a break, we could see a glimpse of what lies ahead. Far far ahead. The plains ended at a small town called Pang after which we were headed towards Tanglang La pass which is the second highest motorable road in the world, according to the board on top of the pass.
Deepti was not feeling well today and was accompanying Mom in the backup vehicle. Vatsala was on the bike and the ride was really taking a toll on her. At Rumtse, which was about 75kms before Leh, Deepti decided to ride. Vatsala got into the car, but the ride had already made her quite sick. We had a late lunch at Rumtse and headed towards Leh. The super fast bikers – Bali, Ponni and Pat reached Upshi almost one and a half hours before us and found a place to sleep, eat and do their dos. All the kids in the towns that we passed by, had one pastime: stretching their palms out to riders and giving them a high-five. Ask Namitha and she will tell you how hard they can hand you a high-five. Finally, all of us reached Leh around 5pm. What followed was another emotional roller coaster.
Varun and Harsha went looking for a hotel to stay. They took about an hour to return with a good option. Pat and Ponni who were there all the while went to look for a place just before Harsha and Varun returned. We waited for about 15 minutes to see if Pat and Ponni would come with anything else. All this while we were waiting on the road, sitting on the footpath, with Mom and Vatsala waiting in the taxi stand. Vatsala’s situation was going from bad to worse and our delay in finalising the hotel was not helping at all. So, we decided to go ahead to the hotel that Varun and Harsha had finalised and move our luggage in. The plan was to ask Varun to stay back to get Pat and Ponni, but as they say when one thing goes wrong everything else goes wrong too. A couple of bikers lost the team that headed to the hotel and Varun had come to show them the way. Just as soon as everybody had reached the hotel, Pat and Ponni had found a great place to stay, which they said was much better and much less expensive. But when they returned, they was shocked to see no one at the place we all were at a while ago. Before Varun could go back, they were searching randomly and reached the hotel we were staying at and they blew open. What followed, was nothing short of a melodramatic Telugu movie, complete with all emotions, sound effects, fire fighting, etc.
Mom and Vatsala had dinner at the hotel. The rest, went to different restaurants at different times in groups of their own. I don’t remember much about coming to the hotel and sleeping that night…
Day 9: 23rd June, 2011
We were to spend the day however we wanted to, in Leh. Today was a day off from the amazing amount of riding we had been doing. Looking back, I don’t feel we made the most of the day. Most of us mostly slept it off. Others went to the market and shopped a little, tried some local restaurants, Tibetan cuisine, got our bikes repaired. We got permits to ride to Nubra Valley and to Pangong Tso Lake for all of us. Bali, Deepti, Ponni, Pat, Varun, Harsha went to Stok, where they went for a Hemis trek. The trek was for about a couple of hours along the Hemis river. They said it was the most peaceful as well as one of the most adventurous, considering they sighted a snow leopard. (Much after I wrote this blog, these guys met up in Bangalore and revealed that the picture they had taken of the leopard was of a poster and they did not encounter anything. This was a prank they wanted to play on Satvik, which blew a little out of proportion.) Me, Nam, Shubra, Moms and Satvik rode to the Spituk Gompa which was quite close Leh. We got a bird’s eye view of the bare Leh airport. The Gompa was very peaceful and had hardly any crowd. All of us sat inside and meditated for about 30 minutes. On the way out, we got a terrific video and returned to base camp. Mohan and Vatsala were not feeling too well and slept the entire day off. Somanna and Manju accompanied them. Towards the later part of the evening, all of us headed in different directions for shopping and for dinner. Shubra had an additional duty of arranging a “surprise” midnight birthday party for Namitha.
The D Hour had arrived. 12:00 midnight. I was adamant that the entire schedule be planned around us spending the night at Leh and the day on Khardung La, celebrating Namitha’s birthday on the highest motorable road in the world. All of them were waiting for me and Namitha at the verandah with half a cake, with a candle lit. Well, it wasn’t a great creamy birthday cake, it did not have a message on it and the candles weren’t magical. But the rest of the party was one of the best parties I had every witnessed. Every time I throw a surprise birthday party for Namitha, she is truly surprised. I will never know if she is actually so naïve or she likes to let me have it my way. Either way, it makes for a great birthday party every time. So the birthday was typical with jingles, claps, noise, great pictures, lots of cuddles and wishes and not to mention cake on the face (this was easy to clean as the cake was plum cake) and gifts (neatly gift wrapped with local newspaper).
If you missed out on the previous story, you can read it here: The Himalayan Sojourn 1.0- Part 4- Manali to Sarchu
Continue reading the story here: The Himalayan Sojourn 1.0- Part 6- Khardung La & Hunder
Few more pictures from the two day of the Himalayan Sojourn 1.0: