Monday, 29 September 2014

Bharatpur to Upshi... A timeless journey

Where is the time and where is Leh???

 A timeless journey indeed... This part of Manali - Leh trip leaves you wandering with your soul (because you won't be able to locate any other soul in this 240 km stretch!!! Where have all the insects gone? Is there any leaf around? No!!!).

We left Bharatpur with a motive to reach Leh that is around 285 km from Bharatpur. And we could have reached! But that's a different story. Lets first know what laid ahead (Top Secret!!!)
At Sarchu- Ready to leave for Leh
We left Bharatpur and after around 15 minutes of drive we thanked ourselves for staying in Bharatpur as the route is really bad with 2-3 streams which become dreadful in evening and could be crossed with too much of ease in morning at around 7 in the morning. (We were told that most dreadful streams are yet to come and we passed 3 waters of around 1cm of height and kept on fearing that something huge would come... )But there is no stream after reaching Zanskar valley. At this point we leave the Himalayas and enter the plateaus of Ladakh. The shift is so immediate that you suddenly realise that there is nobody except you and your friends. Hills become barren of life or even vegetation. Here is the first time you experience the frost and loneliness of a cold desert – a vast panorama of nothing but rock and snow.

I have earlier experienced the immeasurable account of the ocean in Goa or unfathomable course of a lake (Surajtal before Baralacha la pass) or simply the majestic sky but to experience something like this with respect to land is something which can only be felt. Its probably one of the most beautiful places I have seen (I don't think anything would appear prettier to me after witnessing such varied beauty on this trip!!!)

Tents at Sarchu

At Sarchu, we got our papers checked, a small Shiv Mandir was there (And it was Shivratri. Blessed we felt!). And there we left for a journey where time loses its meaning. You just have to keep moving in the wilderness of rock, sand and snow). Although we don't  see any living being but if by any chance, you get your vehicle down in this path, try to repair it if it is morning or early afternoon, else leave it there or bring it along somehow (trucks might help) and go with fellow rider till next military camp near Pang. Because this area is habitat for snow leopards (Vikram actually saw one! Will tell later about this) and resting or to get stuck at this place in night (even with your own tent) is a bad idea.

Wilderness of rocks and sand
Last pic taken just before the fall
This seemed quite a boring journey with bad roads, too much of sun and never ending trail. We had to go some 170 km to reach Leh when suddenly Ankush lost control of the bike and we slid through the rugged road well equipped with gravel (Of all the streams, rocks or potholes,gravel is the most dangerous enemy). I was the pillion rider. Main rider can jump off the bike but pillion cannot. And as I was taking pictures, I was not wearing glove in my right hand and wearing flotters which is a sin on these roads. you must own a sturdy pair of shoes.Anyways, I got hurt badly and in extreme heat and low oxygen, started feeling unconscious. With the help of first aid box, my wounds were primarily taken care of. Then we asked for lift in a passing by truck. I travelled around 40-45 km distance in the truck while my friends were trying to repair the bike with the help of other riders. I waited for them at Pang in temporary tent.

Deserted roads to Pang

On the way to Pang
On the way to Pang

These pictures were taken by Vikram as I was unable to hold the camera anymore. His DSLR captured beautiful views of a deserted road. This part of the route is undoubtedly a tough one and I was so worried that I was asking every group of riders if they saw three bikes midway. Finally a group told that they have helped them and were about to reach. In around an hour they reached and all my prayers were answered.

By now, we were extremely tired and not in a condition to move ahead. We rested there and then left at around 4 in the evening. We had to travel another 173 km. A stretch of around 25 km form Pang is pure bliss. Best road and awesome beauty. Heaven! This is the pure bliss of a cold desert upto Devering. The route from Pang to Tanglang la and then further to Upshi is breathtaking (due to low oxygen;-)!!!) In fact, the road from Pang to Debring is paradise on earth. Most of the pictures available on internet are taken on this road only. But my hand did not allow me to take any pictures.

After Debring, the breathtaking climb up to the mighty Tanglang-La (17582 ft.) begins. It is around 30km stretch on a steep slope with road full of gravel. The speed came down from 90kmph to 20 kmph. In around 2 hours we reached Tanglala Pass.At the top of the pass a tiny temple and a few prayer flags flutter in the strong winds that are peculiar of this pass.

Mesmerizing Tanglang-La (17582 ft.)

Amidst the spine chilling wind, at the top of the mountain
 This is the highest pass and second motor able in the world on the way. By this time, we started feeling chilled and night was arriving. We could not stay on road, we had to reach a settlement where we could stay at night.

After that we drove all the way down to Ramsey. I being the most coward one suggested to stay there as it was already 8 in the night. But nobody listened and we rushed through the distance. Road was good and we had to reach early. 
From Rumste the whole valley of the Leh region starts and road goes along the river. The road besides the river in the night is curvy but well maintained. Sound of river definitely scares and we were speeding up cautiously. Vikram being alone rode very fast. We were just 5 kms from Upshi. suddenly, we saw him coming back. All kinds of thoughts filled our minds. We stopped and asked what happened. He looked completely scared. "Lets go back. Agey snow leopard hai" was all he could say. Rumste was 26 kms back and Upshi was 5 kms. ahead with atleast one snow leopard to cross. Decided. We all geared up. All 3 bikes just rushed together with horns screaming and headlight shining bright. Within 5 minutes, we were at Upshi. We took the hotel. Fell into our bed and woke up next morning.

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