A Journey to a Land of Cold Desert
Ladakh: A land of Cold Desert
Above the height of 4000 meters, the trees disappear and the terrain of Himalayas changes into cold desert. The thin air makes your lungs work harder and the unpredictable weather put more obstacles on your way, but the immense beauty of Ladakh cannot take your heart away from this region for longer because this land attracts your soul.
I have been travelling in the Himalayas for a long time, but I never got a chance to ride a bike in Ladakh region. I was so busy in my travel business that I forgot to enjoy the true nature of my work. This time I was determined to take a solo ride to Ladakh hence I started my preparation for this trip. Being a tour operator in Himachal Pradesh, I knew the area and weather of the mountains, but I have never been to the Trans Himalayan region of Ladakh. There was an excitement in my mind and I shared my plans with my friend Mohit who is from Rajasthan. This tour itinerary tempted him and he wanted to join me on this epic journey. Therefore, we both decided to meet in Manali in first week of August from where we would hire our bikes.
In Manali, we stayed in a small but a beautiful home-stay surrounded by apple farm. While having breakfast I met with another biker who came all the way from USA to ride in the Himalayas. His name was Juan; Juan rented his bike from New Delhi and he came to Manali on his 500 cc Royal Enfield. In morning, we put our ideas on the table and decided to ride together as a group. Our next step was to get our permits from Manali SDO office, without them we were not able to clear the check posts on the way.
After analyzing the weather condition, the adventure began in the afternoon. It was already too late to reach Sarchu on time. The weather was cloudy and we were afraid it would rain on the way. Unfortunately, after a few minutes the rain started, but we continued as the true bikers don’t stop. The road to Rohtang pass had steep climb and hairpin bends, but I was enjoying every turn of this road. Due to heavy rain the small water streams were coming out and crossing the roads. Here the thought came into my mind that these water streams had just showed us the trailer of the movie, but the whole movie is yet to be watched. This kind of thought rushed adrenaline in my whole body.
When we were descending from Rohtang la, the road was replaced by mud. The whole track was slippery thus we all were riding like a tortoise. Somehow we reached Khoksar where all tourists had to show permits. As today’s target was to reach Sarchu but the bad weather and our late start stopped us, hence we decided to stay in Jispa.
Obstacles on Roads
Next morning, we outset early since today we were determined to hit Leh before night. Before arriving Sarchu check post, we rode on the zigzag road to Zingzingbar and crossed Baralacha la (4830 m). On this tour, we had already got the experience of snake like roads and high mountain passes, but the only thing we did not experience was facing a big water stream. This wish was going to be fulfilled soon before Sarchu. By afternoon we came across the big water stream on the way, it was told that we have to cross this area before afternoon since the water was less in the morning due to slow melting of glaciers. The trucks stood on the both sides of the stream and people were helping each other to cross that giant stream. All bikers in our group passed that without any hassle, but some people got stuck when they stopped their bikes in between the stream. That was an amazing experience and I will never forget it in my whole life.
Road of Passes
In mid afternoon, me and my fellow bikers followed a road to Nakee la pass. The road to Nalee La was winding around the mountains and suddenly the weather changed. First, the drizzling started, but we kept on riding, few minutes back the hailstones were striking on our helmets and the cold breeze was penetrating into our body. There was no shelter where we could stay, the only thing we could do was riding without stopping. The weather was harsh till Nakee La, when we were riding down from pass, the sun came out of clouds and we felt a great relief. The next pass was Lachung la where we stopped for a while to enjoy the beauty of Ladakh.
Met a Stranger
Now we entered in a region seemed like a dry desert. From far away, on the road, I saw a light brown colored dog running in the middle of the road, when I came closer to it, I realized that its size is bigger than a normal dog. When I was passing by I stopped about 6 feet away from it, I was wondered it was a wolf. That wolf ran away from the road as I came closer. This stranger thrilled my heart because it is rare to see such animals on the road.
By the evening we came to know that today we will not make it to Leh since the sun was setting fast so our hope to reach Leh also setting with it. Therefore, we were planning to stay at Rumtse. My bike’s brakes were not working properly, hence I rode at slow speed. The sun was setting and the weather again showed its color and shower began. I was tackling three difficulties one is the rain, the second is less brakes, third is dark Night. Anyway, we reached at Debring where we had our dinner and changed our wet soaked clothes.
A Night of Struggle
One of our bikers was not feeling well and he was having symptoms of high altitude sickness. First, we decided to stay at Debring camp, but after some time my fellow biker told that the weather is clear and we can continue to Rumtse and the journey continued. When we touched the second highest road pass named Tanglang la, the weather deceived us again, not with rain but the worst snowfall. The cold became unbearable and the air become thin, it was extremely hard for us to ride in such condition. Luckily, I brought a tent and sleeping bags with me, we set the tent on roadside and spent that night at 5200 meters in unpleasant weather. Nobody slept that night as all of us having headache and we were breathing heavily. That was a toughest night of this tour.
The morning came up with shinny snow all around. The snow wrapped our bikes, we cleared snow from our bikes and commenced this day with descending Tanglang la. There was a police post in Upshi where we had to register ourselves again. From Upshi the road was smooth so we reached Leh in the forenoon. With all twists and turns we made it and enjoyed our evening with a big party at café in Leh.
Ladakh’s culture shows no resemblance with other part of Jammu and Kashmir. It has different terrain from the rest of the Himalayas. This cold desert greeted us by a magnificent panorama of the Trans Himalayan mountains. Throughout this journey I learned those things that I thought I already knew. On this trip, whenever, I ascended to new pass there was an excitement to see what lies on the other side of the pass. This Journey was full of fun, adventure and most importantly, it gave a great satisfaction to my mind, body and soul.