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Old 4th June 2013, 11:49   #121
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Default Re: Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit

Day 8: At Sarchu [rest day]


Quote:
Sarchu (also known as Sir Bhum Chun) is a major halt point with tented accommodation in the Himalayas on the Leh-Manali Highway, on the boundary between Himachal Pradesh and Ladakh (Jammu and Kashmir) in India. It is situated between Baralacha La to the south and Lachulung La to the north, at an altitude of 4,290 m.

An Indian army camp is sited nearby on the banks of the Tsarap Chu river. The highway and thus the camp are closed during the winter, when snow blocks the high passes along the road.

This spot can also be used as a start point for the difficult trek into the Zanskar region of Ladakh.

Source: Wikipedia
One of the reason for carrying all through that 5 kg of camping gear [tent, poles, sleeping bag, stove and mat] was the intention of camping at least in a couple of places along this iconic road. And Sarchu definitely was on that list.


The last charge of camera batteries were at the Darcha dhaba, where electricity is available, and the frequent camera usage also resulted in shortage of SD cards. Meru dhaba at Sarchu had generator which provided much needed current for the battery charge as well as transferring the images from SD card to the laptop.

I had two thoughts - either to take a packed lunch from here and camp out in the pasture land that I saw while coming into Sarchu or stay here and go towards the bridge over Tsarap Chu river, which one crosses as travellers enter from Himachal to the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir.

Camping had to be given a miss here as all of the camera batteries [4 in nos.] were not fully charged - the next charge point electricity will be only after Tanglang la after some 4-5 days. Also decided to explore more towards the Ladakh and Tsarap chu side as next day tomorrow would not be able to stop and see much at the start due to the big day ride of Gata loops and Nakeela.



The tin shack of Sarchu - Pedros, the cyclist from Greece, and I shared for the night.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-sarchu2.jpg


Early morning Pedros moves out towards Leh, as I take the day as a rest and exploration day around Sarchu.
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Tentatively opened up the laptop at this high altitude of 14,000 feet, but then I had to do something about transferring images as I had totally lost track on which card what was being written and/or formatted. The laptop worked fine then and it works great now too.
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Great breakfast to start a relaxed day; Sarchu being a major halt point does have some better items available on the table.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-sarchu6.jpg


A great sunny weather day and I move beyond the Army checkpost towards the Ladakh-Himachal border. No heavy luggage and what a difference of a ride in terms of effort it was today.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-sarchu29.jpg

Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-sarchu8.jpg

Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-sarchu34.jpg



The Ladakh road to Leh from Manali leaves one spellbound for all the varied mountains, rock structures and landscapes. And among the many that has captivated me during the last Oct 2010 journey, was the "Rock"


Welcome to the Rock!

Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-sarchu54.jpg



contd..

Last edited by adc : 4th June 2013 at 11:59.
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Old 4th June 2013, 13:08   #122
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Default Re: Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit

Day 8: At Sarchu ...contd.


Quote:
Phalang Danda or Lingti boundary mark on the borders of Lahoul and Ladakh; situated north-east of the Bara Lacha pass and just above Lingti [for Sarchu] camp. It is called Lingti by Lahoulis and is a high square insulated rock rising out of the Lingti plain. - Gazetteer of Kashmir and Ladakh
The Rock - Phalang-danda (a giant square rock) marks the boundary between Lahaul of Himachal and Ladakh of J & K.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-sarchu27.jpg


Sarchu provides for some high grazing lands of the semi-nomadic Changpa who roam these lands with their cattle herds
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-sarchu18.jpg

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Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-sarchu47.jpg


One last view of the "Rock" and some great time spent here, it was time to move forward towards the Tsarap chu river gorge for the panoramic view of the river and the high road towards Leh.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-sarchu13.jpg



contd...

Last edited by adc : 4th June 2013 at 13:12.
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Old 4th June 2013, 15:48   #123
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Default Re: Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit

Day 8: At Sarchu


Now as I was starting to go, a Bolero going past suddenly makes a stop, sound blaring from its speakers, a few guys get out, and then what follows was an impromptu bhangra dance at 14,000 feet. With a PB registration I do expect more joviality rather than the staid way of travel.

The bhangra at 14,000 feet. Seeing me click they also ask me to join, and I do share a few awkward steps. Again a brilliant experience. This iconic road is for everyone, from a traveller to a tourist, it is only just about having a good time in the high mountains and passes.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-sarchu24.jpg



Quote:
The Tsarap River or the Tsarap Chu, is a river 182 kilometres (113 mi) long, which forms the eastern part of the Zanskar valley, in the Ladakh region of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir.

The Tsarap River has its source in the glaciers near Pankpo La Pass at the border of Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh. After rising from its source, the Tsarap River flows southwest up to Sarchu, a camping site at the Leh-Manali Highway, here the Tsarap River joins a confluent of three rivers of Lingti, Yunan and Sarchu River.

At village Purne, the Tsarap River is joined by Kargyag River which originates near Shingo La pass.[3] Then the Tsarap River flows down in the main Zanskar valley, through the towns of Mone, Tichip, Jamyang Lang, Dorzong and Chia. The river then passes a confluence with its tributary, the Stod River, at Padum, the capital of Zanskar. Together, these two rivers form the Zanskar River, a tributary of the Indus River. Wikipedia
After that impromptu bhangra, it is time to move forward to see the Tsarap chu river and its surroundings at Sarchu.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-sarchu38.jpg

Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-sarchu40.jpg

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Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-sarchu49.jpg

Here is the same Tsarap Chu as it makes a brilliant turn in the Zanskar mountain lands near Padum - from the our Zanskar and interior Kashmir travel.




The mud sculptures along the river gorge
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-sarchu50.jpg


I sit down over here as time passes by.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-sarchu48.jpg


As the highway enters Ladakh from Lahoul it takes a big longish U-turn and the other side of the road leading towards Gata loops and beyond can be seen. What is striking is the absolute scale of the amazing vista - the oil tankers are absolutely dwarfed by the rough and high landscape of Manali-Leh highway


There is an oil tanker out here
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-sarchu36.jpg

And this from our Oct 2010 drive travel. The two oil tankers are absolutely dwarfed by the massive landscape.
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Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-sarchu41.jpg



A view of this never ending mountain landscapes.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-sarchu53.jpg

and finally it is time for me to head back to Sarchu tent camp for a late lunch.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-sarchu51.jpg


Back at Sarchu dhaba for a late lunch, evening is soon approaching and the generator will start for charging of the batteries, for the cameras and laptop. It is early bed today - tomorrow should be all action again - it is about time I head towards the Gata loops [ 21 hairpin bends called gata loops will take you 4190 mts to 4630 mts] and the Nakeela pass at 15,600 feet. The confidence is there but then as I go to sleep there it bit of apprehension, about the strain that the loops of Gata will bring but then who knew that at the end of the day, Gata was the least to be worried about.


contd...

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Old 4th June 2013, 16:21   #124
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Default Re: Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit

adc, your way of writing is simply beautiful. Your posts are a pleasure to read while being awestruck by the landscape. What an adventure!!
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Old 4th June 2013, 19:11   #125
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Default Re: Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit

Going Super amazing dude. This is how a travelogue should be - written beautifully with awesome snaps and also posted frequently. :-)

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Old 6th June 2013, 03:35   #126
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Thumbs up Re: Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit

This is an inspiring post. The determination shines through in your writing, backed up by well-chosen photographs. The fact that you chose to do this bicycling trek, and that too in Oct is a toast to your courage & sense of adventure. Keep it going.

"Age is not determined by our time spent on earth; but rather by the agility of our minds, the fire in our hearts & the desire in our spirit."

Keep it going.
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Old 7th June 2013, 14:00   #127
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Default Re: Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit

Day 9: Sarchu [14,300 ft] - Gata loops - Nakee la [15,300 ft] - Whisky Nullah [15,600 ft] : 55 km [approx.]



September 29, 2012, the second half of the journey starts towards Leh. The night was super cold with gusts of wind shaking the tin shack; and with the added thoughts of Gata loops, it was naturally an early morning rise.

Now the next stop planned was at Whisky Nullah, a cold desolate place between two high passes of Nakee la and Lachung la. In normal season times there is a lone dhaba out there, but still in the best of times it is a more of a truck stop for the odd chai or maggi noodles.

Whisky Nullah also has a shortage of water and a lone stream is what is available only. All in all, no one wants to stay overnight over here until stuck due to unavoidable reasons.


I had the option of making it a big ride and going directly to Pang as some cyclists do but again that would then curtail my frequent stops for clicks and/or just general roaming around. And as such that not being an option, decided to start early for Whisky Nullah - the plan if there is no dhaba, camp over there but was warned in Sarchu about the winds and lack of water - and for that the early start.




Early morning start at 7:30 am from Mount Reru dhaba of Sarchu. Seen here the dhaba owner. Abreakfast of omelets and maggi and double cup of lemon tea and packed up some chocolates bar from here as noon meal en route.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-sarchu-gata1.jpg


Crossing the "Rock" [Phalang danda] again, I technically now enter Ladakh of J & K.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-sarchu-gata2.jpg

The road first goes on the left bank of Tsarap Chu....
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-sarchu-gata3.jpg


..and then takes a big U turn over at this bridge named Twing Twing..
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-sarchu-gata4.jpg


to follow on the right bank of River Tsarap chu towards Gata loops and beyond.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-sarchu-gata5.jpg


On towards Gata loops and beyond to Whisky Nullah, the intended stop for the day.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-sarchu-gata6.jpg

Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-sarchu-gata8.jpg


The tents of Sarchu can be seen as tiny white specks from this far opposite side
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-sarchu-gata10.jpg



The road now has slight declination and/or flat, though pedalling is required, as it approaches the base of Gata loops, the legendary 21 hairpins and loops .


With the Yunam river flowing by, the couple of bridges of Brandy and Whisky Nullahs are crossed en route to Gata. There is a small BRO labour camp in between in these two bridges.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-sarchu-gata13.jpg

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The brilliant September weather, the river gorge and then I see at distance two horsemen on a slow gallop along the Yunam river bank headed towards some nomadic changpa area. Mesmerized, for a time, I longed to go back on with them - even get ideas for the next journey out here on this lands...
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-sarchu-gata19.jpg

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And as the horse riders fade out in the distance, I have also somewhat suddenly come to the base/start of Gata loops. Back to reality now, it is now about time I start on this 10 km of some hard bicycling of 21 relentless switchbacks or loops.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-sarchu-gata21.jpg



contd...

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Old 7th June 2013, 17:28   #128
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Day 9: Sarchu [14,300 ft] - Gata loops - Nakee la [15,300 ft] - Whisky Nullah [15,600 ft] : 55 km [approx.] ...contd...


Among he first names that anyone who starts to know about this iconic Manali-Leh Highway, would be about the Gata loops. It has its own legendary status, raising via series of 21 consecutive switchback or climbs - from around 13,800 feet to 15,200 ft in some 8 km or so.


For a cyclist, the Gata loops aura is even more ingrained. As the board proclaims the start of the first loop, it is now time for some new grit - after all from morning I had been mentally preparing for it. Cycling towards a loop.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-sarchu-gata46.jpg


The first few switchbacks and I keep a track of the number of loops done. What compensates for slow upward ride is the view as I gain height.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-sarchu-gata26.jpg

Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-sarchu-gata28.jpg

Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-sarchu-gata29.jpg





And pretty soon I lose track of the loop count. The loops are relentless and never ending. As soon as one goes by, the other starts. The road hits again and again, and I make a slow progress up the incline. The views of course are magnificent, even to the point of justifying this strain!.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-sarchu-gata32.jpg

Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-sarchu-gata34.jpg



As I go up, down comes from Leh side and going towards Sarchu, a cyclist couple from Switzerland. A brief intro and of course my default question of "how long still" to the top...
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-sarchu-gata35.jpg


...which of course was still quite a way to go. The track could be seen going up the mountains. We wish each other good luck and I move forward in search of the Gata loops end.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-sarchu-gata47.jpg



A laborious ride and to make it more strenuous was the cold bitter crosswind. The progress slow, the routine though similar - gasp, stop, pedal, gasp.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-sarchu-gata36.jpg

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A video print screen shot of the strong crosswinds that multiplied the strain. Seen here a whirlwind of dust.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-sarchu-gata44.jpg



Quote:
Ghosts Of The Gata Loops - No one stops unnecessarily on the Gata Loops!!

Legend says years ago a truck came to a stuttering halt on this loop. The driver left a bottle of water for the cleaner and walked to the nearest village to fetch help. The nearest village is a two and a half hour drive from where they stopped.

Unfortunately, when the driver reached the village the weather changed and he was stranded. By the time the mechanic and driver got back, the cleaner had died of thirst, the heat and the elements. He was buried right there.

It is said the ghost of the cleaner tries to hail down passing cars, pleading for water, cursing all those who fail to do so with altitude sickness. The locals have created a shrine in his memory. So when you cross the Gata Loops and see a pile of water bottles, fling one of yours too.


**
Now I did not see or might have missed any heap of plastic water bottles. The strain took away any thought of the ghost or its memorial.
As said, I tried to count the loops but then lost track of it as the strain become more and more. For some 3 hours or so now, it has been a slow hard heck of a ride accompanied with deep gasping, relieved for a brief moment by the amazing vista and the photo stops.


Somehow by the end of 3 hours, travelling all alone in this super windy end September month of 2012, having lost track of the loops done; one is just about going through the motion of one switchback after other. As soon as the thought comes of about whether this is the end of it, will another round of loops start.

And just when a cyclist has resigned to the fact that again another round of it is coming, the stone slab proclaiming the end of Gata loops at 15,302 feet comes up at the end of another switchback.

Just around 5 mts before 1 pm, I am at the end of Gata loops. The absolute surprise with which it comes and the flood of relief overwhelms -- just like it was in Baralacha la after that Zingzingbar climb. I break into a song of no comprehensible lyrics. - it is just some primeval sounds of unbridled joy and hard accomplishment.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-sarchu-gata40.jpg



It is now again time for me to roam around. Over 20 mts goes by for the amazing vista from the top and relief of end of Gata loops.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-sarchu-gata41.jpg



Gata loops done, time to move on again then. Full of confidence about the day's progress. Nakee la at some 250 feet height from here should not be much, and then comes the downhill and the day's stop at Whisky Nullah. It should be not much of a bother! It is 1:30 pm now and should then reach well ahead of time. Everything is going per the day's plan.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-sarchu-gata42.jpg


But then only if it had been so!


contd...

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Old 8th June 2013, 10:10   #129
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Day 9: Sarchu [14,300 ft] - Gata loops - Nakee la - Whisky Nullah [15,600 ft] : 55 km [approx.] ...contd...


The Gata loops are done with. Around 35 km from Sarchu has been completed. The assumption naturally is that for the rest 20 km from here to Whisky Nullah would be downhill after a short couple of kilometres of climb to Nakee la.



The loops have ended and on towards Nakee la on a buoyant mood, the thought that it would be somewhat of a slight climb to the pass and then a big downhill to Whisky Nullah.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-whjisky-nala6.jpg



This rock structure comes up soon after Gata loops, reminds something of the one found in Pang. I did scout a way to go and stand in between that arch but the way was steep and would have taken some time - anyway it would have been beyond the camera timer limit of 30 secs. I leave that antic for the Pang archway.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-whjisky-nala7.jpg



A final view of the last of the Gata loops and surroundings seen as the road now turns left towards Nakeela.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-whjisky-nala9.jpg

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Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-whjisky-nala10.jpg



As one leaves Gata loop area, there is a definite change in conditions - it is much more arid - the wind fiercer, the weather bitter cold. The road climbs on, the crosswind making the climb slowly but surely strenuous to the point of frustration. Kilometres go by but then where is Nakee la
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-whjisky-nala1.jpg.

Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-whjisky-nala16.jpg

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Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-whjisky-nala18.jpg


Arid cold desert terrain with low dried shrubs. A few intimate landscape shots.
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Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-whjisky-nala3.jpg


Something is wrong, the distances and the calculation, the assumption is all wrong. And it is not a good place to be wrong - this area after Gata loops is even more arid - there is a even a sinister feeling in this zone.
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Close to 4 pm, i.e., around 2 hours have passed by and still there is no sign of Nakee la. I stop often, looking at the track pedalled up, and still thinking how far to go - end September at this late hour of the day no vehicle crosses by to ask. I start to fear about what is going to happen if the downill soon does not come : The sun would soon go beyond the mountains as it is close to 4 pm now - the temperature will drop down drastically and the chill factor with the super cold winds in this arid land -- when will Nakee la come, when I am going to reach W Nullah, and when and where am I going to pitch up the tent if that lone dhaba is not there, light is fading fast.



Just about when I have stopped wishing and was in fact thinking of camping somewhere over here as the sunlight was still here, I see at a distance the yellow slab stone. What a relief - I furiously pedal towards it with, expending whatever last ounces of energy still left.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-whjisky-nala19.jpg


There is no standing beside the yellow slab stone photo shoot out here, we [ cycle & I ] semi-collapse and just lie down on the road for sometime, there's no vehicle or anyone around here on this road on September 29, 2012, at 4 pm at Nakee la top.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-nakeela.jpg



contd..

Last edited by adc : 8th June 2013 at 10:16.
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Old 8th June 2013, 17:14   #130
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Day 9: Sarchu [14,300 ft] - Gata loops - Nakee la - Whisky Nullah [15,600 ft] : 55 km [approx.] ...contd...



Gata loops and its legendary status on this iconic road has been always been ingrained into a traveller and particularly for a cyclist. The strain is there and thus mentally one is prepared for the slog. As the loops end naturally the assumption comes along that more or less shortly Nakeela would be coming soon.


Only on a bicycle would one come to realize how wrong that premise is and the euphoria of having crossed the Gata gives way to the frustrating amazement as Nakee la comes some 8 km of nagging uphill, the conditions exacerbated by the complete desert land and a biting cold wind. Even some seemingly flat surfaces are there in between, giving an illusion that the top is almost reached. The agony of expecting the pass and still not encountering it even after 2 hours of cycling past the Gata loops - physical and mental strength is stretched close to max.

Another important point to note is though Nakeela is mentioned as 15300 feet and also same figure on the BRO slab stone at the top, or some just 250+ feet of climb from the Gata loops top as thought, actual GPS reading from different travellers have recorded it to be 16200 feet.




It is already 4 pm, the sun just about to go beyond the mountains horizon. There is not much time out here to spend, for a change there is no roaming around over here. Just around 5 minutes spent and I am back on the cycle downhill for a fast descend towards Whisky Nullah, in search of the dhaba or if needed to fix up the tent.



As soon as the road track comes into shadow as the sun goes behind the mountain horizon, whatever little warmth was there was gone and the temperature drops dramatically. I was literally shivering from the cold wind now. See from a distance this weathered abandoned truck, which must have its own sinister history, and at the far side see an absolutely frozen waterfall high up on the other side of the mountain - one thing is for certain, this land is not a good place to be stuck.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-whjisky-nala20.jpg

Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-whjisky-nala21.jpg

Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-whjisky-nala23.jpg



Anyway that was the only stop in the descend. Some 20 mts after, I finally see a trace of the white tent of a dhaba from some distance up. [The blue ones are some abandoned BRO tents]. From Sarchu I had been hearing conflicting reports about whether the dhaba at Whisky Nala is there or not, and finally it was a huge relief to find it still standing.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-whjisky-nala22.jpg




Finally close to 5 pm, with the super chilled wind making me shiver sometimes uncontrollably, I stumble into the dhaba at Whisky Nullah. If i had to pick out a shelter/dhaba in this entire journey that I had longed for, it would be this one. The weather conditions were pretty bad now and pitching tent and trying to erect a shelter would have been a herculean task for me - though eventually it would have been done if not wishing to freeze in this arid winter desert land.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-whjisky-nala24.jpg


The dhaba is run by an elderly couple. The other inhabitant is another elderly lady, whom I assumed would be the mother of one of them. A bed fixed for the night and I gulp two hot cups of lemon tea to at least put some warmth inside.

The outside living quarters of the dhaba with the dormitory bed close to the cycle.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-whjisky-nala25.jpg


Being the only guest out here in this tent, they soon ask me to join them in the back part of this parachute tent - their living quarters. Much more pleasantly comfortable from the warmth of the stove, I have soup to further invigoration from the cold. Seen here the elderly lady, whom I assumed would be the mother of the owner couple. Seen also their dinner being cooked on the pressure cooker over the stove.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-whjisky-nala26.jpg


As I just came in before dusk fell, did not have to wait much for dinner.


Rotis being made in this nomad dhaba camp. A video print screen shot.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-whjisky-nala29.jpg



Before 7 itself, I was on my menu of rotis, alu sabzi and omelets - even acchar/pickle. Super hungry I was and more so with this great unexpected meal, i.e., other than maggi. Other than a few bars of chocolates that I got from Sarchu and those devoured in between, all the strain and effort had been on a hungry stomach, though not felt due to the pretty eventful day of Gata and Nakeela.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-whjisky-nala27.jpg

Cleaned up my plate in no time.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-whjisky-nala28.jpg


and seeing me finish all in a few mts, they even share their own meal with me. Rice and mutton all cooked together in the pressure cooker. That too devoured with aplomb. A video printscreen shot.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-whjisky-nala30.jpg


Later on as the elderly lady fills the tent with holy Buddhist hymns and chants, I cannot but thank them enough for the shelter and food in this heck of a place called Whisky Nullah.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-whjisky-nala11.jpg



By 8 pm it was time to go for bed, but not before I peek and try out a couple of minutes outside to see how the conditions are like in this early night at W Nullah. The realization - there is a reason why no one stops over here for the night. Sarchu will seem like a temperate zone compared to what it is here. Located between two high passes, this is an arid desert land of bitter cold winds - if I have to pick a place in this 500 km journey road where going unsupported in this late month of Sept/Oct one should be little wary of, it would be this land between Nakeela and Lachung la. Not even a BRO camp is anywhere over here. If the dhaba was not there, the tent, stove and the couple of bottles of water I still had would have kept me alive for the night - the reason for which that 5+ kg of camping things being tugged along in all that luggage.


Anyway, I soon go to my designated bed in the front part of the dhaba. With the only guest out there in that dhaba, I gather a few more blankets and pile up 5 of them on top of me and also take out my heavy jacket that I had thought of using at Stok Kangri summit trek. Bone tired, fall asleep soon for the night.


contd..

Last edited by adc : 8th June 2013 at 17:30.
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Old 8th June 2013, 21:14   #131
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I don't have the words to explain my imaginary condition if I were in your place. A big question, did you used to call your family at those times?
Getting repetitive but the write up is amazing. Think of publishing this.
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Old 8th June 2013, 21:27   #132
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Default Re: Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit

Hats off to you for undertaking this sojurn.. you are an inspiration..
I am an avid follower of this thread..
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Old 9th June 2013, 19:35   #133
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Day 10: Whisky Nullah [15,600 ft] - Lachung la [16,800 ft] - Pang [14,800 ft] : 32 km

Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-pang5.jpg


Just before 7, I shrug myself out from the layers of blankets. The night was super cold, the gatorade [the one got from the Army guy at Patseo] and the water in the bottles frozen stiff. A video ps image.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-pang3.jpg


A cup of hot tea to start the day with. Seen here the owners and the elderly lady. Sonam Thakpa, the name of the dhaba.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-pang2.jpg


Not much of a ride today. Deliberately I have chosen to break the journey from Sarchu to Pang into two days rather than one, so that I can enjoy the gorges of Pang.

The last day of September of year 2012 and it is another clear weather day though windy and cold.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-pang17.jpg

Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-pang13.jpg


The dhaba has a cow too, meeting the dairy needs of the owners. It also has 2 blanket cover in the night to ward of the wind and coldness.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-pang12.jpg


The sun is provides the first warmth and so too the tea.
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Breakfast time - maggi and omelets.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-pang15.jpg


A big bye and thank you to these wonderful people at Whisky Nullah - the shelter, food and overall the care and love that I got over here has been overwhelming. A late start of around 10 am, destination Pang some 30 km from here via Lachung la Pass. The inclines start right away from the dhaba at W Nullah. Again a strong cold wind to exacerbate the climb.

Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-pang18.jpg

Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-pang25.jpg


As the climb starts, a 10-minute wait as a big convoy of Army trucks and personnel lumbers down the highway, back towards Manali from Leh. This road will in all probability close down in another 15 days or so. A video printscreen shot and a B/W image of trucks lumbering down this harsh and barren lands towards W Nullah and beyond.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-pang4.jpg

Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-pang76.jpg


A part of the convoy now seen as they start the climb towards Nakeela after crossing the gorge of W Nullah.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-pang21.jpg



The switchbacks rise and rise towards Lachungla - in between still a glimpse of the W Nullah dhaba can be seen, juxtaposed between the two high passes of Nakeela and Lachung la
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Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-pang26.jpg


After some 9 km or so of generous exertion, I see the prayer flags and yellow slab stone of Lachung la. In this 2 hours or so of cycling, the main strain other than the switchbacks was due to the huge crosswinds and the breathlessness as one now climbs into 16000 feet for the first time of this highway.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-pang27.jpg



Quote:
Lachung La (5079m) is the second highest pass that comes in the Manali- Leh highway. It is also one of the two passes above 5000m that need to be crossed on the Manali - Leh highway. The pass is situated between the settlements of Sarchu(toward Manali) and Pang (Towards Leh).
At around 12 noon I am at Lachungla. The wind now almost violent and bitingly cold, it was knocking down the cycle from the stands - as such was laid down.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-pang28.jpg


But I was not going to miss this chance of a photoshoot at a pass. You see at Rhotang there is no slab stone, there is a high pillared sign board, at Baralacha la someone has taken that board itself as a souvenier, at Nakeela with conditions what was like yesterday, we [cycle & I] were lying down on the top at the pass - but today I am determined to have a image with the pass slab stone. I am super elated - at 5 km above sea level and with 4 passes out 5 covered now - multiple self congratulatory images on self-timer follows!
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-pang31.jpg

Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-pang6.jpg

Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-pang30.jpg


After some 10 minutes spent over here in this howling bitter wind, it is about time I enjoy the downhill towards the amazing gorge of Pang.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-pang29.jpg



contd...

Last edited by adc : 9th June 2013 at 19:52.
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Old 10th June 2013, 03:13   #134
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Day 10: Whisky Nullah [15,600 ft] - Lachung la [16,800 ft] - Pang [14,800 ft] : 32 km ...contd..


Lachung la top is around 9 km from W Nullah and now it is time to enjoy the downhill through this strikingly barren yet captivating mountain vistas. Pang dhabas and army camp is around 23 km from high pass of Lachung la.


The road somewhat decent though with loose pebbles and stones and some rough patches. The cold wind still though fierce and I was almost swaying a couple of times during the ride down.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-pang34.jpg



On towards the canyon of Pang, with Lachulung Lungpa stream running right beside the road.
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The landscape is about to change even more dramatically - some 5 or 6 km before the camps and dhabas, the canyon of Pang starts - the ultimate amphitheater of rock and sand
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-pang40.jpg

Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-pang41.jpg



contd..

Last edited by adc : 10th June 2013 at 03:18.
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Old 10th June 2013, 11:58   #135
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Thanks to all the readers for the appreciation. And finally being able to write this travel story, a gush of good memories, interactions and experiences come alive again.


Quote:
Originally Posted by himadrimondal View Post
A big question, did you used to call your family at those times?
Here's my call history from page 4

Quote:
....this trip would never have come through without the support wife and son, Asmita and Bamba, and the go-ahead from them. The only thing that bugged her was the stretch where there would not be any phone connection, i.e., after Darcha and till Rumste after crossing Tanglang la. I am absolutely grateful to the two wonderful guys that I met, one at Bharatpur, after Baralacha la, going back to Manali by car, to whom I requested to call back home when he gets BSNL connection at Darcha/Jispa, and say that everything is okay.

So too the other guy who I met at Pang and going to Leh, who similarly after reaching Leh at night that day called back on my wife's mobile, assuring that I was doing good and progressing normally. At Tso Kar, found out that there is DSPT connection and was thus able to contact home again after the last call from Darcha.

The best phone call back home of course was the one from the Stok Kangri summit height of 20,000+ feet - you do get BSNL signal at the summit only!! - and the call to wife and son back home remains of the one of the best memorable moments.
Quote:
Originally Posted by himadrimondal View Post
Think of publishing this.
Thanks again for the good words. Publishing, if at all possible, is far far away, could not even get up our travel website running in the last 3-4 years or so - though determined now to put a new vigour to it once this travelogue ends. Writing and journaling, particularly in detail, is way tougher than the actual travel itself! There are still another couple of other travelogues [not solo] to write down.

Last edited by adc : 10th June 2013 at 12:23.
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