Ladakh and Changthang : The Wilderness Chronicles
It is cold. Which is unusual because its June. Its not supposed to be cold in June, esp since the sun has broken out partially.
After days of intermittent rain, its sunny today.. Partially that is.
But for me, its cold. I am very cold. I am freezing. The air must be around 12-15 degrees C, but it does not matter.
The song "Numb" is humming through my head, and its not helping because I am cold, not numb.
I guess where I am standing, it would not matter June or September. the river is always cold, and when you are standing in the water soaked above your knees, you would be cold.
I do not like to stand in the cold river. but I have to. I have to walk those 20 long meters, but I do not have the courage, as with every step the water gets slightly deeper.
The stones are slippery, but thats another problem.
Thankfully, Vaibhav enters from the other side, and confirms my worst fears. The water is going to be more than a waist deep.
The white elephant cannot cross this river.
We have to go back. But we can't... Because the mountain has fallen.
We cannot go forward, because the bridge has fallen.
Are we trapped..........In the middle of nowhere on a cold wild lonely mountain?
............. The Journey begins!
A 10 day journey, through the unknown corners of ladakh, through roads we did not know existed, and through roads that actually did not exist.
From Nubra to Pangong without any La, through the china road running parallal to the border all the way to Hanle, and finally through the unmarked dirt track to the twin lakes of kyun tso.
This time we did the Changthang loop, the way a loop should be done, all on a prayer, and google found gps coordinates.
Here go the teasers
And here is the steed
bring it on Tsk1979, i am already hooked to this travelogue after reading the above. on the flip side, another round of non productive hours in office starts
Awwright, let it roll baby roll!!! But I'd expected at least ONE teaser pic to go with this narration......
Btw, I'm guessing this is Nubra to Pangong, the so-called new "road"?
Day 1 : The change of plans
Almost the whole day has been spent on weather satellite images page. Thing do not look so good. Today is Wednesday, and the plan is to cross Baralacha La on saturday or even sunday.
However, by evening it is clear, that the road is not going to be open by saturday.
Plans have to be changed.
We will go to Pathankot.
As usually the 1pm start time is delayed to 4pm. Thanks to office meetings.
Today is going to be a long lonely run all the way to pathankot.
This time we follow a different route.
From PB border we go to Banur road, and then to Ropar.
From there we take the "expressway" as its grandiosely called to hoshiarpur and finally to Jalandhar Pathankot road.
Though its called an expressway, its a double lane undivided road, with expressway class toll gates. At the gates I discover that with both of us sitting inside, the white elephant weights 2450kgs
Finally its around midnight we are able to locate a reasonably priced hotel.
Standalone, 1000rs for a few hours is expensive, but we are in no mood to roam around Pathankot at this time.
Thankfully, the room is really really good!
As we go down, and take down part of the luggage to take to our room, I discover a fact. A very painful fact.
I have forgotten the tripod..
The opening post has made me to ignore everything else I was doing and follow your journey.
Bring it on tsk.
Alrighty then, the chronicle begins! Already there's the shroud of crossing Baralacha La and things will definitely become more interesting as the journey progresses. Wish you the best of luck for the roads ahead. :thumbs up
Don't you feel like kicking yourself when you realize that you've left your tripod back home. :eek:
Day 2: Pathankot to Srinagar
Its a sunny morning. Not cheerful at all.
Firstly I have forgotten my tripod, and secondly, I do not really like to travel through Kashmir. Hotels are expensive, food isn't tasty. I know many swear by Kashmiri Kababs, but when you have been fed on the tastiest Punjabi butter chicken, Rahra chicken, tandoori chicken etc., everything else seems silly.
Other than that, I feel the govt there to be fleecy. There are toll and excise barriers which cost 130rs to get to leh, and then 130rs to get out as exit excise. If that was not enough, the "tourist towns" charge 50rs just to pass through.
Heck, they have a 30rs toll even on the Srinagar bypass!
If you get great expressways for the toll, its understood, but paying all this, and then driving on narrow roads, with potholes and crazy traffic, it gets to you.
Last but not the least, the taxi and truck traffic is hell.
Trucks usually move in convoys of 3 or 4 with few meters space in between. When you overtake one and try to squeeze in, they try to box you. Either you overtake all 4 of the JK numbered trucks, or you go at 10kmph behind the behemoths.
To add icing to the cake, you have army convoys. When you are caught amidst one, you have had it.
anyways enough of the rant.
We start around 9am, and scout for tripods in pathankot, but there are none. I also send an SOS to my friend in Leh(ajay), and he promises to arrange something if possible.
Meanwhile our POA is to reach srinagar, and shop over there.
So its 10am as we lumber on the NH1 among a million trucks.
A quick meet with Vaibhav and his friends, and we are on the Samba bypass direct to Udhamnpur.
thankfully, traffic is light, and we make good time to Jawahar tunnel. At around 15 minutes past 3pm, we are at the "Titanic Viewpoint".
Thankfully the army canteen serves great Dosa, and we have an omelette with it. What a combo!
The weather meanwhile has turned bad. Its cloudy, and drizzling
Soon we enter the valley, and though the roads are good, the rain is blinding.
If this continues even the Zoji la may be closed.
Somehow, we make it to laal chowk well before closing time, and fine a shop which sells tripods.
I buy the base Vivicam version for 900rs. For sure I know its available for 750 in chandni chowk.
But there is no choice.
Moreover, something has happened to phone networks, and I am unable to inform Ajay that I have purchased the tripod.
After that we foolishly head to Dal Lake front for hotels, and get rattled by the prices!
Time to head back to city, and find a lousy hotel for 1000 bucks.
Its already 11pm when we sleep.
alarms are set for 4:30am. We are getting the hell outta here, and definitely reaching the sonmarg checkpost before 8am
TO BE CONT.....
Damn, another unproductive day at work!
I'm hooked and waiting for the unfolding of the saga.
Even then, consider the amount of toll money saved :)
WOW!!!! Another one from tsk. Cant wait for the whole picture, need to postpone many plans now :)
Keep it coming.
Welcome Back :)
Or... are you posting this from Hanle observatory??
Seems that you've had a great trip. Waiting eagerly for updates.
Day 3 : Srinagar to Leh, the Canonball run
its not even 6pm as I stand at the HP fuel pump filling up the safari.
We have decided. We will drive to leh. No kargil stop, no lamayuru stop.
We are early, and we can make it.
From the early tourers we know that Zoji La is the only obstacle, and after that its a clear run.
So early morning, amidst breaking clouds and sunshine, we make the dash for it.
Pics of Dal lake
Traffic is thin, but for early morning its still too much.
We overtake countless taxis, tempo travellers and buses.
By 7:30am we are at Sonmarg.
Time to use the wide angle lens
At the market we get to know that the gates will open around 9am, till then its waiting time
We take a quick eat break, have some nice omelets(which will become our staple breakfast for the entire trip), and go to the checkpost.
Now its time to experiment with the new panasonic FZ-35
From what I see, I can safely sell my 74-300 now
Thats me with the Panny
and thats what panny is capable off!
15 mintues past 9 the gates open, and we are going to Zoji La!
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