Ladakh, Heaven on Earth

Day 3: 6th September 2005 (Keylong - Sarchu)

After a cold and some what disturbed night of sleep, it was time to wakeup. For 6:30 in morning, it was relatively bright, as I stepped out of the tent I was completely stunned to see how magnificent our hotel looked.

hotel chandar bhaga at keylong

Demerits of riding in night were becoming apparent now, we had missed amazing views.

view from keylong flower keylong

We took our time in getting ready and by 8:30 we were ready to head back to Tandi to get petrol. Just before starting off, we noticed that there was a nail logged in Shamik’s tyre. It was a good thing that we were checking our bikes thoroughly before riding every day; else this would have gone unnoticed.

We rode cautiously till Tandi, but this time we were enjoying the views that we missed last night. After approaching the petrol pump in Tandi we got our bikes tanked up and gave Shamik’s bike to the puncture guy. To save time, we decided to eat our breakfast at the petrol pump and it was cooked by none other then the puncture guy.

Me and my bike at Tandi petrol pump

Me and my bike at Tandi petrol pump

shamik bike views from tandi petrol pump

After breakfast and getting the tyre repaired it was time to head back to Keylong and then continue our journey on the Manali-Leh highway.

After an hour of riding, we were in Darcha. This the place where Himachal Pradesh ends and the territory of Jammu and Kashmir (and Ladakh) start. Travelers wanting to cross over have to register themselves at the police check post.

Me posing at Darcha

me and my bike at darcha

our bikes in front of the police check post at Darcha

our bikes in front of the police check post at Darcha

Here my luggage ropes became loose and while I was tying them, Shamik told me he will ride a little bit ahead and wait for me to catch up. At that moment it sounded like a good idea, so he rode on and I started tying my luggage again.

But it was not going to be such a wise decision, after spend five minutes tying my luggage I mounted my bike to head on to Baralacha-La. After riding for around ten minutes or so there was still no sign of Shamik, so I figured he must have been riding a little fast.

By this time the roads conditions had started to detoriat, with my side of the road becoming a gravel zone. So I started riding in the middle of the road, since the roads were quite wide. Soon I saw Sumo cab coming out of the corner, I dint think much of it since there was enough room on the oncoming lane for the Sumo to pass comfortably. But I guess the Sumo driver had some thing else in his mind, as he continued to approach me at 40-50kmph without breaking or taking a side. With a few second to spare and with gravel on the surface there was little I could do except break and try to swerve out of the way.

But it proved too little too late, as my bike skidded on the gravel and the cab still continuing on the same speed soon my bikes exhaust met the side of Sumo’s front bumper. As my bikes exhaust touched Sumo’s bumper, the direction my bike was skidding changed instantaneously (from left to right). Somehow I managed to keep my bike upright, at this moment I was totally shaken up. The Sumo had also stopped, but as soon as he saw he me standing, he sped off. I checked my bike to see whether she was ok, the only visible damage was a dent on the heat shield of the exhaust. The biggest thing that struck me was that I was riding alone and still there was no sign of Shamik.

After tying the luggage back on, once again I started riding. After riding for another 10 minutes or so I finally saw Shamik taking photographs on the side of the road. At that moment I didn’t say anything and just rode off with him following me. But as soon as we took our next break he got a verbal bashing from me for riding solo. After giving him an earful, I cooled off and after drinking water we took out our cameras and started shooting the beautiful landscape.

after zing-zing bar

en route to baralacha la

ow we were heading to the second pass of our Journey, Baralacha-La. At 16500 feet’s, it would be the highest altitude that I had ever been to. The road to the pass was in the worst state possible and it was littered with several water crossings. Road in most of places was broken up and we were having a hard time riding. To top that, AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) had started taking a hold on us and at the worst possible stage we ran out of water. Shamik saw a small stream and went to get some water. But the water was too dirty to be drunk so all we could do was use it to wet our lips and mouth and carry on.

Riding was getting tougher and tougher, but the views were still amazing as ever.

road to baralacha la

my bike road to baralacha la

We finally made it to the top of Baralacha-La by 3:15pm

baralacha la

Now it was mostly downhill, but there wasn’t any improvement in the road conditions.

en route to sarchu

By evening we reached Sarchu and once there we got our self accommodation for Rs. 30 per person! The tent was being run by a husband and wife who came to Sarchu every year during the tourist season and went back to their home in a remote village after the tourist season was over.

Beds were fairly comfortable considering they were made of cement and covered with cotton mattresses. By night fall I had lost my apatite due to AMS and could only manage to eat one chapatti. All I wanted to do was fall asleep, but the fumes from the kerosene stove were making me dizzier. After an hour or so I managed to fall asleep.

Preface, Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6, Day 7-1, Day 7-2, Day 8, Day 9, Day 10, Day 11, Day 12, Day 13, Day 14, Day 15, Day 16-17