Heading to Khardung la
After a rest day at Leh it was time to ride through the World’s highest motorable road. The 46 km steep inclined road is supposed to be one of the most treacherous stretches of road in Ladakh. Frequent rain, snow and landslides make it a tough stretch to explore. Thin air, extreme temperatures takes a toll on the rider along with his/ her riding machine. We started at 7 am from our hotel in Changspa, Leh. We headed straight to the fuel station and stood in a long queue of riders waiting to rejuvenate their riding machine with some extra bottles for back up fuel. Nubra valley has only one fuel station at Diskit, which is frequently closed and hence carrying backup fuel was must for all vehicles and bikes. After an hour in line we finally refueled our bikes. The board in the street showed the way towards Khardung La.
We drove on the narrow tarred road which gradually started to give way to rocky sandy patches. The panoramic view of the city of Leh was visible on the left side. After checking our permits at South Pullu check post we gradually entered snow stretches and encountered streams flowing on the roads. We had to halt as our fingers started to become numb, both of us were feeling breathless. The signboard on the roadside showed 18 km to Khardung La. We came across another group of bikers from Bangalore and continued the ride together. Soon the roads turned to mud puddles and slush. Is started raining as we reached the top. Finally we reached Khardung La at around 11.30 am. It was a great feeling and We had to wait in line to click pictures with the board showing ‘World’s highest motorable road’. The top was crowded with lots of excited tourists. After 15 minutes of waiting in queue we were able to get ourselves tea and Maggie. It started snowing and we decided to descend towards Nubra valley.
After crossing the pass we started the thrilling descent. The army personnel had warned us about the ice patches and road blocks on the way down. In one of the slushy section on a turn my bike got stuck. In subzero temperature, it did not start in the next few attempts. I was forced to get down in the puddle. It was not possible to drag my bike in that terrain in freezing temperature. There was a problem with the spark plug. I was out of breath. Several bikers who stopped by to enquire had no other option but to move ahead. After 10 minutes, I dragged the bike downhill for few meters and finally it started. In about 30 minutes time, we descended through the rough section and stopped at a dhaba (food joint). All drenched in rain and snow, it was time to warm up with tea and Maggie. I understood the importance of rain gear that day. My gloves were soggy, jeans and shoes were wet.
After partially drying our riding gear, we headed towards Nubra valley. The weather cleared and the deserts of Nubra with double humped bactrian camels were visible. Unfortunately just before entering Diskit a section of road had a portion of Nubra river flowing through it. While crossing, my lower extremity was wet once again. We finally reached Diskit at around 5 pm and settled in a hotel with a spectacular view of Diskit Monastery.
After an exciting day on the mountains it was time to relax and enjoy the Nubra valley.
Next day- We headed towards the Northern Most Village of India, Turtuk.
After an awesome day at Turtuk, we came to know that Khardungla was closed for the day due to excessive snowfall and landslides. Early next morning we waited for any authentic information related to road condition. It was drizzling. I headed out to visit the Maitreyi Buddha statue and Diskit monastery. The ‘Gompa’(monastery in Tibetian language) was constructed on a edge of a cliff in the 14th century. The monastery was preparing for a function in which his holiness Dalai Lama was about to come. The 32 m long Maitreyi Buddha statue was on another cliff overlooking the Nubra Valley and Shyok river. Walking on the stairs till the top of the monastery was a tough ask as I was gasping for breath. After exploring the prayer halls, the local school and meeting a few monks I headed back to the hotel. It was 12 pm in the afternoon and our team decided to head on towards North Pullu in an attempt to cross Khardung La later in the day. We packed up and started riding in the gloomy weather. The gloomy weather did not look good as we gained altitude. In an hour we were riding through the clouds in the rain. We stopped at Khardung village to have lunch in freezing temperature. Around 3 pm we reached North Pullu check post. The army officer refused to let us go and suggested us to stay back in the nearby village. According to him there was excessive snowfall in the pass. Dejected we headed back to Khardung village and found a home stay for the night. The quaint village had Nubra river flowing along it. In the evening the weather cleared for a spectacular sunset. We had fried rice and soup and rolled into the thick blankets for the night.