Friday, 24 April 2015

Leh-Ladakh : Pillion rider's chronicles - Part 5!

6 souls, a wonderland, 2626 kms and sheer willpower! – The journey made thus!

Chapter 5 : Leh - Khardung La

7th June 2014
The 7th morning brought a lot of apprehensions along as we were told umpteen times that this, was THE ultimate challenge. See what happens when you expect? The reality might be different but your inhibitions are half-a-battle-lost, even before you began. The first stop was the petrol pump, right in the heart of Leh. The town was just waking up and shutters were upped as we waited for fuel. It was here that we saw a lot of riders and less of four-wheelers and wondered whether this would be the case right up to Khardung La. But of course not! Again, we emptied our bowels (this might seem repetitive but if not done, can land you in deep trouble as insufficient amounts of water consumption will surely lead to cramps…not a good idea when on a bike) and asked for directions! Seemed idiotic as we went “Yeh Khardung La ka raasta kahaan se hai!?” Well, we realized that half the traffic was headed there and followed. 

As we started scaling up, you can actually see a major part of the road that spirals up. A Bolero its usual size will look a toy-Bolero if you have good eyesight and manage to gaze that far up. Exciting and scary at the same time as we were not in a Bolero! Sunny had warned me, “Do not run around or laugh like you normally do, there is less of oxygen up there so you might exhaust yourself!” heheh…similar instructions to Hemu. You see, that’s why you need to travel with like-minded people. Good or bad eyesight, it’s the vision that matters! Anyway, so we started scaling and the road in the first few kilometers’ stretch is excellent, to say the least. The trajectory is S-shaped no doubt, but the roads are wide enough for two-way traffic. Although, there was hardly anyone descending at that hour! A common observation when riding in passes is the 10 kilometer stretch; 5 kms just before and 5 just after a pass; which is usually challenging. It’s tough to scale and being at a height, in a land like this, snow-melting hinders (smooth) riding, so to say the least.   
So we started the climb and were amazed at the sheer beauty of the mountains and what nestled amidst. Not much really and yet so much! The rock formations are bare and you see the same stony, barren kind of images…look up the horizon and it will be lined with snow-capped peaks with sparse vegetation seen somewhere in the distance! I waited for air to get thinner and some visual breathing trouble or other acclimatization issues! There were none! We did take 2 halts while climbing up (it’s around an hour and a half journey, add thirty minutes to that if you are on a bike) and captured some beautiful photographs and moments. 

In complete submission!
Main aur mera comb...aksar yeh kiya karte hai!
Lined up our helmets as if bowing down to the Almighty and Capt Sanjay combed his hair with his tiny valuable orange-colored brush, all against the wind! As I see these photos today, they have done complete justice to how clear-minded, clean and happy we were feeling! We could have spent an entire day at such a remote spot but had Khardung La calling. 


Back on the road and we reached South Pullu and took a break at the checkpost. SS did some formalities and we began the ascent to the one of the highest motorable roads in the world. Yes, ONE of the highest. The elevation is not 18,380 feet as claimed by the Himank milestone but 17, 770 feet. Anyway, does not take away the glory of reaching the top as this in itself, was one of the best things we have done so far in our lives! With the last 10 kilometers to go, the road is mainly dirt, gravel and stones and although we could not visibly see any effects of the air getting thinner, SS got the most tired on this particular day and had to take frequent halts while scaling down the Nubra valley on the other side.


The last 3..2..1..kilometer saw an adrenalin rush like none and nowhere before and we finally reached the top and celebrated the ride! Similar eruptions of anxiety and sheer “Yaaay we did it’ echoed the place, manned by the Indian Army. This huge yellow Himank milestone is a perfect take-thy-pic spot for memories, if nothing else, and we parked our carriers too, without whom, getting there would not have been possible!