Today was going to be a tough day. Our energy levels were already down and two of us, Ashok and Pandey, were suffering from high altitude sickness, and the rest of us weren’t feeling too upbeat ourselves.
Joshi and I somehow managed to drag ourselves out of our sleeping bags and went to wake up the others. Even walking around at that altitude felt like a chore. I was also quite tired and even though I didn’t have a headache or anything, I was in an irritable mood. The nice guys at the mess gave us hot water to freshen up and we all were ready in time for breakfast. The breakfast was amazing, typical mess fare of aloo puri and curd.
By the time we were done with breakfast and loading our bikes, the convoy had already started moving towards leh. This was bad news because crossing a whole convoy would be tough in the hilly terrain. We decided to let the convoy move ahead of us and give them a head start.
Ashok’s altitude sickness was also quite bad by now, so we took him to the MI room and got him a couple of minutes of oxygen too. It felt nice, according to him :-)
The camp was located at the bottom of a plateau and as soon as we climbed up the hill, all we could see for miles ahead of us was arid dry land known as the more plains. I knew we would hit more plains today but didn’t know that it would be so soon. That combined with my irritable nature today I kept moving on even when Joshi and Sandhu wanted to click the obligatory more plains pics. Now that I think about it, I think I was also suffering from a mild case of altitude sickness, just that I didn’t have a headache. Anyway, the others took a couple of pics while I kept moving.
This was supposed to be a flat land with miles and miles of flat good roads, or we’d been led to believe. But that wasn’t to be. The road was fine for a couple of kilometers and then it vanished, just like that ! And all we were left to ride on was … sand and dust, the really minute small kind, the kind that gets into your mouth/nose and clothes even when you’re all covered. A couple of jeeps full of tourists were stuck in the mud and helping each other get out and we’d have stopped to help them had it not been for the fear of getting stuck outselves. Ashok almost got stuck once and I had to go back (after getting out myself and parking my bike on solid ground) and push his bike out of the sand.
The convoy had taken a different route once on the top of the plains and were travelling on the far end essentially making their own road, so atleast they weren’t a problem for us.
I took a break only after the plains ended and just before the climb for the next pass, Tanglang la, started. The climb was quite uneventful and we made to the pass in good time. The road was still bad but I guess we’d gotten used to that by now. It was scary site, though, watching trucks trying to take an ascending hairpin turn. We saw one truck almost go down the hill when the driver misjudged the turn and had to brake and go back a bit to turn (and climb) again.
Tanglang la at a height of 17582 ft is considered to be the world’s second highest pass. Ashok did a wise thing, considering his condition, and didn’t spend too long at the pass. He had already moved down the other side of the pass to lower altitude by the time the rest of us reached the top. We took a couple of obligatory pics and paid a visit to the temple of moved on.
Once we crossed the pass and came down, the road was mostly good and we were riding through small villages with awesome views of beautiful multi-colored mountains.
The scenery was so good that we didn’t even realise we were so close to leh. Infact, we had finally entered Leh district. We were all excited and in a hurry to reach karu as soon as possible and so didn’t stop much along the way.
We reached karu well in time and started looking for the place where we were to stay for the night. Our mobile phones were working again so called up a couple of people and found out about the acco and dumped our luggage. Sandhu had to go on to Leh to get Akhilesh and Kunal who had reached in the morning by air and were arranging to rent bikes for our trip to Pangong tso the next morning. That took them quite a while and then they had some problems with the rented bullet which they somehow managed to get back to karu. They reached Karu around 10 at night. The rented bikes, btw, would continue to give us problems.