Travelogue | Day 12: Leh (Khardung La)

September 3, 2012

Now that I didn’t have to catch a taxi or anything, I got up leisurely at around 9:00 AM. Got ready and headed off to get my bike which was all ready by the time I reached. I was contemplating whether to have breakfast or not, for it was almost 10:00, but stopped by at the restaurant next to the bike place (the same place I stopped at on the other day) to have yummy Cheese Toast. Once done, I was on my way to Khardung La pass, the highest motorable road in the world!

I wore a sweater over my t-shirt, and a sweat shirt over the sweater. I had a pair of gloves on, but I forgot to carry my muffler (I was too lazy to go back to the room for it). I had an extra sweater in my bag, just in case. Khardung La is about 40 kms from Leh. The initial few kilometers were plain road, nothing great. It wasn’t even cold or anything, and I was getting suffocated. After about 20 kms, where I had to submit my permit, the ghat road started and it got cold. My hands and arms were protected, but my face was freezing. I managed to tie the extra sweater I had in my bag as a muffler on my face and took off further.

Now starts the fun part. About 5 minutes from the point where I cover myself, it started raining, but since it was so cold, the rain drops turned into ice before they hit me. My clothes were getting wet and I started shivering for the cold was getting worse. The bike started to skid, and the roads suddenly became empty for most people stopped on the side because they didn’t want to drive in this weather. But I kept going, on and on, till I reached 18,379 feet (disputed) above the sea level. The feeling was wow, but my whole body was too numb to realize its surroundings. I parked my bike and rushed into the shack. It was as if the Gods were waiting for me to take protection, for the moment I got into the shack, it started pouring cats and dogs outside. I felt so god-damn lucky!!

I ordered a black tea, and used it to warm my hands and get into my senses. My phone got wet, which was my primary concern, so dried it off before I settled in the place. Five minutes though, the rain stopped, and the whole place was covered in close to 2 feet of ice. I got out and clicked some pictures and enjoyed the beauty. It was magnificent, and I felt awesome. It wasn’t an easy ride up, and I felt great for I did it without any problems. I was shivering, but still manged to roam about the place a bit. I got back to the shack and ordered for maggi and another tea.

The roads got pretty bad, and people stalled their taxis and bikes on the road. Army troops were helping public move their vehicles. But I had to go down somehow for I was freezing. I needed to go down. I put all my gear up, and started off slowly. I rode in the path the trucks had made, so as to avoid the ice as much as possible. The bike still kept skidding, so I had to avoid using the brakes as well. Trust me when I say this, it was the most difficult and adventurous ride of my life thus far. One wrong move, and forget hospital, you wouldn’t even be able to find my body!! The first 5 kms were really bad, and then, it was normal. Uff.. one hell of a ride.!!

The ride down seemed longer than while going up. I lost one of my gloves mid way through, so turned around and went looking for it for a while (which I couldn’t find), so this made it even more longer. I finally reached Leh at around 3 PM. I roamed around the city a bit on the bike, and stopped at a sandwich place in Changspa to grab a bite. I ordered for a Veg Sandwich with some Mushrooms and Onions. What they served was exactly the opposite of what I had imagined it to be. They served something similar to a Subway sandwich, with cold veggies and cheese, without proper dressing. I was so disappointed, for it even cost me 80 bucks.

I came back to the room, watched some TV and slept for a while. Late evening, I got out, returned the bike, and then went to dine at Dolphin Bakery on Fort road. It was a garden restaurant, and I ordered for Veg. noodles. I asked him to make them spicy, and they turned out to be yum. I was so craving for some spicy food. Once done, I bought a huge chocolate doughnut and ate it on my way back. It was alright, not so great.

I had planned to go rafting the next day, but I was too tired from the ride in the morning. I was initially planning to finish rafting the next day and take the bus to Manali on day 14, but the bus I wanted to take, the deluxe bus run by HPTDC runs only on even dates. So I had to wait till Sept 6 for it. I had one free day, and decided to just stay in the room doing nothing the next day.

Watched some more TV before calling an end to the second most thrilling day of my life.

Day 11 : Leh (Pangong Tso)
Day 13 : Leh

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I am Sasikanth Paturi, a big time foodie and movie freak, and a pretty good critique.

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