Ladakh trip Day 7:16th July – (Sarchu – Leh)
Next day we left Sarchu at 7am. Today we are heading towards Leh and it is a 6 hours drive spanning more than a 110 kms spread across valleys, snow-fed streams and rocky terrain. After crossing the checkpoint that marks the Himachal Pradesh state border, we were set for another ride of our lives. I personally would like to call this ride as ‘pure evilness’ because it demands a rigorous disciplined driving across rough terrain in an enthralling scenic environment that can force you to cheat on your timed journey towards Leh. You really have to resist or give into the temptation of taking multiple halts for photography. We drive over the remote Nakeela and Lachangla Pass located at16600 ft (5065 m). Here I find the mountains mocking at me. It is here you realize the fragility of human existence over the mighty continuation of these mountains. It is here you realize that you are nothing. It is here you just surrender to nature. Nothing moves. Nothing survives. It’s just you and the five elements of nature. I felt like burying my desires, ambitions, notions and beliefs here. We are approaching Pang (which is the first habitation after 79 kms) and we manage to cross the twenty one hairpin bends called as the Gata Loops. It’s got a strange combination of ascending and descending terrains. We cross various wind sculpted formations. And in these lonely lands we find a human being waving at us from the distance. As we approach this person, we realize that he is a construction worker belonging to BRO (Border Roads Organization). He was thirsty and asked us for a bottle of water. We generously gave him one and he walked towards his site. Its mind boggling to watch people working in these tough conditions. I wondered whether they suffered from Monday blues, quickly to realize the hollowness in that question.
We reached Pang by early afternoon. Tea and biscuits kept us going. It is here we spotted the yellow beaked Tibetan crow. It’s an interesting sight to watch these crows battling for food in a region like Pang. We proceed further and pass through Skyangchu Thang which is the biggest and highest plateau on earth on a flat stretch of 42 kms. It is pure awesomeness. My instincts told me that I should just run this stretch shouting and screaming. I wondered where these instincts originated from? Maybe this place struck a chord with some Neanderthal part of my mind. We drive further to reach the second highest motorable road in the world – Tanglang la Pass situated at 17582 ft (5328 mt). These heights can be quite magical and can often leave a permanent dent of satisfaction within your consciousness. Satisfaction – not because you have achieved anything remarkable. Satisfaction – because you were alive to witness this moment in your life. Tanglang la is also home ground to the Tibetan wild ass, wild horses, marmots and hares. People belonging to the Khampa tribe live in these valleys. A stone’s throw distance from the Pass, we saw people removing snow from the roads. It took us a while to move ahead. I was busy trying to touch the clouds. We descended into the Indus Valley now. Here we enter a quaint little village for lunch. Going further we enter the official boundaries of Jammu and Kashmir district. And a strikingly different landscape inhabited by beautiful people emerges. Juley! We are in Leh!
The beautiful architecture of Leh town seemingly imitates and compliments the natural shapes of the land – something that I have never seen in India. The enchanting landscape with its clear waters reflecting the colours of the sky and the colourful prayer flags that don the city gives you an assurance that this place is truly unique and charming. We feel odd to see civilization considering the fact that we were in places just a few hours ago where there were no human beings! With great difficulty we manage to figure out our hotel. We check in and indulge in conversations about our road trip – things we saw, things we learnt, things we would like to make a part of ourselves and so on. Today I didn’t even realize when I slept. More than my body, I think my mind needed rest. And while it rested, I dreamt of mountains.