3rd June 2015 – Day Five
Leh Palace, Shanti Stupa and Diamox
Jeevan woke me up in early morning. He had to leave for Khardung La. But isn’t Khardung La closed yet? Doesn’t matter for him, he had to go – he had limited leaves in hand. In case he can’t proceed he’d come back from there, but for now, he was to go.
Well then, I bid him good bye. He paid me his share of room rent. I gave him my number in case he feels it necessary to contact me.
That was last I saw Jeevan. He never called me back. No idea whether he was able to cross Khardung La or not, I had never seen him after that day. I did not even have his phone number so could not establish connection with him.
One thing I noticed today, on the fifth day of my journey, that there’s no more body pain. Yes, fatigue was there, but I still had time to rest. It was just 6:30 in the morning. So I slipped under the blanket again.
Finally got up at 9. Became fresh and knocked at Sumit’s room. They were also ready. Another room had been vacated, so Vineet and Preeti had also checked in in the morning, and they were also almost ready. What’s the plan for today?
Apparently, today is our rest day. We need to go to the DC office once to get the permit for Marisimik La. And then we would visit Leh Palace, Shanti Stupa, and Spituk Monastery.
Nature is so strange sometimes. Jozila Pass remains covered by snow throughout the year, but Fotula Top or Namika La Top does not get snow, though they are at higher altitude than Jozila. Similarly, Khardung La remains covered by snow throughout the year, but Marisimik La, despite of being 300 meters higher than Khardung La, does not get snow. Marisimik La does not have any constructed road, it’s all gravels all around. The entire route from Fobrang village is riding on gravels. All off-roading.
Finally we came out of the GH (Guest House) at 11:00 am. There is a German Bakery in front of our GH, we had stomach-full brunch over there, and got introduced to each other. Sumit belongs to Uttarakhand, works in Gurgaon. Gurdeep is from Ambala, works in Noida. At first site they look like brothers – it’s hard to believe that they were introduced to each other just in February this year, few months back. Sumit was going to Chitkul, where he met with Gurdeep on road – same way I met them two days back in Sonamarg. Both of them are passionate bikers. Sumit has specific interest on Street Photography, and he seems to be well interested on current affairs, basically he keeps interest on everything, except one.
Girls! He is just twenty eight, and already decided not to get married, because he is already married to his bike and camera. So he does not want to increase his baggage anymore.
Gurdeep, on the other hand, is a family man. He has a wife and a kid. He also loves riding, and has already travelled lot of places – even Spiti. The only inexperienced guy in this team is myself.
Vineet and Preeti work in an IT multinational. The lad is from Indirapuram and the lady belongs from Mathura, not married yet, but they have plans to get married soon. We can call them lovebirds. I could understand his hesitation, we were three bachelor and pseudo-bachelors. He was the only man with his girlfriend, so he was neither being able to mix up with us initially, nor being able to devote full time to his ladybird. The lady was comparatively smart.
After brunch, our first destination was DC office. District Collector’s Office. We have to take permit from there. It was not far away, just some walking distance, a big polo ground, and the office was overlooking the ground.
The sky was dull. Leh in June is normally full of Sunlight, blue sky, but we did not see a pinch of blue in the entire horizon.
Leh palace visible far away on top of a hillock.
Everyone was saying it’s an unusual weather for Leh in June. Ladakh normally does not experience rainfall so much. When the entire India prays to its Gods for rain during monsoon, Ladakhis pray to their God to keep uninterrupted supply of water from its glaciers. They never pray for rain. We have seen what happens when rain creates havoc in this region, in 2010. The flash flood almost destroyed this town.
Taking the permit is just a mechanical process, we got it in our hand in half an hour. So, the next destination was Leh Palace. We had already moved so far from our GH and so near to the palace that it doesn’t make any sense to go back to GH and take out our bikes. The local people showed us a narrow lane that would take us straight to the palace.
But the lane was neither very short nor easy to cover. It goes through someone’s courtyard, someone else’s stable. Walking through it was a unique experience. Some part I had to guide the rest, because others, especially the ladybird was not gathering enough courage to cross an aged yak.
We walked slowly towards the palace. The lane was steep at some points – and there I could realize I was not as young as them. Sumit, Gurdeep and lovebirds were climbing the steps with ease, where I was having to take rest after every four-five steps. So others also had to stop to keep pace with me. Anyway, nobody seemed to be annoyed because of that. They were utilizing the time by clicking photos, and Ms Preeti was tirelessly posing in different angles for her boyfriend’s camera.
Finally we reached to the entrance of the palace. Purchased the tickets and asked for water. After having two glasses of water I could breathe easily.
Next, visiting the palace. For me it was the second time, so I guided others inside the palace.
And then we came down the same path, descending takes much less time, we reached to the market very fast and ran for a full lunch. It was almost 3:00 pm, we decided to skip Spituk Monastery for today. Time would allow us to visit only Shanti Stupa.
Ms Preeti is otherwise a very jolly, good girl, but she is from Mathura – whatever food she sees, she confirm twice – “Yeh Veg hai na?” (Is it vegetarian for sure?). Finally she took one bowl of yoghurt and asked innocently – “Yeh Veg hai na?” Really, how can yoghurt be non-veg, I could not figure out.
We had lunch. But what about tomorrow? Can we go to Khardung La tomorrow? The sky is full of black clouds. Manali route is also not open. It doesn’t look like Manali route would open before we go back. Either finally we would have to go back via Srinagar, or I would have to transport my bike by some cargo back to Delhi and I’d have to catch a flight. Riding to Delhi through Srinagar for the second time is impossible for me.
However, we five decided not to take any chance for Khardung La tomorrow. We would start for Pangong Lake via Chang La pass. It will take two days and by the time we are back, Khardung La should be open. We can also go for Marisimik La after reaching Pangong. Rain is not normal here. If it is raining today, after two days it should be all clear.
Took out our bikes from the GH and started for Shanti Stupa. I was feeling nostalgic while navigating the lanes of Leh – just three years back I had walked through these lanes. They haven’t changed much. Here that T-shirt shop, there the curio shop, that corner the nice restaurant we had dinner in 2012 – we crossed them one-by-one and finally reached Shanti Stupa.
Again the same thing, I had already seen it in 2012, the new experience I had this time was a nice melodious chanting by a Buddhist Monk inside the adjacent monastery.
Khardung La Top visible from Shanti Stupa –
Shanti Stupa – cloudy sky at the backdrop.
And then we spent the evening by roaming inside the market, the Tibetan Refugee Market, and then we remembered that we would have to purchase few things for next day’s journey – bungee cords, jerry can for carrying extra fuel, and a pair of good gloves. The Karol Bagh Gloves were of no use.
We purchased petrol can, bungee cords and then reached an Army shop. We chose some “-20 Gloves” which claims to protect your hands even at -20 degree centigrade temperature.
We would travel light the next day. Excess baggage we’d leave at Mrs. Linda’s GH, because we were anyway coming back after 2 days. Only thing that remained incomplete was inquiring about the transportation of my bike back to Delhi. I made up my mind – come what may, I would not go back riding the same Srinagar way, if Manali does not open.
Damn tired us, entered a restaurant, and filled our tummy. Sumit and Gurdeep took a quick nap on each other’s shoulder.
At 10:30 pm, when I was done with my luggage and preparing for a good night’s sleep, someone knocked at my door. I opened, it was Vineet, “Sir, do you have extra Diamox with you? Our stock has finished.”
Finished? How many have you consumed? Since when are you taking the Diamox?
We were having it since last two days, tomorrow we’d cross the Chang La, and we have just one capsule – so if you can spare some …
I gave him two Diamox. I had almost the entire strip intact. I told him, don’t take so much Diamox – your body has already been acclimatized.
Vineet disappeared. I called up home, and finally went to sleep at 11:30 pm.