Pangong Tso to Leh - Final Chapter - Ladakh Diaries Page 4 Skip to main content

Pangong Tso to Leh - Final Chapter - Ladakh Diaries Page 4

The morning in Pangong Tso was the most beautiful morning ever. My window had a perfect view of the lake and between us were green crops and vegetables grown by the locals. It is too far from the world and no vegetable vendor, fruits or anything else come here. You eat what you grow beside your home. The last village was Tangtse which was 30 km back and this was the day we were to move from Pangong Tso to Leh with our bikes.

View from the window

The sun was shining brightly and the cold wind filled the dry atmosphere with a view of snow that fell last night on the mountains just a few meters above us. I went outside to the door which was already open and the sunlight was coming inside forming a door shape on the floor. Outside was a small dog, white in colour, bombarded by thousands of smells he was sensing here. All these smells made him too excited on this bright day. He had a very short concentration span. He would smell something and a second later run towards another to smell something else. I sat down on the stairs in the warmth of the sunlight and the temperature was around 2 degrees. The dog and the lake were the only things worth watching at this point.

A little later, when the dog was busy smelling all kinds of new things in life, a girl shouted from the road.

 "Karpo! Karpo!", she screamed towards the dog. 

She wore a red tracksuit, hair tied to the back and a red-black dog belt in her hand. Karpo ignored her completely at this point to the extent that he did not even look there. 

"Karpo!", she screamed and walked two meters ahead when Karpo smelled something new. That new thing was me. He ran towards me and jumped on my lap and closed his eyes. The girl stopped when she looked at this scene as we did not have any common language and Karpo had already shattered her self esteem in front of a stranger who stayed in her house. Karpo stayed in my lap for a few minutes and then he saw a goat on the road. A new creature in his area was not something Karpo liked. It spoiled his morning mood and he ran barking towards the goat when in the middle the girl caught him and put the belt around him. Although, the goat ran away bringing Karpo back to peace.

Karpo not so happy with the goat

Pangong Tso is said to change its colour according to the time of the day. I had already seen a light purple-blue shade last evening while coming here. My situation, as described in the previous post, did not let me enjoy that moment though. It was 8 in the morning and the lake had an ocean blue colour in it. The colour that we get in a few mocktails. The sun made its waves shine like the hair of a creature such as Karpo. It was as beautiful as I had seen it in the movies and pictures. We went to the banks and sat down to enjoy that moment. This was probably the only time we would see this in our lifetime. We both knew it. A lot of the places are famous and recommended to visit but in a few seconds, we realise that we can leave after one photograph. Pangong Tso was not like this. A lot was going in our minds. We had to travel 200 km on the bike today but with each passing minute, I knew I was coming close to leaving it. No picture could give justice to the view of clear blue water of which one side I was sitting and the other side brown mountains were teasing me as they will enjoy this view every day. Or do you really enjoy the things you see every day even though they are worth it?

Pangong Tso in the morning with my friend on the opposite side

We came back to our guest house and met the owner one last time. An old man with a Mexican hat and bent knees smiled at me. The wrinkles made their best appearance on his dry skin like a cat's whiskers. Meanwhile, I caught Karpo who was smelling something under the soil. His digging expedition made him deaf and this time it was me Karpo was ignoring. We left Pangong Tso towards Leh. The path was beautiful. We were driving in the mountains and the lake was on our right side. It went on for around 15 kilometres and by that time, even if I wanted to take a look at it once more, I realised we could not have got any more than this.

While riding a few kilometres ahead, I saw a pool of water in front of me. The same pool that a guy in Shyok had warned me about and I crossed a day before. But this time, I could not believe the amount of water I was seeing here. I stopped. My friend was behind me. I looked back at him and he was staring at the water like someone who is just about to jump. A car was approaching from the other side and it looked like a perfect way to measure the depth of water and the path below it. If the car bumps in, it is probably a hole on the road. We need to remember that. The tyres touched the water and started going deep. The bumper of the car had now touched the water and tyres were all inside it. The water crossing was way too deeper than I thought. The first thing that came to my mind was the guy that warned me by saying my bag would immerse inside it. He was right. They would! I looked at my friend again. He looked at me and laughed. "There is no other way. We have to do this.". "Yes, let's go," he said.

I started towards the water and a few inches before touching the crossing I realised, there was no road beneath the water. Only gravels. The car was much easier to drive than a bike now and we did not realise that when the car was passing. The water was flowing perpendicularly from the mountains towards the river on the right. Flowing water, so much depth, a bike and gravels beneath. It could not get any more than this. Slowly slowly I moved in the water. Other bikers saw me while I looked like a broken ship that was going deeper and deeper inside. My side bag and the bike's cylinder were immersed completely inside. Half of my tyre was inside and the handle became heavier and heavier. I didn't know how my bike was still burning the fuel when half of it was inside water including the silencer. My friend followed me in the crossing and we crossed it slowly but safely. Now it was the turn of another crossing. This was much harder as it had a road beneath but with holes. My bike bumped inside one hole which made me immerse even deeper into the crossing. 75% of my shin was inside while I crossed the most dangerous crossing with a flowing river in Ladakh.

Pangong Tso or Ladakh had challenged us and asked from us more than we had imagined or done in the past. My friend was an inexperienced motorcycle driver and while he rode safely on these roads, I was impressed every day by how he passed through these hurdles easily. The challenges were extreme in our journey in Ladakh. The road towards Leh was beautiful. We crossed Chang La on the way which had very little oxygen in the air. So little that even my bike was not getting enough to burn the fuel. I started feeling headaches. I could realize now that I had to snatch oxygen from the air rather than get it involuntarily. I was breathing with effort now while riding the bike above 5500 meters from sea level. Soon I had to try even harder to breathe.

While everyone had praised Khardung La to be an oxygen-poor area, I felt Chang La was much more difficult. The roads to Khardung La were awesome. Here, they were broken to the point that there were only stones. This made our speed even lesser especially when our bikes were not producing enough power. The more time it was taking to climb to Chang La and cross it, the more air we had to breathe for oxygen. Soon I reached my saturation point. I could not inhale more air than I was already and the lesser oxygen in my blood made my eyes tired and banged my head harder. Fortunately, without any emergency requirement, we both crossed Chang La.

A few hours later, we started seeing more and more homes, government buildings and traffic. All those scary brown mountains with full-flowing rivers and deserts and super-fast winds had disappeared. We came back to the hostel. I remember on our first day in Leh how people were telling their stories, experiences and giving everybody tips to follow. It was our time now as the table had turned. We started giving tips to people in the hostel and I was careful to always mention Chang La and the condition of the road towards it. Nobody knew about it as Khardung La had more precedence. 

Ladakh was one of the places that had nothing - no big monuments, no fancy malls or no man-made wonders. You just go from one place to another and just live there. You are not here to see anything but feel the depth of warmness in the people and just enjoy the pure untouched natural beauty. A beautiful Ladakh that has the scars of our wars and soldiers is much more than it is hyped to be. It was a place that I believed and still do, should always be visited once in a lifetime. I looked out the window of my aeroplane and did not see the airport building. I saw those dusty roads leading to Nubra Valley. The sound of Shyok river. The water crossing. Military guys recording our videos when 30 bikes passed in front of them. The blue water of Pangong Tso. The man I gave a lift to. The pink rocks. The clear night sky. The people I met. The experience I had. The memories I took and a lost me in those memories. 

Thank You

Harish Rajora


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