Table of contents for Road to Ladakh
- Motorcycle Diaries. Road to Ladakh… (Delhi – Kaza)
- Motorcycle Diaries. Road to Ladakh (Kaza – Keylong – Sarchu)
- Motorcycle Diaries. Road to Ladakh (Sarchu – Leh)
- Motorcycle Diaries. Road to Ladakh…Leh – the land of monasteries…
- Motorcycle Diaries. Road to Ladakh…at Khardung La
- Motorcycle Diaries. Road to Ladakh (Leh to Hunder)
- Motorcycle Diaries. Road to Ladakh (Bidding adieu to Leh)
- Motorcycle Diaries. Road to Ladakh…at Tso Kar
- Motorcycle Diaries. Road to Ladakh…Riding Back Home…
The flat terrain and straight roads near Sarchu did not last long. After crossing River Tsarap soon after Sarchu, the road starts ascending. As I scaled the good roads, I saw two interestingly named bridges – Brandy Bridge and Whisky Bridge! Wonder why they were named so!
Then came the Gata Loops! These are 21 hairpin bends that will take you 4190m to 4630m AMSL. You’d hit Gata Loops after 25kms from Sarchu tents. These bends took me up by more than 1500 feet in less than an hour’s time. The views from Gata Loops were too good. Clouds and the sundays were playing magic over the rocky mountains!
However, here I was reminded of the caution our group-leader Santhosh Vijay gave at Kaza about the oil-trucks and their dangerous habit of taking shortcuts at these loops. Evidently, these trucks ply between Ambala to Tandi and Leh ferrying petrol/diesel and the drivers get paid about Rs.35K for a return journey – high incentive for a trucker leading to hazardous driving habits! Watch out for them here!
At the top of the Gata loops is Nakee La, located at an altitude 4740m AMSL, which for some reason is not as famous as other Passes on this route. The terrain is very dry after Nakeela with no streams or rivers enroute. The ride ahead was monotonous as the road descends into a dry valley and quickly climbs up towards the next pass – Lachulung La, which is located at an altitude of 5059m AMSL.
Hereafter, the road becomes serpentine and moves down through a narrow canyon – this was all very picturesque! Sadly, I didn’t stop and take any pictures – I simply enjoyed the ride. As the road descents to Pang, life was infused into the scenery from the clear flow of a stream – Kangla Jal. It soon widens to appear like a river, flowing next to the army camp of Pang, at an altitude 4600m AMSL. Just across the road is an army camp where a sign proudly proclaims it as the ‘world’s highest transit camp’.
Pang was about 80kms from Sarchu. This was our first halt of the day. We met Dorma Aunty – the sweet lady who runs the Shanti Dhaba. Our RE teammate Aakash told us stories about her kind behavior and good food from his earlier experiences. After filling myself with omelets and rotis, we moved ahead towards Morey Plains. The plain area starts after covering around 4 km uphill road from Pang. The road is mostly on the plain for around 30–35 km, before it again starts to rise to Tanglang La.
Voila! The roads that led to Morey Plains were superb! I relished riding at 80kmph after days and days of bad roads! Ride’s going be superb now, so I thought.
How grossly mistaken I was!
After 20kms of very good roads, we hit the under-construction roads. Bad, very bad they were! It was as if I was riding perennially over speed-breakers! The area appeared uninhabitable and has no construction at all, and also no population, save the migrant construction workers. Its was an extremely tiring and tedious ride; we also were forced from time to time to off-road into sand and ride wherever the roads were blocked for construction – BRO is constructing a two-lane road here. I always find riding in sand really painful and painful it was even this time. As we ascended, the road became worse – it is all under construction. Heavy amount of gravel on the road made the ride very tiring and I was in fact forced to stop several times before reaching Taglang La – the second highest motorable pass of the world. This was the worst patch to ride till now.
Despite a mild headache (one shouldn’t wait at high Passes in such case), I rested at the Pass for a good 15minutes. I needed it, badly!
After the Tanglang-La descent, we reached our last stop of the day – Rumtse village, which is located at 14000ft AMSL. A brief halt here helped me relax with a cup of lemon tea and a chitchat with BRO’s road-workers, who hailed from Jharkhand. Such workers, I observed, were painstakingly constructing the road all through our journey. Far from there homes, they were engaged in hard labour at the most inhospitable terrains and in harshest of weather! Some toughness this act merits.
Leh is about 80kms from Rumpte. The road was not-so-bad and gradually turned good as we entered Karu, a town having the first petrol pump after Tandi. All through this stretch, small villages, green fields and kids saying ‘JULLEY!’ – a greeting in the Ladakhi language – will add life to the relatively straight road to Leh. We crossed Upshi and Shey Palace en route to enter Leh at about 7pm.
Leh – here I come! What an amazing feeling it was! No words can do justice to elation that I felt when this picture was being clicked.
I checked in at Hotel Namgyal Palace on the Fort Road. A leisurely hot-water shower took away a lot of pain of the tiring day. Good food and nicely done room soon made me forget all the miseries of the Sarchu tents!
The next day was to be the rest day – I was in Leh and there was so much to see around. And then, we were to drive to Khardung La – world’s highest motorable road! With these thoughts, I dozed off…