Disclaimer: I have tried to recreate the events, locales, and conversations from my memories of them. The below-expressed views, opinions or analogies are personal and may not be in line with the widespread conceptions. Please go to Motorcycle Diaries -> India: Ocean To Mountains (or Click here) to check out the previous events.
Date: 16th August 2016; Route: Leh – Hemis – Pangong Tso
“I wandered everywhere, through cities, states and everywhere I went, the world was on my side.”
After spending 3 nights in Leh, it was time to move on. As I was loading the luggage on my motorcycle, few of the guys who had checked into the motel last night started conversing. They were coming from Delhi on an SUV and had a hard time to reach Leh. They said the bridge at Sarachu had collapsed (which we crossed a couple of days back). Whoosh, thank god, I started believing that I had broken my jinx, which was great news, only if it were true.
There were few issues with our bikes which we wanted to fix before heading towards Pangong Lake; my motorcycle’s speedo cable was gone which made my console dud. I guess it happened when I changed my tires in Amritsar. My partner’s RHS mirror was broken as a result of the fall he took at Rohtang La. When we enquired, we found that there was no Yamaha Service Center in Leh but there was a Royal Enfield SC.
We rode straight to the service center only to know that it was closed. We checked with the nearby construction workers, they said: “It will be open only by 10 AM but there is a garage close by if you guys are in a hurry”. Since I didn’t want to waste any time to fix a minor issue, I decided to go on with the local mechanic. Over there, I met the same guy (whom I met in Amritsar) riding with his 3-year-old daughter and wife; they were coming from Pangong Lake. He told us to reach Pangong before it gets dark because the water level in the streams which we need to cross goes up after sunset. We were glad to meet them for the information they provided beforehand.
In the view of the fact that there were no petrol stations available once we cross the city, we decided to get the fuel top up at the last petrol station in Leh. By the time we reached, they had run out of fuel. It was not a good idea to wait to refuel at the last station; we should have done it at the filling station which we encountered on our way. Though we had additional fuel in the jerry cans, we chose to ride backward for around 25 KMs to get the top up and then advance to Hemis monastery. In my opinion, it was nothing like Thikse. It was just another structure with a roof, walls, and tons of restriction, especially for photography. I would say, keep the place as optional and visit only if you have more than enough time.
Anyway, it was time to ride towards the lake post lunch, but the Police stopped us at the first check post. They asked for a self-declaration form which we need to provide to visit Pangong. There was nobody at the Police check post when we came back with the form which we got from a shop round the corner. It was not surprising; it happens in India all the time and we were aware of these situations. So without further ado, we started riding towards the lake.
The nature of the road changed after every 500 meters. By this time, we were well versed with it and were advancing with necessary caution. After few KMs, we got a stretch of awesome road within the perimeter of Durbuk, an army base camp; they know how to maintain the road and the surroundings. It was almost 7 PM and we were 10kms away.
As my friend had indicated, the water level started rising after sunset. Gradually, we saw water flowing from the parallel stream to the road. There was a point where almost 10 meters of the road was submerged in water. I stopped my motorcycle to inspect the marshland since it was dark and muddy I didn’t notice any kind of pot holes or low-lying water logs, and I assumed the road to be in a good condition. So I took a leap of faith. And wham, my bike was submerged in water at the engine level. I had to crank up the engine to make sure that the engine doesn’t stall. Because if it did, there was no way I could have pushed my bike off that mess. With the heart in my mouth and instinct in my brain, I steered the bike towards the right but my motorcycle landed in another pothole and the rear tire got stuck. I accelerated hard to drift my way out of the mud. As soon as I got out, there was a stretch of dry grains of sand like the ones you have at the beach. As a result of high revving, I lost control in the sand. This was the third time in the last one minute where I went off-guard. Anyway, after chewing my heart for few minutes, we reached Pangong. Since it was getting cold and dark, we enrolled ourselves in a camp which was providing tents around the lake. This was the second time we crossed our budget for accommodation but it was totally worth it.
P.S. While we were having our lunch, we met a guy who didn’t know Sunny Leone and the irony was, his GF believed him 😛