Hope you have read the previous episode, in case you haven’t, Click here to read episode 05
This episode takes our journey through the Shyok River route to Pangong Lake and taking the road less traveled via Man & Merak villages and to the beautiful Tso Moriri.
Day 08: July 06, 2018 (Friday)
Nubra to Pangong Lake: Approx. 200+ Km
We woke up at around 8 am as if it was a lazy Sunday. We hadn’t taken off our luggage from our bikes the previous day, we walked out of our tents to witness a bright sunny day with clear skies. Our tents were the last accommodation towards the sand dunes. We hadn’t taken a shower since the last 2 days and the first time in this trip that we said no to hot water. A quick cold water shower and nothing much to be packed, we were all geared up. Sandwiches were served for the breakfast and we were set to hit the roads.
We asked the hotel owner; “Bhai, can we ride till Siachen Base? The hotel owner replied; “No, civilians aren’t allowed to ride there. You need to be accompanied by personnel from the Armed Forces and needs special permission to visit there”
We skipped our visit to Turtuk & Thang village, which was not a good decision to do so, and regretted it later. Reaching Nubra; we still couldn’t visit the last Northernmost Village of India.
In case, any of my readers planning for Leh Ladakh circuit, ensure you spend 2 days in the valley so you can visit Turtuk and return back to Hunder.
We bid farewell to the hotel owner and as we were about to enter the main road, Atish bhai said his bike’s rear brake has a failure. A local shopkeeper there said; “Bhai aapko Diskit mei garage milega” (Bhai, You can find a garage in Diskit town) which was around 15 km from here.
We stopped to refuel at the only petrol pump at Diskit and luckily it was operational. The petrol pump had the traditional rollover numerical meter that displayed the fuel dispensed. A full tank to our machines and we reached the main market or the town center.
Atish Bhai wanted a DOT 3 or DOT4 grade oil for his bike’s rear disc brake. There was an oil lubricant shop nearby. As Atish Bhai was picking up a can of lube for his ride, I was astonished to see oil leakage around my Warrior’s engine. I didn’t want to risk the seizure of the engine in the middle of nowhere; hence decided to pick up a can of engine oil, in case I needed a top-up.
We soon reached the garage which was owned by a mechanic named Sonu Singh. The shutters of the garage were half open and his number was written on the outside walls of the garage.
BSNL was the only network that was working there, I dialed Sonu bhai, he said; he had been somewhere to repair few customer’s bikes and said he would return in an hour. It was 10:30 am and we just rested at the verandah of a building there. Sonu bhai took almost 2 hours to reach back at the garage, and as soon he was back he quickly started fixing our bikes.
Atish Bhai’s bike had a rear disc issue, the complete system had to be bled and get all the air bubbles out. This needs to be done very methodically else it will result in a soggy brake and sometimes the lever just plummets till the throttle, this is risky especially in the conditions we are riding in.
Sonu Bhai said; it would easily take an hour to do so. Phani and I quickly carpeted our blue tarpaulin inside the garage and slept for a while. Time for a powernap!!
As soon Atish Bhai’s bike was fixed, I told Sonu Bhai about the power lag issues I faced on my Warrior. I explained about the jugaad the mechanic in Leh did on my bike and how it had gone even worse after that jugaad.
Sonu Bhai had a spare 115mm main jet that he replaced in the Carburettor, the stock one was a 135mm jet. He quickly fixed my bike too.
Once our machines were ready, we saddled up all the luggage on our respective bikes and walked to the nearby grocery store to buy some chocolates and biscuits. We met 2 people from the Air Force who were also buying a few things at the shop there too, and we enquired about riding to Siachen Base Camp, and both the personnel said; you can’t ride there.
It was already past 2.00 pm when we started from here. Post the repair from Sonu Bhai, my Warrior was smooth and could climb any incline that came our way.
We came to a clearing where we could see the dry river bed of Shyok River, this was our next challenge – Riding on this very river bed!
This river was also known as the River of Death, because, in the past, this river had swept away many people and animals, this is not for the weak of heart and many travelers don’t opt to ride in this deadly stream. I don’t blame them! This was no joke!
There are a few videos of bikers trying to brave the Shyok river crossings; we excitedly waited for such sought of adventures. We soon deviated and entered the river bed and reached a small stream crossing; probably the first one in this journey of Ladakh Circuit. But, to our surprise, the water levels were drastically low, the river was dry as draught.
As we quickly crossed this small stream and continued ahead. There were tarmac roads and small bridges which were constructed by BRO. These were constructed to reduce the accidental risks of driving or riding here.
We had hit the roads with anticipation we would find dhaba or hotels en-route where we could stop for lunch, there were no hopes of finding any hotels or dhabas for another 100+ km.
It was around 5 pm in the evening where we stopped under a mountain’s shadow for a pit stop. We sat on a rock from where we could see the dry Shyok River. We were astonished and with a question, did we take the real Shyok Route which we had seen on the internet. Are we on the correct route to Pangong Lake?
We discussed; after the pit-stop let’s just keep following the road to where it takes!
We were starving, we were only surviving on the sandwiches we had for breakfast. Thanks to the Parle G biscuits and a few chocolate bars which we bought at the shop in Diskit. These biscuits and chocolates gave some relief to our growling tummies.
The ride continued in the deserted terrain, riding the brisk single lanes & no roads, over stones and loose gravel. We came across yet another water stream, an easy one again. Atish Bhai went ahead, followed by Phani. I saw a local trying to cross the stream at the same time as Phani. Since there wasn’t enough space for both; Phani stopped midway in the stream, he lost balance, slipped on the stones and fell.
I quickly parked my bike, walked towards Phani and lifted him and his bike with the support of the locals. It was cloudy and we didn’t want to get stuck in the rain here and continued the ride until we reached a small town which had many hotels. We stopped over for lunch where we had Maggie, off-course and some Momos along. It was around 6.15pm and it was broad daylight.
From here, Pangong; was another 20 or 30 km. We reached Lukung village at around 7.30 pm saw a signboard “Himank Welcomes You to Pangong Lake”
Finally, we were near our destination for the day and it was almost dusk. We missed the customary picture of the board that read the distance in kilometers to places; Lasha, Hong Kong, Beijing, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Shanghai, Taipei, and Tokyo.
We missed a picture here, we don’t know how we missed it and reached the place where a lot of tents were pitched on the banks of the Pangong Lake and booked a tent named; “3 Idiots Tent Stay”
Yet again, we didn’t pay heed to unsaddle our bags from our bikes. Picking up only a few essentials, and walked into the tent and asked the hotelier to get some hot Thukpa, Aloo Paratha and Maggie for dinner and crashed for the night.
Day 09: July 07, 2018 (Saturday)
We woke up early to the mesmerizing view of Pangong Lake, also famously known as the “3 Idiots Lake”.
Its always good to visit a place rather than looking it on the television screen
The vast blue lake that huddled amidst the snow-clad mountains, the yellow scooters on the banks and the 3 Idiots Bum chair was sighted on the lakeside. And the best part; no crowd, barely less than a count of 7 to 8 including us. What more can one ask for? It was seldom solitude time.
We told the tent owner to get some buckets of hot water for bathe, but, to our irony, in the time taken by the tent owner to get the heated water from his kitchen to our rooms the water would lose its warmth, and furthermore it cooled down completely to room temperature in the time we took it to the bathroom. Hence, none of us had a bath.
Post breakfast, we walked towards the lake for some photo session.
We decided to take the direct route from Pangong Lake to Tso Moriri riding on the lakeside via Maan, Merak villages. This stretch was a complete off-road trail and hardly few bikers on this route.
At the very beginning of this terrain, my bike’s fork oil seal gave up and the fork oil started to bleed heavily and I had to ride very cautiously, that reduced my speed. I could hear the weird rattling sound from the forks.
At some point, Phani yelled over the intercom; “Maga, I fell, come soon!” I quickly rushed to the place; Phani’s bike slid on the rough terrain and he had fallen at the left edge of the road, the roads had no side railings, had he fallen half a feet more towards his left, he would have crashed into the lake. I quickly got down from the bike and assisted him to pick him and his bike. Luckily, he had no injuries and no major damages to the bike either.
We reached Merak village and bought some water bottles from a house. We only had to follow the tire tracks that were left on the sand. At a point, we saw tire tracks diverging into different directions and we had to stop to figure out the route.
The climate was prickly hot and we had no confirmed path to ride ahead. But we still continued straight hoping we would find some village or someone who could guide us to a village called Chushul.
Post some more kilometers deep in the deserted land, we found a Dump truck and asked the driver about the right direction to Chushul. The driver said, Chushul would approx. be 25 km from here and told that there is an exit on the right side of this deserted land, that would lead to Chushul.
Somewhere, the terrain changed from sand to stones and mud and as my bike’s fork oil leak had spread all over on my bike’s front disk brake, I couldn’t apply the brake near a stone and I jumped off the stone and my front wheel was at least 3 to 4 feet above the ground and the moment it landed, it slid and I had a crash.
Phani and Atish bhai were right behind me and both of them assisted me to get back on my feet. Had it not been for my riding gears, I would definitely have multiple broken bones. Hence I always preach and Follow ATGATT – All the Gears, All the time.
The setbacks on my Warrior now, a bent handlebar, a fully bent rear brake lever, and right footpeg, a bent disk brake lever and a bent front fork. We knew we won’t find any mechanical support now until Manali.
We somehow made it to Chushul and stopped at a small hotel for lunch. Maggie was the only thing available. The cooking gas here was over and the hotel guy was preparing it on a kerosene stove and 2 minutes Maggie took almost 30 minutes to prepare. Meanwhile, we just slept on the bench.
Over lunch, we asked the hotel guy about the road’s condition ahead until Tso Moriri, to which he said, there are no proper roads ahead and be prepared for another stretch of off-roads. Atish bhai negotiated and got fuel by paying some extra money to the hotelier.
The next stretch of the adventure was awaiting us. The roads were a nightmare again. After a few km, we reached the Rezang La war memorial.
After riding for another 45 minutes from here, we just stopped again in the middle of nowhere. It was 4.15 pm, we were damn exhausted, we were riding from the past 7 hours and had only covered an approx. a distance of 110 to 120 km. Our bodies were aching, we just sat on the ground, and we uttered; we will give up riding, we were that frustrated and exhausted. Atish bhai used his bike as back support and rested his head on his bike’s front mudguard; it was a much-needed break to rest.
Riding a few km from here, we saw 2 cars coming our way, I was leading ahead and stopped in the middle of the road and signaled the cars to stop. The driver said; Tso Moriri is quite far from here, another 100 odd km from here. The first question everyone asked, how are the roads ahead, the driver replied; after few km, it’s a single laned tarmac road and we continued ahead.
The moment we reached the tarmac, Phani and I spoke on the intercom, let’s get some good speeds on the tarmac and cover more km which we actually did. We were riding through the Changthang Region which was at close proximity to the Indo-China border.
We soon reached Tara – Tsaga La check-post, showed our Inner Line permits and continued ahead and made our way till the check post of Loma Bend.
At Loma Bend, there are 2 routes; a route to Hanle and another to Tso Moriri. Though we had permits for Hanle, we decided to skip it and ride towards Tso-Moriri.
From here the roads were good till Nyoma. We stopped for chai at Nyoma. Atish Bhai bought some more liters of petrol from the tea shop.
It was around 6.00 pm in the evening and we foolishly decided to ride ahead. In case, any of you reach Nyoma in the evening around this time, better lookout for any accommodation and stay for the night.
We foolishly continued riding on the under-construction roads ahead. Some time ahead, the bungee chords that I had tied to my luggage were loose and one of my bags fell off in the middle. Phani was behind me, so he picked up the bag and tightened the luggage on my bike.
We soon reached the check-post at Mahe; and, Phani realized that his tool-kit bag was missing from his bike. That bag had all the tools we carried all the way from Bangalore.
I asked Phani and Atish bhai to wait here at the check-post and I went back in search of the tool-kit. Because, when my bag had fallen, we ensured all our luggage was in place, so we were sure and confident that the tool-kit bag might have fallen somewhere close by.
I rode back looking on the road in search of the bag and reached the point where my bag had fallen. But, the tool-kit bag was nowhere to be found and I decided to return back. As I took a U-turn on the road, few construction workers there came and told, a bag from one of your bike’s had fallen and they had kept it safely in their hut. Both Phani and my bike had Road Thrill flag on our bikes and confidently told that the fallen bag was ours as the workers easily recognized the Road Thrill Flag.
I thanked them for their kind gesture, tied the toolkit on my bike and started to ride back. It was pitch dark and I knew I had to ride till Mahe check-post, which is around 20 km and would easily take an hour. While returning, my bike’s battery issue started again. I couldn’t switch on my bike’s fog lamp and honk at the same time. When honked, the fog lamps would turn very dim, and thought, the lights were more important than the horn.
Almost, after 2 hours I reached back at the check-post to see Phani in tears. He said, there was no sign of you since you left, there were no vehicles coming to ask the whereabouts of me and he rode back in search of me for few km, couldn’t find me in the dark and rode back frightened till the check-post. After so many rides together, it was the first time I saw Phani frightened and in tears this way.
I told him; Bro, I am fine, what’s the plan next. The security at the check-post told you will find a few houses in Sumdo village around 20 km from here. He strictly instructed us not to ride ahead from Sumdo as the roads ahead from Sumdo are very bad and risky. He confirmed us that the roads till Sumdo are ok and manageable to ride in the dark.
It took us around 90 minutes to reach Sumdo. It was 10.30pm when we reached there. Just at the start of the village, we saw 2 people walking down the lane, we stopped and asked them if there are any stay and food options.
He said, “I just closed my shop; and, my daughter and I were walking back home” but quickly also said, I can assist you people with food and stay.
He opened the shop and asked his daughter to cook some food while he took us to his home. He said, there is 1 empty room at his home and said, will show the room to you and if OK, you guys can sleep there for the night. We said OK, we only need a place to rest for the night. We followed him to the room, he said there are no lights here, and kept a solar operated lamp inside the room and said, there are 4 beds here on the floor and few blankets, you can use them all and said, let’s go back to his shop for dinner.
Upon reaching back to his shop, his daughter said, rice and dal are getting ready for you guys, it would probably take few more minutes and meanwhile you can eat some biscuits until the food is cooked.
We were stunned with their simplicity of life and their eagerness to help travelers. Who would open their shop at 11’o clock in the night and cook food for some random bikers? That too at this border region!
We were very lucky and happy to get food and stay there. Especially getting rice and dal after having Maggie continuously 3 times a day.
Over dinner, the shop keeper’s daughter heard Phani and I speaking in Kannada, she asked; Are you guys from Karnataka?. She said; “I can understand a few words of Kannada and continued, I was studying in a college in Mysore for a few days but had to return back to her village”. She said she used to like the Idlis and Dosas of the South.
Post dinner, the shop owner told us, you guys ride to the room, while he and his daughter would lock the shop and walk back.
While returning back, we missed the building and rode ahead as all houses were looking similar. At a point, we could see a skull of cow or yak and the area looked haunted. We quickly turned back in search of the house, the shop owner assisted us with the torch and guided us to his house.
The girl asked us, if we wanted our phones or power banks to be charged, she can charge them through their solar operated lamps if kept for charging the whole night.
We left all our luggage on the bike, threw off all our riding gears and fell on the bed.
Our plan was to reach Tso Moriri, but we could only make till Sumdo that day.
To be continued in episode 07: Tso-Moriri to Manali and the journey back home.
A glimpse from the next episode:
Until next time.
To continue reading Episode 07: Click Here