Archive for June, 2014

Leh to Manali by road

June 25, 2014

A two-day trip, this time from the comfort of the back of a car. Plan A, leave Leh early (5.30am) so that we could enjoy the three 4,800m plus passes in daylight, and have time to relax in Jispa in the evening.

Everything started very well. We crossed the TaglungLa – the world’s second highest road – and dropped down to the Morey Plains. Enjoyed seeing yak, horses and goats grazing on what we thought was the valley floor. Bit of a surprise when the road bent right at the end and a chasm opened up on the left. Best not to look.

Crossed the LashulungLa without trouble and stopped in Sarchu for lunch. Leh 2014 (73)Leh 2014 (64)

About 3pm we were at the top of the BaralachLa and enjoying snow all around, more on this pass than on any other, which was odd as this is the lowest of the three. When we got stuck in a traffic jam. A combination of snow narrowing the road, and lots of lorries. We were stuck for four hours but did eventually get going again. Only to be stuck again half an hour later.

It quickly became clear we were going to be stuck for the night. Without food, facilities, or really enough warm weather clothes. We did our best, settling down in the car with the driver. I couldn’t sleep – couldn’t lie down because the altitude (4,800m) was affecting my breathing – never mind the cold.

The Indian police arrived at 1am to try to clear the road but to no avail. Not sure I’ve ever been so pleased to see sunrise.

Leh 2014 (69)The next morning it was clear there would not be a quick resolution, so Martin and I walked down 15km to get out of the altitude and get some food. We waited at a seasonal cafe, and waited, and waited. We had just arranged a couple of berths in a tent for the night (with even less clothes as we’d left everything in the car at the top) when the first lorries came down at 4pm.Leh 2014 (77)

Our car appeared at 5pm and we set off. Quite comic at the check point in Darcha. Big queues of lorries and cars held back until the pass was clear – everyone stopping us to find out the situation.

Arrived Manali at midnight, tired but pleased.

The words ‘never again’ come to mind.Leh 2014 (87)Leh 2014 (85)

Some of us were enjoying the weather

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Time off in Leh

June 24, 2014

Took the time to visit the City Palace this year – once the highest building in the world. Vie of Leh from the palaceLeh rooftopsThe City PalaceMore window viewsThe Victory FortFertile valley cultivation around LehPrayer flags beyond the Victory Fort

Down in the Nubra Valley

June 24, 2014

The Nubra is remote, high altitude desert. It’s actually two valleys – the Nubra and the Shyok, both combining multicoloured lower hills, snow peaks behind, and a wide sand and shingle-strewn river basin.

Once we’d recovered from the journey over, we spent the next two days recovering before embarking on the ride back. Recovering included camel riding and visiting our friend Tondup, to say thank you for helping us and to join in the village honouring of the anniversary of his father’s death.

Leh 2014 (35)Leh 2014 (38)Down in the valley

 

Off to the Nubra Valley

June 24, 2014

For those of you who aren’t on Facebook, or those who just want the long version, here’s the detailed version of our ride over the world’s highest motorable pass, the Khardong La, into the Nubra Valley.On they way up the Khardong La

Safely arrived in the Nubra Valley. What a day.

We climbed the Khardong La without difficulty, and stopped to take pictures.

Less thanLeh 2014 (141) one kilometer into the descent, we punctured. On a hire bike, so no spare tyre, inner tube, or much in the way of tools. And all at 5,000 meters high. Also our phones don’t work in this state, and there isn’t much signal anyway. We were rescued by a group of Enfield riders from Delhi. It took two hours to fix the puncture – not great at this altitude – but we were very fortunate to have their help.Leh 2014 (143)

We continued on our way, only to find the bike wasn’t handling well. All this on mud and rock roads over run by snow melt. I got off at regular intervals, ostensibly to make the bike easier to handle for Martin. In truth I was too scared to stay on. We got stopped for road repairs and found ourselves talking to Tundup Wangail. A native of Nubra, Tundup is a policeman who has been working in Srinagar and Jammu. He had been posted back to Leh and was on his way home to see family near Desket.

Tundup drove me to the army check point at North Pullu, while Martin rode down. There we assessed that the rear tyre wasn’t properly inflated. Tundup found us a pump, and phoned the bike hire people as we were not sure we could continue. They offered to come out, but it would take them three hours from Leh. It was already 4pm and we still had at least 2 hours to ride.

We agreed Martin would ride down to Khardong village – at least it’s Tarmac from North Pullu down, and Tundup would drive me. Martin made great progress and we ended up convoying down to Timor, where the road splits – Sumur one way, Desket the other.

The descent wasn’t without further incident. The road between Khardong and Khalsa is very twisty, narrow, lots of ‘marbles’ and occasionally very broken up. Plus we ran into a sand storm in the valley.

But by the time we reached Timor, we were only 15 kilometers from our destination. And lo! A friend of Tundup turned up at the junction, on his way to Sumur. He offered me a lift and to guide Martin to the camp. We made it. There was the little matter of a couple of fords to cross. Oh and part of the carrying rack on the bike fell off as we arrived at the camp.

We’re going to do the whole ride again in three day’s time. If we’ve recovered.