The last letter was getting a little too long, so here is the other half of my journey from Manali to Leh. Hope you like it, Mom.
We reached Pang at around 6:30 in the evening. The final few kilometers were a pain. Pang is the highest army transit camp in the world. Also, a rest stop in the high altitudes for the riders and travelers. It was really cold, Mom, when we got here. The bumpy ride and chilly winds made it unbearable to go ahead for the day. Also, there was a storm clouding up in the skies ahead.
Two of us had symptoms of AMS, Mom. We had to take them to the brilliant and well facilitated Army Medical Camp in Pang. They were given doses of oxygen to bring up their levels to normal. It was a risky decision to spend the night at such a high altitude. But with the storm growing up ahead and minimal daylight, it was impossible to cross Tanglang La. The moment the sunlight goes away, the temperature goes to a steep drop on the passes. The last thing you want to do is get stuck there. After a few cups of tea, we were greeted by a snowfall. The night was cold and long.
It pierces like hell to wash the face there. ^_^
The next morning we woke up to a better weather. We started early for the next checkpoint, the mighty Tanglang La. A further steep ascent from Pang takes us to the beginning of the vast More Plains. Sumkhel Lungpa river carved beautiful formations around the river floor. At a height of 4800m, More Plains are guarded by the mountains on either side. This wide, flat valley is a paradise for the bikers. 40 km of sheer beauty to ride through.
Towards the end of More Plains, the ascent to Tanglang La starts. We had to take another break right before that. Another storm was brewing up. But the sky cleared sooner than expected. A few tea and laughs later, we started to climb the legendary Tanglang La. To my surprise, the road was much better this time around. I remember taking an hour and a half last time, due to the rugged roads. It took us hardly 45 minutes to reach the top.
Tanglang La top was quite cold but more crowded. There were tourists, riders, and travelers all around. It's funny Mom, to find so many people at such a remote place, 1000s of kilometers away from big cities. The image on the top of this letter, Mom, shows the road on the other side of the pass. It was a very welcoming sight. We immediately started our descent.
The journey down was so amazing Mom. I was so full of adrenaline that I couldn't wait to reach the next checkpoint, Rhumtse. A beautiful little village that marks the end of 4200m+ altitude. I couldn't notice much of a difference in the air thickness, but I'm pretty sure that my co-travellers were in a relief. We decided not to stop at Rhumtse, but continue another 50km to reach Upshi. This village marks the beginning of the Leh valley. Carved by the Indus, this valley is beyond beautiful. We waited for the co-travellers at Dhaba with fresh hot momos and tea.
It was well past noon when we started the journey ahead. A few scattered clouds and diffused sunlight marked this enticing valley that was coming ahead. The gorgeous Himalayas on the left side and the rugged, ferocious Karakorams on the right. It was an orchestra of nature Mom. Karakorams are dry and almost lifeless. They look like giants made of just dried mud and stones. On the other side, the mighty Himalayas looked gradual but smooth.
A little past midway, we could see the high and serene Thiksey Gompa. They say that a monk, Jangsem Sherab Zangpo, was praying here when a raven grabbed the prayer cake and flew away. The raven placed the cake at a very appropriate place to build a monastery. Taking it as a sign, the name "Thiksay" was given to the gompa. After a few kilometers, we could see another cliff monastery called Shey. It was a palace to Namgyals. Entering the vicinity was another great experience. It was like coming close to a place of high value and attainment. Only to be greeted by heavy traffic later. :D
Mom, I hope you like this excerpt from the journey. I will soon be telling you more about my experience in Ladakh. Absolutely missed you there.
Your Stubborn Child,