Monday, July 30, 2012

5 - Leh Diary - Sarchu

Link to Part 1Part 2Part 3, Part 4

There are two types of people in this world, people who ride motorcycles and
 people who wish they could ride motorcycles.

Based on our Tuesday's drive (120 Kms in 6 hours), we rose Wednesday morning leisurely. Rain last night has refreshed the mountains. The view from the hotel balcony was excellent. Had a nice breakfast and little we knew at that time that could be our last breakfast with 'choice of menu items' before we reached Leh. 


We thought could cover distance upto Pang (180 kms) if we ride for another 1.5 - 2 hours as the daylight was available till late evening (upto 2000 hrs). After a quick stop at  what is known as 'last mechanic till Leh' in Keylong we started the ride. 

The road after Keylong upto Jispa was very good (compared to earlier ride) and we kicked ourselves not to drive upto Jispa on earlier day. The ride was smooth, and we rode in random sequence and reached the check post where we're supposed to enter in J&K. 4 bikes had reached and we waited on remaining two. After 10 minutes we started getting jittery and sent the bike with spares back. They were gone for more than 15 mins and still no news. We then decided to climb a smallish curve and see what was matter. And there we had our first accidents (apart from several failed trials by Nitesh on earlier day). Bhavna was riding and Puru on Pillon. As the tar (black-top) surface turned into loose grave, she could not control the bike and collapsed. Fortunately, she fell on the mountain  / rocky side of the road and not on the other where there was a small pit/valley (which we had just climbed). And just by stroke of some more luck did not survive any head injuries even without helmet which she discarded in Keylong as it was tighter on her cap. Her hand however was swollen. Our first aid kit was handy and we immediately applied cream/spray and tied the crape bandage that we were carrying. 

Soon after the check-post we saw one of the first Tso (Deepak Tal) on the way. The water was crystal clear. It cheered the group a bit and helped atmosphere !



Few KMs ahead of the lake, we were again held-up as the bridge was being repaired by BRO team.


I took the lead after the bridge was opened and drove ahead of the group. I crossed the ZingZingBar, a base camp for Bara-Lacha-La. The road after that was a steady climb. Both the Bhaga river and the Chandra river originate from melting snow at opposite sides of Baralacha La, the former flowing southwest and the latter flowing first southeast and then northwest to merge at Tandi. The strech of 18 KMs was perhaps the most memorable I had ever during the ride. I stopped on one of the curves, to give way to passing military trucks and to notice our group which was riding quite below. Close to 15-20 minutes lead.

The desert/plain which I had just crossed was stunning. And then all of sudden after the last curve the life changed. All hills were covered in white and there I thought I knew why heaven is shown in white color. I stopped the bike and walked over the ice. I thought I will cry just by looking at the beauty surrounding. It was pure bliss. It was truly, a moment God sent! I was alone with no other sign of civilization in sight. My mind wondered to home. I thought how both - Sapna and Asmi – would have liked here. Such was an effect of the surreal silence that I could even concentrate on my breathing instantly – see/feel the breath as it happens - a technique I learn at Vipassana (and hardly practiced after the course).  It must have been 20 mins or so and then some passing trucks brought back me to the ground. But those were 20 mins extream happiness. I think I was in trance.




The group has still not arrived and I was thinking of going back. When I now look back at the incidence, I feel that I was not worried about the group, but wanted to run away from the hypnotic place which has literally got me. Soon a group of other bikers passed and I was told that my gang will be there shortly. Which arrived still 10-15 mins afterwards and here I learnt about second accident of the day. Just after the bridge, on the road which was more of sand and loose gravel, one of the safest driver – Kishore has fallen. When we hired the bikes he was concerned about how he is going to tackle the hair-pins with his smallish height. And here we were with two unexpected accidents in less than 40-50 kms of stretch. 

The height at the Baralacha la (pass which was less than 500 meters ahead) above 5,000 meter and air was thin. Puru and Mahesh were feeling uneasy - first symptoms of AMS. We crossed the pass and passed rivers (mentioned above) without stopping & without taking many pictures as I would have liked.  ...

After some descend we reached Bharatpur (4300 m) and stopped for lunch but main importantly to take the stock of situation. The tent was comfortably warm and food was welcome ! Mahesh failed in his catwalk-test (striaght line walk) and confirmed primery symptoms of AMS. Puru was jittery (and also on the verge of AMS). And two injured persons. Medical help was available at the military camp at Sarchu. So after some recovery we drove through steady descend and reached plains ... and what a plains it was ! The road was OK after the initial descend but the views on offer really gave something more to cheer about... 





Sun was still shining when we reached to the Military camp at Sarchu. We saw a doctor who the crape bandage with a wider size (compared to our first aid kit) and advised to get X-ray done once we reach Leh. At the transit military camps on the way (Sarchu, Pang etc) - the officials are helpful, are quipped with basic facilities and can provide ncessary medication (oxygen etc) in case of severe AMS.

We stopped at Dol-Ma's Inn at Sarchu. Except 2 persons (one of which is your's truly) whole group was having trouble adjusting with lower O2 available at 4300 m elevation. Even a small walk to get the bedding & blankets from other tent was task kept us huffing-puffing.  After a customary dinner of dal-rice we called off a day. I sat outside the tent for sometime - the sky was clear and could see many stars. My childhood memories come back to me - I remember the days when we used to sleep under the open sky on a terrace above our house in Nasik and there used to be so many stars in the sky, just like this day. Tried to recall unsuccessfully when was the last time when we enjoyed the night sky. Barring an odd passing truck the universe was quite. Sleep was a welcome thought after such an eventful day. 

With people suffering from AMS and cold, the night got noisy. Sometime after mid-night I thought of hiring separate tents - if available for the next days stay. Judging from the situation it was obvious that we have to stay for one more day before everyone gets acclimatized to the altitude. I also found out why - Segmented sleep - as they say was quite common in ancient times -  is not very good thing after 8 hours of biking. Fortunately I had at least  a 'Second sleep....

1 comment:

Nevin said...

I've always wanted to do something like this. Motorcycles and mountains. And those girls with long legs think we love them more.