Morning at Hunder on Day 8 was pleasant with sun rising clear in the sky. As normal practice we were running out of time when we finished our breakfast and luggage loading on bikes. The day was going to be unexpected because we had chosen unexplored route to reach Pangong Lake from Nubra Valley.
|Nubra Valley deserts|
The ride started at 8:30 AM. As we hit the road, in couple of kilometers, Himalayan Odyssey bikers started appearing here and there. We ignored the crowd around us because in an hour or so we had to divert to different route.
We had just completed 30 KM of ride for the day when weather changed suddenly and it started drizzling . All four guys stopped to put on rain coats but not me. I had lost sadle bag last day somewhere near Khardung La, which had 5 leter petrol, Rain Coat and some T shirts. I packed my DSLR in two layers of polythene and rode ahead.
Our way separated at Khalsar towards Pangong Lake. This was the point where we said Good Bye to crowd of bikers and rode towards unexplored route and almost no vehicle moment on it. Initially the road was awesome but soon sand on narrow road in wall like mountains and river flowing along it slowed down my pace. From left to right hand side driving also did not help much. All other four riders rode hard ahead of me.
From one of terrain I saw never ending desert and brand new straight road in the middle of it. Now we had to go down. The ride looked too easy for a while. For our surprise, we saw a jeep coming from other side. He advised us to not to go on this route as road is closed few kilometers ahead. But we were determined and moved ahead.
The Ride on brand new built straight road was crazy. It felt like we are riding on sea bed with big walls of mountains shaved by sea water. Riding alone can sure be scary task here. Its a no man land with no clue of lives for miles and miles from here.
On the way was a place called Agham, and every kilometer was marked. So we decided that once we reach Agham we will take a break. As we were reaching near Agham, the road condition started to deteriorate and in few kilometers we were riding on rocks and sand on road. I was eagerly waiting for Agham and my hunger was demanding something to feed in. As I read Agham 1 kilometer, I took a cool breadth and rode ahead.
Arrival at Agham was surprising. This place had only one house and co incidentally an old lady came out of the house and said, "Julley" which means Hello. All hopes of getting some food had shattered.
Around 200 meters from Agham, there were two roads, one straight and another up north diversion. There was no sign board, no people and no vehicle. Looking at the map we had a clue on which road to go but we did not want to take any chance keeping in mind time availability. So we waited for sometime and we got to see one jeep. Our idea about the road was right. Jeep driver also told that, "Road is very good and you will enjoy the ride".
The road beyond Agham was actually no road. In sometime the entire road disappeared and had some mark of Army truck moment. This time Ladakh had some unique roads to us on offer. The entire desert was full of hug rocks on which we had to ride. The mantra of surviving here was only one, "Ride Hard". There was no other option to ride here. There were times when both wheels of bike were in air, front wheel was forcibly thrown to either direction by huge rocks under it and rear wheel got stuck behind adamant rocks.
The sun had come up and sky was clear by afternoon when we were riding off road. We had to remove warm clothes as it was turning to be the hottest day of the trip.
The story of riding on rocks did not end here. A patch of around 400 meters very close to river flowing along with extremely narrow path was all under landslide, actually I should say, Rock sliding. It seemed that fresh sliding has happened as we were unable to see any mark of vehicle moment on accumulated rocks on road. In this situation it was very dangerous to ride. Applying the mantra of riding hard on it was never a choice. With lot of struggle I manage to cross. Anurag and Sudhir always made things look very easy but for me this ride never looked easy though I enjoyed every bit of it.
|Riding on rocks - Me|
The ride continued and river flowing along us kept spreading wide and wide. We crossed the river at a camp of BRO workers, the bridge was well built by Indian Army. Road on the other side was no more different and ride further continued off road on rocks.
We happen to meet two BRO workers and I asked about the road conditions ahead. They just said," You have to cross this river five kilometers from here, and if you cross the river and then road is ok." That was disappointing. We had already spent half day riding till this point.
Since there were no roads, so all of us kept riding in different paths. In sometime, I saw that Akshay and Mohit disappeared, I could see little bit of truck wheel prints going towards river. This was the time to cross river but it was evident from far itself that it is just not possible to ride through high current water, especially when you never know how deep the water is. We met two BRO workers here as well, they clearly said no to cross the river.
In five minute time we were clear that we are going back to Leh. It was already 2:00 PM there and we had to ride back all the way till Khalsar, ride uphill to Khardung La and followed by downhill ride of another 2 hours from Khardung La top to Leh.
Ride up to Khalsar felt damn fascinating with off road riding, big rocks on the way, sand, river, brand new roads, straight road till eye site goes and a close escape at rock sliding area. None of us except Mohit had guilt of not reaching Pangong. The whole credit goes to the valley in which we were riding. As a rider it feels a sense of achievement when we ride off roads which are unexplored, and this was one of them for us.
A lunch on the way to Khardung La top was big energy booster. The sky was very clear and we were happy that today we will have ample time and space at Khardung La for photographs as entire Himayalan Odyssey had gone early in the morning.
After crossing North Pullu, all of us got stuck at landsliding area where BRO was trying to clear the mess. We were told that the road will be clear by 5:30 PM, almost delay of one hour in our ride. What else other than photography for bikers, we spent entire one hour making different and repeated poses. Mohit was still disappointed.
The thirst of previous day of photographs at Khardung La was fulfilled today with Sun set and bright weather with no bikers there. The top looked very quite and calm with few army people, few tourists and some bikers, unlike last day. All of us very happy this day.
With lot of stop overs for photographs and other breaks we reached Leh at 8:30 PM. Mohit had already booked rooms for us.
The plan to visit Pangong Lake did not materialse next day also as ride from Leh and back would have made entire day hectic keeping in mind long stretch yet left for our trip.