Day 5 : 13 August 2013 : Kargil to Leh
The plan was to start around 6 and do a leisure drive to Leh spending time at POIs and for photo-ops. However, the complimentary breakfast at the Hotel ensured that we leave around 0720. Couple of calls exchanged with Vishwas and it was decided to meet at the Petrol Bunk on the Leh road.
Getting ready, iPhone was put to good use by Cheena, while the morning hues displayed their colours all around
From our Hotel balcony
We met Vishwas and group at the Petrol Bunk, got the cheeta’s thirst quenched with “Iraq ka paani” and started for our destination of the day – Leh.
While we had done our breakfast, Vishwas and group thought that they’ll have it on the way. I told them to have whatever they can as soon as they can find it, otherwise it would only be available at Mulbekh. Since the destination for the day was just 212kms, it had to be a leisurely drive with many photo-stops. And they started soon after we drove ahead!
What’s in your rear view mirror?
An army gypsey being towed away. By the time it reached Fotu La, rear left wheel of the gypsey came out as the axle broke. So much so for rescue service!!
The roads, except for initial 2-3 kms were fully tarred and wide. We crossed Vishwas and group on the way and drove forward towards Mulbekh. At one such photo-stop, they crossed us.
Some vistas enroute
Tried some macro shots at one such photo-stop
Soon we reached Mulbekh and regrouped. The Maitrai Buddha is bang on the road itself and it can’t be missed.
Kids going to school.
The kids, when requested for a photograph, readily obliged. Seemingly they are accostomed to strangers asking to click their pics. They must be feeling weired!!
Sheperds with goats. Funnily enough, the sheperd asked for some money for tea. When we asked him to have tea at the dhaba, he denied!
And of course time for some group photographs
Soaking in the colours of Ladakh, we started ahead.
Can you notice the herd of goats and sheep?
Sun playing hide and seek with the mountains
Soon we crossed Namik La and kept the pedal on the metal
The weather was cloudy and the sun was enjoying playing hide and seek, giving different hues and colours to the mountains
Some more hide and seek pics
Crossing small hamlets
Did you noticed the donkeys grazing?
With pedal on the metal, we soon crossed Khangral which seemed like a painting in Brown, Green and Yellow. Khangral had a big mosque under construction just on the roadside.
And then we reached Bodh Kharbu in short time. The bridge at Bodh Kharbu was under repair and hence we had to cross the river – literally! Only that there was no water 🙂
Sorry for the hazy picture. The car was literally jumping!
After Bodh Kharbu, we stopped along side the road, to test our strength in throwing stone to the largest distance
We drove ahead to see some more brown and hide and seek in action
Further around 1110 hrs, we reached Fotu La which happens to be the highest point on Srinagar-Leh route. The drive was rather a cakewalk compared to the Godzilla pass. This time we stopped again for some photo-op.
Horses carrying prayers, flying.
Seems that the new sign-boards have been put taking in consideration how easily to pronounce the names and hence “Fatula”.
The road just ahead of Fotu La for about 300 meters was under repair, and BRO were on the job.
BRO workers, tired and trying to catch some sleep.
It is said that if you’re really sleepy, you can sleep anywhere -“Neend na jaane tooti khaat, bhookh na jaane jhootha bhaat”. How true!!
Within next 5-10 minutes of starting from Fotu La, we were at the start of Hangroo Loops. Interesting thing is that you rarely get anything written about these loops and at some places, people have conviniently named them the “Jalebi bends”! The descent from Fotu La (4100m) to Khaltse (3000m) through a series 23 hairpin bends in just 32 km is what Hangroo Loops consists of.
Hangroo Loops from the bottom.
By 1140, we reached Lamayuru, distinguished by it’s own landscape – Lunar Landscape or Moonscapes. Interesting things that snow, rains and winds can do to a mountain!
The road, in the meantime, was through mountain gorges with Indus river to give company. Seemed that during recent rains, the river has gobbled up half of the road!
Though hungry, by the time we could stop for any dhaba, we had already crossed Lamayuru. So we stopped at a small dhaba just before Khaltse and had maggi & tea.
While maggi was being prepared, we explored the nearby cave formations.
Driving through the Khaltse, it was a bit crowded with lots of tourist vehicles and lots of dhabas. What I noticed again was the change in spelling. The signboards read “Khalsi” and even “Khaltsi”.
Khaltse or Khalsi?
or may be Khaltsi??
After crossing the Khaltse bridge, we notice yet another colour of Ladakh – Green. Not the green by grass or vegetation, rather rocks coloured Green!
Further, driving along the river…
At Nurla, some road construction was still going on while traffic was allowed on one lane.
We crossed yet another dilapidated bridge with pristine turquoise water flowing underneath.
And then started stretches of longer straight roads
And then we come across the longest straight road that we’ve seen yet. The black tarmac against a backdrop of brown looks absolutely fantastic! We get down again for some photo-op.
While shooting, we notice that front right tyre has lost air pressure. We took out our luggage from the boot to release the stepney and take out the OEM spanner. The moment Avi take out the spanner, I notice something abnormal. Normally the spanners are bent at 90 degrees so as to provide maximum torque to loosen the nuts. This one was at 120 degrees. The thought struck my mind immediately that this won’t work. As expected, the spanner kept of slipping. Cheena had kept a toolbox with a set of square drive socket set (or “goti” as we call it). We take it out and try, but we do not have long enough handle to exert the pressure. This could be drastic (and it did proved so! that story later)
I suggest them to take out the air compressor and fill the air as normally tubeless tyres go comfortably to long distances since it doesn’t goes flat immediately. So we fill some air and decide to seek the first available puncture repair shop.
We fill air
and we drive ahead
Couple of kilometers ahead is Nimmo and we find a puncture repair shop. The mechanic was working on a truck tyre and when we asked him for the repair, he said that he will repair the tyre, but we’ll have to take it out! Ridiculous!!
We decide to drive ahead as Leh was now hardly 36 kms ahead. I knew that once we reach Lehling Nuwang, which is just after the airport before we enter the main town area, our problems will be resolved. In this melee, we do not stop at the Zanskar-Indus Sangam viewpoint, just a glance and we speed ahead.
Notice the two colours mixing?
We cross Magnetic Hill and I convince everyone that the phenomenon is just a mirage and everything around it is a farce. However, the low air pressure warning again forces us to stop. We again fill the air. Leh is still 28kms away.
While filling the air, we notice a vehicle trying offroading climbing on the hill. I remember this place – Tanveer has a record here!! Some other time perhaps!!! 🙂
Gurudwara Shri Pathar Sahib demanded a break and we did put the brakes on the Cheetah! After having a tour of the Gurudwara, we did had the langar and tea as well. This is entirely maintained by the armed forces and we met a couple of personnel who had came on leave to do the kar-sewa.
History of the place
Lamas coming out of Gurudwara Pather Sahib
After having yet another round of air-filling, we noticed that we were able to hear the sound of air escaping the tyres, but it was not the valve. Fortunately, Leh was now just a couple of kilometers and finally we did encountered the board welcoming us to Leh.
We directly went to Lehling Nuwang Motors and told the mechanics about the problem in hand. They had a look at the spanner and immediately told that this would not work. We told them about our set of square drive sockets and they used one with a long elbow rod to open the nuts, apparently without any problems. They advised that we would require a long elbow rod to provide the necessary force.
Snow capped peaks as viewed from Lehling Nuwang
Immediately after getting the tyres opened, we went to a puncture repair shop, on the other side of the road and got it repaired. We also purchased a long elbow rod, just in case.
All done, we went ahead to our Hotel – Hotel Jorchung at Main Tukcha Road.
Couple of phone calls exchanged with Vishwas and we learn that they’re going to reside at some homestay near the polo ground. We decide to meet at DC office tomorrow at 10. Evening is spent leisurely at the hotel itself and then after dinner, we call it a day and retire to our beds.
Total Distance covered: Approx 225 Kms
Driving Directions from Kargil to Leh: Drive from Hotel D’Zoji La towards the Kargil Market. After about 300 meters, turn right to take the bridge crossing Suru river and turn right again after crossing the bridge alongwith the road. Drive ahead and take the left fork of the road to reach Kargil Filling Station. Ahead of the petrol bunk, take the left fork again and drive ahead to reach Kargil View Point. Just ahead to this point, the NH1D joins again and take the right fork to go towards Leh (the left fork goes back to Kargil town). Driving straight ahead, shortly the Wakha River gives you company on the left. Cross the Wakha River at Choolatsay bridge and keep straight with the river now on your right. Pass by Lotsum, Darket, Shargole without taking any left or right cut to arrive at the Maitrai Buddha statue at Mulbekh which is just besides the road. Keep on driving straight on the NH1D to reach Namik La (or Namika La) and then Heniskot and Fotu La. Further ahead, take the right fork of the road to pass through Lamayuru Moonlands or the left fork to bypass Lamayuru via Hangroo Loops to reach Khalsi where the road from Kargil via Dha/Hanu/Hamboting La joins NH1D again. You’d now be accompanied by Indus river all the way to Leh. Identifying NH1D should not be a problem as it is the most prominent road on this route. Keep on driving and pass by Nurla, Khaltse, Saspul and Basgo to arrive at Nimmoo where Zanskar river meets Indus river. You’d come across the most straight road seen on hills and driving on the same you’d pass by Magnetic Hills and Gurudwara Pathar Sahib. 30 kms from Gurudwara Pathar Sahib on the same road is Leh city.
On entering the Leh city, you’d find the Leh airport to your right. Keep driving through the market and take the second exit at the roundabout just after Hall of Fame. Drive ahead and turn with the road to right and then left to reach second roundabout just after Tourist Reception Centre. Take second exit at the roundabout to follow the Old Leh Road (or old Fort Road). At the point where road bifurcates, take the left fork on Library road to reach Fort Road and turn left (though you can drive ahead and meet the Fort road again, but traffic restrictions apply and you may be lost in the maze of road and shops). From the fork point again, take the right fork to take the Tukcha Main Road. 500 odd meters ahead on your left is Hotel Jorchung – the destination.