Exploring the Unexplored

The Return

We all were tired, the 4 of us were tried exploring the base camp, the other two we left behind were tired waiting on us. A sense of achievement was rushing thru my blood. We picked Afshan and Saten on the way back, dropped Hal. Namgail and called it a day at Diskit. The drive up till the base camp had been very exciting; the car failure, road blocks, acquiring the permits and all. The one thing that we truly missed was the untouched landscape of Ladakh.  We wanted to explore more. We had already decided to take to route less traveled, but until yet we did not find any; the stretch from Sasoma check post to the base camp was an exception

While we wanted to move ahead the same day as we returned from the base camp, locals warned against travelling towards Spangmik (Tso Pangong) for various reasons; the area is prone to Land slides, folks need to be careful while driving in the day time, night drive thru this area seemed to be an absolute “no no”; there was no village or town at least before we drove for 5 hours and spending a night in the car wasn’t a good idea either

Early 16th morning of June 2017 we left the Sonam Guest House from Diskit towards Shyok enroute to Spangmik (Tso Pangong). The first closest township of Shyok was about 100 Kms away followed by Durbuk about 15 Kms from Shyok, driving thru the most barren land ever. This was the drive we were waiting for. Other than a stretch of road, around 500 – 700 meters, that took over 2 hours to cross, the roads were well done except for few places where the mountains had come rolling down a night before

Sharing with the Enemy

We took a short break at Durbuk as we had to also get permits verified and started our journey towards Spangmik (Pangong Tso). 60 Kms of beautiful nature and we were at the most beautiful lake of this region. This lake is supposed to be 2/3rd in China and 1/3rd in India. The Line of control divides the lake into two. Roads to the lake were strictly okay and with few bio breaks we made it to the lake in about 2 hours. The first view of the lake itself is so mesmerizing, being at the lake is a feeling unexplained

By the time we reached the lake we were famished and searched for the best restaurant around the area. There were so many, choosing one became a problem. Finally, we started selecting the restaurants by the policy of rejections. The one that won our presence was the closest to where our cars were parked. It was an easy pick; but we had to take everyone’s opinion, weigh their suggestions, find reasons to not accept them and then move on to the next choice. That’s what we managers do anyways. The food was nothing relishing on and did not even taste any better; it was the worst food we had ever had and still then we kept ordering and ordering and ordering again. This is when we learnt; hunger can make u do crazy things.

We all were tired. I almost fell a sleep on the chair and suddenly I hear a voice “what a beautiful lake it is“… this boy and the girl were here riding on a bike. The boy was half naked and the girl was wearing no more than the cloths one would usually wear in the middle of an African hot desert. With my eyes barely opening, looking at them I thought to myself “what the …. are they doing“. I was here in at least 3 layers of clothes trying to beat the windchill and you guys are defying the law of nature. Very interestingly, both of them walked to the lake and into it; took some interesting pictures, selfies; came back after 10 mins of so and changed back into normal clothing as we were in. Another lesson learnt; “the want to pout in a picture can make you do crazy things

Two lessons in less that 30 min and that was the most I could take. In no time we were out at the lake playing and enjoying.

It’s about 20 Kms drive to a small village called Merak; the only compass we had was to drive by the lake shore. There were no roads and I wondered how people did their commute back and forth. We kept driving; following few wheel marks and as told by locals to follow the shore line. We had enough time in hand even if we got lost we were ready to drive back to Pangong and stay here. After good 9 days we got to truly experience the beauty of the nature.

Creating Memories

Finally, after a beautiful scenic drive, civilization again!!

Found a wonderful family who rented two rooms in their house for a night stay at Merak. When exploring the house we found out that the man of the house was a champion in archery. Very surprised we started talking to him and went on to hearing his experiences. A man from such a small village had made history

A little before all this, we were told that the STD booth (yes I said STD) opens for communication in the evening; so Rohit, Afshan and myself left in search of the booth.

We all were making memories on the trip. Mine was to reach Siachen Base Camp and get a broken car repaired and becoming a doctor for some etc. Rohit realized that he was just 2 kilometers short of his 50000 mark on the odometer; and suddenly!!!!;

“what an achievement it would have been to make it to 50K at the most pretiest lake int he world”

2 kilometers on a landscape like this is a long journey and it was getting darker. At one end we were fighting time, not to mention that we were extremely low on fuel too; at the other hand, the kilometers on the odometer were not running fast enough. Finally a bright idea struck; found a clear, clean and a large flat land next to the lake; We locked the steering at around 30 degrees, the car kept going in circles. In like 20 min or so we hit the 50K mark. What and achievement it was; and the way we achieved the landmark 🙂

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Memory for Rohit was the 50K mark on his car at a place as this. For me it was more of an first time experience to ride in a car and go in circles for 20 odd minutes. Last time I did go in circles was when I was go carting at GIP nNoida. I must say this was a smoother ride.  Again had a chance to have the most amazing dinner that night.

Diskit → Shyok → Durbuk → Spangmik → Merak

Last Leg

Early next morning we left on the last stretch to Pang and then to Manali. The trip was almost over and yet there was so much more to explore. In discussion over the breakfast Saten came up with the want to be at work in two days as it suddenly got important. We dropped Hanle and the night stay too. One other memory I wanted to create in this trip was to get some pictures of the constellations and the midnight sky. The first time at Pang when I had a chance, the snow poured down along with the bikers; and then we got no other chance. 🙂

While we were all aware that we were already running the days too short, there was no room for error; said that I had a car failure and we had lost a day. On the day lost repairing my car at Pang, we had planned to white water raft on the Zansar river. We were on a journey in an unknown terrain covering over 500 kilometers today. These many kilometers is over 16 hours a journey. Our target was Jispa. It was further than we thought it should be, started a little early in the morning to cover as much as we can.

Merak → Chushul → Nyoma → Tso Moriri → Tso Kar → Pang → Jispa

The road to Chushul was a drive through a barren desert. For once in a life time I was living a direction less life. 😀 😀 We just had to drive into a valley of mountains far far away. A little to the left and we would have entered the Chinese territory ; a little to the right were a series of war memorials put up in remembrance of the ones who gave their life for the country. We stopped at and payed our gratitude to the soldiers and moved on.

This road was an endless experience of beautiful nature and wild life. I should just let the pictures do the talking for a change

AT Nyoma, and again a moment where one had to take difficult decisions. Should we or not skip TsoMoriri. TsoMoriri was about 40 kilometers deviation from the road we were on. Half the group was ready to skip; but the other half wanted to visit. We said “Skip” or we will never reach Jispa

Rohit followed, post nyoma, when you drive by the hills and eventually curve around a larger cliff, one reaches a “Y” split junction, the left goes to TsoMoriri and the right heads straight to Pang. I was leading and had to take the difficult route to skip the lake and move on the Pang; looked behind to check if Rohit was following or he changed his mind and made it easier for every one and we were now going to TsoMoriri. and I was right, I thought. Rohit stopped just before the Y bend and I was so relieved that half the group would not curse me about skipping the lake. I waited for some time hoping he will come ahead and we could talk.

But No!!! next thing I remember seeing thru my rear view mirror was that guys pulling up the bonnet and checking something down the hood. What now?

Experienced Mechanics

I drove back to the place where Rohit was and checked around; Rohit mentioned the stopped running suddenly and it shut down abruptly. we tried starting the engine. exactly same symptoms as my car when I switched the wrong fuse int he Scorpio. we had an easy fix to this, we had already spend 3 hours finding a solution and yet it was just a 2 sec job. The only difference was Rohit did not fidget with the fuse and I had. We were sure that the injection fuel system was pumping any fuel to the engine. So as a precaution we started checking each and every fuse to check it went bad; with our luck in place after an hour or so we had still no clue of what went bad.

Plan B: I set out on a drive to Nyoma to see if we find a mechanic; extremely slim changes but was worth a try. On the way we met some fellow local travelers and asked them for help. they made a fool out of us for not knowing the car well. Well !!! what do they know about the knowledge we have about our cars; one would need to experience it with us earlier at Pang to know better. Keeping my attitude low I requested them to help and they agreed.

At the car, in no time it was diagnosed that the problem is with the fuel injector. These folks were travelling with Visitors to TsoMoriri. They went overboard in suggesting a pickup from Leh as there was no other way to fix the car in the middle of nowhere. Plan C: gave rise to multiple different plans; were in Milind was to go back to Leh in these cars when they return from the lake and get a mechanic or a towing van back; that will toe the TUV (Rohit’s Car) to Leh; Rohit could stay back in the car alone and I drive to Manali cz Saten had to be at work. Then there was a plan that we all drive to Leh and come back with a Toe. and so on and so forth. Mind you here; what made it insane was that from this point Leh was at least 7 hours away 🙂

God Send Again

After few hours of thinking and not concluding anything saw some hope coming by; and Army Truck. Three officers got of the truck to help us fix the car. Our luck had improved. they were all Mechanics. the checked the car and concluded it was a problem with the fuel injector. “it did not pump the fuel to the engine“. Well we knew this all the while. the 2nd, 3rd and the 4th opinion also confirmed the same. but this is it. the officer referred to another truck following them and said they would help and drove away. We were by ourselves again. hardly that the truck would have moved the officers returned. “what if the truck would not stop and help? so they decided to wait with us till the time the truck came byI SALUTE 

a little while later after a little chit chat a truck was seen at the horizon. when it came close we realized it wasn’t the same truck was we were expecting; but they gave a good new that the other truck was on the way and helping another car that had given some engine problems. This is where the officers assured us help from the other folks and left ahead

We went back discussing out Plan X, Y and Zs; this time it was Rohit and Milind to go back with the visitors who had helped earlier and the rest of us would go Manali. At this point my car did not have lights and Rohit’s car was not even starting; not left with a lot of choices we said we will go as far as possible and halt when the night breaks. It was post noon already; we were hungry; found a small home near by where the lady cooked us some Maggie!! found some horse shoes in her house and we bought it for luck. As soon as we paid for it; we heard  a truck come by. That was one day even Leo Bolt would be ashamed of his world records that we ran faster to catch hold of the truck 😀 😀 than he did in 100 Meters spring 😀 😀

One of the officers on the truck wasn’t keeping well and was headed to the sick bay. He went ahead and suggested to his team to take a look at the car and help us if they could.  I SALUTE… So as to save time we told them what the problem was. In a short time they identified that the wire to the injection pump had come lose from the socket. The only way to fix it was to get it replaced

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We had 7 army soldiers working on fixing this car. I must say an excellent example of team work that came out; and all we did is stood back and watched them work, helped them in every way we could.

With all that we had from our travel kit, some wires and other few things with the Army they built a make shift socket …. and … Voilla!!! after good 7 hours of sitting, and planning, and waiting … the car was up and running… <3 😀

We SALUTE

I am sure Rohit has even to this date not fixed the socket given that it is a memory from the trip. Next Stop Pang Via TsoKar, TsoKar was quite dry and so we skipped the view and headed straight to Pang.  Now Rohit had a working car again, but I did not have my lights working. Had to call it a day at Pang. Next day Drove to Manali followed by a drive back to Delhi.

Merak → Chushul → Nyoma → BreakDown → Tso Kar → Mahe → Pang

Pang → Manali → Delhi → Somewhere on Gujrat border → Thane

and thus ended an most memorable trip to the Highest battleground school in the world

Introductions 

Afshan Mohammad

Kapil Deol

Milind Patil

Satendra Kumar

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The Rides

and  the Drivers (Rohit Pundir and Myself)

<Previous Chapter…>

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