The Girl was up and running; we were in Leh in no time. While there, we had her checked once again; Rohit and I decided to go break the suspense. Did we really have a way to the highest battlefield school at the base camp to Siachen Glacier?
We had to meet Col. Pandey at his unit, located few kilometers from Leh towards Kargil. A Gem of a person he was. Apparently, Kamal and Saurav had already tried reaching us few times when we were stuck at Pang; the unavailability of the network was the reason we never connected. Hoping for the best Kamal had got the permits picked up and taken it to a safe house. We were supposed to collect them from his colleague at Partaput. We knew we were going, the sight of the permits were just a day away. The long long long wait was about to come to an end.
A Drive to Remember
The drive to Partapur was not too long; the predictions of a snowstorm and landslides leading to the deteriorated road conditions was going to make it very difficult – but memorable. Once again I was driving up the “Highest Motorable Road in the world”.
Last time I did this; I was with the girls; and this time with the boys. what and experience to relive.
There was one problem though; Khardung La was closed for the last 2 days; It was 14th June 2017 already, the only hope standing between us and the base camp was the worlds highest motorable pass and it would not let us cross because of the snow that was pouring down. It was “US” against the almighty playing our fate. 🙂
The “Lazy” in me was okay to drive a little later in the day when the sun had settled and snow had melted. We got a news that Kardung La would open early in the morning for a little while until the snowstorm hits again in the day. It was another early morning drive into the mountains. Roads went from good to bad to worst to white to whiter to whitest again; finally we were on the top of the world…
By the time we reached Khardung La, the snowstorm had set in quite well. Not wanting to get stranded here on a cold snowy day, we decided to take some quick picture for memories and move on. In less than 15 min of doing ‘here and there’ we noticed the roads ahead were already blocked. We HAD to cross!!! had no choice but to quickly help the vehicles out of the snow sloshed roads. Rohit crossed ahead of me; got caught but the locals quickly pushed him over. By now I had seen 3 cars cross ahead of me; while I had a better understanding of what needs to be done, there was a fear of getting stuck, the cars ahead had created a slush; snow pouring down was adding on; smallest slip of the tires and an unwanted throttle could have pushed the car straight down the valley. I had got my dash cam ready to record the memorable crossover; and finally…. 😦 I forgot to switch the cam on 😦 by the time i realized we were on the other side safe and sound. The journey continued….
After enjoying the off-road for about 25 Km in heavy snowfall, we took a break at North Pullu. This is where we had to get our permits verified. The Time it took for us to reach here, Khardung La was shut again. In discussion with the authorities, we were told that the roads opened for only 7 vehicles to cross; the weather got bad and they had to shut it again. Next 15 Kms or so was again drive in the snow storm that took us down to a stretch of freshly laid dry tared roads towards Khalsar.
At the famous T point we took a left into the Nubra Valley towards Diskit and Hunder. picked up the Permits from Partapur Army Camp and returned to Hunder for a night stay.
Leh → Khardung La → North Pullu → Khalasar → T Point → Diskit → Hunder → Partapur → Hunder
The purpose of life was going to be fulfilled today. The day started early once again. Hawaldar Namgail from the 2nd Ladakh Scouts volunteered to escort us to the base camp. We once again thanked Saurav and Kamal for all the arrangements, and moved on with the long awaited journey to a destination unknown to the world. Hawaldar Namgail was a local resident of Ladakh. He knew this road back and forth very well. In fact in discussion with him, we learnt he had being posted at the glacier 6 times already. What an Achievement it must have been, I thought. For him it seemed like going to Walmart once in a month or so. 😀
We had two extra passengers who we could not get permits to the base camp. We were asked to drop them at the Hot springs of Panamik. This was the only place en-route where they could relax the day while the rest of us went ahead. Ashan and Saten stayed back; The place was nicely done up; had a restaurant and few beds to rest if need be.
The base camp was extremely far and we wanted to reach there before noon; this is the time when the school closes. We wanted to witness and may be take part in the training program before the folks left ahead for the glacier.
The drive by the Nubra valley led us to the town of Sasoma; beyond which local vehicles are not allowed. We had permits but they could not trace them on their records. Fortunate for us, we had Hal. Namgail. He quickly connected to his base and got things sorted. We were driving in the restricted area now.
We had already traveled over 100 Kms until now and the “Are we there yet” song had started to play in our minds again; the sand covered roads were getting narrower as we drove away from civilization. Base camp was still approximately 40 Kms away; a town called Warshi was 21. Another hour and half to the base camp would be a little too late to reach; we decided to race through and cover as much time as possible. One thing we were not sure is if we could take pictures of this beautiful surroundings; everything stayed as a memory.
End of the Road
Suddenly – the road ended and there was no sight of the base camp. Hal. Namgail made a mention that the road got washed away. Only way ahead was to drive thru the Nubra River; most of which was dry. We took the smoothest path possible and drove thru. Came around the mountain and there was hope again; “the Road”. After almost 2 hours of driving we were stopped by two soldiers. I could hear gun shots and cannons rolling over. I did not think this to be a good news. Was it a war we drove into. There was a drill going on and we had a choice to witness it; we exercised the the choice. We all decided to wait and watch few canon balls fly into the mountains and then move ahead.
The base camp from here was just 10 Kms away. It took us over 30 min to drive by. Mesmerized by the training we were already witnessing we decided to stop at every training ground watch the cannon fly by and move on. In the bargain we lost track of the time and missed the larger training program that we wanted to be a part of
Hunder → T Point → Sumur → Panamik (Hot Springs) → Sasoma → Warshi → Base Camp to Siachen Glacier
Siachen Base Camp
😛 So as to maintain the privacy of this area, more details than this will require permits 😛 … you an get your permits here…
We all were tired, the 4 of us were tried roaming the base camp, the other two we left behind were tired waiting on us. A sense of achievement was rushing thru the blood. We picked Afshan and Saten on the way back, dropped Hal. Namgail and called it a day at Diskit. While we wanted to move ahead, the 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 a 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.
My trip was already over; I was willing to go back and at the same time willing to take a back step and let others plan the rest of the trip. I will now go where the flow took us: to the Tso Pangong.