Today's excursion was originally supposed to be only a day-long trip to Pangong lake. We converted it into a day-and half trip and booked us on a tent facility right on Pangong. and it proved to be the best decision we took in our entire trip. We could lazily leave from Angmo's place in Leh, look around for bikes to carry (our hope had not yet died) and actually found one to carry with us to Pangong! An old, worn out Royal Enfield, with no mirrors. We were so bullet-hungry though that we got the bike, got the can of extra-petrol filled and set on our way, with Soham on the bike in between two Innovas.
It was not a ride as smooth as Nubra through Khardungla, and at certain places, no road even existed. We practically stepped into aggressive streams full of slippery stones, and it was a good thing that we took turns of riding the bike as the road would have probably rendered lower back of a single driver useless. We crossed the mighty Chang-la en route ( the third highest motorable road in the world after Khardung-la and Tanglang-la), but proceeded ahead on the strenuous road without halting, as the supposed beauty of Pangong lake was calling us towards her!
Despite the road condition, I would rate road to Pangong as more scenic, due to presence of colours, these gushy streams mid-way, placid water bodies, and the Changthang Eco-Zone. It is wildlife protected zone, exhibiting typical high-altitude flora and fauna. A strikingly beautiful, yet strikingly desolate place.
Large part of our journey went through Changthang, right until we reached the glorious, pristine, magical, serene Pangong-Tso. The first sight of the lake was enough to make us forget all our words, seriously.
The lake, situated at almost 14000 feet, actually lies on the international border. In fact, one third of this lake lies in India while two-thirds goes to Tibet(Now China). The ride on the banks of the lake practically had us spell-bound. I could not move my eyes away from that mass of blue. I have never seen this particular shade of blue in any water body in my entire life. You know, at such moments you realize, that there are treasures hidden away by nature in remotest of places. Nature reigns supreme, and you are in fact just a small negligible unit in this entire set up.
What all did we not see that day by the lake? Barren, brown mountains, (which exactly look as if they are oil painting btw) surrounding the lake. One-odd Sea-gull. Sound of small waves in that water. Stark-white sand. A full-ring rainbow. A super-clear sky. A giant national flag up in the sky on the excellent backdrop of this lake. And magnificent blueness of this water. Almost divine.
We had booked the tents right on the bank of this lake, and we couldn't have made a better decision. We stayed that night in the tent, kept looking at that lake till almost we lost the track of time, saw the star-filled sky once again and were almost about to cry at all this beauty. Heaven.
We started from Pangong almost by 9 am, (again sat looking at the changed colours of water for some time) fully satisfied with the day before, fully convinced that this was the highlight of our trip, and headed back to Leh.
Remember, I had written that you can never be sure that travel through Ladakh will be smooth. By our collective fortunes till now, we had escaped every possible delay that could await us. However, today was not the day when luck was smiling at us, and we encountered every single issue which we had missed till today! So, to begin with..
No sooner were we on the way that we saw the bike slip in front of our eyes due to sand on the road. Fortunately, Soham-Shraddha fell down on the sand, and did not sustain too many scratches. deciding safety was a priority, Soham continued to ride alone for some time, till we stopped for some food at a shop which served only Maggi and tea, as a rule. There were practically NO human settlements on the way, and we had to be OK with whatever food we could get. So, we hogged on Maggi and stuffed ourselves with a bowl-and -half along with steaming tea. VERY, very wise decision.
After stuffing ourselves, Jatan got on the bike, and we began the arduous climb of Changla-once again. Unfortunately for us, the road was packed with Army trucks today, making it almost a bumper-to-bumper traffic and reducing the speed thereby. Amidst all this, on one fine turn, the old bike stopped. The ignition would not fire. Nothing.stopped. broke down.
NOW! We halted, and took stock of the situation. It was a heavy Enfield, which is even otherwise difficult to manouver. It was not a straight road, we were climbing up the Changla, somewhere around 15000 Ft, in low-oxygen levels. We did not have even the remotest sign of human settlement, let alone a mechanic/workshop. Two members from our car were suffering from a bit of breathlessness. None of us knew how to repair an Enfield, and to top it all, there was no signal to any of our mobile networks.
Next one hour involved all sorts of acrobatics we could do with the bike, including tying it with a rope to the back of an Innova and taking it fwd. This foiled, as it was impossible to control the handle and the direction the bike takes. (It took Jatan almost falling off the bike in a valley to understand this). Our drivers physically pushing the bike fwd, which was a disastrous thing to do in low-oxygen levels. Once, one of our drivers took to the rider's seat with Jatan driving our Innova through the gushy streams!
Meanwhile, we also tried halting bikers and asking them for help, halting army trucks and asking them to take our bike with them, to no effect. Finally, it was decided that we leave the bike with two boys where it was and reach Changla-top for help. On approaching army post on Chang-la, w were asked if it was a life-or-death situation. Upon hearing our peculiar problem, Army expressed inability to help (which was right, in a way).
However, our driver Feroze seeked help from couple of Faujis there, took them down the road for help, got the bike repaired and came back victorious with a smiling Jatan riding the bike to Changla top. It was an episode which lasted two-and-half hours, and we were grateful that it was over without major trouble. I suppose luck was still laughing at us.
Next, we were stalled for some work involving speed-brakers. Again almost an hour lost in all of this, making us hungrier and grumpier. Chiwda, Barfi, Khakra and all that stuff had been finished. Once the roads were open, we went ahead, and almost as we got close to Leh, one of our tyres went flat. Again Feroze to the rescue, changing the tyre. marching fwd. We reached Leh, and just before we entered the town, the bike tank went empty. By this time we had almost lost our capacity to be irritated. We calmly refuelled it, reached Angmo's villa and decided to call it a day as far as vehicle went.
What a day! And no regret of missing the originally planned white water rafting- the thrill we experienced kind of made up for it!