Sunday, September 19, 2010

Manali-Leh; The Story (Part 7) Final.

All vehicles were moving fast & furious on the Morey Plains. The roads were muddy. Everybody left with a vengeance to make up the time lost in Sarchu & Pang.

At that time, I thought my friend was already approaching Leh in order to take the Aug 9 morning flight to Delhi. We stopped for a while at the summit of Taglang La. The view was just amazing. The marker stone stated that at 17,582ft, it is the 2nd highest motorable road in the world but some people said that it is the highest but had to give way to Khardung La for economic reason. I regret that I didn't switch on my hand-held GPS to check the actual height myself.

At the top of Taglang La

The sign on Taglang La

View from Taglang La

Descending from Taglang La was very challenging. Not only because the road is narrow, winding and rocky. But our driver made it so easy by taking 'short cuts'. It was quite scary but we did saved a lot of time.

When we reached Rumptse, I saw lots of tourist were hanging out at the dhabas. As if like they were waiting for their bus or train. There were lots of vehicles- jeep, trucks, motocycles stopping there. But we keep moving on heading to Upshi.

Unfortunately after few kilometers from Rumptse, we were stopped by the road works. The military & BRO workers were trying to clear the road from the landslide. Looks like it was massive as some part of the road were visibly missing, apparently collapsed into the river! We were told that there were no more road for vehicle to reach Upshi at that moment and was advised to return to Manali.

The road work after Rumptse

So all of us have to decide whether to move on by foot to the nearest village of Upshi or to return to Manali by jeep.

My jeep buddies quickly made up their mind and decided to move on by foot. But majority of the people from other jeeps have decided to return to Rumptse because they can have option whether to stay there and wait until the road open or return to Manali by jeep or bus.

I made a quick decision to join my buddies. My argument was it will take another 4-5 days or more to reach Delhi if I return to Manali because we will have to stop for over night at Sarchu and the road condition at Pang, Sarchu, Zing Zing Bar & Rohtang La were still uncertain. But, if I walk, it will only takes 1-2 days to reach Leh + 1 more day to reach Delhi.

So I unpacked my luggage; 2 panniers, 1 duffle bag + 1 bike. I quickly adjusted & tuned up my brakes and derailleurs and quickly joined my Tibetan buddies.

So 5 of us started walking through the landslide area. Some of the workers were looking at me with awed. Probably they thought I was crazy to push my bike along. was heavy. Then we met another local guy walking from the opposite direction who told my buddies that it was not possible to bring my bike because the trail was so narrow. I told them not to worry because I can dismantle my bike into small pieces and carry. After approx. 3 kilometers from a small village called Lato we reached the end of the road (the road ahead were collapsed into the river) What we saw was tiny size of people climbing the 80-100 feet cliff to bypass the river. Then I realized that there was no way that I can bring my bike along! And it was a scary sight because the cliff looked slippery. I decided not to join my buddies who keep climbing it.

This used to be Manali-Leh Highway

...and this too. But there were no more roads ahead. Look at the cliff where people were climbing

So, after 1 hour standing at the edge of the road observing my buddies climbing the cliff, I decided to turn back to Lato. The journey was very tough because it was un-rideable. The route was full of deep mud, big rocks and it was ascending. Furthermore, I was pushing a fully loaded bike! After more than 2 hours, I finally reached a dhaba at Lato. I thought I was making the right decision not to climb the cliff because the sky looked like it's about to rain (which it did later on).

Team work...but still dangerous

My buddies were climbing

Arrived at the dhaba, I met with a German family who were hiking to Leh. They too decided to continue their hiking on the next day after it rained. And while hanging out at the dhaba, I suddenly saw a kid (happened to be the dhaba's owner's son) riding a bike that looked familiar to me. When I approached him, I was told that 3 English guys & 1 Malaysian left their belonging including their bikes at the home stay and had left for Leh in the morning! When I was brought to see their belongings, I recognized those panniers, cycling gears, including the stuff that I lend to my friend- fuel bottle, waterproof glove & handlebar bag. So it seems that I was 1 day behind them!

Back at the homestay, I spent the night planning for my next day journey to Leh. My room is just an empty room with 1 candle. I decided to leave everything behind except for my travel documents, the electronics gadgets- hand-held GPS, DSLR camera, ipod, blackberry, stove, water-filter, first aid kit, a set of clean clothes, thermals and my Brook Saddle. It doesn't sound much but these stuff were very heavy. I carried my Camelbak without the reservoir (a big mistake!) and a dry bag to carry these stuff. It was very cold (did not use my wet sub-zero sleeping bag..haha!) night as I slept on just the carrymat, I really couldn't sleep. Maybe my mind was busy thinking about my next day journey that I was not looking forward to.

Early in the morning at 6.30am, I left Lato and headed to the cliff alone. It was a scary feeling to walk alone in the mountains. While walking, I thought that I'm going to die in that mountain and nobody will find my body.

But luckily after 1 hour of walking, I met with a group of locals who were climbing the cliff. It was probably 30-40 of them. And I recognized some of their faces because they did stopped by at the dhaba and started their walking earlier in the morning. So I joined them knowing that I would not survive at that place alone.

It was a very hard journey that includes hiking, rock climbing, crossing fast flowing stream, river edge, absailing. But with the help of the locals, I survived the 8-hours journey that took us to Upshi about 26++ km through the Ladakh region in the Indian Himalaya with lack of water to drink.

At Upshi, I met my Tibetan buddies who were waiting for the bus. Apparently, they have spent a night at a village, Miru before continue their walk to Upshi. And during my conversation with them, I was told that they have met my friend and his English buddies in the house that they stayed at Miru. That means all of us will arrive in Leh on the same day but at different time!

We managed to get a ride on the Military Truck to Karu Army camp, and finally took a taxi to Leh. The ride to Leh via Thikse was bumpy- hot, dry & dusty. It was a very long ride when we were stopped from entering Choglamsar due to the new landslide. Therefore a 7km trip became 25km due to the road closed. At the end, we arrived at Leh at about 4.30pm and went straight to check in at a Guesthouse near the Main Bazaar.

Jama Mosque & Leh Palace at the background

I arrived at Leh, looking like a zombie with dry mud on all over my jacket and pants because I fell on mud pool twice near Miru. We saw many charity drives for the victims of the flood at Choglamsar. I went straight to Jet Airways office but it was closed. Then I went to the Internet cafe checking my emails & facebook and I was told that my friend was probably still in Leh because he did not arrive at Delhi airport. A facebook friend then told me that my friend's wife when crazy worried about her husband! So I quickly called my father to inform that I was still alive and explain to him my situation so that my family understand and not worry about me.

These were all that I salvaged.

When we arrived in Leh, we saw many charity drive like this

...and like this too.

Changspa Road

Some rock formation near the river at Changspa Road

The stairs to Shanti Stupa

The next day I went out walking around Leh searching for my friend and my other cycling buddies at the Oriental Hotel & Guesthouse as we have earlier agreed to meet up there should we arrived in Leh. It was a long walk via the Changspa Road to the hotel and the receptionist informed that nobody from Australia, Scotland, French or Malaysia have checked-in.

near Shanti Stupa

So, I went back to the Ticketing office at the Main Bazaar and purchased a fresh ticket back to Malaysia via Delhi & Chennai. And in the evening, I was informed via facebook that my friend is already in Delhi and happy to get back to Malaysia while I have to stay for another 3 days because that was the earliest flight that I managed to get to fly out from Leh.

So, during the 3 days, I went out to check my emails and facebook at the Internet cafe, taking pictures around Leh, find good restaurants for better food to eat other than rice, dhall & omelet and went shopping for jackets and bags to replace the one I left behind at Lato.

Prayer wheel on Changspa Road near Shanti Stupa

Me & my buddies-Kesang & Yeshi at the Guest House.

Finally on August 14, 8.20am, I arrived at Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Relieved. And it was my friend who was waiting for me in his van to send me back home. Home Sweet Home.



My Shopping Genie said...

Hi Mat

Shame about the by the road works near Rumptse. I hope this did not add too much onto your journey. Amazing trip around Tibet. I’m planning to cycle next year South of France if I can get enough time off work.

prolix said...

oh, i seen all the pictures. nice blog.. my cousin recommended this blog...Bikes Perth

जाट देवता (संदीप पवाँर) said...

शुभकामनाएँ आपको भी ऐसी यादगार यात्रा करने के लिये, जिस मार्ग पर मैं बाइक से गया था आप साईकिल से गये जियो दोस्त जियो

Matt said...

The terrain looks just incredible, but having seen the area on TV the car drivers look even more terrifying than the drops. Think I'll do a few cycling trips in France and Spain and work my way up!

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