Day 4 | 3rd, August 2010 | Baralacha Pass to Leh – Ladakh
After the super excitement at the Zingzing Bar Nullah in the morning leg, we started to move towards Baralacha La (4883 Mtrs). None of us had been to such heights before and we were feeling the heat. The road was all black tarmac but the famous views of this tarmac cutting across the huge snow walls were missing. Very little of snow was left now but that didn’t let the beauty of this pass behold. Baralacha La is considered as the most beautiful pass (at least for me) among all these highest passes of the world that comes along Manali – Leh highway.
We waited eagerly to see this but since a lot of time had already being exhausted by the zingzing bar nullah, this means very few stoppages. So we clicked, the route in the car itself. The cruised through the ascent towards the Baralacha La had amazing sights of view on offer. In our minds the first and the foremost attraction was undoubtedly the “Suraj Tal”.
We were approaching the Baralacha La and beauty was getting meaner and meaner. There was nothing like this we have seen before, we all were hooked by the seat and asked our driver to slow down a bit. We needed to contemplate this beautiful place but we thought we would definitely spend more time on the way back. Judge yourself…
The descend from the Baralacha La pass begun and again the road started to deteriorate after 2-3 odd KMs. The first set back was Deepak was down with severe headache and was not able to enjoy one the scarcest beauty India has hidden from many of us out here. He was struggling for sure and there could be no help for next 250 KMs :roll:. There was a Nullah as well just after the descend finished but it was very minor one as compared to what we witnessed few hours back :D. Do keep in mind all these nullah become too violent as the noon falls and snow melts like anything to flood these nullah like crazy. So cross them well before 2 PM at least. As we moved ahead there were few dhabhas setup after crossing Killing Sarai loops. As we crossed those dhabhas soon we were joined by a river like thing or may be huge pond where snow melts aside us, I am not aware of the name though :(. But it looked beautiful with the snow capped peaks running on the other side…
Our next stoppage was Sarchu where we planned for the lunch as we all were hungry like hell. Colors of Ladakh had started to unfold before Sarchu and it will conquer our visions sooner or later completely 🙂 for next few days. Dream of reddish / orange colored mountains… topped with three dimensional white clouds… filling the deep blue sky… the dream of Ladakh was coming true… 🙂
After a while the road to Sarchu was dead straight and inspired the high speed devil in you to come out and conquer it. But, our driver was aware of the fact that it won’t be a great idea because although being too straight and tarred, it was bumpy at many points. If you get a chance to run like hell on the Sarchu road be ready for the bumpy ride. So, we had fun with that bumpy ride as we asked our driver to speed up the things but you be careful on your own ride ;)… The Sarchu tents run across this straight road and are all famous as Vomit Hilton. Seeing the condition of Deepak I was feeling that it could be true for all those who take acclimatization lightly while visiting Ladakh. He was getting down and down missing the beauty of the place altogether 😥 …
As we entered Sarchu we were welcomed by the the Himanik (Jammu and Kashmir) project and Deepak (Himachal) project says thanks for the visit. This was not the first time we were visiting Jammu and Kashmir as we all had been to Jammu at least for holy pilgrimage of Vaishno Devi. We had to register name entries on the army post at Sarchu and after doing so went towards the Dhabhas few KMs ahead.
By the time we reached one of the Dhabha, our friend Deepak has been to edge of dizziness and nausea. He refused to even get out of the car. After clicking few pictures I also went into the Dhabha for lunch where we had rice, dal and maggie. Our driver asked us to have black coffee as it may help us in altitude sickness and it was the most tastiest thing we had for the last couple of days 😉 … We asked to pack some food for our friend Deepak who was sleeping in the car alone.
Just before leaving from the dhabha we came to know that one of the companion taxi’s driver (our driver’s friend) was having a JOINT :shock:… What the f****, we said. He is having puffs of JOINT on every break we are taking be it even a pee break…. Gosh!!! We prayed to God for the safety of the passengers and asked Ravi to be with them only till we reach Leh. We also confirmed from Ravi if he is taking it too and thankfully he said “No”. The second leg of the day was over as we exit the Sarchu. Leh was still more than 200 KM away from here and it was already around 1 PM :shock:. I doubted that we would reach Leh but Ravi said that “we will” although late 🙂 …
The colors and beauty of Ladakh begun to unfold as we kept going towards Pang from Sarchu. We had to cross the famous 22 back to back hair pin bends named Gata Loops just before Nakee La (4738 Mtrs) as well as Lachung La (5079 Mtrs) which was the third highest motorable pass of the world. The signs of vegetation was getting dearer and dearer and almost nullable as we continued our climb. When we were climbing the Gata Loops, Ravi asked us if he shall take the short cut and as soon as we nodded he just turned the car towards the hill and started to off road while climbing :roll:… But we enjoyed what he did and thank god that vehicle kept the promise to climb into the rough without the road… When we reached Lachung La few foreigners were playing in the snow patch with their dog looking like husky but none of us could believe it was indeed a husky . She waved us good bye and we too…We wanted to take pictures too but due to lack of time we had to skip. However we thought we would do it on the way back 🙂 …There were no signs of inhabitants at least not till Rumpste village ahead of Pang. Just as Pang was about to come we were at the bottom of the valley with river flowing aside having aqua green water in it. That place was purely magical I would say when we went into the shade surrounded by hills all around and getting over the bridge that almost touched that river below. That internal canyon type passage was purely bliss and for me was the most beautiful part of the Manali – Leh highway. Unluckily, we couldn’t click any picture due to lack of time.
After few hours of nice drive, we reached Pang which happened to be our last stoppage before Leh. There we had biscuits and now even Saurabh was also down with altitude sickness 😀 … Both Deepak and Saurabh went inside the dhabha tent and laid flat on the rock bed. There faces were worth a million dollars :lol:… I was enjoying this as two days back these two guys were the one who wanted to have single run from Manali to Leh non-stop and that too in shared vehicle :lol:. These two guys were making mock of acclimatization word or altitude sickness as joke and me, saying, “Munnu, you are finished. You are married now. You lack that extra now…” :D… Now we can see how they would have performed in the shared non stop Manali- Leh taxi when they can;t even handle it in private taxi with load of stoppages and with night halt at Keylong too… I asked them to relax and take some black coffee and went out to take few pictures…
We left pang within 20 minutes and started the most arduous part of the journey which included the easiest part as well :). Yes, there is something easy on this journey finally and are called as Moore Plains. I don’t know from where the hell suddenly the daunting cliffs separated far away from each other and exposed a flat, plain bed of soil , where we were literally making our own roads. This flat bed is called Moore Plains and almost spanned for almost around 25 KMs right into the nose direction. But, due to some unusual soil patches your vehicle can get stuck at few spots, so be very careful while driving into this wild, flat and easiest area. I felt literally you can close the eye and drive without any fear of tumbling into someone ( only few are made enough to follow you here :D) or falling into the chasm ;)… But, zipping through at more than 5000 Mtrs was quite and experience and enjoyable. You won’t get to feel it anywhere else. Almost as the Moore Plains ends before Debring, the off-roading lovers can follow the alternate but landslide prone and rough road towards Leh going through beautiful Tso Kar and Tso Moirri salt water lakes of Ladakh.
The arduous part was the climb towards Tangang La (5328 Mtrs), world’s second highest motorable pass and highest pass on the Manali – Leh Highway. No matter what but you are bound feel the breathlessness :cry:. The wind blows crazily at the top, the amount of oxygen is at the lowest due to null vegetation, oil tankers injecting all the burnt fuel carbon dioxide into you throughout the Manali – Leh Highway making the matters even worse at the Tangang La. You find it very difficult to breathe at the top and Ravi our driver said that we will not stay for more than 10 minutes at the top. We agreed and he moved on towards the pass. The path looked amazingly daunting and lonely with two other taxis accompanying us since zingzing bar nullah. Now, even me and Neeraj started to feel something in the head. Our visions were suffering some boomerangs for few moments. Saurabh and Deepak were completely out of sought by the time we reached Tangang La top and were lying flat in the car.
Tangang La was cold at the top and wind was chilling too. The velocity of the wind was expressing our exits from the top as soon as possible. It was as if Tangang La was shouting “Don’t pollute my calmness and peace. Get away from here you asses :D…” Staying there was tough but we managed to click the pictures for sure and start to climb down. Again Deepak refused to even come out for pictures but three of us had a good photo session despite of all odds.
This brought us to kick off the last leg of our journey that day. It was 6.10 PM in the evening and Leh – Ladakh was still more than 100 KMs away which meant more than 3 hours for sure. The road after few KMs was all tarred and had flat black top. As we were heading down, there were quite a few off-roading tracks available which one can explore but with extreme caution. Ravi asked other drivers if they wanted to follow those path but one of them walked out of the decision. We never knew such type of call 😀 so for us it was ******* surprise. We were following the road and suddenly he ran down the car towards the gorge and Deepak who was in all sought of trouble woke up and got attentive within no time. The signs of altitude sickness were gone from his face and he was shouting “arrey bhaiya, kya hua?? kya hua??” 😆
I realized being on the corner that he took a shortcut track downhill and he drove it down in the first gear but believe me none of us had the balls to do it. The descent was quite steep. However, he saved more than 5-6 KMs of drive but we now have to wait for the third taxi who called out from this risk. The smell or rubber or I believe clutch plates captured the atmosphere but we were OK now. I got out to click the picture of the shortcut but again my head lost the way, so I felt better I shall stay back in the car only. We opened the Coke and as soon as I gulped my mouth was full of gas 🙄 I had to open the mouth to throw it out. It was some strange reaction, I feel at such height. After me all of us tried and all had to throw it out. We managed to drink it in very small sips finally. The other taxi driver got the chance to puff the JOINT again 😆
The third taxi came around after 15 minutes and we started to cruise on the black tarmac. Within no time we reached Rumptse, the first village on the way towards Leh. This beautiful village is situated besides the river that had water aqua green in color. The darkness started to fall so we had no time to click the pictures. However, we printed in our mind that even if it takes more than a day we will keep stopping and clicking pictures on the way back to Manali. Since the road was pure bliss soon we reached Upshi, another village with quite a few population.
At Upshi one has to last time register the names in the check post and while we were doing so, the driver of that third taxi found that car’s head lights are not working :roll:… So now we had one driver driving with JOINT in his veins and one driving his car without head lights :lol:… Well we asked them to keep hi car in between the two other and follow. Meanwhile, the mobile signal came as we reached Karu and called our homes to inform people there about our well being to make them happy.
Finally we reached the Leh bus stand where we thanked our driver for driving us to our dream location safely and in single piece despite of rough patches all the way. The guy never lost his concentration and was well aware of what he was doing. Hat’s off to his skills and we handed him the balance amount along with the tip which he deserved.
Then it was time to search for accommodation and I just knew about one road and one hotel, so we asked one local guy about Shia Hotel and he didn’t knew about it :confused:. So, I asked him does he know about Changspa Road, he nodded yes. He took us there and wild search for accommodation was on but without any luck there was no room in any of the guesthouse there. Then, one of the guy told us about the Chubi Hotel and we got there where we were offered the room for just that night only @ Rs 800 per room 😀 … We agreed as there were no other options. But, despite of the some strange smell in the rooms hotel was OK types.
After getting fresh we all left for Changspa Road for dinner. When we went earlier it appeared to be having a flavor of Old Manali. So, we wanted to have dinner there only. It was 15 minutes walk from our hotel and we all went into a dark pizza restaurant which offered Italian cuisine, had the food and hurried to the hotel for a good night sleep. Finally we were in the dreams in our dream location :)… It was a great great great feeling inside all of us.
Ladakh coverage begins in the next part soon… Keep coming back…