Ladakh Journey | The Tragedy, Cloudburst of Leh

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The Journey so far-

Day 7 | 6th, August 2010 | Leh Cloudburst and Flashfloods

As we went to bed at around 10 the power blows out and we chatted for few hours before going to surrender ourselves to the dreams of Pangong Tso. We were enjoying the chat on how we would be taking pictures in such beautiful blue water lake and each one of us had a unique idea of the landscape :)… Soon we went to sleep and it was not even two hours that we were awake by some extreme sound of thunderstorms and lightening. I never heard such violent sounds of thunder and had never seen such erratic lightening in my whole life. I was right away feeling very uneasy. I switched the torch to see from the windows and found that rain was pouring so heavily that even the trees in the backyard of Shanti Guest House were forced to bend and touch our room windows. It was perhaps the first time I was scared from the rain and thunderstorms, which I liked so much but that night they were extremely ferocious. I couldn’t sleep for next 2-3 hours and kept praying god to evade any misfortune. I was able to sleep only after the rain and the thunder eased away but soon it was ringing morning alarm of 5.30 AM on my cell phone.

Shanti Stupa…

Shanti Stupa in Leh - Ladakh

We all were awake ignoring the moments of last night as a nightmare and it was time to leave for Pangong Tso. We called up the number of the driver Tsewang gave us but no one was picking up the phone. We all were ready to leave and after trying the mobile few more times we decided to check the taxi in front of the hotel. As we walked out of the hotel there was a strange aura or feeling in the air, truly speaking I felt it. As we were on the road we saw nothing, it was as if it is a haunted place with mud/slush on the roads, leafs of the battered trees swaying in the wind, the damped exterior walls of Shanti Guest House. In all it didn’t look to be the same road which we saw last day. There were no signs of the Taxi even and as usual no one picked up the phone. We went back inside and explained the scene to my other friend and cousin who were again in the bed :)… There was nothing to do and our hopes to see Pangong Tso were gone. We assumed that we will be spending the day in Leh only exploring the nearby monasteries and shopping goods for our wives in the local main market.

The Shanti Stupa was close to the Hotel so me and Neeraj decided to venture the trek to it as the two other decided to sleep again. We reached near the base of steps that lead to Shanti Stupa top and saw a lot of mud had slid down on the road on either side on the spot. As we started to climb the steps we saw a foreign couple shouting and running down. Soon we realized that some loose rocks were falling from the cliff which looked pretty scary at first. The couple was very close to the top where the rocks were falling and they had to run down quickly. I was chewing the nails seeing them negotiate the falling rocks. But, it ended after 7-8 rocks which came down till the road and the couple managed to run those stairs down safely. We had few words of care with them and soon they walked down the Changspa road. This meant that we were not climbing to Shanti Stupa 😥 and will be heading back to hotel to sleep.

Guide map for places of interest in Leh – Ladakh… An Informational Picture…

Guide map for places of interest in Leh - Ladakh

He never forgets to pose…

Dheeraj Sharma friend at Shanti Stupa in Leh - Ladakh

Wreckage caused by the rain…

Staires to Shanti Stupa in Leh - Ladakh

As we started the walk back we saw many taxis come rushing and dropping many people from them. Most of them had worried or sorrow faces with mud on their clothes all over. The first thought appeared to me was that these are people from Nimmu village but as we talked to them, we were shocked to listen the words from the driver that “CLOUDBURST HAS HIT THE LEH LAST NIGHT KILLING MANY PEOPLE, LEAVING MANY MISSING” 😯 😯 😯 I lost my footing hearing those words as the man had tears in his eyes. The second line he said was “SAB KUCH CHALA GAYA, PAANI LE GAYA SAB. AB NA AANE KA RAASTA HAI AUR NA JAANE KA” (Everything is gone, water swept away everything. There is no way left to enter or exit Leh town) 😯 😯 😯 It was as if I was still sleeping and having a nightmare. I was trying to wake myself like when I do in the midst of the nightmare but I couldn’t this time as it was not a nightmare and TRAGEDY HAS HIT LEH – LADAKH REGION

The few paces back to hotel went like ages and as we moved into the room to give the bad news to two others, they had a pretty cold reaction to it perhaps I was taking it too seriously or perhaps I was aware what we escaped or perhaps I am married now :). They didn’t have a reaction until we told them that for next three to four days we are trapped as all the connecting bridges has washed away with Upshi – Rumptse stretch on Manali – Leh Highway being the worst hit area where not even a single bridge is left standing. Srinagar – Leh highway too has been closed as around 5 bridges have been washed away after Kargil. The airport is non-functional too due to water logged, damaged runway as no flights can take off. 😯 😯 😯 This is not a news one would expect to get early in the morning as one wakes up 😥

Few KMs from Changspa road, the Choglamsar and Saboo villages including Leh District Hospital, Leh Bus Stand and BSNL Exchange are devastated by the cloudburst and mudslides last night. Almost 200 people have died alone in Leh and countless are missing. It was an extremely sad situation, the sleeplessness has surely invaded our souls by hearing and imagining all these things. There will be no electricity in the town for the next couple of days 😥 which meant once the mobile battery gets exhausted we are left alone. 🙄 … There will be shortage of food and accommodation too..

The next thing to worry was how we are going to convey the news at home and as soon as I thought my phone rang. It was my brother-in-law who called and I told him that we are safe. Soon I sent the message to everyone about our safety so that the guys at home don’t panic hearing the news on TV. They had a big sigh of relief as we let all of them know about our safety and told them not to panic. I was worried about my sweet sweet wife who must had cried the river in the house so far. But, she too kept a brave heart and managed to keep her calm. It was again thanks to god that Airtel network was still working and at least messages were being delivered to and fro. Our main problem was the battery of the phones. We switched off all other phones so that we preserve the batteries in them as the power was out of question for next few days now.

We moved towards Changspa road for the morning breakfast in a restaurant near Asia Guest House. As we walked downhill we saw people draining their water flooded terraces and the battered parts of the surmounting trees on them. It seemed that everyone had a single question on their faces “What the F**** has happened last night?” As we went into the restaurant the guy told that it will take a lot of time to prepare the food and then serve the food, if OK then you may place the order. We asked him about the details and he told us that there was a flash flood that triggered havoc in Leh last night. Many of their guys who cooks and serve food in the restaurant have not appeared for the day and they all are really worried for them. They couldn’t even contact any of them as the networks are not working. There was only single guy serving food and single guy preparing food in that restaurant. More than one hour it took for breakfast to come and it was not fresh, I mean breads but we had to push it down the throat to satisfy the hunger as long as anything is available in the stocks. Many guys in the market didn’t even turned up to open their shops and many families who survived the wrath of mother nature were coming uphill either to Shanti Stupa or to the relatives / known ones living uphill.

Rimpoches were correct in their predictions for the deadly week of August 2010 as disaster had hit the heaven on earth, twice in last two days, killing many people, dismantling properties and producing havoc in the region. Suddenly, today unlike any other day in history of Leh, there was sadness and grief written all over in the air. We thanked god that we escaped a big big tragedy last night which I feared by the surmounting sounds of thundershower and lightening.  No words, no thoughts were coming into the mind and I was just thanking god for so many things which laid the foundation for our escape. It was fate, it was planned and it was decided right on the start of the journey that it will test our limits to the core and destiny had scripted all the events throughout the journey. Out of many if’s and buts, some of them being –

  • If we had driven the car till here then what would have happened? Do we need to leave the car 😯
  • If we had stayed near bus stand in the Hotel we had reference but thankfully I confused the driver with the Changspa road who took us to Changspa else if we hadn’t lost the Hotel details may be I would not have been writing this 🙄
  • If we had carried on towards Pangong Tso last day may be we would have been able to see blue water at the cost of being stuck there due to closure of routes after last night rain. At least we were in main town today where everything will be available at least till couple of days on the same rates

Now, it was the waiting game that need to be played and how, we had no clues about it. We head back to hotel and tried sleeping but the pin drop silence in the aura was disturbing nerves to drive me restless. We checked our stocking for eatables, satisfied and decided to walk the stairs up to Shanti Stupa for some pictures and views. After spending few hours on top we went back to hotel where we saw that our batteries are going to exhaust soon as no one was stopping the calls or messages concerning our safety and exit from the place. We decided to walk down the place first to find some electricity for charging. We wanted to visit the place along the line where disaster struck last night and see the situation through our own eyes. But before that, here are the pictures which we took from the top of Shanti Stupa —

Shanti Stupa… Some Different Angles…

Shanti Stupa in Leh - Ladakh
Shanti Stupa in Leh - Ladakh
Shanti Stupa in Leh - Ladakh

Wondering what to do now :roll:… I am busy clicking :)…

Dheeraj Sharma friends at Shanti Stupa in Leh - Ladakh

I am posing, Take my picture too…

Dheeraj Sharma at Shanti Stupa in Leh - Ladakh

Can you figure out me :)…

Dheeraj Sharma at Shanti Stupa in Leh - Ladakh

The Chakra of Peace…

Shanti Stupa in Leh - Ladakh

The round passage… God is everywhere…

Shanti Stupa in Leh - Ladakh

He is ready to jump out of frustration :grin:…

Dheeraj Sharma friend at Shanti Stupa in Leh - Ladakh

It’s there he want to jump :grin:…

Dheeraj Sharma friend at Shanti Stupa in Leh - Ladakh

Wrecked hill in the flashflood… Surprise to see house is still holding ground :confused: …

Views from Shanti Stupa in Leh - Ladakh

Views of Leh town from Shanti Stupa…

Views from Shanti Stupa in Leh - Ladakh
Views from Shanti Stupa in Leh - Ladakh
Views from Shanti Stupa in Leh - Ladakh
Views from Shanti Stupa in Leh - Ladakh

An unimaginable thing was yet to happen which fate had in store for us that changed my whole outlook towards life. The chase for patience to survive and hold our nerves, BEGINS…

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