Day 7 visit to Pangong Tso (440 kms round trip)
The day after was planned for a visit to Pangong Lake, a good 220 kms from Leh. We decided to give our machines a rest and hence pooled for a cab for this trip. The route was difficult and steep, and encircling roads affected many of us with mountain sickness. This difficult drive gave us first glimpse of the Yaks, Himalayan Marmots and the famous Changthangi /Pashmina goats. Pangong lake is about 140 kms long salt water body and being upto 5 kms wide at its widest spots. A good time was spent snoozing around the edge of the lake, which changes its hue of colour from blue to purple to green, due to changing light and reflections of surrounding mountains. It provides the best photography opportunities and star gazing, if one plans an overnight stay in one of the several camping sites.
After resting for a while we took some pictures, followed by a simple lunch and ginger tea. Soon after, the same difficult drive would take us back to Leh. Best part of this return trip was spent dozing off in the car. It cost us about 8000 rupees for this round trip, including lunch. This trip and that to Nubra valley, via Khardungla pass requires inner line permits which are usually arranged by the travel agents for no additional cost.
Day 8 visit to Khardung La (85 kms round trip)
Next day, our visit to the Nubra valley was cut short due to lack of consensus amongst all the riders, and it was decided that we would only do a day trip to the world highest motorable pass, the mighty Khardungla at 18380 feet above sea level. This is the dream that every motorcyclist lives for. Khardungla Pass is about 40 kilometers from Leh, leading to the Nubra valley and world famous Sand dunes of the Hunder. Bactrian camels can only be seen here in India. These double humped camels are said to have come several hundred years ago, when this route was used for trade with China and was better known as the silk route.
We left early the next day for our tryst with Khardungla, to avoid the tourist rush. At south Pullu we went through a security check by the local police post, which is but a formality of submitting a form having names, registration nos. and telephone nos. of the riders. Here we witnessed snow fall for the first time on our ride. Warm clothes and winter gloves were purchased from the local military canteen, which also prepares world’s best tea and Maggie noodles, or so it seemed to us.
After a quick breakfast and change of clothes, we headed straight to Khardungla to enjoy the view of the snow laden Himalayan range. The sign boards here are perhaps the most photographed sign boards in all of India, and perhaps the world. The pass was lined up by bikers and motorist alike for a customary picture. We took a breather inside the military run canteen and sipped the excellent ginger tea. Some new friends were made here, who would provide a lot of moral support later on the ride. The descend to Leh was less interesting, as a milestone and a dream had been realized by us. The rest of the day was spent shopping for souvenirs and gossiping with fellow bikers and tourists.