Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A ride in snow on Chang La

My earlier posts of Leh trip are here

Day 9 : A hard day on the wheels

Day 10, 11 : Around Leh

Day 12 : The Pangong Tso Lake

After enjoying Aloo parata for breakfast, we checked out of our room and headed back towards Chang La. The weather as predicted had worsened compared to the previous day. The ride was fast as long as there were good roads.


We stopped at a tea point and a huge troop who rode on their bikes from Maharashtra joined us. Back on the road now there were enough bikers for company but soon it started snowing as we reached the peak. Heavy snowfall on the peak has spread open a thick white blanket everywhere around. The place which was brown just a day before had turned completely white.   


Horrible roads almost broke my back. Few meters before the peak, I got off the bike and started walking. Pavan, seeing Raja coming alone on the bike got shocked thinking I had fallen off somewhere on the way :P. We made our way to a Army canteen which served free snacks for all and played some really good Hindi songs. That was too nice of them.


I badly needed some rest for my back. The weather dint appear to improve. We had to start before it got even horrible. We rode at almost 5kmph from here and the same circus of getting off at worst patches of road and walking for some distance. We took several pit stops in between & finally managed to reach Leh only by evening. Pavan had reached couple of hours before to us.


Back in the home stay, we were only 5 of us. We returned our bikes to stanzin, I was glad that the bike rides were over. We strolled around in the Leh market, picked up few antique items, some hippie clothes. Our hunger for Kashmiri shawls & strolls never leave us before getting a hole drilled in our pockets. The cab to go to Srinagar was booked for tomorrow. So quickly our journey in Leh was over and tomorrow we had to pack our bags and bid bye to this wonderful place.

The Pangong Tso Lake

My earlier posts of Leh trip are here

Day 8: Turtuk – The penultimate village!

Day 9: A hard day on the wheels

Day 10, 11 : Around Leh 

It was a cold morning when we started towards Chang La Pass. It was only me and Raja, after dropping Suma to airport, riding towards Karu after filling fuel to our desert storm. We were to join the rest of the group by noon at Pangong lake. Manu and Manju would have started their return journey towards Manali.


After having breakfast at the Punjabi dhaba and getting our permit copies done at Karu, we took a left diversion towards Pangong Lake road. The ride was boring and monotonous as there was not a single creature other than us for almost all the way till Chang La peak. The army trucks are too few in this route. It was chilling when we reached the peak. We stopped for tea at the canteen. The road was as always bad and we could not go beyond 10kmph. After climbing down on the other side of the Pass, it was again a barren land with no human existence. We stopped at an army check post to get our permits checked, the officer in charge sent us without even looking at them and we continued cursing for wasting paper on unnecessary copies.

  IMG_1256After a while we were passing by a village and noticed few bikes racing from the other side. We were initially happy to see some visitors, later we almost jumped with joy to meet the rest of our group. It was Manoj and Manju who were on their way to Manali. Behind them followed Pavan on his bike and after a while Suhas & Vidya too joined. We stopped near a teahouse for a tea & hear from them. These guys were to stay for another day along with us but they had changed their plans and were on their way to Leh. This was not a happy development for us. The thought of just the two of us visiting the lake seemed totally boring. We were dead bored by this very journey from morning till now and it looked pointless to continue like this any further. Fortunately after pleading and discoursing Pavan agreed upon joining us to the lake.


For the rest of our journey we raced on the two bikes. The milieu also seemed getting better. We found meadows and streams along. Beautifully blossomed tiny flowers sprinkled on the green patches between the streams. On careful observation we could locate few Marmots peeping out of their burrows.


A couple of km before on the Pangong Lake road we caught the first glimpse of this lake like a small triangular patch of blue between the mountains. After clearing our way through these mountains we saw an endless area covered with deep blue water. The pitch dark roads cutting U on the brown land with the view of the lake at the back was stunning. We had finally arrived at the highest salt water lake in the world.


After reaching the lake we hungrily searched for a good canteen. There were endless hotels temporarily built of asbestos sheets with weird names “3 Idiots hotel” was also one of them. It started raining lightly by the time we parked our bikes and took shelter in a canteen. They served us endless hot Phulkas, dal and Rajma. The very famous 3 Idiots spot was already crowded with people capturing pictures in several poses. We preferred to travel further to reach the tents before the weather further worsened. The next village Spangmik is filled with tents and few permanent accommodations facing the lake. We checked into one of those permanent accommodations which were slightly costlier than the tents. Just when we reached our room it started pouring heavily. The doors refused to shut against the strong winds.


Not spending much time in the room, we took our bikes and rode along the lake side till as long as the roads got really slushy. After this, lot of slippery mud seemed risky to ride. We stopped here to take pictures and sat watching the small waves hitting the shore. The bank at several places had beautiful stones arranged like a pillar. The player flags tied randomly to these stones blow hard with the wind. While you are engrossed in your solitude watching the blue waters the bar-headed geese fly across the scene touching the water superficially and lands on the shore. Watching these birds I recollect the famous song from a Hindi movie Refugee beautifully sung by Alka Yagnik , “panchi nadiya pawan ke jhonke … koi sarhad na inhe roke”. I love this song so much that I have tears listening to it.      


Inspite of the heavy wind blowing across your face, you would want to sit here till the lake disappears in the dark. The clouds played a spoil sport without giving us even a glimpse of the moon. We walked back to our rooms and got into the warm bed after a delicious dinner.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Around Leh

My earlier posts of Leh trip are here

Day 7: Nubra Valley – An odyssey

Day 8: Turtuk – The penultimate village!

Day 9: A hard day on the wheels

The body demanded some rest so the group decided to stay back for a day to relax and visit places around Leh. There were several surprises which led to changes in our plan. Kanthanna had to fly back the next day due to some personal emergency following that was Suma who would fly back to Bangalore.

Amidst all the surprises and vague decisions we enjoyed a hot bath and some nice sleep, watching TV in the lobby with some delicious parathas and thick curd. By evening we got ready to visit Hemis, Thikshey Monasteries. The very thought of riding on bike was so painful. But the monasteries were just 45kms from Leh and promised good roads.


Hemis Monastery is around 10kms from Karu. We reached Karu and approached a army truck for the route who were selling souvenirs. We found one of them speaking in Kannada and the other fellow in Tamil. It’s easy to guess what followed after this. We bid bye to them while they instructed us to take a right to go to Hemis monastery.


After this right, the road starts climbing a mountain and there is rich greenery everywhere around which is very evident. The sky contrast which we saw here was second to none. The monastery is in Tibetan architecture which is so very colorful to add to the beauty of the nature around. Any man made structure is seldom an enriching factor for the nature but these monasteries really are. The rich colors of the Gompa, prayer flags added a great variety to the surroundings. The Gompa has a huge courtyard sided with verandahs which exhibited colorful paintings of Buddha. Below this courtyard is a museum with a rich collection of Buddha statues and several ancient remnants.


IMG_0746There were shops selling calendars, post cards and books about Leh, Buddhism which tempted most of us to grab some specially the calendars. On our way back we saw a huge army store and naturally guys wanted to stop there. They opened the shop just for us and hurried to buy whatever we wanted quickly. After grabbing some really cool stuff we rode towards Thikshey monastery which falls in between Leh and Karu. It was late evening when we reached here. This one too is on a hill which gave a beautiful view of the surrounding mountains. The moon was glittering bright against the deep blue evening sky. We stopped here clicking pictures while few of us went venturing into the monastery.


It was dark by the time we made it back to Leh. We strolled around the market and gathered at Monalisa for dinner. Next day’s plan was in drop Kanthanna to airport and then start towards Pangong Lake but since Suma had to stay alone for another day in the homestay, Me & Raja agreed to stay back in Leh for another day.


As the group departed to Pangong Tso lake, we did nothing useful other than enjoying another round of hot bath and some good food in the homestay. By evening we planned to visit Leh Palace & Shanti Stupa. The Palace, though seemed close by was quiet interior. We took small, dusty roads which dint look like belonging to Leh mainly for the sort of crowd that we saw on our way. The Palace is on a small hill and stands like and emblem for the city of Leh. It is an old structure without much of an attention given to the maintenance. Rooms are dark and windows right away into the space around. The paintings hung negligently on the wall showing the history of this place and several sketches of Buddha which does not hold your attention because of the bad ambience. Nevertheless the view of the city from the palace is something remarkable. The brown mountains spread against the blue sky and the snow mountains at far distance forms a natural collage of the beautiful city.


From here we made our way to Shanti Stupa. A circular structure beautifully lit up in the dark. A meditation hall welcomes you into the calm of the place. The moon looked almost full spilling its light all around the city. A small café in the premises of this Stupa served one of the best maggies I have ever had. After a round of hot tea we sat out watching the game of dragon formed out of clouds galloping the moon into itself setting darkness all around and after a while the moon wins over it again to celebrates its win with all the more light and the game continued for rest of the night.


A hard day on the wheels

My earlier posts of Leh trip are here

Day 7: Nubra Valley – An odyssey

Day 8: Turtuk – The penultimate village!

The clouds on the mountains towards Khardung La Pass were quiet discouraging but we could not stay back & wait for the weather to clear up. Our host inspected the mountains and evinced possibility of snowfall on the peak. The group had finished a quick round of bread butter and jam for breakfast accompanied with Ravichandran hit songs on our phones. The bread went in smoothly but the news on weather outside was not so welcoming.


Without further delay we packed our bags. Manu, Manja & Pavan rode back to Hunder to enjoy a ride on the double-humped camels while the rest of us were set on our way to Leh. We hoped weather to improve as the day sets in while we knew it is difficult to predict weather in such altitudes. We hurried without too many stops and as expected with growing altitude the weather got colder and it started raining, by the time we reached North Pullu we were wet and shivering with cold. We threw our bikes as soon as the canteen appeared at our sight. Hot Maggie and some hot tea was a real life saver. The roads from here got bad making the ride slow and more difficult. Close to the peak it started snowing and on reaching Khardung La peak we were drenched again. We did not stop on the peak and continued in the snow.


The gloves we wore dint suffice to withstand the snow and cold. Our fingers were totally numb. It was the most difficult part of the roads after crossing the peak and we rode at almost 5kmph to avoid potholes which would otherwise kill my back. We covered ourselves completely which made it difficult to talk to each other. I had to show thumbs up to the rider every 15mins to indicate all is well and I haven’t fallen off :P


Ahead of us was a biker whom we followed as the visibility was really bad. We slowed as he did at the curves and for the first time I felt having someone ridding along is so much of a strength. It’s a force that keeps you going ahead just the way you need someone’s being in your life to keep you not just alive but also to make you feel you are living. There was a sudden rush of mixed emotions running through my body. It was an unknown fear running across my hands and limbs as it felt weak while at the same time there was a sense of amiable gaiety that just made me to carry on.

The ride was tiring and seemed endless. The weather gods though spared us after sometime, it was the reckless roads which made it all the more difficult. I preferred getting down from the bike and walked across few patches of really bad roads. The onward journey which seemed fun and exciting was now almost killing my back due to continuous journey on the bike.


It was early evening when we saw the city of Leh at a far distance. It was such a relief that I fail to word my feeling. I breathed some happy air into my lungs when the roads got better again. The traffic on the opposite side was stopped due to bad weather which left for us the entire road. After turning all the curves down to the hill we saw Kanthanna & Suma waiting for us. We stopped with them for a while and then rode towards the city. Back in our rooms, we all seemed as if we had made it back in one piece after going through a pleasurable trauma.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Turtuk – The penultimate village!

My earlier posts of Leh trip are here

Day 1 : Julley Leh journey begins

Day 2 : Manali, day to wallow in nature

Day 3, 4 : Riding on curves

Day 5, 6 : It was time to say JulLeh!

Day 7: Nubra Valley – An odyssey

“The real name of Turtuk in Balti language is, ‘Dhuk-Dhuk’. About 1,100 years ago, two men came to this land and camped by the spring. They fell in love with the land and decided to settle here. Thus the name ‘Dhuk-Dhuk’, which means ‘to settle’”. A story I read in one of the bcmtouring forums & loved to share.


Whenever it was about Turtuk, I wondered what would I write about this heavenly kingdom, is it the facts or history which is so fascinating or the beauty of the place, people, weather or the flora or the air which blows on your skin and reminds you that it carries the smell of the place on other side of the LoC which is less than a couple of kilometers from this village. I don’t have the answer while I continue to pen down the thoughts running in my mind at this moment.

_MG_6230Photo Courtesy : Vidya Sharma

As we followed Faizal on those clean & tiny paths between the houses the next morning, we saw men working, girls playing with little ones and women sitting on the house attics watching us. We walked behind Faizal asking him about their life style, routine and many such things and the answers we received were surprisingly the opposite of what we thought it could be. Life on that patch of land is way too peaceful than what it is back in cities. Tensions must have been there but they seemed to exist at a distant mountain tip not in their hearts. They were too lovable & hospitable.

Faizal is doing his pre-university in Leh and visits his town during holidays. I asked him what is that he wanted to study after completing his pre-university studies for which I got a quick reply that he would do masters in history. I was taken aback by the sheer clarity he had right at this age. I, even today look at stars for such questions :P

_MG_6190Photo Courtesy : Vidya Sharma

The understanding and the cooperation among them is another factor I noticed. The household water and drinking water is supplied to every house in open channels flowing adjacent to the pavement. A board is put up indicating a fine on misusing the water for other purposes. This I assumed must have been for outsiders like us ;). Pure water from the mountains runs down right to your house all the time. This was pure bliss for me to even imagine. I bow to their skills in planning their village so well.


Another fascinating thing we happened to see in this place is the natural refrigerators where they store cheese and other produces for a long time. They look like normal huts made of stones but at a low height. They are generally locked to maintain its temperature undisturbed but you can feel the chill right next to its walls. I read somewhere that this is possible because of the cold river flowing below this land.

Photo Courtesy : Vidya Sharma

_MG_6327There were Apricot trees in plenty which bore yellowish fruits. They needed some more time to ripe and turn red. We enjoyed biting some apricots and red cherries as we strolled with our guide. The cherry trees and the babies red cheek looked so much similar. No doubt that people here are bestowed with all the beauty.

We reached a small gompa on a small hill constructed by few Buddhist army personnel during their settlements in the past. From this place, Turtuk looked like a very small patch of land with houses and around their dens spread are their land where they grow wheat and other daily needs. Army regularly supplies the necessary ration. The villagers shared a great rapport with army men around this place. Faizal, pointing his hand behind the gompa mentioned that few of the villagers have their lands on those hills where they grow white onions.

Faizal used really authentic hindi words while he spoke. He said he had been near LoC and had seen through binoculars the villages across the border. He used the word “Durbin” here. I quickly recalled its meaning and was amused with his vocabulary. Skardu, he said, looked so much like any other village in Balti region. They must have been relatives of Faizal and it is just that Turtuk, Thyakshi remained with India while Skardu became Pakistan’s territory. For a common man like Faizal all these dint really matter as long as there is peace in his village. He was not born during the incident of Indo-Pak partition in 1971 but it seemed that every child in this village grew up hearing this story several times from his elders.

_MG_6370 Photo Courtesy : Vidya Sharma

The superman on the left corner is charming Faizal Khan. It was lunch time when we bid bye to Turtuk and headed back towards Deskit.

What seemed beautiful in the dark last night was now the same with all the more richness of variant colors. The mountains had a plethora of shades to flaunt as we cut through them on those straight roads, crossing delicate bridges hanging over the same ferocious river, Shyok. She remained cold and her color indicated as if she is flooding.


We were passing by Bogdang village on the Diskit-Turtuk highway when we were surrounded by kids from this village trying to get hold of some chocolates from the passing bikes. They almost blocked us and snatched the energy bars and dint let go till some elder men stopped them. They were tiny monsters looking so pretty. We were giving high-five to kids passing by, several instances I also got pulled off which forced me to stop this cool looking game. The people were rough just like the terrain around. But waving bye at every army truck dint stop till the end of the trip.

IMG_0646We enjoyed the ride while the sun glistened & by late noon our bikes were parked outside a roadside hotel. We were tired and craved for a hot bath and some sleep. We looked around for rooms and found Deskit tourism office offering wonderful rooms at a nominal rate. After a relaxed round of freshening up and after enjoying a cup of hot tea with snacks we decided to visit the monastery. It was now evening and the breeze had just turned little violent as we reached the huge statue of Buddha. The sun was setting at a distance as we clicked pictures and sat chatting with the group for some time. The face of buddha was eternal. It forced me & Suhas to talk of some philosophy while others clicked pictures of the setting sun. The precision in making this statue is something every person will greatly appreciate. The richness of the colors and to enhancing this statue is the clear blue skies of Deskit is a blissful partnership. Its as if the statue was made to be in this beautiful place facing the far horizon.

We remembered the tea shop that we had visited day before and wanted to visit it again. A PCO near this tea shop consumed all of us in making calls back home. Back in our rooms we had a delicious dinner with palak sabzi which we served several rounds greedily. It was not too late we sat around listening to some Kannada songs and got into our beds.


Monday, December 2, 2013

Nubra Valley – An odyssey

My earlier posts of Leh trip are here

Day 1 : Julley Leh journey begins

Day 2 : Manali, day to wallow in nature

Day 3, 4 : Riding on curves

Day 5, 6 : It was time to say JulLeh!

Standing in a long queue in the only fuel station of Leh, we filled fuel to our bikes and to the extra cans we were carrying. It was a long journey and there are no fuel station anywhere in the route. The plan was to reach Turtuk as early as possible before it gets dark. And start back the next day to Leh. It was extremely ambitious with the fact that the distance from Leh to Turtuk is just 205 kms, covering this distance on roads built cutting the mountains are extremely tiring. Roads curve at every 100 or 200mts which needs to slow down to check the opposite traffic and then pick up some speed. With night’s dark covering up the skies it gets even dangerous and risky as there is hardly any human inhabitation anywhere after Hunder till Turtuk. Seldom army trucks pass by once it gets dark. Getting any help is too bleak on these roads.


We had breakfast at a hotel in Leh and started towards Khardung La, the highest motorable road in the world. The road was smooth for a quite a distance. At almost 16000 feet the road was under repair with huge JCBs working on it and we were held up for close to 2 hours which further strained our plan. It was early noon when we reached the 18,379 ft elevation to reach Khardung La, it was very cold and windy at the top but all of us seemed to be in good shape. It was crowded at the top and I dint feel anything great to celebrate being there. We spent 5-10 mins and started our journey on the other side of the Pass. The road continues to be bad for another 20kms till we reach North Pullu where we stopped to get some warmth with a cup of tea and Maggie. After this you are on the best roads in whole of India.


For most part of the journey towards your left is the mountain and on your right is the beautiful valley. We followed each other on our bikes and when we encountered deviations we would wait for the rest of the group to join, open the map and take decisions or by then we would find an army truck passing by who would stop and guide us ahead. An extremely pleasant weather today helped us keep moving in spite of the lag in time. The curvy roads of course added to the delay but was more fun. The valley was deep and board on our right. Far on the other end of the valley there were villages with very few houses. We often wondered how one can reach those isolated villages and how do they survive such extreme weather conditions. With all that it looked so stunningly beautiful.


The road to Deskit is “the” thing which enters my mind when we talk of Nubra Valley. It’s mind blowing. Several stretches are like a straight line drawn across a white sheet of paper. You can blindly trust your guts and let your bike race with the wind. I am more than sure bikers enjoyed this part the most. As we take a sharp left almost nearing Deskit you will see at a far distance a structure resembling a face of Buddha. Peeping above the mountains as though he is watching the bikers race.  As you get close to this mountain we realize it is the tall structure of Maitreya Buddha of Deskit Gompa. 


It was early evening when we reached this beautiful village in Nubra Valley. This was the best village I have been so far. It gave an out of the world feeling as we rode our bikes on those narrow roads covered with tall bushes on both sides. We stopped for tea at a road side hotel. A gang of people were lazing here with friends. It was a nice big group seemed like they dint have anything else to do. I was naturally jealous of their lifestyle.


We ordered Maggie while we discussed whether to continue to Turtuk or to stay back for the night and reach there the next day morning. The zeal in the group was quite high and all of us agreed to continue further 77kms inspite of knowing the fact that it will get dark almost anytime now and also we dint have permit to this place (toufiq had missed to mention this place in our permits). It  was a huge chance we were taking.  


From here on the bikes picked up good speed as the roads were straight for long stretches. Hunder the very next village 7kms from Deskit. A place which is famous for its Sand dunes is filled with shifting sand endlessly. It makes one imagine stories on the existence of this high altitude desert. A cold desert on Karakoram range which back in history was the silk route from central asia to china. The Bactrian double humped camels which once carried people across continents even today exist here offering rides to travelers visiting Nubra Valley.


We planned to visit the sand dunes on our way back and for now stuck our butt to the seats. For most of us this ride was not just the best but truly a life time experience. Great roads throughout and you are gifted with the best sights as you ride between those tall mountains. River Shyok gushes with force as if she carries all the anger within her to the country which she flows into. After a while there are sand structures formed in valley far your right which resembles the coast line in Peru. As the sun went down behind the mountains towards Pakistan leaving the mountains opposite to it painted with orange red.


The beauty of the mountain seemed so violently beautiful with the moonlight spread over them and our eyes assumed several shapes coated with colors of dark green, mud red, few in silver and brown. The bliss you feel to just watch the nature at the calm of night with light of close-to- full moon thrown around liberally was breath-taking. We stared at those weird looking structures on the mountains as we continued to ride on this eternal path. It was only us and the river Shyok enjoying this ride over those bridges, curvy roads, and slippery sand. The noise she made sometimes gave us a feeling that we are dead close to her and would strain our eyes in that direction a little more to check her movements.


It was quiet troublesome to keep sync between riders during night. I constantly checked for the 3 lights behind our bike while the rider kept an eye on the 2 red break lights of the bikers ahead of us. While our senses enjoyed watching the view offered outside the body ached at every turn not being able to sit anymore. We could not afford breaks and had to reach before the city shuts for the day. The journey seemed endless with the dark setting in and nothing visible around. We finally reached the army post almost near Turtuk. The security personnel checked our permits and seemed not ok to continue without permits. We had to tell him long stories to convince while few of us relaxed our cramping joints. Another army post from here dint bother to stop us and we finally reached the last village in India accessible to public.


We stopped at a homestay to check the rooms availability. My body was so badly bent up that I threw myself on the ground till they came back to say the homestay was closed. A fellow strolling around showed us way to a nearby hotel where we happily checked in. They quickly prepared dinner for us and the discussions on tomorrow’s plan led to ask one of them if he could takes us around and Faizal Khan was more than happy to be our guide. This fellow is as interesting as the very place he belongs to.

We were in Turtuk :)

Sunday, December 1, 2013

It was time to say JulLeh!!

My earlier posts of Leh trip are here

Day 1 : Julley Leh journey begins

Day 2 : Manali, day to wallow in nature

Day 3, 4: Riding on curves

Karu to Leh was an uneventful and quick 45mins journey. We browsed through the roads of the Leh looking for rooms good and economical. We finally found Rainbow home stay little interior on the Lord’s Road. Rooms were Rs700/- per day with 3 people in each rooms. Good for our pockets. Our host made us feel comfortable and left us to relax for the day but we had long to-do list. The permits were not ready and most important task was to look for 4 more bikes. Toufiq, who was to help us get the permits reached us by noon. The team sat around the table to make a list of places we wanted a permit for. Toufiq suggested few modifications in the route map and with several “let-us-see” decisions we agreed to let the time unfold all that was kept in store for us in Leh!


Post lunch we got into the job of bike hunting. Leh, a small city, a couple of main roads from one end of the city to the other and there you are, good to roam by yourself. The city is so laid-back and the evening gets even lovelier decorated with colored lamps outside the restaurants flaunting its hippie customers. We strolled in the markets peering at every shop looking for bikes and our heads would voluntarily turn back to the sound of a bullet passing by. There were good amount of tourist even though the general opinion of Ladakhi’s was there were very less tourists turning up this year due bad weather conditions in Haridwar and also due to the tensions prevailing on the china border. We had to answer umpteen phone calls regarding our safe being in this remote corner of the country while we enjoyed this blissful place. It looked as if it was an endless search for the bikes. We ended up not getting good bikes for the day. We decided to come back tomorrow. Monalisa restaurant seemed cozy with its posh crowd & decent lighting. We enjoyed a feast to celebrate our team reaching Leh.

Next day morning we visited stanzin’s garage. As promised he arranged for us, two bullets and two new desert storm. Without wasting much time we planned to visit places around Leh. We rode towards west of Leh to visit Hall of fame, Magnetic hill, Sangam of followed by Pathar Sahib Gurudwara.


We were riding on top class roads as we reached Magnetic Hill. The board reads “Magnetic Hill The Phenomenon that defies Gravity. Park your vehicle in the box marked with white paint on road”. The bikers enjoyed riding till a distance on hills on both the sides while few parked their bikes in white box to experience an effortless pull in the vehicle. The amazing roads never stopped us as we rode next towards Sangam. Rivers Indus and Zanskar confluence and further flows west into Pakistan to join Arabian Sea. The same Zanskar river when frozen offers us a beautiful chadar trek which I wish to do one day. I take the pride to mention that for the first time in my life I rode a 500cc desert storm from Magnetic hill to Sangam and next to Pathar Sahib. Raja’s just followed his instinct and sat behind me. I enjoyed every bit of it, every curve on the road and especially the one where the vehicle was on full clutch and the monster was left loose & I had least control. For our luck there were no trucks from the other side which could have been fatal if so. Even today when we both recollect that moment we’ll express our shock and thank our lucks for being alive.


Pathar Sahib Gurudwara is regularly visited by the visitors and more importantly the army troops passing by. We met couple of kannada speaking men in uniform. It’s always a proud moment to meet them away from home. For them too it’s a feeling of visiting their home towns just by meeting us. The story of this gurudwara being called pathar sahib is an interesting read. We had lunch at the gurudwara lungar. Reminded me of my visit to Golden temple couple of years back. The same calm, clean and kind people one can find in these gurudwaras.


We reached post lunch at the Hall of fame. This museum is constructed and maintained by Indian army in the memory of those soldiers who lost their lives in Indo-Pak wars. The museum houses the picture gallery of those vast and diverse cultures found in Ladakh region over long time. A 3D model of Ladakh and the valleys surrounding it is the highlight. Beautiful pictures depicting the lifestyle and glory of this place are hung on the walls. Most interesting part of this monument are those walls on which tragic and few courageous stories of our heroes are displayed.


Tears roll down without your knowledge as you read them. Every hour or two, a documentary on Indo-Pak war both in Hindi & English is played which is worth watching. The equipments and necessary tools used by Indian army at very high altitude terrains like Siachen glaciers are displayed. The images of the training and details like how equipments are moved by choppers at those altitude are really amazing to know. The souvenir shop attracted us to its really unique things they sold. I was way to glad to find a Hip Flask and bought one for myself. Sadly I drink only water from it.

Day ended beautiful in a restaurant which server delicious dinner and we planned to start early the next morning towards a real odyssey.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Ermai Falls

During our trek to Dudhsagar, few of our friends suggested us to visit this falls near Ujire. It was one day plan and hence we thought it best suited for Nov 1st holiday. 5 of us started by early morning 6 from Mysore. We were late to start but we had the best one handling the steering wheel. We stopped at Hassan for breakfast and another pit stop for tea at Sakleshpur. While here we saw the hotel served hot akki rotis but since we just had our breakfast we planned to visit the same hotel for dinner. Sumanth made a special note of this place.

We reached Ujire by lunch time and made calls to our friend to reach the falls which is not so easily reachable without someone guiding you. Our friend guided Raja so well that he actually saw the falls right over the phone call. He was more than confident to miss this place after hearing the so-very-detailed lefts and rights to be taken and the name of the places there gets easily volatile from your cache. Still we managed to get hold of bits and pieces of the names he uttered while speaking over phone and reached the destination. Locals too know of this falls, so it is not so difficult reaching this place. Around 15-20 kms from the Ujire town drive towards charmadi and take left on Didupe Road till you see Bhuvan stores towards your right. 

A small distance of walking you will take a right and enter the forest and after walking for a while there is a hanging bridge across a small stream, crossing this you will see clear path into the forest which will reach a small falls with water falling over sloped rocks and this was occupied by a set of human like monkeys. We decided to continue to the main falls which is not too far from here. I stopped every other step trying out some new acquired skills on macro shots while I spotted a leech which had just landed on my foot and was caught just before it could release an anesthetic. I warned the rest of the group to keep an eye on them. By then we were watching a small angle of this huge falls behind the trees and tall rocks.

We got down a little and hopped over a few rocks to reach the base of this falls and we stood stunned by the sheer beauty of this silent falls hidden in this place for so long. The water falls over in stages and there is a den like created at the base of the first stage. The water droplets raise above and forms a fog like layer just at the base. The next stage is a short and wider fall and drops into a wide pool. The water is clear with small fishes and beautiful stones very easily reached. Its knee deep water if you stand watching the falls at a distance. Fishes play around your legs sending tickles on your tender skin. Spend some time sitting and play with them.

We had packed rice for the 5 of us and puliogere gojju. It is suggested to take food along with you as you will not find any hotels close by. We got into water playing and clicking pictures. I tried playing with my prime lens capturing few close up while they enjoyed playing in the water. Every time you see the falls it looked so different and so much more beautiful. I went on capturing it. A Lovely formation of rainbow colors framed near the den was blissful to see. We easily spent more than an hour watching it and clicking some self timer shots with the group.

It was time to return. We reached the place where our car was parked. The lady at Bhuvan stores was busy packing tobacco leaves into roles and there were packs of them ready to puff. We drank tender coconut to compensate for the little water we drank so far and finally headed towards Mysore in the same route. Sakleshpur ghat was the most difficult stretch with horrible roads at this point of time. Few among us felt that this was not the route we took in the morning. May be tired bodies found it more difficult to dance with the tune of our car tumbling on those bad roads from one corner of the road to the other. Most of the stretches, we stopped to survey which part of the road was better and never found one and just followed a pothole. It was really tiring for the person driving. We tried hard to keep ourselves awake by singing songs till we reached a point when it became impossible to keep our eyes open.

It was 12:40 am reaching home and still had the energy left to watch the remaining 20 mins of Bigg Boss repeat telecast. I was excited to see the pics and without copying them to my laptop just saw them on the card to copy it later in the morning. This exercise took us almost half of the next day to install all possible recovery software and finally a friend of mine shared a paid version of the software to recover majority of the pictures.