Thursday, July 23, 2009

Day 7, 26 June, Kargil - Zanskar (Padum)

Today, our plan was to reach to Zanskar valley i.e Padum town. We started at 6 am. First important thing was to get the fuel tank full. As Padum does not have any petrol pump, we carried an extra petrol can of 5 lit.
By the time, it was around 6.30 am when our actual journey started and we marched towards Zanskar.
Our first planned halt was at Sankoo village which is just 42 Kms from Kargil. However, other than first a few kilometers, roads were in bad conditions. So, it took us around 2 hrs as we reached there at around 8.30 am. We had some breakfast at a small restaurant. The restaurant was run by 3-4 young boys. They were pretty nice to us. After spending around half an hour, we departed for our next journey through Suru valley. The valley has it's own beauty and the colors of the surrounding keep on changing every few Kms.

On the way to Panikhar which was the next village after we left Sankoo, we stopped on the road side along the Suru river to enjoy the wildness of river. There, we met some army personnel. They asked us to come for some tea and rest. As we were in hurry, we avoided the halt.
Within next one hour, we were in Panikhar. Here, one local villager brought to our notice that the petrol can had a leak.
So, we had to search for a shop to get a new can. It would have been a worse matter if we would not have found the shop.
By the time we replaced the petrol can, it was around 11.30 am. The distance covered till was just 68 Kms. Still, we were around 170 Kms away from our destination.

As I said, roads in Zanskar are rough roads with stones and gravel along with water passages. So, we were moving very slow. But considering the situation and time left, we decided to move fast as much as possible.

Between, we were taking regular halts for snaps. Around 2.30 pm, we reached to Rangdum.
Rangdum is a village with 10 odd houses and 2-3 restaurants and guest houses. Here, we had a quick lunch break. Before departing, we asked the local people about accommodation facility before Padum to avoid any problem if we get late. As per our information, Rangdum was the last place with accommodation facility before Padum. The guest house owner told us that Abran village does have such facility which is around 80 Kms from Rangdum.

Earlier, we had planned to visit Rangdum gonpa which is 3-4 kms further from village. But, we had to cancel the plan. So, we proceeded towards Padum around 3 pm hoping that we would make it.

After we left Rangdum, we were at Penzi La which was pretty difficult to drive with a pillion and luggage behind. To make matters worse, there were 2 army trucks ahead of us forming clouds of dust in front of us and blocking our view at such a difficult route.
That's the way things work in such a desolate part and brings joy in our experience. It was like we were getting used to such dirt tracks :)
Within one hour or so, we were on the top of Penzi La. We could get glimpses of glaciers and snow topped mountains. Also, the wind was getting pretty cold. The descent of the pass was also pretty tough to drive down.

Then, we entered Zanskar valley. The scenic beauty was changing as we were moving ahead.
On the way, we spotted many mermots on side of the road. It was wonderful to watch them sitting on rocks taking sun rays.

Meanwhile, it was getting very late. So, we were thinking of taking halt at Abran village.
Then came the biggest trouble of our expedition. Just before 4-5 Kms from Abran, there was one nallah which was overflowing with snow melted water. As the day passes by, the snow melts fast and by the time of evening, the water level rises high. Here, conditions were quite bad for us. We were trying to judge if we could cross the water passage. However, the stream flow was pretty fast and it had created deep passage.
We were afraid of crossing by foot as well ;).. Eventually, we decided to leave our bike there and go to Abran to spend the night. Fortunately, two local women helped us to get our luggage across the nallah.
Meanwhile, the two army trucks behind us joined us. First truck was stuck for some time. Somehow they managed to take it out. Second truck tried to take other way. It managed to get pass the big passage but it got stuck in another passage. It took them long time to get the truck out.
Finally, they were across the nallah. The truck drivers asked us whether to get the bike crossed over the stream.
First, I agreed but then I realized if the water level did not come down the next day, we would not be able to cross it again.
So, I just asked him to drop us in Abran which was still far and to carry 15 Kgs of luggage that far was a pretty difficult task. We continued till Abran in the trucks hoping to find some accommodation.
The truck in which Suraj had sit, reached first in the village. We had one more surprise left. I guess, it would not have been an adventure without this incident.
The village had no accommodation facility :D.. Between, the army trucks left for their further journey.
I was really baffled to know that we were left with no options. I decided to confirm with another villager if there was any facility nearby. He said there is no such facility.
I asked him if he could allow us to spend a night at their home. Prior to this, I told him about our situation. This was the true example why the Ladakhi people are known for their generosity and kindness. He asked us to wait outside and went inside to clean up a room for us.
We thanked god and the person for helping us out of such the situation. We were just unable to imagine what had just happened with us. We were thinking what we would have done if he had said no to us.

Then, we went into the room with our luggage. Again, their hospitality was so good. They offered us some normal tea, salted tea and provided us warm bedding. Also, they cooked some extra food for us. After taking the meal, we went to sleep with the worries about our bike we had left 5 Kms behind.
At night, we decided to wake up early and walk down to get the bike and check if we can cross it or turn back to Kargil from there itself.